Disney or Chesterton?
The Disney Version
I build my house of stones
I build my house of bricks
I have no chance to sing and dance,
For work and play don’t mix
Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf?
--Popular song, 1932
When I’ve heard people accuse hunters of “going to shoot Bambi” I always thought it was just a cute remark. I never dreamed that they were serious. My son assured me that some folks take Bambi quite seriously. I’m not a hunter but I’ve never seen anything wrong with hunting by persons who are responsible and follow the rules, such as game limits. Otherwise I was pretty indifferent.
Those concerned about Bambi I gather grew up watching Walt Disney movies like Bambi and have never seen much of nature. Apparently they feel that deer are like the cute characters in the “Bambi” movie. I certainly think deer are beautiful and graceful animals but they can also be quite dangerous if you get in their way. Deer have been known to get into houses and create total havoc.
A few years ago I worked in Rock Island, Illinois. The deer population was over abundant and causing problems. A local response was to allow bow and arrow hunters to hunt the deer. The meat to go to local food pantries.
There was an outcry from the liberal/intellectual/university community in Iowa City, Iowa about 60 miles away. However, during a later year Iowa City became overpopulated with deer bothering local gardens and such. Quit a different attitude prevailed.
The truth of the matter is that there is a concept known as the balance of nature. It seems to be a lost concept in this day of politically correct environmentalism. Hunters are part of the balance of nature. If deer or other animals are allowed to overpopulate they will destroy plants and other things in the attempt to find enough food. Or they may starve or become road kill. Believe me it is quite frightening to have a deer suddenly race across the road if front of your car.
I’m afraid that the people who worry about Bambi are much the same as those who seem bothered by children being exposed to scary stories such as fairy tales. I remember listening to public radio and callers who thought fair tales were bad for children. Brothers Grimm and Anderson are too scary for their child. I think they are robbing their children of an enriching literary experience.
G.K. Chesterton, felt just the opposite. Children are exposed to giants, dragons, ogres and other frightful things. But instead of traumatizing the child it gives him a chance to cope with the real monsters in their lives. According to Chesterton, a child’s world is filled with monsters. All grownups are giants in their eyes. Bullies may also appear to be giants or monsters to a child. Every animal appears like a dragon. In the fairy tale the hero beats the giant and slays the dragon. The child knows that he can have the power to deal with the things around him. If on notice children are drawn to scary images in literature, such as the cave in “Tom Sawyer” or being alone on an island like “Robinson Crusoe.”
I’ve been somewhat critical of Walt Disney’s version of fairy tales as being too much away from the message meant to be taught by the originals but even Disney’s version conveyed a moral message. “The Tree Little Pigs” according to a Disney biography “The Disney Version” by Richard Schickel conveyed a message of hard work. The movie was made during the great depression and the big bad wolf was a symbol of hunger and depression. A message more for the grown ups than the children I am sure.
The basic fairy tale plot is that the three brother pigs had to build house for the winter to protect them from the wolf. The wise brother built his house out of brick and the wolf could not force his way in. The other two brothers took the easy way and built much less secure shelters. When the wolf came he was able to blow down their houses and got in and ate the two little pigs. The third pig survived.
In the Disney version when the wolf blew away the houses of the other pigs they ran over to the older brothers house and he took them in. My problem with this version is that the brothers were lazy, built shoddy houses and when things went wrong moved in with their brother. However the author thinks that the message is “Hooverian” and stresses self-reliance. It follows, he reasons, the conservative point of view that national disasters are a direct result of an improvidence not unlike the two younger pigs “skipping about singing and dancing when they should have been forting up against the real menace that lurked nearby.”
Relating the story to the depression was a new take for me. Since some people today have the wolf at their door. Does Disney have a message for them?
© 2009 Don A. Hoglund