What You Never Knew About Your Favorite Books

by Emma Oulton

I don’t know about you, but my favorite thing about reading is that you can’t read the same book twice. (That's paraphrasing Pocahontas... or technically Heraclitus, but we all know where we first heard the phrase.) Every time I go back to one of my favorite novels, I read it a little bit differently. Maybe it’s because my life circumstances have evolved, or maybe I interpret it differently because of my attitude that day. Sometimes, it’s because I have an increased cultural understanding of the time the book was written, and so I pick up on things I didn’t the first time 'round. And sometimes, it’s just because I’ve heard a really cool fact about the novel that I never knew before.

The more you know about a book, the more you can understand what the author was thinking when he or she wrote it. This can give you some way more intelligent things to say at book club, or help you write a really inspiring thesis. At the very least, it will give you some good trivia to help you win a pub quiz.

Here are some of juicy little facts about books you know and love so surprising that they’ll make your dog-eared copy of Little Women seem brand new.

Fairy Dust Was Only Added To Peter Pan For Health And Safety Reasons

In the original Peter Pan, “happy thoughts” were all the children needed in order to fly. The problem was: the children who read it decided that they could fly too — which they couldn’t. After J.M. Barrie heard about all the children falling off their beds trying to fly, he added in Fairy Dust as a necessary factor.

Roald Dahl Was A Taste Tester For Cadbury’s

Ever wondered how Roald Dahl had so many scrummy ideas for the sweets in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? He probably got his inspiration from the closest thing we have in real life: Cadbury’s. In his autobiography Boy , Roald Dahl talks about his schoolboy job of taste-testing Cadbury’s chocolate (i.e my dream job).

Angels & Demons Was An Album Before It Was A Book

Before he became a bestselling author, Dan Brown tried his hand at a totally different career: pop star. He started by self-producing an album of children’s songs, and then went on to release two synth-pop albums, one of which was called Angels & Demons. Brown even used the same ambigram for the album artwork that he later used for the cover of the novel. Luckily, he was a better author than he was a songwriter...

Curious George Once Had To Escape The Nazis

Curious George is the mischievous monkey in the popular children’s series of the same name — but he and his creators have a pretty terrifying past. Hans and Margret Rey, the husband-and-wife team behind Curious George and its sequels, were both German-born Jews living in Paris as the Nazis rose to power. As the Nazis prepared to invade, the Reys escaped the country on bicycles they made themselves out of spare parts — and they brought the Curious George manuscript with them.

There Are Only 500 First Edition Hardbacks Of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone

We’ve all heard that J.K. Rowling had difficulty getting published at first; that story is what helps all us struggling writers get to sleep at night. But did you know that even when Bloomsbury Press did agree to publish her story, they were so unconvinced of its success that they only printed 500 of the first run of hardbacks? To put that in perspective, the average print run for a first-time novel is 3,000-5,000. Unsurprisingly, those first edition copies are crazy valuable now.

Cinderella’s Glass Slipper Is A Metaphor For Her Virginity

Cinderella’s glass slipper isn’t just an impractical shoe: it represents her hymen. Think about it: it’s delicate and breakable, and only a true princess could manage to dance without breaking it (yeah, it’s pretty slut-shamey). In some of the original versions, the slipper was made out of fur rather than glass, making the vagina imagery even clearer.

“Anywhere” Is The Only Word In Green Eggs And Ham With More Than One Syllable

I’m sure you’ve heard that Green Eggs and Ham was written as part of a bet between Dr Seuss and his editor, who bet Seuss he couldn’t write a book with only 50 words in it. Seuss, of course, pulled this off in spades — and managed to write it in (almost) entirely monosyllabic words to boot. “Anywhere” is the only word longer than one syllable. Go on, count.

The Little Mermaid Was Written As A Love Letter

The original The Little Mermaid is nowhere near as happy as the Disney version; the mermaid doesn’t get the guy, and has to sacrifice her own life. It’s pretty depressing stuff. Allegedly, Hans Christian Andersen was inspired to write it after hearing about the engagement of the man he loved, Edvard Collin. As this was the 1800s, a homosexual relationship seemed as impossible to Andersen as a relationship between a human and a mermaid. So Andersen wrote this story and sent it to Collin as a way of expressing his forbidden feelings — which just makes this whole story all the more sad.

Louisa May Alcott Didn’t Like Writing Little Women

Little Women is one of the most beloved books of all time; everyone seems to love it, in fact, except for its author. Louisa May Alcott was far more interested in writing suspense novels, but her editor wanted her to write a book for girls. So, somewhat reluctantly, Alcott wrote Little Women — and I have to say, I’m glad she did.

Stephen King Doesn’t Remember Writing Cujo

During the ‘80s, Stephen King struggled with a serious drinking and drug addiction that led his family to stage an intervention. Cujo is the award-winning psychological horror that left us all a little suspicious of our family pets, but sadly Stephen King was so deep into his drinking problem that he can’t remember writing this fantastic book. Thankfully, King has recovered and has been sober for the last few decades.

Lydia From Pride And Prejudice Sets Off To Get Married In Vegas (Kinda)

In the letter that Lydia leaves her family when she runs off with Wickham, she says they are headed to Gretna Green in Scotland. In the 19th century when Pride and Prejudice was published, getting a marriage license could be a slow process, and anyone under 21 needed the consent of their parents. However, this law wasn’t enforced in Scotland — making it the go-to destination for quickie weddings. Gretna Green, as the first town past the Scottish border, was pretty much the Vegas of 19th century Great Britain. And what happens in Vegas...

Images: Giphy (4); Pixabay