Published 1948 Random House
Editor Sax Commins’ comment to the author when he read this book: “I shall never cease to wonder at these figments of your inexhaustible brain.”
Thidwick is roaming around Lake Winna-Bango with his other moose friends looking for moose moss to munch on when a Bingle Bug asks if he can hop on Thidwick’s antlers for a free ride. Thidwick is so big-hearted that he says no problem and lets the bug jump on up.
This generosity quickly gets out of control as each new animal invites another guest. The Bingle Bug tells a passing bird to join them:
‘”There’s plenty of room!”
Laughed the bug. “And it’s free!”‘
Here is the count up of creatures that eventually gather on Thidwick’s antlers:
- Bingle bug
- Tree Spider
- Zinna-zo bird
- Zinna-zo bird’s wife
- Zinna-zo bird’s wifre’s uncle (a woodpecker)
- Herman the squirrel and his family
- Mice (which bring fleas)
- Three hundred and sixty two bees
Thidwick is not a big fan of these unwanted guests which rip out his hair, build webs and poke holes into his antlers, but he states:
‘”This bird, murmured Thidwick, “is sort of a pest!
But I’m a good sport, so I’ll just let him rest,
For a host , above all, must be nice to his guest.”
Thidwick’s friends tell him he’s gotta get rid of all of these ridiculous creatures and head across the lake. When Thidwick approaches the water there is a big fuss. “‘STOP!’ screamed his guests. ‘You can’t do this to us! These horns are our home and you’ve no right to take our home to the far distant side of the lake!'”
Then hunters arrive and shoot at poor Thidwick because they want to put his unique antlers on display back at the club. Thidwick runs for his life and the hunters corner him, but when we flip the page we read:
It’s true, he was in a most terrible spot
But NOW he remembered a thing he’d forgot!”
Because this is the time of year that he losses his antlers to grow new ones. So he throws his antlers, full of the creatures that have taken up residence there, at the hunters and gets away to join his friends across the lake.
“His old horns today are
Where you knew they would be.
His guests are still on them,
All stuffed, as they should be.”
The lesson behind this book is definitely about not letting yourself be taken advantage of just because you have a kind heart. Thidwick is perfectly happy to let the first guest ride on his antlers, but the that guest starts inviting other guests without considering Thidwick’s feelings or situation. Thidwick puts up with it and repeats three times throughout the story, “For a host , above all, must be nice to his guest.”
Eventually his “friends” leave him behind saying,
“If those are your guests, we don’t want you around!
You can’t stay with us, ’cause you’re just not our sort!”
(They don’t seem like very good friends to me)
After he is left all alone, Thidwick still puts up with his “guests.” I’m sure this book can, and has, been taken to mean many different things politically, but I think Edith and Neil Morgan put it beautifully and simply by stating that Dr. Seuss “gave a name to the overly tolerant person for whom others’ impositions become an insurmountable burden.”
Many of Seuss’ books are very political later in his career, but at this point I feel pretty strongly that he was still just creating fun books for kids to read without a political or even moral agenda, just simple lessons from his life and what he saw around him. We will get into his more heavily politically influenced books later, but I think the lesson here comes when Thidwick finally throws off his antlers and runs off to his friends to east moose moss and be happy leaving the unwanted guests to the fate they deserve.
This book was dedicated to his first wife Helen and reads:
EXTRA MOOSE MOSS
We haven’t quite gotten to the comic book coloring that he was afraid of, but it is also not elaborate paintings like McElligot’s Pool. The illustrations are scratchy, with mostly black shading. Teal and orangish-red are the only two colors and they are used sparingly.
New York Times Book Review:
“Thidwick is a masterpiece of economy, and a shrewd satire on the “easy mark who lets the conventions of society get the better of him. The genius of the story, however, lies in its finale. A man of less consistency than Seuss would have let Thidwick be rescued by the creatures he his befriending (this is the customary Disney riposte in similar situations) but Seuss’ logic is rooted in principle, rather than sentiment, and the sponging animals get what they deserve. Incidentally, this is also what the child expects. “
This won Seuss his second Junior Literary Guild award.
“Well, what would YOU do
If it happened to YOU?
You couldn’t say “Skat!” ’cause that wouldn’t be right.
You couldn’t shout “Scram!” ’cause that isn’t polite.
A host has to put up with all kinds of pests,
For a host, above all, must be nice to his guests.
So you’d try hard to smile, and you’d try to look sweet
And you’d go right on looking for moose-moss to eat. “
This is a great quote because it puts the reader in Thidwick’s shoes and shows that Thidwick is not just a big dummy, but that he really is in a difficult situation. It pulls the reader into the story by talking directly to them and it also forces the reader to think about the predicament that the main character is going through.
I pretty much enjoy any image that has a word thrown into the background. The image is loud and expresses Thidwicks’s emotions very well.
Thanks for reading,
Jack St. Rebor