The Man With the Yellow Hat is a Very Peculiar Man

My oldest son loves him some Curious George. The books, the show (on PBS) and even the toys, but he wouldn’t buy one of those toys because it’s not a superhero or a Planet Hero, but if those didn’t exist he probably would buy some Curious George toys.

He and I read Curious George books probably twice a week thanks to the library. Curious George Goes to a Restaurant. Curious George Plays Baseball. Curious George Flies a Kite. Curious George is Bored. Things like that. You know the drill.

And no one in this country or world would know about Curious George if it wasn’t for his ubiquitous friend, the Man With the Yellow Hat (MYWH for those in the know). He has no name, no history, he just exists as the Man With the Yellow Hat. We do know a few things about him though. He is an explorer, as we know from the first Curious George book. He also appears to be wealthy, having an apartment in “the city” and a house in “the country” and because if this he is a man of leisure. There are no real world locations in Curious George, but one can assume that given the history of his creators, the husband and wife team of H.A. and Margret Rey, who fled Nazi Germany to eventually live in New York City, that New York is “the city”, but I’m completely and totally getting off topic.

The Man With the Yellow Hat is ALWAYS wearing yellow. He never wears blue. He never wears red. He never wears black. Only yellow. And it can only be yellow or else part of his persona and psyche is gone, like a war veteran who lost a limb that can still feel it itching when he gets back to “the world”. This weird character trait would make it difficult for a normal person to shop for clothes, but he does live in “the city”, so he probably gets his clothes tailor-made at some haberdasher, being a wealthy gentlemen and all.

And for the love of all that is holy, don’t lose his hat. Few things are worse than this scenario. As he said in one of the episodes of the Curious George show, which I watch with my oldest, “Without my hat, I’m just not…me.” No kidding, Man With the Yellow Hat. Then you’re just “The Man”. A generic plot point in a children’s book. He. Is. Nothing.

The Man With the Yellow Hat also seems strange just for the fact that he’s a strapping young guy in a city full of available ogling females who lives with a monkey. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! And he’s always leaving George by himself, saying things like, “Now I’ve got to conveniently go over here. Don’t get into trouble!” What does this moron think is going to happen, George is going to just sit there? Everybody in the books calls the monkey CURIOUS George. There is no “Mild-Mannered George” or “Dullard George”.

But all in all the Man With the Yellow Hat seems to live a pretty cool life. He’s an explorer, he drives a convertible, he flies a plane, he has a pet monkey. My oldest would kill for that life.

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34 Responses to The Man With the Yellow Hat is a Very Peculiar Man
  1. Kevin Reply

    You missed a couple crucial points. First all, old man, all the cool kids know that his name is Ted as revealed in the major motion picture of 2006. By implying he has no name dates you as an old timer who must have been born back in the 20th century. Get with it, pops.

    Second, with that yellow jump suit, isn’t he really the Elvis for monkeys and toddlers? The similarities may not seem obvious if you’re simply viewing him through the eyes of the yellow bound pages. In reality, Ted is dealing with his massive celebrity status, groupies, and huge personal wealth. He holds back on the bling, but one day when they find him unconscious with his head in the toilet… it will all be crystal clear.

  2. Jane Harriman Reply

    I am intrigued by The Man in the Yellow Hat but at this point – I have not read all the Curious George books- I tend to see him as rather strange; benevolent , yes, but I am not sure I’d want him around any little monkey of child of mine. If he has a life it may be like weak tea with lots of milk. Maybe I am a suspicious, negative old woman, but I’d like to see the results of a psychiatric evaluation.
    He has given up on much — or seems to have– all for a curious little monkey.
    His habit of always wearing yellow seems like compulsive behavior.

  3. Daniel Moser Reply

    Hello!

    My name is Daniel Moser and I will soon be playing ‘The Man In The Yellow Hat’ in a brand new national tour of CURIOUS GEORGE LIVE!

    I loved reading what peeps had to say about the character and I’m excited to play the part!

    Visit my website, or the CURIOUS GEORGE LIVE! website to learn more ’bout the tour!

    🙂

    *Danny

    P.S. Hope I look good in yellow!

