Two Arthurs

Here in Boston we are getting ready for a sideswipe by Hurricane Arthur. They’ve even moved the Boston Pops and fireworks festivities to tonight instead of tomorrow. Meanwhile, Arthur is headed for the southeast coast here in the US today. It’s pretty rare for that first storm of the season — the one named with an A — to do much damage, but still one worries. I hope everyone stays safe.

Thinking about this hurricane’s name reminded me of the most famous children’s lit Arthur, Marc Brown’s aardvark. I admit to never watching one of the cartoons all the way through, in part because I don’t like how the character’s face was made so generic for the cartoon version. It’s as if Arthur’s makeover role model was Michael Jackson: lighter skin tone (or is it fur?) and smaller features. I never did understand the color change, but regarding the nose, it’s probably difficult to animate a character with a large droopy nose and short arms. How would he carry anything?

Still, when you compare the first book — which is about Arthur learning to come to terms with having a very large nose — to the present incarnation, I have to wonder what children make of this change.

Arthur's Nose       Arthur now

Has anyone had a conversation with a child about the different physiognomies? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

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Alice Hoffman About Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty best-selling titles for adults, including Practical Magic and The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Her latest novel for children is Nightbird (Lamb/Random), reviewed in this issue.

Comments

  1. Well, Arthur’s appearance changed in the books first, before the TV show. I’m not sure why he was made lighter, but Marc Brown answers the nose question here: “Arthur looks like a real aardvark in the first book. But the more I drew Arthur, the shorter his nose became. I guess I just wanted to make him friendlier looking. My friend Steven Krensky, who’s also a writer, said that Arthur is starting to look human and it’s scaring him. ” http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/marc-brown-interview-transcript

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