Rupert the Rhinoceros
by Carl Memling
Or: unrealistic modern animal fable with dirty subtext.
Or: don’t read to your child when tired.
(Inspired by true events. More on that another day.)
One night, when we were still trying to get Finn to use his cool, new bed in his newly-redesigned bedroom, we were all snuggled in, and Pete was reading a story. I was sick, and not feeling all that with it, so when I heard what I thought was gibberish coming out of my beloved’s mouth, my first question was, “Oh shit. I am having a confusional migraine and can no longer decipher English.” My second thought was, “Wait. WAS that English?” So I let out a tentative, “What?”
Pete started laughing, realizing that he had fallen asleep while reading and had started mumbling incoherently, something about slaves. The book we were reading was called “Trains” and has very few words in it, and certainly makes no comment on human ownership of any kind.
Since then, when we are feeling tired at story time, one of us will often start giggling about this incident, and then it’s hard to concentrate on the story at hand. Sometimes, we are really too tired to be reading anything to Finn, and our brains can misconstrue a story or parts of it, rendering it unfit for children.
Enter: Rupert the Rhinoceros.
This story teaches children that rhinos only charge because they have poor eyesight and are easily frightened, which is not too far from the mark. That’s where the zoological part of our story ends. Rupert is captured alive by a great white hunter in “Deepest Africa,” transported to North America (on the back of a whale after crashing over the railing of a ship), finally winding up in a park in a big city where they apparently treat large animals in a hospital up to and including eye exams as well as giant eye glasses for knee-less ungulates.
Clearly, this is taking place in a country with universal health care. Socialists.
You know what? Like most children’s stories, this tale is incredibly implausible, and I am tired. What I really wanted to point out is this page: