The King's Stilts
by Dr. Seuss
The King's Stilts Setting
Where It All Goes Down
The Kingdom of Binn
Welcome, Shmoopers, to the Kingdom of Binn, ruled by the benevolent King Birtram. We'd love to tell you that this is the land of paradisiacal beaches and drinks with umbrellas, but alas, that's not exactly the case.
Sure, Binn, a peninsula, is surrounded by water on all sides, but that water is more of a threat than a pleasant site for recreating. With the sea pushing in from those three sides when the tide is high, the kingdom has to be surrounded by these sturdy, close-knit Dike Trees to keep the water at bay.
Basically, they provide a layer of defense not unlike the Great Wall or, if you want to get more sci-fi, a force field. The town that the Dike Trees protect is portrayed as quaint and filled with the usual cobbled streets and neat houses, with the king's castle rising above it all like a big ol' royal mountain.
Nice, right? But it's also fitting for the story itself. This setting gives us the familiar details of a fairytale or folk tale—the king, the castle, and a small but prosperous kingdom. You know, the usual.
Of course this wouldn't be a fairytale without a nefarious ne'er-do-well, so by the time Lord Droon shows his true colors, we're kind of unsurprised. We know the kingdom has to be put in danger somehow—all good stories need a conflict after all. And then, in the end, when good triumphs over evil, it makes sense because as readers we expect that kind of struggle and satisfying ending in a story in such a mythically familiar setting.
A Kingdom in Harmony
And then there's that whole balance thing. Like just about everything else in the story, the setting of The King's Stilts is all about balance—ecological balance, to be exact.
In fact, the Kingdom of Binn, environmentally speaking, is pretty finicky. Everything must be just so in order for the kingdom to coexist with its natural surroundings and therefore exist in the first place.
If you'll notice, the king uses the Patrol Cats to chase away the Nizzards, but he doesn't try to exterminate them all. It's not about fighting with or conquering nature; the story is more nuanced than that. (Let's give Seuss a little credit!)
The focus is on working with nature in a way where both parties can coexist peacefully. The fact that they use Dike Trees to keep the sea out—as opposed to say, a big cement wall or a giant vacuum—hammers home the importance of a balance between the manmade and the natural world.