The Transcendentalists and Calvin & Hobbs. Calvin and Hobbes: The Nature Strips
Calvin and Hobbesran in newspapers from 1985 to 1995. The strip shows the imaginative fun and mischief of a six year old boy named Calvin and his tiger Hobbes (to Calvin, he is a live talking and walking tiger while to others he is a stuffed tiger). Despite the trouble and chaos they ensue on their house, neighbors, and classmates (Hobbes has eaten a bully or too), the two engage in philosophical conversations with each other (they are named after philosophers John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes) about life and the nature of people.
A common theme within the strip is environmentalism and the conservation of the wilderness around them. During their time outside, be it during summer vacation or a cold winter day, Calvin and Hobbes truly lose themselves in the vastness of nature, engaging in activities like racing down a dangerous hill on a wagon or sled only to fly off a cliff or into a lake, getting into a snowball fight with the neighbor girl, Susie Derkins, or just taking a relaxing walk through the woods. Even though Calvin’s father tends to drag him on an unbearable family vacation to an island that only he, Calvin’s dad, enjoys, Calvin and Hobbes love nature.
The writings of Henry David Thoreau quickly come to mind when thinking of these two and their adventures in nature. At times, the cartoonist views nature, much as Thoreau’s writing depicts, and shows Calvin, Hobbes, and in some cases Calvin’s dad, getting out into nature. Nature becomes a sanctuary, giving Calvin and Hobbes a chance to think about the world in a larger way than when they are in the house. It is no wonder that many of their philosophical conversations take place in nature.
There are times where Calvin enjoys being out in the elements, soaking up the air and the feeling of being alive, while other times he’ll be put in a foul mood because of man’s carelessness in how they treat the world around them, his father constantly dragging his family to a remote region for family bonding, or just an all-around “summer is over and school is starting up again” blues.
So here are a few more adventures and epiphanies of nature starring Calvin and Hobbes.
Calvin’s father, a slave to a desk job in the city, is constantly getting himself and the family back into nature every summer, much to the displeasure of Calvin and Mom. It is always the same: Dad enjoys himself, Mom questions why she married him, and Calvin bluntly complains about how much he hates being away from the TV.
It is very clear that Calvin’s dad is a firm believer in getting back into nature by camping. Unfortunately for him, he’s the only one. Getting up at the crack of dawn to go swimming, boating, and fishing seems to be the way he wants to escape the endless hustle and bustle of working in an office in the big city.
However, Calvin and his mom represent the exact opposite. Instead of wanting the fresh catch that Dad has proudly caught, gutted, and prepared for them as a good nutritious breakfast, Mom makes it very clear that the last thing she wants to eat is something from nature at such an early hour.
Calvin, in true six year old fashion, would rather be watching TV at home than be in a cabin in the middle of nature.
Calvin and Hobbes try to enjoy their stay by taking a canoe expedition in the lake near the cabin. Calvin’s overactive imagination tries to get him interested in nature by running wild. Unfortunately, Hobbes is the voice of reality, and spoils his attempts at seeing a whale, eel, and (of all things to find in a lake) a “mast of an old Spanish galleon, sunk hundreds of years ago.” Hopes foiled, Calvin to continues his rants on camping in the wood with no TV.
Another moment in Calvin’s trip into the wilderness. Calvin’s six-year old desires crave the mind depleting entertainment that a television provides. Unfortunately, he must find other endeavors to keep himself amused. As majestic as a sunset is as it falls behind the trees, shining orange light upon the water, Calvin is anything but moved by this display.
In yet another camping excursion with Dad, Calvin finds himself on a canoe. While Calvin’s dad is soaking in every moment of it, Calvin plans to make a “daring overboard escape.” It’s safe to say that when it comes to being in nature, the last thing Calvin ever wants to do is camp in it.
Wintertime in Calvin’s neighborhood brings out a “getting out into nature” attitude that everyone (except for Mom) adopts. From sledding down dangerous tree and rock filled hills, snowball fights with enough ice, rocks, and twigs in them to draw blood, even the joy of creating a snowman gives Calvin the excuse to put on a coat and hat and run outside. As long as his homework is done, because school does not close for an inch of snow.
There are times when Calvin does decide to become one with nature. Calvin’s favorite season is winter, when everything is covered with snow, and (if it snows enough) there is no going to school.
On this certain occasion, Calvin and Hobbes go to the hill near his house for a day of sledding. However, this time he does not wish to sled but to show his best friend one of his favorite past times on a cloudy winter day.
As Hobbes lies relaxed on the toboggan, Calvin explains that on days like these, he tends to reflect on the silence, stillness, and peacefulness associated with winter, as if it was a moment of meditation from the noise of the other seasons and civilization.
Poor Hobbes never saw what was coming next.
Here we find Dad back outside in the elements, but this time during the winter months. The first two panels explain how Dad feels about the blustery weather. As he walks in from the cold, he reflects on how good it feels to be outside in the snow, encouraging the rest of his family to join him in the fun of it.
Unfortunately, Mom and Calvin are not having any part of it and quickly rag on Dad for babbling about the cold they want to stay out of and, on top of that, leaving the door open so that the cold can come in.
Despite what he thinks about camping with his family, there are times where Calvin has a soft spot for nature. In these instances, he acknowledges that humans are not the only ones that inhabit this earth and that the balance between man and nature should be respected at all times. So when man oversteps their boundaries into nature, Calvin will express his angry and blunt disapproval. It all starts when he takes a trip through the woods in his backyard.
