So I was reading Little Dude The Little Engine That Could last night and it’s been forever since I’ve read it and I was psyched to IMPART INSPIRATION AND WISDOM AND THAT CAN-DO SPIRIT into Little Man and then I was reading it and HOLY S— THAT BOOK IS A F—ING NIGHTMARE.
For years it’s been marketed as a simple little book about a spunky little train who achieves something he’s never thought possible before simply by believing he could do it.
But THE TRUTH IS it’s really the book of a poor innocent train engine who just wished to do a good deed and ended up DESTROYING THE LIVES OF COUNTLESS VILLAGE CHILDREN.
Clearly this book is the work of an author assigned to write it by someone else, assigned to produce it in order to explain exactly what happened on the other side of that mountain that fateful day, and he was assigned to write it in a way that masked what truly and horribly happened, and so he did, to save his life — but he left us clues scattered throughout. Clues that, once you see the pattern, tell a whole different story.
Oh, don’t believe me? That’s okay.
Let’s break it down.
So here’s our cover. Good, sweet, innocent, COLORFUL. Kid-friendly as all crap. The author has a name that is just delightful. Watty Piper. WATTY PIPER. Delightful as delightful gets, that name. And look, there’s even a church steeple in the background.
DON’T LET IT FOOL YOU, KIDS. DON’T LET IT FOOL YOU.
This is our inside cover.
We don’t study it too closely just yet because hey, the book’s just getting started, and it’s cute, with the farmhouse and the farmer and the trains and stuff. We gloss right over it, really.
We will regret this.
Let’s get into the book.
We open with a little red engine, number 7.
“Chug, chug, chug, puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong. The little train rumbled over the tracks. She was a happy little train for she had such a jolly load to carry. Her cars were filled full of good things for boys and girls. There were toy animals — giraffes with long necks, Teddy bears with almost no necks at all, and even a baby elephant. Then there were dolls — dolls with blue eyes and yellow curls, dolls with brown eyes and brown bobbed heads, and the funniest little toy clown you ever saw.”
Not only is “the funniest little toy clown you ever saw” KIND OF AN OVERSELL.
And more importantly: LOOK AT THIS THING.
That clown would’ve given me nightmares as a kid. And that’s just from looking at it.
But don’t worry, IT GETS WORSE.
“And there were cars full of toy engines, airplanes, tops, jack-knives”
And now it’s impossible to NOT imagine Clowny as a JACK-KNIFE WIELDING SERIAL KILLER.
“picture puzzles, books, and everything kind of thing boys or girls could want.”
INCLUDING TERRIFYING CLOWNS.
“But that was not all! Some of the cars were filled with all sorts of good things for boys and girls to eat: big golden oranges, red-cheeked apples, bottles of creamy milk for their breakfasts, fresh spinach for their dinner, peppermint drops, and lollypops for after-meal treats.”
Nothing alarming here. Well, except that apparently children don’t need to eat lunch. But mostly, I just like how they specify “AFTER-meal treats.” It’s teaching the children good eating habits, you see.
“The little train is carrying all these wonderful things to the good little boys and girls to the other side of the mountain. She puffed along merrily. Then all of a sudden she stopped with a jerk. She simply could not go another inch. She tried and she tried but her wheels would not turn.”
And THE CLOWN IS ALIVE, THE CLOWN IS STANDING BESIDE THE TRAIN AND WALKING AND WAVING ITS HANDS AND OH MY GOD THE DEMON CLOWN IS ALIVE.
“What were all the good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain going to do without the wonderful toys to play with and the good food to eat?”
“Here comes a shiny new engine,” said the funny little clown who jumped out of the train. “Let us ask him to help us.”
SUSPICIOUSLY OBVIOUS DESCRIPTION OF CLOWN AS “FUNNY” AND “LITTLE.” NOT THAT “LITTLE” IS ANY LESS TERRIFYING.
“So all the dolls and toys cried out together: Please Shiny New Engine, won’t you please pull our train over the mountain? Our engine has broken down, and the boys and girls on the other side won’t have any toys to play with or good food to eat unless you help us.”
OK, OK, OK — the dolls and toys CRIED OUT TOGETHER. As in, IN UNISON. Like a CHORUS OF LITTLE TALKING TOYS and THAT IS NOT TERRIFYING AT ALL.
And why do they need to go to another village? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE VILLAGE THEY’RE COMING FROM?
So the next bit of the story is basically three other trains saying “Aw hellz naw” and getting the f— outta there.
They — by “they” I mean whoever it was that wrote this book, and I have my theories, and we’ll get to them — tell the story to make it sound like the other trains just had some sort of excuse for not helping: The first train, the Passenger Train, is supposedly all like, “I am too fancy for such a humble job.”
Observe the face. Is that or is that not a face that rather says, “You know what, dude, you’re a walking talking CLOWN TOY, and I’m pretty sure that whatever you’ve got going on here, I don’t really want to get involved in.”
And the next one, a giant freight train, is supposedly all like, “I’m too important for such an unimportant job!”
But again, LOOK AT THE FACE. That is the face of a train that is WHOLLY UNCERTAIN ABOUT THIS WHOLE TALKING CLOWN TOY SITUATION.
The next one’s supposedly just like, “Naw man I’m too old for this stuff.”
And again, THE FACE. Although, well, actually, that face is just kinda like, “I’m olllddd and I can’t seeee as welll as I once coulllddd but is that a clowwwnnnn toy running at me? I’m not sure, so I’ll just say I’m olldddd and chug on home.”
