Everybody knows what a bully is. If you have never experienced bullying of some kind on a personal level, then you are probably pretty lucky. But you have possibly witnessed, or were at least aware of, bullying at school, in the community, or in the workplace, maybe even at home.
Bullies feature strongly in traditional fairy tales such as the stepmother and stepsisters in Cinderella and the mean Rumpelstiltskin in the story of the same name. Roald Dahl also introduced us to bullies through Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Mr and Mrs Twit in The Twits.
The first picture books I think of when the topic of bullying is raised are Anthony Browne’s Willy the Wimp and Willy and Hugh. They are great to read and use to stimulate discussion of bullying with young children. In this video author Anthony Browne explains that most children recognize a little of themselves in Willy. The transformation from timidity to self-confidence appears achievable and encouraging to all.
The opposite of being a bully is being kind. This article by Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis, Raising a Kind Daughter tells a heart-warming story of selfless kindness shown by a daughter and her mother. As was commented on in many posts about compassion, including this one, modelling is the best way of teaching children attitudes and behaviours we wish them to learn.
This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the bully mentality countered with a different, unexpected or kind action.
Over the past year while I have been engaging with Charli’s flash fiction challenges, I have been developing a character, Marnie, who is definitely no stranger to bullying. Each of Charli’s prompts encourages me to think a little more about Marnie, what may have occurred in her life, and what her responses would be. While I sometimes write about other things, I could not ignore Marnie with this prompt.
This is what we already know about Marnie,
as a child:
- she has a dysfunctional family
- she suffers physical and emotional abuse, including neglect, from both parents
- she has a toy unicorn as a comforter
- she finds the expectations of school challenging
- she feels alone and excluded at school with few friends
- she gains the support of one teacher who helps her to develop more self-confidence
as a teenager:
- the teacher continues to support her
- she leaves home and breaks contact with her family
as an adult:
- when both her parents have passed she is contacted and returns to the family home, which she sells, relieved that there is no longer any chance of abuse such as occurred in her childhood
There are still many gaps and unknowns which I am hoping to explore in more detail in the future. In a recent discussion with Charli, I commented that each time I write about Marnie she reveals a little more, in much the same way as she would reveal herself to a new friend or a therapist. I’m thinking she may need to talk to a therapist at some stage. I might need to see who, and what, Anne Goodwin would recommend!
I hope that somewhere in her life, Marnie has a friend like Annie, described in the article by Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis. Maybe it is Jasmine who we have already met in a previous episode, which also touched on a situation which may have involved bullying. Please let me know what you think.
Not funny at all!
Jasmine and Georgie rushed towards the cluster of children who were laughing hysterically at something unseen. They expected to see an entertainer performing magic tricks. Instead they saw Marnie, face down in a puddle, reaching for her unicorn; sobbing.
“Good one, Brucie!” Two boys high-5ed. Another called, “Way to go!”
The children stood transfixed by the spectacle. Jasmine pushed through. She picked up the muddied unicorn, stretched out a hand to help Marnie up, then put an arm around her waist,
As she led Marnie away Jasmine glared at the group of disbelieving faces.
“Shame on you,” she mouthed.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.