The Good Night Moon Theory
Inspired by this tweet:
I wanted to put down some of my own thoughts on Good Night Moon. This is a book that I’ve been reading a lot of over the last five years. I read it around ten times yesterday. I’ve also been reading a lot of The Runaway Bunny and My World: a companion to GOODNIGHT MOON, also by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. In reading these books I’ve developed what I’m going to call the “Good Night Moon Theory”. I’d like to propose that Good Night Moon is actually a fantasy played out by the bunny in The Runaway Bunny. In this fantasy the bunny is imagining himself as a human boy, except with the physical body of a rabbit. This may sound silly as first, but I’ll do my best to lay it out.
The story Good Night Moon is very popular. It permeates throughout pop culture. Even if you don’t have kids chances are you at least know about this story.
As the tweet above states it is very detailed. There are some very subtle things that happen that you might not notice if you aren’t paying attention closely. For example, time progresses as the story goes on. The clocks change and the moon changes position. If you look closely at the bookshelf there is a copy of The Runaway Bunny. If you look closely at the night stand there is a copy of Good Night Moon next to the phone. That’s right. The authors did the very meta act of putting not just their previous book, but also the book you are reading inside the book you are reading. If you look at the picture of the three bears sitting on chairs you will notice there is the same picture of the cow jumping over the moon as there is in the room where the story takes place. Does this imply that it is the same room?
All of this sets a fantasy stage for the theory I’m going to lay out. But first I’m going to talk a little bit about The Runaway Bunny because it is probably lesser known than Good Night Moon, but it is very important to the theory. The story consists of a little bunny that wants to run away. He continues to tell his mother that he is going to run away and she continues to tell him that she will run after him and find him. There is a back and forth of this. For example, the little bunny states, “I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.” The mother replies, “if you become a fish in a trout stream, I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.” In the illustrations a little bunny is depicted as swimming in a stream, and the mother rabbit is shown grabbing fishing gear. The next page is a double wide illustration with color (the previous pages are black and white) with the mother rabbit casting a fishing line with a carrot on the end and a net in her hand. The little rabbit is swimming towards the carrot. This picture also appears as one of the pieces of art hung up in the room in Good Night Moon, another example of the connection between the stories.
There are more of these throughout the book, but I would like to skip over to the end of the book. If you are interested you should probably buy all the books and read them for yourself. I’m also going to spoil the ending to The Runaway Bunny so…
In the last back and forth between little bunny and mother rabbit the bunny says, “I will become a boy and run into a house.” The mother then replies, “if you become a little boy and run into a house, I will become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you.” On the very next page we have another two page illustration that looks very much like the house in Good Night Moon. There is a little bunny wearing very similar pajamas in both books. The mother is in a rocking chair with yarn next to her holding the little “boy” rabbit. There is a fire place, and a picture of a cow jumping over the moon.
This fantasy of the little bunny running away to become a “boy” is very similar to the entire world of Good Night Moon. We see the imagination of the little bunny expanded on in Good Night Moon, and even taken further in My World: a companion to GOODNIGHT MOON.
It’s there right in front of us plain as day.