This just screams Thoreau, with just a dash of Darwin. Calvin and Hobbes discover that a clear wreckage has been made in the woods. To his disdain, he discovers the culprit is man, specifically the people at Shady Acres Condominiums. A deeply enraged Calvin goes off on a ranting tirade about how animals have no use for condos and more use of the trees that use to inhabit the area. He then puts the wild idea in the air that humans would not like it if animals ssuddenlybulldozed a suburb and put in new trees, an idea that Hobbes intended to pursue. This illustrates the worst case scenario given if people continue to expand civilization and deplete the wilderness.
Calvin and Hobbes are on another one of their many excursions out into the wilderness and Calvin brings up that the world is full of sounds from people, radios, and engines (vehicles like cars, planes, etc.). As soon as they get into the wilderness, he brings up how “startling” it is to be in the stillness of nature versus the hustle and bustle of everyday life. To Hobbes, it’s relaxing and very therapeutic, similar to the snowy hill and the toboggan; to Calvin, it’s nerve wrecking.
After discovering several cans strewn in various parts of the forest, a livid Calvin makes an angry declaration that the people on the planet don’t care about the world they live in. This shows that Calvin, even though he is back and forth about it, cares about nature and that it is important for the humans in it to conserve it and not trash it.
Hobbes being the animal that he is, states he takes pride in not being human, not worrying about leaving non-biodegradable waste in the woods. Calvin, feeling that his race is not going to change, strips and follows suit. This speaks volumes about how the two see humanity in relation to nature: Calvin, being a human, understands that there are certain balances that humans must not interfere with, but cannot change the fact that there are humans out there who do indeed mess up the world for every person and animal in it. Hobbs is glad he’s not part of the problem.
Here we have another Sunday strip of Calvin and Hobbes and the trash in the woods. An angered Calvin once again questions the mental capacity and the consideration of humans towards nature.
Hobbes’ strange sense of optimism is somewhat baffling. In the previous strips, he is pretty dismissive of all humans changing their ways to better the woods. In this strip however, he seems to think that a change in smarter thinking (more than cleaner actions) is a possibility.
Whether or not it was a sarcastic quip (as seen in the last panel) cannot be determined, but since Hobbes thinks more of animals than humans, it looks like a possibility.
Here a simple, yet grim fact about the deforestation of America, sparks an epiphany about life in outer space. A quote like this makes us wonder if it is true. Could there be an intelligent species on the outer banks of our universe and is the only thing that is keeping them from contacting us is the fact that we destroy our planet’s ecosystem by chopping down trees in the woods? Looks like a real possibilty.
During a summer wagon run, Calvin gets an epiphany: The world should have had fewer inhabitants. His reasoning behind this is the way resources would be distributed would not have any of the complications as it does now. Although this seems to be a brilliant idea to Calvin, as a tiger Hobbes is totally in favor of helping reduce the population.
Global warming. Calvin is not happy with it. Going back to Calvin understanding that being a human makes him the one to inherit the world, he decides to go to the one person he can blame this on: his mom.
Theories of price and value are up for discussion when Calvin tells Hobbes about the talk of opening wilderness for development, or clearing out woods to obtain needs (oil, timber, minerals, and housing). This is to be at the price of destroying nature (unspoiled beauty, wildlife, solitude, and spiritual renewal). With that said, Hobbes’s brings it all together: “We need to start putting prices on the priceless.”
If there is one part of nature that brings Calvin down is autumn Sundays. They are just another reminder that summer is gone and that school is right around the corner for another week of boredom in class.
Hobbes, on the other hand, loves autumn. Unable to understand Calvin’s plight of going back to school, Hobbes instead looks at autumn through an artist’s eyes, comparing the changing of the leaves to a “fireworks display” (KAPOW! FWOOSH! ZINGG!).
Angered and jealous of Hobbes’ freedom and how he rubs it in, Calvin plots a painful retaliation by picking up apples and preparing to let them fly.
When school lets out for the summer, Calvin takes full advantage of being able to go out into the wildness of his backyard and either play or do nothing. This is the period where Calvin is the most in love with his natural surroundings, taking on a full Thoreau mindset as he explores the woods, looking for a new adventure to get into or looking for another quiet spot to curl up next to Hobbes .
Here we find Calvin and Hobbes enjoying their favorite summer pastime: absolutely nothing.
They could have stayed inside, watched TV, or read comic books, but instead they make a journey outside and soakupthe summer air for as long as they can. In other strips, Calvin complains that the summer season isn’t long enough— Read on
Calvin is deeply distressed that the summer days are “slipping through.” It is clear that he loses track of time when he spends the majority of his summer doing nothing. However, in this next strip—
Calvin takes time to make an actual itinerary of a summer day. Everything from digging in the back yard, hitting Susie with a water gun, to running from a snake that they think is poisonous. Their plans are foiled at the end of the day when Calvin’s mom scoops them both up. Summer days are a double-edged sword; whether or not Calvin and Hobbes are doing something, there aren’t enough hours in the day nor are there enough days in the break to begin with.
Nature was a common theme for Calvin and Hobbes. Camping and autumn Sundays excluded, the two are very much in love with their nature surroundings and also realize that their world is vaster than just their backyard.
Understanding that is important. It’s important because we must know where the resources are and how to use them efficiently rather than just effectively. For if we do not, we may not have a world left. Then it will be just as Hobbes said: we’ll simply be here to “devour each other.”