The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him “WILD THING!” and Max said “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” so he was sent to bed without eating anything. That very night in Max’s room a forest grew and 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 and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.
Max became a ‘WILD THING’ as an act of rebellion. The theme of forming a bond with the wild and shunning society is abundant in literature. Billy, the young boy from Barnsley in Kes, seeks out a kestrel as a form of escapism from the grim reality of life on a shoestring. Chris McCandless (Into The Wild) left everything behind, including his name for a while, to be at one with nature.
For me nature was never an act of rebellion, in fact it was encouraged. My mum, a keen naturalist herself, has been and still is there to support me in anything I choose to do. For a time, when I was the drummer in a punk band, my mum was our publicist; roady, benefactor and number one fan. Of all the fleeting interests I’ve had, nature has always been a constant and my mum has always been there to encourage it. Thanks Mum.
We hear the same story all the time now, how children are glued to the TV while ‘back in my day, we used to be out in the morning and back just before dark.’ It’s boring. It’s also very easy to criticise people for pacifying their children with smartphones and gadgets. I’m a teacher, so I see these children that the ‘back in my day’ generation are talking about. Yes, they know their way around a smartphone, but they also deeply love nature. It is not through laziness or lack of imagination that children are losing touch with nature, it is through our busy, consumerist lives. The times I’ve been able to take children out into a wild(ish) place and show them butterflies and birds, they have all been thrilled. Children are not so complex. They like new things, asking questions and getting their hands dirty.
I had a wonderfully wild upbringing, which I’m very grateful for, but I never disappeared all day without my parents knowing where I was. That would be terrible parenting! There is a lot of talk about how children can’t play outside now because of scary news headlines, but I don’t think that’s it. I wouldn’t let my children run off into the unknown because of things like barbed wire, trains and the fact that they have no sense of danger! You don’t need to have hundreds of acres of woodland to give children a wild experience. You can have a wild time in the park, the garden or even the hedges on your street. All you need is encouragement and imagination.
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. 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 sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room, where he found his supper waiting for him and it was still hot.
– Maurice Sendak, ‘Where The Wildthings Are’
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