There is a delightful video making the rounds on Twitter today that I encourage you to watch if you haven’t done so already. It’s an original song by a 4-year-old named Fenn and despite everything the previous words imply, it’s very good! Not even “good for a kid” but actually quite moving in a weird, surprising way.
Fenn, my nearly 4 year old daughter, recorded her first ever solo song today. She came up with all the words herself and I helped her a little bit with the tune. It’s called ‘Dinosaurs in Love’. 🦕❤️🦕 pic.twitter.com/erCgG0sUvP— Tom Rosenthal (@tomrosenthal) January 28, 2020
There is also something very haunting about it, that is obviously due to the subject matter (the forgotten loves of long-dead creatures) and probably its composition (I don’t know, ask a music nerd about that). But it is also haunting because Fenn is British and sings it in a child’s British accent which is, I believe, the most haunting accent for a child to have.
If you imagine the dinosaur song sung by an equally talented kid from say, Boston or Newfoundland, it is still very cute but not nearly as unsettling. Of course, American and Canadian children can be frightening too, but only a British child can leave you with the sense that child has seen the many faces Death wears.
I am not alone in thinking that British children are uniquely otherworldly. This is basically the premise of Henry James’s best work, The Turn of the Screw, where you must decide if the precocious charges of a governess have collaborated with malign spirits or merely driven her mad. It’s also why that one episode of Dr. Who where the little kid in the gas mask asks “Are you my mummy?” is legitimately chilling.
Close your eyes and picture any adorable British child — a Dickensian scamp, a posh one wearing a cravat, one of the kids from Skins before they discovered drugs, whatever — saying “mummy.” Spine-tingling. What follows “mummy” is entirely likely to be something like “great grandfather Nigel says hello and not to worry because there is no smallpox in heaven.” Perhaps the reason adult Brits are so repressed is because they spend their childhoods so close to the veil between the living and the dead. They know things we do not, like why the ghosts of dinosaurs are sad.