    • Karen Reply

      Hi. I wasn’t familiar with Curious George until recently and your comment here led me check out your performance as Ted on YouTube. It’s wonderful. I wish I could have seen it.

  4. Traci Reply

    I know you wrote this quite a while ago but I had to comment. Your observations are spot on. Especially the one about MWYH being incredibly wealthy because he has a nice apartment in the city AND a country house! I guess when you spend your money on yellow clothes and toys for your monkey, you have can save a nice chunk of change.

    I am “curious” about MWYH’s social life. He doesn’t seem to date much. I have suspected he might be secretly dating Dr. Wiseman (the female professor he seems to spend a LOT of time with) but I don’t know. She has the same kind of Jack (or Jane) of All Trades career that MWYH has. She works at the museum, designs rocket ships, and so on. I think they’d make a great pair. And she’s very tolerant of George’s hijinks.

    The saddest thing is that as a stay at home Mom, I spend way too much time trying to psychoanalyze MWYH and the subtle nuances of the show. But I must admit, the guy fascinates me. 🙂

  5. MTammone Reply

    Thought about this–if a connection is made between the MITYH and his creators who were Jewish and fled Nazi Germany for a ‘safe’ haven in NYC, couldn’t the color of the suit reflect the yellow star of David Jews were forced to wear; and, he rescued George, taking him to the typical American settings – city and country–and to safety. Finally, if one were to consider the ethnicity of the MITYH, an argument could be made that there is a reason he is not blonde haired and blue-eyed. I would not argue that the authors did this consciously, but their powerful experiences would have to,somehow, color their writing. Perhaps in yellow…

    • Leslie Yarmo Reply

      I have a similar theory that I am trying to research – so this thread is giving me all sorts of ideas. But basically, there was a yellow hat – the Judenhut – that was imposed on Jews in Germany in the Middle Ages and seen in historic imagery because it was associated with Jews for centuries. I really think that German Jews would have known that and can’t image this was not a choice to identify him as being Jewish man. But I can’t figure out what they were saying with that…Any ideas?

  6. CBB Reply

    He returned a pair of underpants to the department store because “after only one wash, they turned saffron.”

    (A quizzical look from the clerk.)

    “I’m giving a speech tomorrow and I need to know my shorts are yellow!”

    Yes, he’s the kind of unusual gentleman you would have be friendly with if he lived next door, but you’d never leave him alone with your kids!

    If he shacked up with Dr. Wiseman, I would trust him more. hmf.

    • Glenn Vance Reply

      @CBB I agree. The Professor Wiseman angle, being thrown in as it is, would allude that TMWTYH has some sort of romantic attachment to her, but they’ve never shown that. He makes her dinner, does presentations for her, goes on expeditions when she asks him (and George) to, but they never quite make that connection.

      It’s a kids’ show, though. I think everyone is thinking about the HBO Curious George miniseries.

  7. Sabrina Reply

    In the original books Dr Wiseman is a man.

  8. Mom to toddler-fan of Curious George Reply

    Just read this, as my husband, two-year-old daughter, and I will be MWYH, Curious George, and Professor Wiseman respectively for Halloween tomorrow. (And we won’t be entirely in disguise, as my husband is a scientist, I am a woman of color who is a professor, and my daughter is a monkey :)).

    Anyway, my husband and I loved reading all of this, comments too! We couldn’t agree more, have considered all of these interpretations (except the one about yellow and the Star of David…interesting…), and haven’t laughed this loud in a long time! Thanks!

  9. Joe Reply

    @Sabrina A white man at that. They explain what happened in “Curious George Becomes Politically Correct”

  10. H.H.Oliver Reply

    Ha ha, awesome. My kid is a Curious George nut. I’m doing some digging on that creep in the yellow hat. Glass to find this old page and the comments.

  11. Susan Reply

    No one noted the shameful imperialism in that first book? He goes to the jungles of Africa, and kidnaps a happy monkey out of his native environment for no particular reason other than that he can. Appalling imperialist. By the time the cartoon rolls around, he seems to have gotten over it (anyone can learn, after all). Thank goodness. Now, if we can just get him to stop leaving George alone all the time. I’ve been forced to say things to my four year old like, “you are NOT going into space in a rocket without me!” and “Do not climb out on a ledge after a dachshund when my back is turned.”

