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Terrible Things

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Julia Berrisford

on 5 December 2013

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Transcript of Terrible Things

"Terrible Things", An Allegory of the Holocaust

by Eve Bunting

What is an allegory?
An allegory is a story in which the characters and events are symbols that stand for ideas about human life or for a political or historical situation.
"Terrible Things" is an allegory because it shows how people during the Holocaust didn't speak up when the Nazis came to take "undesirable people" away.
Those groups found undesirable were Jews, Catholics, Gays, Blacks, Gypsies and many more.
As the poem "First They Came" says

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

"Little Rabbit saw their terrible shadows before he saw them. They stopped at the edge of the clearing and their shadows blotted out the sun. "
The shadows standing for the Nazis appear
Feathers! They rose in the air, then screamed away into the blue of the sky.
But the Terrible Things had brought their terrible nets, and they flung them high and caught the birds and carried them away.
First they came for the birds ...
"
Our tails are round and furry," they said. "By no means are they bushy."
The squirrels chattered their fear and ran high into the treetops. But the Terrible Things swung their terrible nets higher than the squirrels could run and wider than the squirrels could leap and they caught them all and carried them away.

Next they came for...the squirrels
The frogs dived deep in the forest pool and ripples spiraled like corkscrews on the dark brown water. The little fish darted this way and that in streaks of silver. But the Terrible Things threw their terrible nets down into the depths and they dragged up the dripping frogs and the shimmering fish and carried them away.
Next they came for the frogs and fish...
"We have come for every creature that sprouts quills," the Terrible Things thundered. . .
The porcupines bristled with all their strength. But the Terrible Things covered them with their terrible nets, and the porcupines hung in them like flies in a spider's web as the Terrible Things carried them away.

Then they came for the porcupines....
And then there was only one left
All but Little Rabbit, who was little enough to hide in a pile of rocks by the pond and smart enough to stay so still that the Terrible Things thought he was a rock himself.
Little Rabbit saw the terrible gleam of their terrible eyes through the forest darkness. And he smelled the terrible smell.
"We have come for any creature that is white," the Terrible Things thundered.
"There are no white creatures here but us," Big Rabbit said.
"We have come for you," the Terrible Things said.
The rabbits scampered in every direction. "Help!" they cried. "Somebody help!" But THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO HELP. And the big, circling nets dropped over them, and the Terrible Things carried them away.

Finally they came for the rabbits...
What do the symbols add up to?
The shadows show those who are bigoted and willing to hurt others possibly without knowing why and the animals show people who are willing to let others get hurt as long as it doesn't affect them.
What does the allegory mean?
All the animals are symbols for those in our community we turn our backs on and let others hurt them.

As the allegory has Little Rabbit tell us at the end:

"When they had all gone, Little Rabbit crept into the middle of the empty clearing.
"I should have tried to help the other rabbits
," he thought. "
If only we creatures had stuck together, it could have been differen
t."
Could this happen today?
Do we really speak up for one another?
Or is it just something we tell ourselves we could do?
Full transcript