Article written for listverse.com

10 facts that tarnish childhood memories

This list names and shames some common misconceptions and hidden truths in relation to childhood that may surprise you.

 

10 Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, is thought to have been a paedophile.

A photographic collection of naked young girls was found in his home, some of them being girls he was thought to have based characters on within his stories, such as Alice Liddel, who featured heavily in his photographs and was the inspiration for his character Alice.

Although no solid evidence exists to prove that Carroll ever did abuse young girls, it certainly adds a more sinister light to this children’s classic, doesn’t it?

 

9 The song“Barbie Girl” by Norweigan-Dansih pop group Aqua was a massive hit in the nineties, a fast paced dance duet between singers impersonating the toy dolls Barbie and Ken – also immensely popular with kids. This song may have been a one hit wonder but for years it was a staple of all pool parties and slumber parties, for girls at least, and I fondly remember listening to it whilst playing with my own Barbie dolls. Unfortunately the underlying context of the lyrics implied Barbie to be a bimbo, something the creators of Barbie and Ken didn’t really take a liking to – and so the Mattel Company sued Aqua, and although in 2002 all charges were dismissed, the case forever tarnished the image of the song which had created a fantasy for little girls everywhere that Barbie and Ken existied as real people.

 

8 Cute babies have dimples, right? No one can resist the request of a sweet child, smiling, dimples lighting up their face. As it turns out, the occurrence of dimples are actually a muscle deformity –when the structure of the facial muscle Zygomaticus Major doubles a dimple is created. Nothing to do with a “cute gene” as you might have come to think looking at your primary-school pictures.

 

7 The name Santa Claus is synonymous with Christmas time, the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ – which is interesting as many elements of Santa Claus stories hold very little Christian relevance. The fat, happy Santa of our childhood memories is actually based on the fearsome Norse god of war – Odin.

The time of year which Christmas is now celebrated in (Christ is generally thought to have been born around September) was determined by the celebrations of Yule held in December across Germanic Europe.

Yule celebrated the Norse god Odin’s great hunting party  in which he would attend via horse-led  flying chariot in the cold areas of Northern Europe (sound like the reindeer chariot Santa rides from the freezing North Pole to you?), and would leave gifts or candy to children who left boots filled with straw for his horse to eat. Odin also had a great long white beard and is depicted wearing various hats, unlike depictions of Catholic Saint Nicholas (often said to be the origin of Santa Claus) who had a short white beard and did not wear any hats, showing that the basis for modern Santa’s image was heavily influenced by the culture of pre-Christian Norse people.

 

 

 

 

 

6 Mood rings were a favourite of children in the 1970s and have entertained many generations to follow, the idea of them was so novel – who wouldn’t want a ring that changed colour to suit your mood? The ingredient that makes this happen is called liquid crystal; its particles rearrange with changes in temperature which in turn changes its colour, it is liquid crystal that you’ll find in LCD TV and computer screens. But what most kids aren’t aware of is the toxic mercury and arsenic ingredients in liquid crystal, making mood rings a particularly lethal toy in the hands of children…

 

5 A favourite topic of listverse is the dramatic inaccuracy of fairy tales within modern childrens film, examples of inexactitude include: The little mermaid – rather than marrying a human prince the little mermaid actually never wins the prince’s love and so kills herself. Sleeping beauty – who was not kissed awake by a loving prince, but raped by a king and woken by childbirth.

Red riding Hood – was not saved by a woodsman but killed outright by the wolf, plain and simple.

Snow white – who is not kissed back to life from a coma, but jostled awake when a prince who has taken her body drops her from his horse

Children’s entertainment is so heavily advertised within the media as a source of innocent moral teaching that the true messages of these original stories are lost within the fluff of the Disney universe. Where once fairy tales taught children: be careful what you wish for, don’t trust strangers and listen to your parents, they now teach: follow your dreams and there will be no consequences, marry a prince, and everyone loves you – things we all know to not be 100% true.

 

4 Frisbee toys are a staple feature of all family outings, at every picnic someone brings one along to play with and kids can spend hours throwing it back and forth. The simplicity of playing Frisbee is what makes it so easy to enjoy for kids, but the simple origins of the Frisbee might surprise you.

From 1871-1958 The Frisbee Baking Company provided American colleges with pies that came in pie tins, and it wasn’t long before students realised what fun could be had with tossing these tins around. In 1948 a building inspector created the first plastic Frisbee which we now use today, based off this simple pie tin design.  This is the ultimate example of capitalizing off other people, the name, design and purpose was already there – all this guy did was tell people it was a toy.

 

 

3 The children’s show H. R. Pufnstuff followed the adventures of a friendly dragon of the same name and his efforts to protect human boy Jimmy from trouble, particularly that caused by antagonist Witchiepoo. Grown-ups of the 60s were probably aware of the shows more “adult” subtext; the bright trippy colours, song lyrics “who’s your friend when things get rough? H.R. Pufnstuf, can’t do a little, ’cause you can’t do enough”, and the similarity between the name “Pufnstuf” and “Puffing stuff” being undeniable, all pointed toward cannabis references.

In one episode Witchiepoo uses “laughing gas” which pours out of her saxophone like smoke, and when inhaled by Pufnstuff and Jimmy makes them burst into laughter and fall asleep…. Sound like the effects of another form of smoke to you?

The show’s creators, Sid and Marty Krofft, have adamantly denied any drug-related subtext within their work, but I suggest you watch an episode and decide for yourself.    

 

2 Board game “Snakes and Ladders” is a household favourite across the world, the straightforward rules and requirement of only 2 players means even young children can play. The game was popular in Victorian England, and later in America too where it was marketed as “Chutes and Ladders” but surprisingly the game originated in India, where early versions have been played since the 16th century. What might surprise you is the purpose of Snakes and Ladders – the reliance on chance to roll a good number and land on a “ladder” not a “snake” is designed to highlight the Hindu philosophy of Karma and the path to ones destiny. The ladders represent good deeds, which by doing enable you to get closer to your destiny, and the snakes represent bad deeds, which when committed drive a person further away from their destiny. The game was designed as a simple way to teach young people about morals, so next time you set up a snakes and ladders game you might feel compelled to have a good long think about your life.

 

1 Rainbow flavoured ice cream – with its bright, swirly colours and sweet, icy freshness how could it not be a favourite childhood memory? Just looking at one is sure to bring on nostalgic wave of hot summer days, going to the beach, snacks before a movie… but what many don’t know is that “rainbow” ice cream is simply just vanilla ice cream, with a few food colours thrown in.

I discovered this from a friend who works at an international chain-store ice creamery, and after realising the shocking truth you will find that the next time you have a “rainbow” ice cream, you’ll notice that the flavour really is vanilla.

 

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