  12. Rey Reply

    I personally believe the Man is dating Dr. Wiseman because they like each other mutually (although this is to my dismay, because I think is he quite dashing, but I think they’ll make a cute couple, also I love diversity).

    Now here are theories that I have found:
    As we all know the MITYH is rich. It is suspected that he is a major donor to the museum. If that is the case, Dr. Wiseman is in fact just interested in him for his money. Now the money theory can go in another direction. Dr. Wiseman is not his lover, but his finiacial and health advisor/mentor. The MITYH is someone who is really rich, but has some major psychological/ health problem. Dr. Wiseman checks up on him to see if he is not taken advantage of in the city. George is not just there to be the man’s friend, but to be used as a tool to assess the man to see how much he can take care of the monkey in order to see if he is getting better or worse. That is why he goes off into the country- for some fresh air for his health.
    It could even be said that the man is dying although I doubt it because he’s a marathon runner. Nevertheless, George or the all yellow serves as a distraction for people not to get worried. Dr. Wiseman helps the man see where all his money will be going (projects at the museum) after he is gone.

    • Michael Reply

      My son (4 years old.) watches Curious George, too. At night he likes to have me make up stories about curious George. I started one story where the MWTYH tells George, “I have to go over to Dr. Wiseman’s apartment for the evening. I’ll be back early in the morning.” Not to be cynical, but just to add some spice to my story telling. My son does not seem to mind, When George gets up in the morning and goes into the MWTYH’s room one morning, he is in bed with only his hat on. My fear is that there needs to be a little more reality in the characters, other than just riding a spaceship to the moon and back. Yeah, I think there is a romantic connection which is kind of nice. New York is full of diversity.

  13. Kara Rothman Reply

    I don’t know… he has got me wondering as well. My five year old son loves George and I prefer him watching it over much else that is out there. In any event – you all are much more benign in your theories than where I was heading. I really just have a hard time figuring out why aside from Dr. Wiseman, the only other personal friend TMWTYH seems to have is the young boy Bill… Aside from that he does seem rather genuine albeit a bit socially nonobservant. Maybe he has Aspergers???

  14. Hannah Reply

    So here’s my theory. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, George is not your average monkey. He is inarguably far more intelligent, interpersonal, communicative, and just over all human like. I’ve always assume this is why he was brought back from the jungle and why he is treated the way he is. In my mind the Man With The Yellow Hat is caring for and studying him on behalf of whatever science institute he and Professor Wiseman are connected to. I also feel the animated MWYH is in a relationship with Prof. wiseman (they even go on vacations together), but not all romantic relationships are simple. Prof. Wiseman is a hard worker and probably doesn’t feel she has the time or energy to take the relationship further, such as moving in together. Plus, for a woman like her living with George 24/7 would probably be pretty rough (trying to get serious work done around a super smart super curious monkey? She’s the kind of woman who stays at work past 9pm!). As for MWYH’s mental health, he’s obviously a tad eccentric (what explorer isn’t?) but doen’t seem mentally ill to me besides his hat related anxiety. And honestly, if that’s the ONLY thing that ever gets the better of him he’s doing waaaaay better than most people! I also think caring for George makes it harder for him to have friends on many levels, that and he’s probably busier than he seems (we are watching the show from George’s perspective after all). All in all, I like him. He’s pretty dang relaxed most of the time, and a good role model for us parents 🙂

  15. Mandyfloss1 Reply

    I have spent a little time looking for the exact reason that TMWYH wears his yellow outfit. At first I thought he could be some sort of Ranger as he reminds of a Canadian Mountie type figure. I know his name is Ted and that he also works for and is Director of the local museum of Science in the City. This I believe is his primary job. After reading the back story I think the outfit came from his exploring days back in the jungle, which was written around the 1940’s . The outfit probably made more sense back then but it fits perfectly into his character now as he is the slightly eccentric Museum director with his own monkey. As for a partner, although it passed my mind briefly, the whole point of Teds character is to be a loving and supportive guardian for George whilst keeping him relatively safe. George would see a partner as conflict and this would never work in the dynamic of the storyline. Curious George is a gem, it can not and should not be altered in any way, the stories are stunning for children and the inner-child of the parent. Nothing flash, just good wholesome educational fun.

