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The Tiger Who Came To Tea

(107 Posts)
nigelslaterfan Tue 02-Feb-10 15:12:47

dd loves this book but am I being unreasonable to suggest that Sophie and her mother are massive pigs to sit at home and have such a massive tea of cake and buns and sandwiches? I mean it seems greedy to me.

RedLentil Tue 02-Feb-10 21:23:58

Cory, you will get on brilliantly. English is a great subject to do, because it asks you to think about assumptions you didn't realise you were making. (It's a very mumsnet-like experience in that way). I'm generally on the Aug 08 postnatal thread if you need a hand at any stage.

I teach part-time now, and I'm starting with some newbies tomorrow and the first thing they have to read is the first story ds ever told. There isn't much to learn about storytelling that can't be learned from a toddler and their story collection.

CDMforever Tue 02-Feb-10 21:26:13

I've always maintained that the mother is clinically insane. Just look at Dad's expression when she and Sophie are telling him all about the tiger.
"Not another imaginary, demented episode again. When am I going to come home to a proper bloody dinner??!!" thought Dad.
To add to that, poor Sophie has to wear her night dress out to the cafe. Poor love.

RedLentil Tue 02-Feb-10 21:34:47

Ah, theyoungvisiter. That is very persuasive.
Very interesting re the food.

I'm just printing out 4 versions of Little Red Riding Hood for the class tomorrow and will be using the dangerous male desire kind of argument there.

Shall we read it as both/and rather than either/or?

Lays out plate of biscuit to lure Cory out from under the table.

midnightexpress Tue 02-Feb-10 21:39:05

RedLentil, I hope you will be including this version, which is where Roald Dahl got the idea for his, I suspect.

theyoungvisiter Tue 02-Feb-10 21:41:47

well that's very true redlentil - all the best texts can be read on multiple levels and speak to the different fears/desires in different kinds of readers.

I think we are all agreed that the food orgy is a symbol for quite a different type of desire though - there was an interesting prog on radio 4 about food in children's literature and Michael Rosen made the point that food orgies are used because it's one of the acceptable forms of desire that you can write about in children. As he said, in adult literature it would normally be sexual desire, but you need something to fill that space.

SparkyfartDust Tue 02-Feb-10 21:46:31

my idle musing interpretation is that Sophie's mum has got an eating disorder- most likely bulimia.

The tiger represents this.

She attempts a civil and ordered tea, but troughs the lot. Sophie can't recognise her mother's behaviour and projects it on to that of a tiger.

BikeRunSki Tue 02-Feb-10 21:47:22

I think Sophie and her mother were very lucky to get off so lightly and should have done a more in depth dynamic risk assessment of the whole tiger situation.

theyoungvisiter Tue 02-Feb-10 21:50:06

One could also offer a more political reading and say that it is about rationing and the government control of food during the war (and much of the 50s).

After all the book was published in the 60s when food rationing was a very recent memory - certainly for all the parents reading the story. Food rationing continued until 1954 and petrol was being rationed as late as 57.

The tiger could be seen as the dangerous figure of the squanderbug - encouraging excessive, unrationed consumption.

This reading also provides a satisfying explanation for the otherwise slightly puzzling introduction of the consumption of the bath water - whereas a rationing model for the tiger accommodates this quite nicely, as part of the war campaign was to encourage people to take very shallow baths.

This may also explain the emphasis in the final episode on lights etc. When Sophie and her father and mother are walking outside we are told that all the shops and cars had their lights on - an oblique reference to the blackout, we presume.

RedLentil Tue 02-Feb-10 21:53:35

The version of Little Red Riding Hood that generally gets a reaction is this early French one.

And of course sausages, chips and ice-cream in a cafe is a child's food orgy of sorts.

The both/and comment wasn't flippant really: just as Dracula can be a figure of the fear of the collapse of the empire and hatred of it, any figure of desire will tend to be represent multiple and contradictory impulses.

I'm always interested in the picture of the cat in the street, standing behind them as they walk away from the house. The women are outside, but in the protective armlink of their 'father' and on their way to their sanctioned treat.

Behind them stands a tiger-striped domestic cat, looking very content. So the women's desire has been reduced to manageable and domestic proportions. So women's desire reduced.

Meanwhile, behind the cat is a dodgy looking geezer with his face concealed. He is certainly of a different class to the family in terms of dress, and could be just freezing or have something to hide. He is walking away though now and represents no threat to the father and his girls who can only look at him. So the threat of men's desire has been tackled also.

RedLentil Tue 02-Feb-10 22:01:37

That's great about the water. Thanks for that. The rationing thing says on one level that sometimes food in a story is 'just food'.

Sparkly-that idea about bulimia links into all the other ones about power, desire and regulation of the body.

