Naima Haviland examines The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
While some review the nativity story to remember the true meaning of Christmas, I re-read Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree to savor the true meaning of Halloween. In this novel even the elements know Halloween is special: 'Night came out from under each tree and spread'. And 'The wind outside nested in each tree, prowled the sidewalk in invisible treads like unseen cats'.
Bradbury's trick-or-treating boys realize they're missing their best friend, a boy named Pipkin, who's been stolen by unseen forces. Only a sinister stranger knows how and where the boys might find him.
When Bradbury wrote The Halloween Tree, kids trick-or-treated in packs long after nightfall, with no grown-ups tagging along. A decade later with It and Salem's Lot, Stephen King put our focus on the same child's world, through the lens of adult awareness. But in The Halloween Tree, we inhabit a lost era when the flip side of fear was wonder. In Salem's Lot, a boy flees an ancient predator through a dark ravine. Boys race through Bradbury's ravine where ' ... poisoned waters dripped and the echoes never ceased calling Come Come Come and if you do you'll stay forever, forever, drip, forever, rustle, run, rush, whisper, and never go, never go go go ...'
Crossing the ravine to meet Pipkin; they instead find the skeletal giant Mr. Moundshroud, his creepy Victorian mansion, and a tree lit with a thousand jack-o-lanterns. Rising to his challenge to uncover the twin mysteries of Halloween and Pipkin's disappearance, the boys hop on a kite Mr. Moundshroud fused with his fiery hands from torn circus posters whose illustrated beasts still snarl and roar. Pulled through time by their celestial guide, they witness man's timeless fear and the elaborate rituals designed to placate death. Each boy discovers the origin of his costume and comes to understand how fear and ritual evolved into a holiday.
In the last interview published before he died (Rue Morgue, August 2012 issue 125), Ray Bradbury talked about his first trip to the circus at age 12. It's easy to see this encounter as the genesis of his amazing legacy. A circus performer named Mr. Electrico pointed to the young Ray Bradbury and said, "Live Forever."
The beautiful thing is, he will.
Naima Haviland likes dead people. Fictional dead people, that is, and the twisted people who make them dead (or undead). She is the author of Bloodroom and Night at the Demontorium, a vampire novel and dark fantasy anthology for Kindle. She takes as inspiration the Southeast United States, including her home in the Florida Panhandle, an ocean paradise with a not-too-distant past full of eccentrics, explorers, pirates, ghosts, and UFOs.
Coming soon; John Everson, Robert Dunbar, Pamela Kinney, Troy McComb and much more.