Maurice Sendak is best known as the guy who wrote and illustrated Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen.  These two books are part of a trilogy.  The last one is called Outside Over There.  The last one is a lot less compelling than the first two.  Those first two books are like songs by The Beatles or a line from Casablanca; everyone knows them, even if they’ve never read them.  I think that The Mighty Boosh is like a Sendak story because you start and finish in the same place, and in the middle is an amazing journey filled with crazy things that still obey a kind of dream logic.


Where the Wild Things Are was published in 1963.  Here’s what Sendak said about the book:

Through fantasy, Max, the hero of my book, discharges his anger against his mother, and returns to the real world sleepy, hungry and at peace with himself….  From their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustration as best they can.  And it is through fantasy that children achieve cartharsis.  It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things.  It is mu involvement with this inescapable fact of childhood – the awful vulnerability of children and their struggle to make themselves King of all the Wild Things – that gives my work whatever truth and passion it may have.

Partly Sendak was talking about fear and anxiety in this quote because quite a few people criticised the book when it came out for being too scary for children, and Sendak was saying: “As if children don’t know what fear is!” 

The magical combination of words in a book can run fear through our veins.  When Eleanor is at her grandmother’s house there is a book about the troll under the bridge called The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Eleanor has had the story read to her many times and she sits silently on her grandmother’s knee as it is read to her, with wide eyes.  When she is alone Eleanor approaches the book with trepidation, as if there is something powerful locked inside, something powerful and frightening that she is also attracted to.

Sendak says there were two major influences on his Wild Things: King Kong and his Jewish relatives who would visit when he was a kid:

There you’d be, sitting on a kitchen chair, totally helpless, while they cooed over you and pinched your cheeks.  Or they’d lean way over and with their bad teeth and hairy noses, and say something threatening like ‘You’re so cute I could eat you up.’

So, the dream is based on a reality from the writer’s life, just like the dream for Max is based on the reality of his world established in the first few frames.  Max starts the book in a blanket tent with a picture on the wall of a monster.  He winds up in  a tent for a king and lord of the Wild Things.  There’s no better illustration of this fantasy based on a reality than the way the elements of Max’s room transform from the mundane into trees and vines.

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō

One thought on “Sendak”

  1. Kate di Goldie (I don’t know how she spells her name) talked about this with Kim Hill jast Saturday.

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