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Where the Wild Things Are - Theological Analysis

A Theological Analysis of this Classic Children's Story
by

Daniel Weatherby

on 7 June 2013

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Transcript of Where the Wild Things Are - Theological Analysis

Theological Analysis Where The Wild Things Are In The Beginning "his mother called him "Wild Thing!"
and Max said "I'll eat you up!"
so he was sent to bed without eating anything" Alone-ness Maurice Sendak
June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012 Born in Brooklyn to Polish Jewish Immigrants - terrible situation

Began work as an illustrator by doing window displays.

First illustrated work was for Atomics for the Millions by Dr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff.

Authored 20 + childrens books edited 50 +

Personal Life

Greatest compliment Published by Harper & Row in 1963
1964 Caldecott Medal
Considered 'somewhat autobiographical' by many children's literature experts.
Since publishing, it has also been formed into an animated short (1974), Opera (1980), and a feature film (2009) Form In many ways the form of the short story is timeless.
Few/no references to time
What we see of Max's house - Normalization

The different illustrating styles- Max / Wild Things
The non-visualization of his mother. Where the Wild Things Are And grew-- Max's House and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year "And when he came to the place where the wild things are
they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth

and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws" "Let the Wild Rumpus Start!" "NOW STOP!" and sailed back over a year
and in and out of weeks
and through a day Be-re-shii't Bara Elohi'm... Max's Mom built the house... Theological Foundations Paul Tillich's "Systematic Theology"

Existential Self-destruction and the Doctrine of Evil
Finite Freedom- "Man has freedom in contrast to all other creatures. They have analogies to freedom but not freedom itself. But man is finite, excluded from the infinity to which he belongs." (Tillich II 31)


Estrangement - "The common point in all existentialist attacks is that man's existential situation is a state of estrangement from his essential nature. . . The existence of the individual is filled with anxiety and threatened by meaninglessness." (Tillich II 25)
"Estrangement is not a biblical term but is implied in most of the biblical descriptions of man's predicament. It is implied in the symbols of the expulsion from paradise, in the hostility between man and nature, in the deadly hostility of brother against brother, in the estrangement of nation from nation . . ." (45) "In existential estrangement man is cut off from the dimensions of the ultimate and is left alone -- in loneliness." (Tillich II 72) Hubris' -from the ancient Greek Hybris-- extreme pride and arrogance. Sin - Sin is the expression and derivative of estrangement

Essential Being - The expression of our Imago Dei, and the longing for humanity's true 'Ultimate Concern'.

Ultimate Concern - To be re-united with God- the Infinite Source of Life. "Finite freedom, when it becomes actual, disrupts the essential, uncontested, innocent unity between finitude and its infinite ground." (Tillich Propositions) Finite Freedom vs. Infinite "The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another" The First Wild Thing In the book, the entrance of the first 'Wild Thing' is not on an imaginary island in Max's room, but on the wall in the form of a drawing by Max. "The primeval waters and darkness,
the tohu wa-bohu, can become to it an acute and enticing danger" (Barth Church Dogmatics III, p109) "It is not by the use but the misuse of this freedom that man can look back and return to that past and conjure up the shadow of Gen. 1:2"
(Karl Barth Church Dogmatics III p109) "This is the undeniable risk which God took upon Himself in the venture of creation -- but a risk for which He was more than a match and thus did not need to fear"
(Barth Church Dogmatics III p. 109) "and into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him" Divine Provision "And as God's creative Word itself becomes a creature in the cosmos, suffering for the cosmos what it should itself have suffered on account of the misuse of its free will, it is by this Word that God will reconcile it to Himself, as by HIs Word He has created it for Himself"
(Barth Church Dogmatics III p. 110) "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person -- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die -- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:6-8 "And made him king of all wild things. "And now," cried Max, "let the wild rumpus start!" "In estrangement, man is outside the divine center to which his own center essentially belongs. He is the center of himself and of his world"
(TIllich Systematic Theology II p. 49) He Was Sent "That very night in Max's room a forest grew" "and grew until his ceiling hung with vines
and the walls became the world all around" "and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max
and he sailed off through night and day" to where the wild things are "till Max said "Be Still!"
and tamed them with the magic trick
of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once
and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing off all" Be Still! "Now Stop!" Max said and sent the wild things off to bed
without their supper. And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be
where someone loved him best of all." But the wild things cried, "OH please don't go- we'll eat you up -- we love you so!"
And Max said, "No!"
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth
and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws
but Max stepped into his private boat and waved good-bye" "And it was still hot." Misused Freedom - Enticing Danger "Man finds himself, together with his world, in existential estrangement, unbelief, hubris, and concupiscence. Each expression of the estranged state contradicts man's essential being, his potency for goodness"
(Tillich II p.59-60) "Under the conditions of estrangement, anxiety has a different character, brought on by the element of guilt" (Tillich II p. 67) Manna "He will not permit Himself to be obstructed by man's misuse of his freedom from actually making use of His own holy freedom in such a way that, though ever judgment and catastrophe (for all the similarity to Gen 1:2), He will not cease to be the Creator of Genesis 1:1, and to abide by His Word as spoken in Genesis 1:3"
(Karl Barth Church Dogmatics III p. 109) "This loneliness, however, is intolerable. It drives man to a type of participation in which he surrenders his lonely self to the 'collective'" (Tillich II p. 72) Rehumanizing ". . . But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed."
2 Corianthians 3:16 (ESV) Return of the Son ". . . healing means reuniting that which is estranged, giving a center to what is split, overcoming the split between God and man, man and his world, man and himself"
(Tillich II p.166) Characters/Objects Max- A human / Adam / The Human condition
Mother- most Parallels God
Wild Things- The 'others' who are estranged / discontented evil / sin
House- Earth. God's dominion, man's home. "The threat of a breakdown leads to the establishment of defenses, some of which are brutal, some fanatical, some dishonest, and all insufficiant and destructive; for there is no security and certainty within finitude"
(Tillich II, p.73) Defensive re-Forestry Imagery of the forest

Unbelief Should Max have just stayed home? "Suffering is meaningful to the extent that it calls for protection and healing in the being which is attacked by pain. It can show the limits and the potentialities of a living being"
(Tillich II p.71) "If the distinction between essential solitude and existential loneliness is not maintained, ultimate unity is possible only by the annihilation of the 'lonely individual' and through his disappearance in an undifferentiated substance"
(Tillich II p.72)" One Small step for Max,
One giant leap into 'Undifferentiated Substance' Max rejecting meaningful suffering Loneliness Unveiled Bibliography Barth, Karl, Church Dogmatics: Volume III
The Doctrine of Creation: Part I
(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1958.

Sendak, Maurice, Where the Wild Things Are
(New York: Harper Collins Publishers), 1963.

Tillich, Paul, Systematic Theology:
Volume II Existence and The Christ
(Chicago: THe University of Chicago Press), 1957. Abundant Providence Embark "I will arise and go to my father, and i will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servents"
Luke 15:18-19 (ESV) "Under the conditions of estrangement, anxiety has a different character, brought on by the element guilt. The loss of one's eternity is experienced as something for which one is responsible in spite of its universal tragic actuality"
(Tillich II p.67) Creativity in Disbelief "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
Romans 8:31-32 "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19 "Moses said, "This is what the Lord has commanded: 'let an Omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when i brought you out of the land of Egypt."
Exodus 16:32 (ESV) "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day . . ."
Exodus 16:4 (ESV) "Then all around from far away across the world he smelled good things to eat
so he gave up being king of where the wild things are." Opening Lines "The night Max wore his wolf suit. . . " "and into the night . . ."
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