Where Nightmares Come From

A break from Waiting for Westmoreland this week, for this tidbit from the writing group this week. It stemmed from the word “nightmare” in a “Nauseous Nocturne,” by Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson. I remarked on my first exposure to it that it reads like a combination of Edgar Allan Poe and Arlo Guthrie and wrote this:

“Do nightmares have anything to do with horses,” the boy asked.”Why yes,” his father said, with just a hint of a smile and a twinkle in his eye. “When a mare rejects the advances of a stallion, the breeder may send her out in the farthest pasture in the darkest night. There she will tremble in fear–unable to pass through the locked gate back to her safe and secure stall in the barn.”

“Then what happens, Daddy?”

“Still bewildered at the aggressive and painful behavior of the stallion, she whimpers in the dark. Whenever she relives this experience in her mind, her powerful emotions enter the dreams of human children. That’s where your bad dream comes from–and why we call it a nightmare.”

You might look up the etymology of nightmare for its true origin–which, of course, has nothing to do with horses. 🙂



10 thoughts on “Where Nightmares Come From

  1. People in the writing group thought it amusing! I LOVE writing prompts. 🙂 Busy today at a coffee house in town doing open mic readings from WFW and The Fountain. Got to get the Quarterly up tomorrow and get ready for a trip. I’ll send details offline.

  2. Thanks, it’s just one of those things that popped into my head reading the poem prompt with nightmare in it. In Old English mare actually referred to an incubus–not a horse. 🙂

    1. Yes, it is a little depressing as far as the horse goes–but it did come from “nightmare.” I’m not normally a Dean Koontz or Stephen King kind of writer. 🙂 You have a good thought there, made up etymologies. Probably been done already–but if not, it has potential. Decades ago, my brother had a book of “fractured french”–taking phrases on a wild ride from what they really translate to.

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