Religious Exploration for Youth – Beacon At Home
“Horton Hears A UU: Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss”
May 17, 2020 – “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose”
“Of course not!” smiled Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose. “I’m happy my antlers can be of some use. There’s room there to spare, and I’m happy to share!”
Following in the tradition of Aesop’s Fables is a moral lesson about kindness to be found in the story of Thidwick, The Big-Hearted Moose. Yet it probably isn’t the one you think it is. In fact, Thidwick’s tale is a lesson warning against unrestrained kindness, a heads up that all that glitters is not necessarily gold. How does a children’s book manage this? Should it? Can you be too generous? Let’s dig deeper and see.
Watch the Read-along book: https://youtu.be/Xp95Q39nfOI
Explore the theme:
- Our UU Principles and Thidwick: “Justice, Equity and Compassion in Human Relations”
- Can you think of a time when something like what happened to Thidwick happened to you?
Some Questions, answers and insights courtesy of the shmoop.com website:
Q: Why does Thidwick toss his antlers with the animals on them?
A: He learns his lesson, which is that kindness can only go so far.
Q: How far should kindness go?
A: When kindness starts harming the person being kind, physically or emotionally, then it’s probably a good time to start pulling back.
Q: But doesn’t the golden rule say we should treat everyone as we want to be treated? Seems Thidwick didn’t want to end up on the hunter’s wall.
A: Yes, but it’s about finding a balance. Thidwick was so kind, and the animals so unkind, that the golden rule didn’t work in that situation. Thidwick wasn’t a helper—he was a target.
Compassion and kindness are pretty great, right? Where would this world be without kind people to feed the homeless, walk old ladies across the road, and help high school students analyze literary characters for an upcoming essay? But Thidwick and the Big-Hearted Moose suggests that there may be times when kindness might not be all that great—like perhaps when you find yourself walking around with five hundred pounds of animals on your back while hunters give chase in an attempt to mount your head on a wall. That’s one possible example anyway.
Q: What’s the moral of this story? I’m confused.
A: The moral is simply that kindness can be taken advantage of by selfish people.
Q: So, wait… kindness isn’t a good thing?
A: I don’t think the book is trying to say that as a blanket statement. It’s just trying to show people that there are times when, yeah, kindness is more harmful than a little selfishness.
Q: When are those times?
A: When people—or Dr. Seussian animals —are so selfish that they don’t have an ounce of kindness in them, then it’s probably best to counter with a little of your own selfishness. Not a lot but enough.
Q: How will I know when enough is enough?
A: That’s a great question, but I don’t have an answer. It’ll depend on the situation. If your safety’s in jeopardy, though, then things have definitely gone too far and it’s time to prioritize protecting yourself.
Greed is one of the seven deadly sins, and boy, does it live up to this claim to fame in Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose. Things start out small, but they just keep getting bigger… and bigger… and bigger. It starts out as a Bingle Bug just asking for a ride on Thidwick’s antlers. No biggie; it’s not like Thidwick will even know he’s there. But the bug invites another bug and then a bird; the bird invites his new family, who invite some squirrels. Until the next thing Thidwick knows, he has a bear on his back, literally! And never once do these sponging squatters ever consider the needs of poor Thidwick. This lack of consideration, however, in the end, harms more than just a sucker of a moose.
Q: Why don’t the other animals just ask Thidwick if it’s okay to move in?
A: They’re greedy. They don’t think of Thidwick as an animal equal to them but as a thing that belongs to them, and as such, his feelings don’t really matter.
Q: What causes the animals to be greedy?
A: Part of it is probably just in their nature, but some of it might be Thidwick himself. Had he just called them out on their greed and stood up for himself, they might have seen the errors of their ways—or at the very least been greedy somewhere else.
Q: Do you think it’s fair that the animals are killed for their greed? That seems mean.
A: It is pretty mean, and I wouldn’t exactly call it fair. I would say, however, that if they had learned their lesson sooner, rather than later, they might have avoided their fate. That’s the difference between the animals and Thidwick – Thidwick learns his lesson.
We love this ending because Thidwick learns his lesson but remains true to himself. Big-hearted to the end, he gives his guests exactly what they want—his antlers. While children may not be able to define “irony,” they’ll know it when they see it!
Lastly, here are some May-themed activities!