The King's Stilts
by Dr. Seuss
The King's Stilts Meaning
What is this book really about?
World War Binn
The King's Stilts may be set in a faraway land in a country called Binn, but that doesn't mean that Seuss was off in fantasyland when he wrote it. Our good man Seuss was actually quite political. If you don't believe us, check out this hefty tome of his political cartoons.
Yep, the good Doc had his fair share of opinions, and he wasn't afraid to tell folks about them. Some of his most steadfast opinions happened to be about World War II. He was a staunch interventionist, meaning that he thought the U.S. should and must intervene in the conflicts in Europe and the Pacific. He believed America should head on over across the pond and tackle the Nazi threat before it got any worse than it already was.
What's this got to do with The King's Stilts? A lot, actually. For one thing, this book was published in 1939, which was right on the eve of America's entrance into the war, and right when things were starting to get serious over in Europe.
Think about it. Those citizens of Binn (Binnians? Binnites? Binnese?) are facing a rather dire threat from above—the Nizzards, which sound suspiciously like bombing airplanes, right? And, as one critic puts it,
As a leader who has grown lazy about the potential dangers to his country, King Birtram could represent the Isolationists' influence in both America and Great Britain. The phonetic bond between "Birtram" and "Britain" links Seuss's King to England's Prime Minister, another appeaser who fails to act against the powerful threats to the island he governs. (Source.)
That Prime Minister? That would be Neville Chamberlain, who is most (in)famous for appeasing Hitler in an effort to stave off World War II. Needless to say, that plan didn't work. So you might think of King Birtram as a bit of a Neville Chamberlain—at first. Without his stilts, he's unwilling to go out and face the encroaching threat, which is just what he needs to do to protect his people.
It's not until he gets his act together (and gets those stilts back) that he goes out to confront those nasty Nizzards. And then the safety of the Kingdom of Binn is restored. Phew. Disaster averted.
To sum up, The King's Stilts is no pacifist book. If it were, the Nizzards would be allowed to eat all the Dike Trees and King Birtram's subjects would all float off on rafts into the sunset, weaving flowers into their hair and singing Kumbaya. Or something like that.