The Story of Ferdinand

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The Story of Ferdinand
The Story of Ferdinand.jpg
Author Munro Leaf
Cover artist Robert Lawson
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's literature
Publication date
1936
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)

The Story of Ferdinand (1936) is the best known work written by American author Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson. The children's book tells the story of a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. He sits in the middle of the bull ring failing to take heed of any of the provocations of the matador and others to fight.

The book was released nine months before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and was seen by many supporters of Francisco Franco as a pacifist book.[1] It was banned in many countries, including in Spain. In Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler ordered the book burned, while Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, granted it privileged status as the only non-communist children's book allowed in Poland. India's leader Mahatma Gandhi called it his favorite book.[2]

Leaf is said to have written the story on a whim in an afternoon in 1935, largely to provide his friend, illustrator Robert Lawson (then relatively unknown) a forum in which to showcase his talents.[2]

The landscape in which Lawson placed the fictional Ferdinand is more or less real. Lawson faithfully reproduced the view of the city of Ronda in Andalusia for his illustration of Ferdinand being brought to Madrid on a cart: we see the Puente Nuevo ("New Bridge") spanning the El Tajo canyon. The Disney movie added some rather accurate views of Ronda and the Puente Romano ("Roman bridge") and the Puente Viejo ("Old bridge") at the beginning of the story, where Lawson's pictures were more free. Ronda is home to the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain that is still used; this might have been a reason for Lawson's use of its surroundings as a background for the story.

Summary[edit]

Young Ferdinand does not enjoy butting heads with other young bulls, preferring instead to lie under a tree smelling the flowers. His mother worries that he might be lonely and tries to persuade him to play with the other calves, but when she sees that Ferdinand is content as he is, she leaves him alone.

When the calves grow up, Ferdinand turns out to be the largest and strongest of the young bulls. All the other bulls dream of being chosen to compete in the bull fight in Madrid, but Ferdinand still prefers smelling the flowers to fighting. Five men come to the pasture to choose a bull for the fights. Ferdinand is again on his own, sniffing flowers, when he accidentally sits on a bee. He runs wildly across the field, snorting and stamping. Mistaking Ferdinand for a mad bull, the men rename him Ferdinand the Fierce and take him away to Madrid.

All the beautiful ladies of Madrid turn out to see the handsome matador fight Ferdinand the Fierce. However, when Ferdinand is led into the ring, he is delighted by the flowers in the ladies' hair and lies down in the middle of the ring to enjoy them. Everyone is upset and disappointed. Ferdinand is sent back to his pasture, where to this day, he is still smelling flowers.

Legacy[edit]

Poster from the Federal Theatre Project, Work Projects Administration production, 1937

A plushie of Ferdinand plays a significant role in the 1940 film Dance, Girl, Dance. The toy is passed between various characters, having been originally purchased as a memento of a visit to a nightclub called Ferdinand's. The nightclub has a large statue of Ferdinand at the rear of the bandstand.

"Ferdinand" was the code name chosen for the Australian Coastwatchers in World War II by Eric Feldt, the organization's commander:

Ferdinand ... did not fight but sat under a tree and just smelled the flowers. It was meant as a reminder to coastwatchers that it was not their duty to fight and so draw attention to themselves, but to sit circumspectly and unobtrusively, gathering information. Of course, like their titular prototype, they could fight if they were stung.[3]

Marvel Comics featured a recurring character named Rintrah in the pages of Doctor Strange. This extraterrestrial anthropomorphic bull was frequently referred to as Ferdinand for a gentle and kind nature

In the film Pursuit to Algiers, Mrs. Dunham compares Dr. Watson to Ferdinand the Bull because he would rather drink sherry than exert himself by going on a three–mile hike.

Ferdinand made an appearance in the 1997 film "Strays," a Sundance favorite written/directed/starring a then-unknown Vin Diesel. The story of Ferdinand, the bull who followed his heart and proved that just because you're a bull you don't have to act like one, served as a major influence and spirit of the film's plot.

Ferdinand again appeared in the 2009 movie The Blind Side, the story of Michael Oher, a film with a similar metaphorical message as Leaf's book. The movie includes a scene where a coach mentions that Michael would rather stare at balloons than hit someone. The character played by Sandra Bullock then replies "Ferdinand the Bull."

