ROBERT MUNSCH AND THE OEDIPAL COMPLEX

Oedipus was a stranger to the city. He killed the wicked king and married his widow. At the time, he didn’t know that the king was actually his father, and his new wife was actually his own mother- he doesn’t find out until the end of the story, when he is suitably horrified at what he had done. So I never understood why an extraordinary close mother-son relationship is called oedipal- the original Oedipus and his wife/mother Jocasta do not actually know they were mother and son at the time of their marriage, and throughout their life together.

What has this to do, you may ask, with very prolific and right-on Canadian kiddies author, Robert Munsch?

Robert Munsch writes story books which have glaring, obvious, middle-class morals: sharing is good! make-up is bad! and so on. Teachers and librarians love him, children less so.  He is the Canadian equivalent of our ethics and religious school texts, with the goddy bits mostly left out.

So I was leafing through this Munsch book called “Love You forever” : the story of a nameless mother and son. The first page shows the young mother cradling her baby, exclaiming that he is her baby, and she will love him, for ever and ever. The story is simple: the child grows older, behaving badly (flushing his mommy’s watch down the toilet at the age of two, partying with his friends as a teenager), but every night, after he is asleep, the mother comes to his bedroom, hugs her sleeping child and tells him he is her baby, and she will love him, forever and ever.

The oedipal climax of the story comes when the son has become a grown man, and moved away. Every night the mother, who now has white hair, drives across town, with a ladder on the top of her car (picture of her car at night with the ladder). She climbs the walls of her son’s house, enters his bedroom by the window, hugs her sleeping man-child (illustrated with a picture of an old lady sitting by the bed, a grown sleeping man in her arms, his long arms and legs dangling), and tells him he is her baby, and she will love him forever and ever.

Eeeeewwww!!! A feeling of watching some sick horror film crept over me as I read this simple child’s book. Is this just me, or isn’t this icky, isn’t there something a bit not quite right with this story, as a children’s story? Is this supposed to be an example of virtuous mother love, which all good Canadians should aspire to? Talk about Psycho!

And people accuse me of spoiling the golden boy.

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4 comments

  1. When pregnant with my first we received about 4 copies of Love You Forever and I’ve since donated all but one. I kept one only because someone had written a sweet message in it.

    Love most of his stories but despise Love You Forever.

  2. thenewcomer

    Well, to be honest I’ve also enjoyed some of the stories, I didn’t mean to diss him wholesale, as it were. But in general, I think people just buy him blindly now because he is so accepted and seen as “good” books for children. As for me, give me Roal Dahl or E. Nesbit any day.

  3. FoXy

    OMG he sounds like Iranian men! N his mother is like Iranian mothers! No offence. Are u sure his real name isn’t Rooholla Moonesi or sth?!

  4. thenewcomer

    The sky is blue everywhere…men and their moms are the same all over the world, only the rules are different.

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