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>Dutch Courage?

>I mentioned over on Facebook showing one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Snowman, based on Raymond Briggs’s book, to the little Dutch kids from downstairs. One is two and the other four and they both seem to enjoy the film (or maybe it’s just that hypno-glaze the Snowman himself demonstrates when he watches TV for the first time). But Elizabeth said, “But the snowman dies! Were the kids ok? I’ve heard that used as the ‘difference between Americans and Europeans’ argument. We have Frosty, who comes back to life. Their snowman dies.”

They seemed okay–when the boy in the movie opens the door into the sunny morning to greet his friend, the four-year-old said “he melted.” She also said “it was all a dream,” so maybe she’s just a realist by nature. I’m guessing she doesn’t understand enough about death to see melting as possibly analogous.  Has anyone else experience with sharing this movie with young kids?
Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Anonymous says:

    >My son was three. HE WAS HORRIFIED.


  2. >My three children and I have watched this video many, many times. The music is especially beautiful, transcendent. No problems here. But we live in the Northeast, and deal with snow as a winter reality. It melts. We get it. As for Frosty, I reserve a special dislike for that video — just the worst thing ever.

  3. >Both of my children, one extremely sensitive, one a steamroller, loved and love this movie. I can’t remember exactly when my sensitive 10 year old first saw it, but she was certainly not more than three. My wild child five-year-old was, I believe, one and a half or two at first viewing.

    Neither of them were/are traumatized by the ending. I am not sure that they have ever interpreted the melting as a truly final death. Partly because very young children don’t get the permanence of death the way grown ups do. Partly because the snowman is so inherently magical.

    We watch this at least a few times every year and it always leaves us in something of a reverie. I have, however, found it best not to pay too much attention to some of the lyrics, which seem rather, well, let’s just say, uninventive. The angelic voice sings something on the order of: “We’re flying way up high…the earth is way down there, below…” Such beautiful music! Such quotidian verse!


  4. jimmyprell says:

    >Great observation about the lyrics, idharen. Now that you mention it, I remember. You reminded me of the Literal Music Videos that are all over Youtube these days. Hysterical.

    James Preller

  5. >Every time I watch it with children, they’re bemused when I cry.

    But I would have cried when I was a child. I cried at Frosty. I cried during Rudolph (when the snow monster lost his teeth). “The Little Drummer Boy” sent me into hysterics.

  6. Roger Sutton says:

    >And don’t forget the “Lonely Beach” song in Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. Sob!

  7. Under the Covers says:

    >My boys used to love that video. I think they felt, as others have said, that the Snowman didn’t die, but was transformed. However, they tried to watch it once with a friend who wouldn’t sit still for it. He liked his cartoons *with* talking.

  8. >My comment on facebook, quoted in Roger’s blog post, referred to a TV roundup show that was on late night television in London. It was called “The 25 greatest tearjerkers of all time” or something like that. The Snowman and Watership Down were both in the top 7 (evidently the animated Watership Down is a childhood staple in Britian), It’s a Wonderful Life was #3 and ET was #1. I can’t remember what talking head pointed out that of course in America, our snowman would have to come back to life.

    And out of curiosity, any opinions on why don’t we know the movie of Watership Down better over here, when every British kid has seen it? Do you think it’s possible, as that commentator suggested, that in America we don’t want our children to have to watch a main character die?

    (Actually, I’m more interested in “the curse of Watership Down.” I read on someone’s blog that a lot of the voiceover actors for that movie died in their 40s and 50s. Hmmm…)

  9. Roger Sutton says:

    >In the U.S., Watership Down was published as an adult book and was hugely successful as such, but I wonder if that worked against its fortunes as an animated movie.

  10. >I remember seeing the Watership Down movie when I was a kid–more than 25 years ago, perhaps. The one scene I remember vividly is near the beginning: Fiver’s vision of the hills and fields turning to blood. It haunted me for years. What a great book–one of the best–but it’s not light-hearted fare for the usual Disney movie crowd 🙂 That must be part of the reason why it never quite caught on over here. I’d like to see it again, though, to see if I would still be haunted. I’m a bit stronger now.


  11. >My little brother used to put his head under the couch cushion and sob everytime at the end of The Snowman…but we still watched it every Christmas, so I supposed its redeeming factors (particularly the snowman shin-dig at the north pole) outweighed the annual trauma. I just gave the book to a child at my library yesterday, and it remains a family favorite.

  12. >I watched the animated version of Watership Down every single day when I was a very small child. I even named my toy bunnies Fiver and Hazel. But I rewatched the movie when I was in college, after I had read and loved the book, and I was totally freaked out.

  13. >I also remember watching Watership Down as a kid and being very traumatized by it. Any details have faded from my memory, but I’ve never been able to read the book, though I have had it sitting on my bookshelf for years. Maybe someday…I don’t think I’m strong enough yet!

    I just ordered The Snowman from Amazon-I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it, but now I must (and my small kiddos too)!

  14. >I too was haunted for years as a child by the field of blood in Watership Down. That’s still all I remember of the movie.

    But then, I was also deeply disturbed by the animated version of the Phantom Tollbooth, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I could bring myself to read it. Go figure.

  15. >I have never seen the movie of Watership Down, though I read the book to my son when he was about 10. He wasn’t scared of it. I always called him Hlao Roo after that. As for the Snowman, my 2nd graders have watched it and with no tears!

  16. >The boy who sang The Snowman is Aled Jones, now in his 30s. In the early 90s he dated the housemate of my then-boyfriend and it was quite bizarre when he told me, when refering to bosoms, that “more than a handful is a waste”. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind round the fact that he was once the boy with the angelic voice.

  17. Roger Sutton says:

    >Aled Jones did make a recording of the solo, but the singer in the original soundtrack is Peter Auty.

  18. Brenda Bowen says:

    >Don’t you love that gravelly voice of Raymond Briggs at the beginning of the film? (Roger — correct me if it’s not Raymond Briggs.) My daughter, now 15 and apparently well-adjusted, watched The Snowman countless times as a very young child and understood that the snowman melted. It was the Mary Martin Peter Pan that devastated her.

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