I recently came across the Seussblog, which has reviews of all of Dr. Seuss’s books (well, up through Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! so far), and while I haven’t read all of his books, for the most part it’s a return to my childhood. One story I remember liking was “The Glunk That Got Thunk,” but I’d forgotten which book it was in.
The answer was I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! and Other Stories, the beginning of which has the Cat in the Hat explaining that the stories are about his son, daughter, and ancestor. I don’t recall being surprised by the fact that the Cat had kids, but looking back it’s kind of weird. I wonder who the mother is. Also, what relation are all of those Little Cats he keeps inside his hat?
Anyway, “The Glunk That Got Thunk” stars the Cat’s daughter, but is narrated by his son, the same kid who bragged about being able to beat up tigers in the first story in the volume. The girl makes a hobby of imagining fuzzy little things, but one day decides to think up something big instead. This turns out to be the titular Glunk, a big green monster who proceeds to run up the phone bill by calling his mother long-distance and dictating the steps to make Glunker Stew.
The Glunk resists the girl’s attempts to un-think him (“you can’t un-thunk a Glunk”), but eventually her brother helps her out, and she no longer attempts to imagine anything that big. It’s a funny story, what with the Glunk not doing any real harm, but instead just posing a more comical threat. He’s a bad house guest, not all that much unlike the kids’ father. And the recipe for Glunker Stew is quite amusing. What is it with kids and gross combinations of food? I also remember liking the cake in Happy Birthday to You! made of “Grade-A peppermint cucumber sausage-paste butter,” even though I never would have actually wanted to try such a thing. Maybe Sam-I-Am could have convinced me otherwise.
Anyway, getting back to the Glunk, what’s the moral here? Don’t imagine anything unpleasant? Kind of a weird message for Seuss, who was generally a champion of a child’s imagination in all its forms. Gerald McGrew and Morris McGurk certainly don’t receive any punishment for thinking up monsters much more dangerous than the big green mama’s boy. Is the only difference that the protagonist in this case is a girl? While of course Seuss wrote for kids of both sexes, his heroes were pretty much always boys. Even in The Cat in the Hat, which starred a brother and sister, it’s the boy who narrates and is more proactive. So should unbridled imagination be left to boys, while girls just imagine tiny furry animals? I don’t know that this was intentional on Seuss’s part, but it’s kind of what comes across.