won't somebody please think of the children!
February 5, 2005 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book - along with The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Max und Moritz, and Der Struwwelpeter (previously discussed here and here) - are classics in the genre of children's books that are likely to disturb sensitive adults. Of course, Barbar isn't much better, and neither is Mickey Mouse, but at least they're not trying to conquer the human race [via Boing Boing]. What is it about corrupted innocence that's so darn funny?
posted by Paragon (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I, for one, welcome our cuddly Zogg overlords.
posted by carmen at 2:11 PM on February 5, 2005

the conquer link is hilarious.
posted by blendor at 2:31 PM on February 5, 2005

Great post, through the Mickey Mouse link i found a page with scans of rare Donald Duck comics.
posted by Dreamghost at 2:46 PM on February 5, 2005

Great post. The darkest children's literature is the best children's literature. Roald Dahl is another good example.
posted by painquale at 2:48 PM on February 5, 2005

Roald Dahl also wrote adult fiction. My Uncle Oswald is quite perverted.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:06 PM on February 5, 2005

This reminds me of an actual conversation I once had in a library.

Me: These Berenstain Bears books are cute.

Her: They're too cartoony. I like my children's books to be beeeeaaaauuutifully illustrated.
posted by ilsa at 3:07 PM on February 5, 2005

The cuddly menace, indeed. Brilliant!
posted by scody at 3:16 PM on February 5, 2005

"Remember, a fireman will only visit where there is a fire!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:30 PM on February 5, 2005

I remember a Berenstain Bears spoof... maybe a Fark photoshop "Berenstain Bears that didn't make it"? I remember it was damned funny.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:22 PM on February 5, 2005

For corrupted innocence, you can't beat the "Lonely Doll" books by Dare Wright. They're filled with barely repressed sexuality and loneliness.
posted by mediareport at 5:08 PM on February 5, 2005

Children, innocent? They take to cruelty like ducks to water. It's getting them civilized that's the tough part.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:10 PM on February 5, 2005

When I first saw a Lemony Snicket book, I immediatley thought of the GhashlyCrumb Tinies.
posted by Clay201 at 5:13 PM on February 5, 2005

I was reading my kid some of the Brer Rabbit books, which I hadn't seen in dozens of years, and it dawned on me: Brer Rabbit is a total dick. He fucks everyone over, and he always wins in the end. What kind of story is that?

Not to mention the "tar baby."
posted by fungible at 6:11 PM on February 5, 2005

Brer Rabbit is a total dick. He fucks everyone over, and he always wins in the end. What kind of story is that?

One in the fine tradition of the trickster hero.

Kids can outpace us all with their cruelty. My son had his 3rd birthday party today, which we celebrated with a Nemo birthday cake. He was disappointed that the cake didn't depict the barracuda eating Nemo's mother and siblings.

And thanks for posting the Zogg link. I wanted to share it too but couldn't think of a FPP with more detail than "See the Funny Link."
posted by bibliowench at 6:56 PM on February 5, 2005

I guess I figured him for a trickster, but he's not the kind of trickster you'd like, ie Bugs Bunny, Jerry the mouse, etc. He's a dick just because he's a dick, not because somebody's trying to eat him or shoot him. He's just greedy. If I took them more seriously, I'd really be rooting that someone gives him a thrashing. But I don't take it that seriously.

On the other hand, my wife bought a children's version of Noah's Ark. (I'm not too big on the Bible-inspired books, but I guess the kid needs to know those stories too.) I'm always a little tickled when I get to the part where the storm arrives, because the subtext is, of course, "And then everyone on Earth died a horrible death. The end." What a message for people.
posted by fungible at 7:12 PM on February 5, 2005

fungible, you do recognize the racial politics inherent in the stories? Br'er Rabbit is a dick to people because he represents the "uppity Negro" to their white oppressors. In many of the stories Br'er Fox actively conspires to upend Rabbit, who outwits his opponent time after time. Southern Blacks did not necessarily value likeability because it was a known facade presented to Whites. Note in the tar baby story how Br'er Fox threatens Br'er Rabbit with hanging, something which should make their iconographic relationship crystal clear.
posted by dhartung at 7:44 PM on February 5, 2005

Wikipedia: "In his American incarnation, Br'er Rabbit represents the Black slave who uses his wits to overcome circumstances and even to enact playful revenge on his adversaries, representing the White slave-owners. Though not always successful, his subversive efforts made him both a folk hero and friendly comic figure."

