Mr. Snuffleupagus

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Aloysius Snuffleupagus
Sesame Street character
Snuffy31.jpg
First appearance November 8, 1971
Portrayed by Jerry Nelson / Richard Hunt
(1971–1978)
Michael Earl (1978–1980)
Martin Robinson (1980 – present)
Information
Aliases Snuffy, Snuffleupagus, Mr. Snuffleupagus
Species woolly mammoth-like elephant
Gender male

Aloysius Snuffleupagus, more commonly known as Mr. Snuffleupagus or Snuffy, is one of the characters on the educational television program for young children, Sesame Street. He was created as a woolly mammoth, without tusks or (visible) ears, and has a long thick pointed tail, similar in shape to that of a dinosaur or other reptile. He has long thick brown hair and a trunk, or "snuffle", that drags along the ground. He is a friend of Big Bird and has a baby sister named Alice. He also attends Snufflegarten.

Character biography[edit]

For many years, Big Bird was the only character on the show who saw Mr. Snuffleupagus, but later in the 17th season (1985) he showed his friends on Sesame Street his "imaginary" friend, so they believed him. Before that happened, the main adult characters teased Big Bird when he said he had seen the Snuffleupagus, because they did not believe there was such an animal, often despite evidence to the contrary (such as an oversized teddy bear that Snuffy had left behind, or segments in which Snuffy interacted with other characters, such as a street scene where Snuffy was seen playing London Bridge with some of the neighborhood kids). This concept was meant to echo the existence of imaginary friends some young children have.[1]

The Snuffleupagus's fur in the earlier years was light brown as it is today, but not exactly the same shade; he also had yellow almond-shaped eyes with thin pupils and shorter eyelashes. This appearance was deemed frightening for younger children, so later it was revamped to have his eyes look normal and to have a friendly personality.

By the late 1970s, the story lines had the adult characters becoming increasingly frustrated with Big Bird using Snuffleupagus as a scapegoat whenever something went wrong while they were out of the room. In one episode, newspapers on Sesame Street carried the front page headline, "Snuffy's Got To Go!". Some adults gradually began to believe Big Bird, the first being folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie who sang Big Bird a song about her belief in Mr. Snuffleupagus.[2] After Buffy's departure from the show, Linda (Linda Bove), Maria (Sonia Manzano), and Gordon (Roscoe Orman) became believers in Snuffy's existence.

Snuffy meets the adults[edit]

This running gag ended with the Season 17 premiere of Sesame Street, episode 2096 (first aired November 18, 1985, following the release of the Sesame Street film Follow That Bird). Big Bird is sick and tired of not having the grown-ups believing him when he tells them about Snuffy, so he decides to arrange for them to come to his nest and meet Snuffy when he yells the signaling word, "Food!" He chooses this word because he knows the grown-ups will not believe him if he tells them his real reason for inviting them to his nest, and "food" is a more credible lure. When Big Bird calls out the word, Snuffy runs off to tell his mother about the meeting, so once again the grown-ups just miss him. Gordon, wanting to help, suggests to Big Bird that he needs someone to help him keep Snuffy in his nest, and Elmo offers to be the one. Snuffy returns, then tells Elmo he had better go home and brush his fur to prepare for the grown-ups' arrival, but Elmo holds on to his snuffle so he cannot go. Big Bird yells, "Food!" and one by one the adults come and see Snuffy for the first time ever. After viewing Snuffleupagus in stunned disbelief, then cautiously approaching, Big Bird does an "I told you so" routine to the adults. Susan (Loretta Long) apologizes on behalf of the group for disbelieving Big Bird for so long. Bob (Bob McGrath) then tells him, "From now on, we'll believe you whenever you tell us something." (Snuffy tells Big Bird they should get what Bob said in writing). Linda (Linda Bove) then suggests that Big Bird introduce Snuffy to everyone one by one. The entire Sesame Street cast henceforth sees Snuffy regularly on the show.

In an interview on a Canadian telethon that was hosted by Bob McGrath, Snuffy's performer, Martin P. Robinson, revealed that Snuffy was finally introduced to the main human cast mainly due to a string of high profile and sometimes graphic stories of pedophilia and sexual abuse of children that had been aired on shows such as 60 Minutes and 20/20. The writers felt that by having the adults refuse to believe Big Bird despite the fact that he was telling the truth, they were scaring children into thinking that their parents would not believe them if they had been sexually abused and that they would just be better off remaining silent. On the same telethon, during Robinson's explanation, Loretta Long uttered the words "Bronx daycare", a reference to a news event on New York TV station WNBC-TV in which there were reports of alleged sexual abuse at a Bronx daycare center. This was seen in the documentary Sesame Street Unpaved.

Spelling "Snuffleupagus"[edit]

According to sources such as the Sesame Workshop website and Sesame Street Unpaved, the character's name is spelled "Snuffleupagus". Many licensors, closed-captioners, and fans (including websites) misspell the word. Even The Jim Henson Company website errs, spelling the character's name "Snuffulupagus".[3]

The 1985 Warner Brothers movie Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird depicts his name properly spelled on his mailbox. At the time he was still considered by others as Big Bird's "imaginary" friend. The fact that he was shown with his own real place, as well as him sending Big Bird a very real postcard, set up his revelation to the rest of Sesame Street later that year.

Performers[edit]

Snuffleupagus was first performed by Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt,[4] then Michael Earl, and more recently Marty Robinson.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Inglis-Arkell, Esther. "The Child Psychology of Sesame Street". iO9. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Beta, Andy. "Sainte-Marie Sings a New Song", New York Sun, 18 June 2007.
  3. ^ The Jim Henson Company. Henson.com. Retrieved on June 23, 2012.
  4. ^ Jones, Brian Jay (2013). "Sesame Street". Jim Henson: The Biography. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-345-52611-3.