Thidwick and The Darker Side of Seuss

Dr. Seuss was great for a lot of reasons, obviously foremost of those being his marvelous abilities with rhyme and meter–seriously, if you don’t believe that, read aloud just about any parody of him and compare with one of his actual books, and you’ll see that people grossly underestimate how hard what he did was to do well–but, in a strange way, also because he wasn’t a Mister Rogers-type character with sweetness and gentleness oozing from every pore.

That’s not a knock against Fred Rogers, who I think was the gentle spirit he portrayed, but I admit I had a taste (even as a child) for the darker side as well. I loved Roald Dahl, for example, especially for things like in James and the Giant Peach, where James’ aunts are squashed dead by the peach.

Dr. Seuss wrote about a lot of the dumber, darker side of humanity with Horton, and of course, his late-in-life Butter Battle Book. But I had not heard of Thidwick, and received it as a gift on my last birthday. (It was on my Amazon wish list.)

The Flower resisted me reading it aloud (as I do) because she thought the ending had Thidwick being killed, but I finally overruled her. And I was surprised; this should be a classic alongside of the Grinch, the Cat and Horton.

Thidwick is a moose who lets a bug sit on his antlers. The bug then invites more and larger creatures to join him, until finally his antlers are burdened with a multitude of pests, including (absurdly) a bear. Obviously, this impact his ability to survive, as he’s no longer able to forage or run from hunters. But he’s too polite–too nice–to tell them get lost.

So, we have here a marvelous allegory for so many things: the tragedy of the commons–and check out the Wikipedia article for a communist spin on why “tragedy of the commons” is misapplied, the dangers of modern liberalism, and just how one can start with a good principle (“a host must be good to his guests”) and take it to the point of self-destruction.

I don’t know if Seuss meant any of that, but it works, and it has a good ending. (The Flower didn’t like the ending actually; she’s not a big fan of comeuppance.) But I say check it out.

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