Noah's Ark: The gruesomeness of classic children's stories

Posted: July 8th, 2009

Noah's Ark by Edward Hicks

It dawned on me today that the story of Noah’s Ark is pretty terrifying. Think about it—as the story goes, God basically sentenced every living thing on the planet to death by drowning or starvation (except for, of course, two of every species). We only think about the people and animals who were saved from the flood, and not about the billions of living things that died. It’s honestly a pretty adult story, when you imagine the multitude of death. And yet I had several versions of the Noah’s Ark story in picturebook form as a kid.

I’ve always been aware that The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson stories are pretty rough—in the former, there’s a little girl with a green ribbon around her neck whose head falls off when she unties it; and in the latter the Little Mermaid kills herself. I knew the “real” versions of these stories even when I was little. They were dark, sure, but I knew that up front.

Perhaps that’s why the “real” Noah’s Ark story is so much more disturbing to me—it masquerades as a cute story about animals and forgiveness.

I think Noah’s Ark would make a great disaster movie* (which, of course, would be rated PG-13 or R by the MPAA), à la 10.5 or The Day After Tomorrow or Flood.


This post was inspired by listening to RadioLab’s April 7th podcast, In Silence.

*Upon further research, it appears that two live-action films have been made about Noah’s Ark, one in 1928, and the other in 1999. You can watch the latter in its entirety on YouTube.

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