How well did you know your literary rugrats?
The Post Fictional Children Quiz
1. What Martian chronicler gave us a truly evil baby? (And you thought this quiz was going to be easy.)
Ray Bradbury. The otherwise somewhat old-fashioned science fiction writer (hated TV, didn't fly until he was a senior citizen) created a murderous infant in the short story 'Small Assassin'. (We won't tell you what happened, read it yourself.)
2. What gloomy New Englander wrote about a preternaturally wise child who seemed to know its own father?
Nathaniel Hawthorne. In The Scarlet Letter, Pearl – daughter of an illegal liaison between the vicar and a parishioner – seems to know a lot more than she's telling.
3. What British author invents a child writer whose misunderstanding of sex leads to tragedy for others?
Ian McEwan. Briony Tallis spends her life making up for a terrible mistake in Atonement.
4. What immortal short-story writer tells about a kid so evil the kidnappers pay to give him back?
O Henry. The eponymous antihero of 'The Ransom of Red Chief' is every babysitter's nightmare.
5. Not all fictional children are evil. (Just most of them.) What horror writer managed to come up with a clairvoyant kid who shines on?
Stephen King. (Natch.) Little Danny Torrance takes all the evil Overlook Hotel can throw at him in The Shining.
6. What writer's heroine, Montana Wildhack, delights aliens by giving birth?
Kurt Vonnegut's. Montana and time-traveller Billy Pilgrim produce a child, to the great joy of the Tralfamadorians, in Slaughterhouse Five.
7. What African writer sends his five-year-old into the bush of ghosts?
Amos Tutuola. His My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is a magical journey in space, time, and language. (Give it a read. Then you can say you know something about Nigerian literature.)
8. What Aussie writer's novel has the youngest narrator ever?
Thomas Keneally's Passenger. The narrator hasn't been born yet. (But he's a pretty sharp cookie.)
9. You have to get two names for this one. What author and his composer buddy wrote an opera where the kid is threatened with being thrown off a cliff? (Extra credit: Why is this educational?)
Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill were the German culprits. Only Germans would think of writing educational opera. The piece in question? Actually, there are two: Der Jasager (He Who Says Yes) and Der Neinsager (He Who Says No)1. In one, they throw the kid off the cliff. In the other, they don't. Like I said, this is all very uplifting. What have we learned, class? Something about situational ethics. Oh, and don't expect German intellectuals to make sense.
10. What novelist endowed all the children born at midnight, 15 August, 1947, with magical powers, and why?
Salman Rushdie. The characters in Midnight's Children were born at the moment of Indian independence.