A rubber mask of Ferdinand is featured in the Stephen King novel Rose Madder.

The story was set to incidental music in "Ferdinand the Bull" by classical composer Mark Fish. This piece has been narrated in concerts by actors including David Ogden Stiers, Lauren Lane, and Emmy award-winner Roscoe Lee Browne. Fish and Stiers have co-produced a recording of a reduced version of the piece for narrator, cello, and piano, also narrated by Stiers, and recorded by northwest composer Jack Gabel and released by North Pacific Music.[4] It was also adapted, in 1971, as a piece for solo violin and narrator by the British composer Alan Ridout.[5]

Singer-songwriter Elliott Smith had a tattoo of Ferdinand the Bull, from the cover of Munro Leaf's book, on his right upper arm, which is visible on the cover of his record Either/Or. The rock band Fall Out Boy named their third album From Under The Cork Tree after a phrase in the book.[6]

Richard Horvitz commented that fellow actor and friend Fred Willard performed this story as a 5th grade class play when Fred was a child.

According to one scholar, the book crosses gender lines in that it offers a character to whom both boys and girls can relate.[7]

The short film is broadcast in several countries every year on Christmas Eve as a part of the annual Disney Christmas show From All of Us to All of You.

In 1951, Holiday magazine published an Ernest Hemingway children's story called The Faithful Bull. This story has been interpreted as a "rebuttal" to the earlier Leaf book.[8]

In 2000, a Latin version of the text was published by David R. Godine, Publisher as Ferdinandus Taurus.

Film adaptations[edit]

The story was adapted by Walt Disney as a short animated film entitled Ferdinand the Bull in 1938, in a style similar to his Silly Symphonies series (and sometimes considered an unofficial part of that series). Ferdinand the Bull won the 1938 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons).

In 2011, it was reported that Fox Animation acquired the rights to the story to adapt it into a computer-animated feature film with Carlos Saldanha attached to direct it.[9] In May 2013, Fox scheduled the film, which will be produced by Blue Sky Studios, for April 7, 2017.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paul, Pamela (March 31, 2011). "Ferdinand the Bull Turns 75". The New York Times. Retrieved December 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Cohen, Karl (December 5, 2003). "Animating Peace Messages — Part 2". Animation World Network. Retrieved December 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Coastwatchers 1941–1945". Australia's War 1941–1945. Government of Australia. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  4. ^ Rust, Dot (November 12, 2010). "Review: Ferdinand the Bull and Friends". Oregon Music News. Retrieved December 7, 2013. 
  5. ^ A performance of the piece, by the violinist Ruth Rogers and her mother, Juliet Rogers, formed part of the concert “Musical Bridge: An evening of classical music inspired by Burma” at Christ Church, Spitalfields in London on May 15, 2010.
  6. ^ "Fall Out Boy—From Under The Cork Tree". The Syndicate. 2005. Archived from the original on 2006-11-20. Retrieved 2007-05-14. "When he was a little boy, Fall Out Boy bassist and lyricist Pete Wentz enjoyed reading "Curious George," "Babar" and Richard Scarry, but his favorite children's book was "The Story of Ferdinand" by Munro Leaf. The story (...) was so inspirational to Wentz that he titled the band's breakthrough record From Under the Cork Tree." 
  7. ^ Spitz, Ellen Handler (1999). Inside Picture Books. Yale University Press. pp. 176–177. ISBN 0-300-07602-9. 
  8. ^ Reid, Carol (March 28, 2012). "Ferdinad (for Ferdinand)". Typo of the Day for Librarians. Retrieved December 7, 2013. 
  9. ^ Brodesser-Akner, Claude (2011-02-18). "Fox, Ice Age Director Bullish on The Story of Ferdinand". New York. Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  10. ^ Chitwood, Adam (May 16, 2013). "DreamWorks Animation Moves B.O.O. Release Up to June 5, 2015 and TROLLS to November 4, 2016; Fox Dates ANUBIS and FERDINAND". Collider.com. Retrieved May 16, 2013. 

External links[edit]