Teaching Children To Be The Anti Hero

From a young age we are showing children that being an anti-hero is the way to go. We teach them that anti-heroes; the characters who are often flawed and do not show admirable qualities are the ones who have all the fun.

Max, the main character of Where the Wild Things Are.

A prime example of this is the Children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, a very popular book which has recently been adapted for the large screen and was originally written by Maurice Sendak. In this story, the main character; Max can easily be categorized as an anti-hero. This categorization is based on his actions and the fact that the book begins with Max causing “mischief of one kind and the next”. The mischief leads to Max’s mother sending him to his room without his dinner. These actions begin Max’s journey through a forest and across the ocean to where the Wild Things are. Upon his arrival, Max becomes King of the Wild Things. After Max becomes tired of his journey, he is allowed to return home safely; is greeted by his warm dinner. Max continually shows poor qualities and continues on without consequence. Is this what children should be learning from?

Even though Max is an anti-hero, he still gets to go on the hero’s journey. Many of the steps of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth can be seen throughout this classic tale.

In this case, the call to adventure is when Max gets sent to his room, which proceeds to turn into a forest by the ocean. Max crosses the threshold and ventures into the world of the Wild Things by taking a boat into their land. There, Max meets the gruesome creatures the Wild Things, which are large, furry monsters. This interaction marks the road of trials for Max. The Wild Things “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws” until Max tamed them and the Wild Things called him “the most wild thing of all”. Max’s taming of the Wild Things marks the Ultimate Boon of the story. In celebration, Max holds a wild rumpus for three days and three nights before deciding to cross the return threshold and continue home to his mother; where Max finds that she brought his dinner fro him, and it is still warm.

Next time you read your children a bedtime story, consider the qualities behind the hero that they will learn about and look up to.