So now I see. They're slave stories where it's understood that he's getting back at the Whites without even having to show that he's being victimized, much like we already know that Jerry's in danger of being eaten by Tom. Interesting, if completely un-obvious in the stories themselves. Thanks D.
posted by fungible at 7:59 PM on February 5, 2005

that ZOGG thing is perfect--and it reminds me of this parody (an old web classic): Rusty is a homosexual
posted by amberglow at 9:03 PM on February 5, 2005

Thanks for posting the link to Max und Moritz. The latin edition of the book was recently withdrawn from my Uni library, and I decided to take it home after seeing the illustrations of the The First Trick. It's interesting to see the English translation is just as morbid as the drawings.
posted by rokabiri at 11:41 PM on February 5, 2005

A friend pointed out the We Are Zogg bit to me a couple days back, and thus demonstrated why she's my friend. I still think the captions often try a bit too hard--but most of that is simply due to how horribly creepy the dead-eyed-plastic-doll style of the art is to begin with.

On dark real kids' lit: I've recently read through the Lemony Snicket books, and really wished that they'd been written back when I could read them as a kid; I know I would've loved them just as much back then, if not more.

I'm a little baffled as to why a lot of adults are startled, or even bothered, at how much many kids love "dark" stories; I suspect those adults don't remember being children very clearly, or have confabulated their memories of it into some vaseline-smeared lens dead-eyed-plastic-doll version that leads to the okay of Golden Books art like Zogg's. Past a certain age--which a lot of kids hit very early on--children realize full well the world's a dark place, and frankly darker than the grown-ups seem to realize it is. It's full of things that can cause amazing anguish, and moreover, kids are aware how helpless they are to stop the world when things like that pop up.

Dark stories tame that, in a way that reminds me of that famous Chesterton quote that I'm probably paraphrase-manslaughtering: "Fairy tales don't teach children that monsters exist--they already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be killed."

Anyway, great links--I'd never seen the Max und Moritz before, so the FPP is officially my shordurpersav for awhile.
posted by Drastic at 3:17 AM on February 6, 2005

More Max und Moritz here along wth hundreds of other pre-20th Century comics.

(Discalimer - Andy who runs this site is a mate and I host it for him)
posted by peteash10 at 7:31 AM on February 6, 2005

Slightly off topic, but for those interested in the slave origins of br'er rabbit, Zora Neale Hurston wrote a collection of black, southern folklore called Mules and Men (full on-line text). The book was revolutionary in folk-tale gathering because she related the context in which the tales were told as well as the tales themselves. Really fantastic stuff for those who love folk tales.
posted by carmen at 8:13 AM on February 6, 2005

I remember reading "Bedtime Stories," an old (grandparent's-aged) set of books that were just completely over-the-top moral lessons.

There's one in which a terminally ill kid is advised by a hospital friend that should he fall asleep holding up his hand for attention, Jesus will come along and take him to heaven. So using pillows, the kid props up his hand and sure enough, Christ reaps his soul.

To this day I can not fall asleep if my arm is propped up.

There was also a story about "heaping coals upon his head" as regards jerks and bullies by acting charitable and kind toward them, thus driving them insane with the suspicion that you're up to something. Turns out that it works like a charm; I've used it on a harriden neighbour, and she got even wiggier. "Oh, hello, neighbour, isn't it a nice day today! How are you doing?" [and she stomps away, cursing me under her breath...]
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2005

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