  16. Random Mommy Reply

    What if MWTYH is the son if a wealthy NYC scion who happened to have an imaginary friend named George, that is a monkey, as a child but then suffered a full blown psychiatric meltdown as a young adult, resulting in split personality disorder. He is the one who actually gets into hijinks (notice he is never around when George gets into trouble?) but blacks out when he is his George personality. The family has spent a lot of money since childhood trying to help him but has finally just bought off an entire cast of people to watch over him/go along with his adventures. And damage or issues are dealt with by the family in hopes of never disrupting their son’s fantasy.

  17. dree Reply

    I always thought MWYH was yellow as a basic representation of the sun, the main symbol of Godliness. so it would all be about telling kids about a Special Being who is caring and forgiving, always present somehow and expecting you to behave good but leaving you to choose with your free will. and I have no religious view… its just the way it hits me, and also that it would explain how he is interested in everyone else in the same detached but caring way, always lending a helping hand to everyone, always a good character, one that is mysterious and appealing but unreachable. yes he seems extremely dumb at times, and I suspect on purpose to make it less obvious.

  18. Emily Reply

    My little sister loves this show. It’s all she watches. Anyways, I’ve read all the comments and my theory still feels right to me.
    I think because MITYH found George in Africa, and all humans look the same to a monkey, he always wears yellow because that’s the color he was wearing the day he found George.
    This checks out because whenever he loses the Man, he looks for the yellow hat. Otherwise, George May never find him.
    Honestly, I’m thinking Professor Wisemen friendzoned him. He gravels at the woman’s feet making her dinners, remembering her birthday, and running errands for her so obviously he digs her.
    And yeah, they do stuff together but she doesn’t bend over backwards like he does to make her happy

  19. Matthew Reply

    I’ve been watching the show along side my 3 year old boy who loves George for the past 6 months. My conclusions about the mwtyh is he is a scientist and George is the experiment i don’t think he is rich and that the museum pays for everything like the apartment in the city the house in the country. I think they are trying to see if monkeys can co-exits in cities with humans so a long term study is needed. I think thats why he comes off so cool when George get into trouble.

  20. Roy Reply

    The apartment building is also yellow I assume he is the owner. It’s the only thing that makes sense. How else could he get away with keeping a monkey in the apartment and not get evicted for all the crazy hi jinx that go on in there.

    Also I’m confused about the name Ted. If it wasn’t in any of the Rey books its not his name. I’ve never seen the 2006 movie but was it actually in the movie? Thought I read it was a deleted scene.

    • Crystal Reply

      You hear his name a lot in the movie, the girl he liked and everything called him Ted many many times. So did the director of the museum and his son. I have never read the books but my son loves the cartoons. i think ive seen all the episodes at least five times in a row on netflix

  21. Maria Carolina Reply

    Hi there!
    I have 3 girls who are very fond of George, we have all the books and watch all the episodes and movies. My thoughts on the MWYH are that He has an uncle that owns a castle in Scotland, that belongs to the family. so His great grand father was the owner of the farm house in the country. That left to him. In the movies he has a relationship with a teacher, but it seems that she strugles with the MWTYH’s attention and care for her. He is always putting george’s needs infront of hers. He obviously has a sort of attention desorder. Wich doesnt allow him to preserve a serious relashionship. His mind is very child-like thats why he seems to understand george. He sometimes dress with some colors beside the full yellow suite. Some ties with color prints and some print shirts. But always with his Hat on. Because that hat was what made Him and George bond. And it represent what he is, what he became after George entering in his life. He was an explorer and a hunter, and it seems that after his encounter with George and the relationship the build him, he hang his gunshoot for good. It became his new him. As for Dr. Wiseman… Im very confuse about hers and TMWTYH’s roll about the museum, isn’t him the director? What does that mekes her? And what about the appartment he has on the books and the tv show? This are not te same buildings. Wich makes me think… Are this parallel realities My husband is psychiatrist so I will ask him what are his thoughts on TMWTYH and post later 🙂
    P.s: english is not my first language so I apologize for my poor use of it 🙂