Bikerunski ... rofl at risk assessment. grin

RedLentil Tue 02-Feb-10 22:02:47

Cory, after all that reading I misread your post. You are giving the seminar ... blush
Good luck with that.

domesticslattern Tue 02-Feb-10 23:05:46

Personally I always thought that the book was an expression of the Bakhtinian spirit of the carnivalesque, in which the social hierarchies of everyday life— their solemnities and pieties and etiquettes, as well as all ready-made truths—are profaned and overturned by normally suppressed voices and energies. Thus the order of the home becomes overturned by the visitor, and the ideas and truths of the "tea" are contested, by unruly behaviour. There is no separation of the spectator and the participant, as the child and mother partake with enthusiasm in the new world order, taking pleasure in the disorder and misrule. However, as with all carnival, the energies must be finally suppressed and order restored, in this case by the return of the patriarchal figure (Sophie's daddy), whose hat and briefcase are clear representations of the world of order and business. The "fooling" of the carnival comes to an end, and the proper order is restored, as evidenced by the way in which the father is seated while the child and mother must stand, awaiting his judgement. His "good idea", with its undertones of excitement and novelty, allows a connected segue from the true carnival to the absolute return of order, but is clearly on his terms. Authority is restored and there is no resistance from the carnival participants. As with all carnival, there is the hope of ordered disorder to come, but it is clearly confined ("canned") and so rendered safe.

RedLentil Tue 02-Feb-10 23:38:07

I feel a module coming on domesticslattern. smile

In the final class we could link the excessively polite, inadvertently disruptive and exotic tiger (who seems to think he has observed the conventions of a British high tea) with Paddington whose carnivalesque potential is also linked closely to his status as a racial other.

LittlePushka Tue 02-Feb-10 23:42:40, righto,....or it could just be one of those barmy stories we all make up from time to time to entertain our LO'

theyoungvisiter Wed 03-Feb-10 08:56:21

love it domestic!

Ok, another thought - what about an allegory of colonialist behaviour? This readering expresses the anxieties the British felt about their identity in a post-colonialist world, and their confused feelings about the wave of post-war immigration from their former colonies.

Following Indian independence in 1947, we see the Tiger (long-time sympbol ofthe exotic East) rise up against the former colonialist masters.

In an aggressive act of annexation he forces his way into their "land" and disrupts daily life, symbolised by the quintessentially British "tea" - which is of course, a symbol of the way the British have been leeching life out of the East for centuries via their tea plantations.

The tiger reclaims the wealth (tea, sugar) that his former masters have plundered from his land, and forces the women to serve him, just as colonialist powers forced the women of their former colonies to "serve" them in multiple ways.

At the end we see him literally drain the "land" dry with the consumption even of the stuff of life - water.

But in a disquieting act of acquiescence, he agrees to leave after having his fill. The last page holds a warning though - you must always keep a stock of supplies, in case the aggressor returns...

BelleDameSansMerci Wed 03-Feb-10 09:03:03

This is my favourite thread ever. No time to read it now so marking for later.

One point, though, Judith Kerr (author of Tiger) has said that sometimes a tiger is just a tiger (or something similar). Of course, she could have been subconsciously writing about desire, etc.

Can't wait to read this later...

theyoungvisiter Wed 03-Feb-10 09:07:39

"Judith Kerr (author of Tiger) has said that sometimes a tiger is just a tiger"

Tcha - authors always come out with that crap. wink

It's only so they aren't called upon to reveal the "definitive" reading.

Anyway, what did she do, undergo therapy to check all her cultural baggage at the door before writing? If you've a human being, especially one whose read a few books, a tiger is never just a tiger, especially not one that talks, eats you out of house and home, and plays the flute.

One can also argue that actually what the author meant is not that important - it's also what the reader can take from it. It takes two to tango enjoy a book. Or three of course, if you've got a pre-schooler on your lap.

[bangs gavel]

theyoungvisiter Wed 03-Feb-10 09:10:23

oh dear - I appear to have checked my typing skills and grammar at the door.

YOU'RE a human being.

WHO'S read a few books.

I won't even get started on READERING in my last post.

Lots of big red circles on my essay today.

MaggieTaSeFuar Wed 03-Feb-10 09:11:10

i hate the way the beer is referred to as 'Daddy's beer'. when i'm reading it i edit that to just 'all THE beer'.

MissWooWoo Wed 03-Feb-10 09:38:34

and there was I thinking I was the only one who had worked out what was really going on in this book!

Mu interpretaion isn't anywhere near as deep as other peoples ... to me Sophie's mum is just having a bad day ... when I'm having one I always think "ahhh the tiger has come to tea"

nigelslaterfan Wed 03-Feb-10 11:42:41

Also the mother is so small when she's telling the massive husband about the tragic situation before the tidal wave of relief brought on by the 'good idea' !

MissWooWoo Wed 03-Feb-10 11:47:50

but I think the man is nice blush she's had a bad day and she feels like shit and he comes home and does something nice ... takes them out for tea. It is a good idea to go out to eat in those circumstances!

nigelslaterfan Wed 03-Feb-10 11:52:01

in your nightie?
But I do agree, when he bursts in the door all big and manly even I feel relieved that there is an adult on the scene who will have a good idea no doubt.

MissWooWoo Wed 03-Feb-10 12:06:12

my sister has taken her dd down to the local Tesco Express (via the car) in her pjs and coat before - niece loved it! she would of course be turned away now grin

cory Wed 03-Feb-10 19:37:08

No I am not giving this seminar, RedLentil! I am staying right here under the table with my biscuits! shock

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