Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose
|1948 (renewed 1975)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||McElligot's Pool|
|Followed by||Bartholomew and the Oobleck|
Thidwick, a moose in a herd numbering approximately sixty who subsist mainly on moose-moss and live on the northern shore of Lake Winna-Bango, grants a small bug's request to ride on his antlers free of charge. The bug takes advantage of the moose's kindness and settles in as a permanent resident, inviting various other animals to live on and in the moose's antlers. The kind-hearted moose acquiesces to the unexpected living arrangements, treating the animals as 'guests' even though he never told them explicitly that they were allowed to live there. Unfortunately, his passengers are thoughtless and selfish, and the situation quickly gets out of control. When one of the guests, a woodpecker, begins drilling holes in Thidwick's antlers, the other moose give Thidwick an ultimatum: if he doesn't get rid of his guests then he will leave the herd. When Thidwick's sense of decency compels him to forgo the comforts of herd life in favor of indulging his guests, his herd leaves him behind. Winter comes, and the herd swims across the lake to find fresh supplies of moose-moss. Thidwick wants to do the same, but his guests object, and insist that Thidwick not take "their home to the far distant side of the lake." Even as he faces starvation, Thidwick refuses to go against his guests' wishes, and he remains on the cold, northern shore of the lake where his guests prefer to reside. Meanwhile, the heartless residents of Thidwick's antlers, who pay no regard to the increasing physical or psychological load that the moose is forced to endure, continue inviting other animals to live with them.
The situation comes to a head when a group of hunters spot Thidwick and pursue him, with the goal of shooting him and mounting his head on the wall of the Harvard Club in New York City: a building well known in the 1930s and 1940s for its hunting trophies. Thidwick attempts to outrun the hunters, but the heavy load, including his passengers' refusal to permit him to travel across the lake, prevents him from escaping. Just before his capture, however, Thidwick remembers that it is time for him to shed his antlers. At the last moment he drops his antlers, makes a snide comment to his former guests, and escapes by swimming across the lake to rejoin his herd. His former guests are captured by the hunters and are stuffed and mounted, still perched on his antlers, on the Harvard Club wall.
The story explores the limits of hospitality and sharing. Neil Reynolds had discussed it as a parable of immigration issues and the social welfare state. Aeon J. Skoble discusses Thidwick at length as an exemplification of the idea of property rights, and particularly of Locke's formulation of property rights. Skoble argues that Thidwick is badly mistaken in viewing the other animals as "guests", and that the story demonstrates this. In a later essay in the same volume, Henry Cribbs makes a similar point, considering whether "Thidwick" is a case of squatter's rights.
"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 consistence than Seuss would have let Thidwick be rescued by the creatures he is defending (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."
- Welcome, a 1986 Soviet animated film
- Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, a 1992 direct-to-video short following Horton Hears a Who!
- Neil Reynolds (2011), The Moose and the modern welfare state, retrieved 2013-01-30
- Skoble, Aeon J (2011), "Thidwick the Big-Hearted Bearer of Property Rights", in Held, Jacob M., Dr. Seuss and Philosophy: Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 159–166, ISBN 978-1442203112, retrieved 19 June 2013
- Cribbs, Henry (2011), "Whose Egg is it Really? Property Rights and Distributive Justice", in Held, Jacob M., Dr. Seuss and Philosophy: Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 184–5, ISBN 978-1442203112
- "The Significance of Dr. Suess" by David Dempsey, quoted in Fensch, Thomas (2001), The Man Who Was Dr. Seuss: The Life and Work of Theodor Geisel, New Century Books, p. 95, ISBN 978-0930751128, retrieved 19 June 2013