The World of WonderOn children’s lust for terror Gert Jan Bekenkamp


Why do children love spine-chilling stories? Is it not paradoxical to associate enjoyment with creepiness, fear and terror? The subject of this book is the emotional experience of terror in children in response to the reading of children’s literature.

The empirical research investigates children’s immediate responses to stories by authors such as Roald Dahl and Marc De Bel. In addition, it analyses the textual traits of gothic tales for children that provoke terror (mystery, magic, humour), in contrast to horror (fear, anxiety and sadness). The research shows clear differences between the feeling of terror and the emotion of horror, and between the experiences of young and adult readers.

Gert Jan Bekenkamp is a psychiatrist, living in Bussum, The Netherlands.

“J’ai pris connaissance avec intérêt de votre ‘The World of Wonder’: l’usage des traditions folkloriques, légendes, mythes, sagas donne le support et la motivation linguistique à la psychologie individuelle et sociale. Je vous approuve pour cette contribution à une investigation des affects qui a été trop négligée, du moins par des philosophes.”
– Professor Paul Ricoeur

“The emotional experience of terror is a challenge to the psychology of emotions. When and why can something scary also be funny? It actually can be that, also for children. The attraction of the tale of terror has been indeed the subject of speculation, but hardly of any empirical research. This book gives a very original initial impetus to that, after a fascinating overview of the history of that type of tales.”
– Professor Nico Frijda

“I have read your substantial study with rapidly accelerating heartbeat. Still learned a lot, gloated here and there and (I admit) wallowed on and on in the flattering of my not of any pride deprived Ego. May this splendid work find its way, not only to the literary highly gifted of this world, but also to the many earthlings who are sympathetic towards the health of the fantastic children’s soul.”
– Marc De Bel