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Unhappy Endings: The Children’s Literature Restoration Project

July 22, 2011

If you’re anything like me, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the world “cutthroat” is children’s literature. And yet few cowards in the pantheon of cowardice show their yellow bellies, which bear the word “coward” in big yellow letters outlined in black to make them visible, as readily as an editor of children’s books. For who else, when an author attempts to to try something a little edgy, is the one who gets all, “The dismemberment on page seven has got to go” and “Eeyore’s pro-capital punishment stance is too strident” and “You can’t have Madeline run off to join the Taliban just because she got sent to bed without supper.” It was at the hands of such editors that, prior to publication, the manuscripts of some of the most beloved gems of children’s literature were mercilessly stripped of their gritty glory, toned down to reflect the boundaries of “age appropriateness,” “good taste,” and “libel laws,” and shipped off to unsuspecting young readers everywhere. Library? More like liebrary! However, through a painstaking process of archival research pure conjecture, Japecake has rediscovered, reconstructed, and conveniently summarized the original endings to some classic children’s books you may think you know. And they all lived … well, let’s just say, some of them lived, and some did not, and leave it at that.

Little House on the Prairie (1935): Pa fails at homesteading, turns to counterfeiting, makes a grievous miscalculation in putting his own face on the five-dollar bill, and is sent to prison. After the Ingalls’ log cabin is foreclosed, the girls move into a sod house with Ma and her new boyfriend, but defiantly refuse to call him “Uncle Larry.” During the hard winter that follows, they all subsist on gingham and calico.

Curious George (1941): George’s sense of curiosity completely evaporates, and he becomes interested only in writing rambling, incoherent letters to the editor in a darkened room. The Man in the Yellow Hat suffers a doubly, or triply, ironic death at Pearl Harbor when a ship’s cargo crane fails and he is crushed beneath a crate of pearls harvested by specially trained diving monkeys.

The Runaway Bunny (1942): Mother Bunny finally says, “Fine, whatever” and returns home in time for Wheel of Fortune, while the Bunny paints his fingernails black and hops a Greyhound bus to Portland, Oregon. He lands a non-speaking role as an extra in a Gus Van Sant movie, but his scene is left on the cutting-room floor. His band, Purple Enigma, plays one open-mic gig before disbanding after the drummer, a runaway squirrel, disappears with all the sound equipment.

Charlotte’s Web (1952): Charlotte invents the World Wide Web, then dies, then her estate is repeatedly sued by the time-traveling Winkelvoss twins. Wilbur eventually dies of old age, plus falling off a cliff incongruously located behind the Arables’ wood shed, where there is no kind of warning sign or safety rail whatsoever.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955): Harold is hailed as a genius in the world of street art but dies in a tragic time-traveling breakdancing accident.

Eloise (1955): Eloise’s unsupervised shenanigans finally result in her eviction from the Plaza Hotel. Her joie de vivre disappears altogether after a week in a Motel 6. She develops a smoker’s cough by the age of 10.

Bedtime for Frances (1960): Frances finally drifts off at 4:30 a.m. and wakes up a few hours later, irritable, combative, and baring her teeth, because she is a badger.

James and the Giant Peach (1961): James enters his peach in the county fair but only wins an honorable mention, sending him into a tailspin of self-loathing and depression that culminates at the age of 56 when, in a moment of clarity, he realizes that he has pissed his entire life away over a fucking piece of fruit.

Where the Wild Things Are (1963): Max returns home to find that his mother has moved without leaving a forwarding address. He puts his cold dinner into the microwave, but, realizing the electricity has been turned off, unleashes a string of profanities rendered in big bubble letters across the full length of the two-page spread. After checking under the couch cushions, he finally scrapes together enough for a delivery from Domino’s. He does not tip the delivery boy.

Ramona the Pest (1968): Ramona enters high school, where, behind her back, she is referred to as “Ramona the Jerk,” because she makes fun of the special-ed kids and tattles on the girls who sneak a smoke in the bathroom between classes. Four years later, she just makes it into her backup school, the University of Toledo, where, to her face, she is referred to as “Ramona the Bitch,” because she eats her roommates’ food without asking and calls every girl in the dorm who happens to have a boyfriend a slut.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970): God doesn’t answer, so Margaret turns to atheism, then Scientology, then returns to atheism, then converts to marry a Jew, then divorces and dabbles in Buddhism for a while, then is born again, then God tells her to knock it off already, she’s becoming a real drag, then she turns to scrapbooking.

Frog and Toad Are Friends (1970): Not since Frog oddly and confusingly called Toad the “n” word.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. sonnypi67 permalink
    July 22, 2011 8:47 am

    Those are some grim tales. I love it!

    • July 22, 2011 12:28 pm

      Thanks. Sometimes I feel like James and his peach.

      • sonnypi67 permalink
        July 22, 2011 12:32 pm

        Man, things I’d do to a giant peach.

  2. July 22, 2011 9:42 am

    I appreciate how you avoided detailing the plot of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” before the editors removed two of the naughtier dwarfs and added clothing to the story. Some things are better left unsaid.

    • July 22, 2011 12:29 pm

      editors removed two of the naughtier dwarfs

      That would be Creepy and Sketchy.

      • July 23, 2011 1:29 pm

        I heard that the two’s names were something else but I omitted them from my previous comment because yours is a family-oriented blog!

    • sonnypi67 permalink
      July 22, 2011 12:32 pm

      I’ve seen that movie.

  3. July 22, 2011 10:57 am

    I’m a bad mom. I would LOVE if Where The Wild Things Are ended that way. Best to teach kids early not to mess around, ya know?

    • July 22, 2011 12:33 pm

      Right on. Max was partying like a Hilton. There’s a price to pay for every wild rumpus.

  4. July 26, 2011 10:03 am

    What about Ole Yeller or Sounder? Those damn books were sad enough. I’d hate to see how they were before the editors toned them down. I mean, did the family eat the dogs after they killed them? Or, were the dogs sent off to some work-camp where they toiled for the rest of their days?

  5. July 26, 2011 11:00 am

    Originally, Ole Yeller and Sounder survived, got together, and ran off to New York to get married.

  6. March 27, 2012 4:33 pm

    “Where the Wild Things are” I love it! You are too funny!

    • March 28, 2012 2:49 pm

      Thank you. I think they should have used my version for the movie.

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