The Underlying Sadness of “Harold and the Purple Crayon”

My oldest boy and I have been reading the 50th anniversary edition of “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson for a couple of nights now. It’s a nice hardback collection of four of the Harold stories and Noah has been completely enthralled by it. He’ll talk about Harold falling off of a mountain only to rescue himself by drawing a balloon so he won’t get hurt. Harold is a clever little boy who doesn’t forget how to get out of trouble when he needs to and that makes the book fun and exciting and ingenius because the whole thing is Harold’s imagination and where it can take him.

But I started noticing something as we were reading through the four stories that make up the collection – it’s only Harold. There are no other humans anywhere in the book. I’m probably reading too much into it, as I tend to do, but Harold is just all alone in a world of his creation Much like Scientologist Tom Cruise. where no one else is. The stories mention him looking for his home, and him drawing the chair that his mother would sit in when she read, and how he remembers where his bed is by gauging where the moon is in his window, but other than that Harold is never in a real world.

Now, it could just be that he’s dreaming and you just never see him wake up, and that’s the more-than-likely answer to the whole thing, or it could be (and I’m just hypothesizing here, brainstorming if you will)maybe Harold is crazy and trapped in his own mind and the purple crayon is some sort of enabler for him to get out of his inner insanity, or maybe he’s been transported into a “Twilight-Zone”y place of sight and sound but no dimension other than 2-D and he only has a crayon to help him escape….

I am reading way too much into it. My son likes the story. That’s enough.

2 Responses to The Underlying Sadness of “Harold and the Purple Crayon”
  1. Elliott Seymour Reply

    It’s kind of like The Prisoner, no?

  2. Jess Reply

    Even as a kid, Harold’s solitary crayon adventures bugged me. I always felt vaguely depressed when he tucked himself into his crayon bed.

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