    • Crystal Reply

      In the movie it was never shown that he was a hunter, he was just an explorer trying to find some kind of rare monkey idol gem

  22. Katie Reply

    Well my husband came up with a theory that is not as well thought out as the others I’ve read here. Simply put he believes that Ted (MIYYH) is just suppose to resemble a banana so that way George will stay with him lol

  23. Jake S Dream Reply

    This is a horrible theory. I will show you things that you messed up on. 1 The Man with the yellow hat name is Ted. 2 Ted isn’t a stranger he’s is George’s caretarker and he works for the museum. There is a tv show based on the books you should watch it. They have tons of movies I’m surprised you never heard of them.

  24. Megsy Reply

    The movie and show, while having the same voice for the mwyh, are not in continuity. Look at the apartments and doormen. Look at the museum. Not continuity. Ted is movie continuity and museum director. Not show. In the show he owns the country house out of inheritance, and goes to work. Maybe as an graphic designer as indicated in 1 episode where he designs zoo signs and the number of times he compiled scientific reports (not wrote). He worries about cost of things, but also spends his money on george and not fancy things (eg. Loves his classic vintage old refrigerator). His doctor tells him and george he is incredibly healthy.
    And he has many friends (chef pasgetti, the whits, prof wise men,firefighters, the rankings…. He bird watches with them, helps them with work and on the farm, is in a band) he also is friendly with his kids friends and their parents as we all are. As sprout master (Boy Scout leader type) he also has a patient tolerant relationship with annoyingly smug yet simple bill. He is a leader in his community and helps with community projects, while single parenting george who is no less supervised then allie, bill, Steve, Marco or Betsy. George is best friends with a squirrel, pigeon, cat, 2 dogs, a preschooler, grade 4 student, grade 5 student, and bill who is clearly 12 or older… George is ageless. Sometimes he is capable of 12 year old things and sometimes he is capable of toddler level. Because he’s not a person. Therefore setting limits for him is tricky. The man enjoys reading, nature, jazz, tuba and science. He’s not crazy. Odd. But I think the show shows that everyone is odd in their own way.

  25. Someone Reply

    Ted, TMITYH’s name, means rich or happy, and protection. He seems rich, and is trying to protect george. I just thought I’d point that out.

  26. Leanna Reply

    Hello; I’ve always had this theory that TMWTYH and professor Weismann were dating prior to George got pregnant but due to her career Weismann wanted to give it up for adoption and TMWTYH wasn’t exactly all for it . I mean look at bill he resembles them both he has the mans features and Weismanns skin color and brains. Plus they never show bills parents…why? The man keeps his distance but still gets to know bill aka his son ,Weismann has no clue and to fill the void of fatherhood he took George in. And he is totally still banging Weismann why do u think he runs off in such a hurry to help her he’s hopelessly in love with the woman that’s why he’s always taking her out, cooking her dinner, he’s always running to help her when she needs him.

  27. Sarah Reply

    Duh…if u watch the movie on Netflix Ted goes to Africa to find an idol to save his job at the museum. Before he goes he gets a suit to wear which is all yellow…a joke to the store owners which have ordered these by accident. I find it funny tbat you are questioning this cartoon character named Ted…really…its all make believe…and to make it into so.ething it is not shows that you have way too much time on yout hands. George is a wonderful character that has endered ages. Please leave it at that!

  28. Leslie Yarmo Reply

    So, I mentioned this in response to a posting made years ago and realized I might get more responses posting it at the end.

    I have a theory that I am researching (actually for a book on the color yellow in Jewish history).

    There was a (pointed) yellow hat – the Judenhut – that was imposed on Jews in Germany in the Middle Ages and seen in historic imagery because it was associated with Jews for centuries.

    I really think that German Jews would have known about that hat and I can’t imagine this choice (especially given it is his NAME) was not to consciously single him out as a Jewish man. I just think the shape is an Americanization of the hat. In the 1930’s and 40s, the shape is much more in line with a cowboy hat rather than a safari hat of that period when the book was written.

    But, I’d love some ideas on why the writer would have used this hat (used as an imposed negative marker) would have been his choice in this case. …Any ideas?

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