And, which, you know, maybe those trains REALLY DID say those things, but probably because they didn’t want DEMON CLOWN AND HIS POSSE TO MURDER THEM BY DISMANTLEMENT THEM FOR THEIR INSOLENCE.
Because look, this is Demon Clown and Demon Elephant and Demon Bear’s faces after the Passenger Train, the first one who stops by, leaves them:
THEY ARE SO PISSED.
AND — I mean — look at the train that “stopped with a jerk,” Red 7, in the background there.
That is a face of ABSOLUTE TERROR.
Clearly, Red 7 was self-sabotaging to try to save the poor children over the mountain from this band of terrifying toys, and she “stopped with a jerk” in what was CLEARLY an attempt to throw Demon Clown off the train so she could chug away, thus leaving the other toys leaderless, at which point they would probably destroy each other.
It was a bold move, and it might have worked had all these other trains not come along. But by the time they’d all turned Demon Clown down, ol’ Clowny was getting kind of murdery and Red 7 was on his mind.
Then Little Engine Blue, she comes chugging along, and the Demon Chorus rings out again, and this time they’re being aggressive, this time they JUMP ON HER …
… and BLOCK THE TRACKS …
… and they’re all like …
“WE’RE TOTALLY GOING TO MURDER A TRAIN IF YOU DON’T HELP US.”
And Little Blue’s all like, “But I’ve never even been over the mountain.”
” ‘But we must get over the mountain before the children awake,’ said the dolls and the toys.”
1. MORE TALKING IN UNISON.
2. No normal toys going to get put on sale in stores need to be over mountains before children awake. They just need to be there whenever they get there — because then the kids’ parents can buy them after properly examining them for things like safety and factory defects and DEMON STUFF. So why do you have to get over the mountain before the children awake? OBVIOUSLY SO YOU CAN HAUNT THEIR DREAMS.
Now, according to the book, at this point, Little Blue sees “tears in the dolls’ eyes” and “she thought of the good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain who would not have any toys or good food unless she helped.”
Now this might contradict my whole hypothesis BUT NO.
As we all know, Little Blue DID MAKE IT OVER THE MOUNTAIN that fateful dawn, and after she did, Demon Clown and His Posse put out this book, this diabolical piece of propaganda, by this “Watty Piper,” to assure everyone everything was okay, and all the kids were happy with their toys and their food, BECAUSE NOBODY EVER HEARD FROM THE VILLAGE OVER THE MOUNTAIN AGAIN.
Clearly, the tears were in the eyes of not the dolls, but Little Blue’s friend Red 7, and she was clearly under the impression that they were going to MURDER HER BADLY unless she helped.
Thus Little Blue had to choose: The children in the village over the mountain, whom Little Blue did not know nor had ever even met because, of course, she had never been over the mountain — or her friend Red 7, whom she probably had loved forever because RED AND BLUE ALWAYS GO TOGETHER, BECAUSE AMERICA.
The choice, albeit devastating, was all too clear: The Little Engine reached down into her big blue heart and said those famous words, but she said them not so that she could deliver toys to boys and girls — no, she said them so that she could, likely with a shattering soul, deliver ENDLESS TERROR, all so she could save her friend Red 7.
“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”
After all, we know Little Blue got over the mountain. We know what the book tells us:
“She hitched herself to the little train. She tugged and pulled and pulled and tugged and slowly, slowly, slowly they started off. The toy clown jumped aboard and all the dolls and the toys animals began to smile and cheer. Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine.
‘I think I can—I think I can—I think I can—I think I can—I think I can—I think I can—I think—I can—I think I can—I think I can—I think I can.’
Up, up, up. Faster and faster and faster and faster the little engine climbed, until at last they reached the top of the mountain.
Down in the valley lay the city.”
IF THAT DOESN’T CHILL YOU TO YOUR BONES THEN YOU HAVE NO SOUL.
” ‘Hurray, hurray,’ cried the funny little clown and all the dolls and toys. ‘The good little boys and girls in the city will be happy because you helped us, kind, Little Blue Engine.’
And the Little Blue Engine smiled and seemed to say as she puffed steadily down the mountain, ‘I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.”
And look what’s happening as “she puffed steadily down the mountain.” There’s a grown man CHASING LITTLE BLUE, a COWBOY IN FACT, WITH A GUN AND EVERYTHING.
And let’s revisit that inside cover, shall we?
It’s full of clues. Look closely.
The farmer, off to the right — IS HE NOT ARMING HIMSELF?
More importantly, let’s observe the horse, for ANIMALS ALWAYS KNOW.
That horse, there in the middle — IS HE NOT RUNNING LIKE ALL HELL TO GET AWAY FROM THE DEMON CLOWN?
So there you have it.
The Little Engine That Could is a horror story.
What Little Blue did remains an impressive feat: A train engine who never before climbed the mountain then in fact climbed that mountain.
But Little Blue did not climb that mountain to deliver a bundle of good fun toys over a mountain, no — she climbed it to take a gang of demented toys led by a demon clown to the next village where they could wreak their mayhem — and in doing so, she saved Red 7 from ALMOST CERTAIN DEATH.
As for what became of the toys and Little Blue — and, for that matter, the children in the village — we can never know for certain.
All we know is that this is the final line: I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.
And the book ends there, leaving one very important detail for us to imply: LITTLE BLUE NEVER MADE IT BACK OVER THE MOUNTAIN.
Enjoy your dreams tonight!