b Papa Dog's Blog: These Are Your Ducks. These Are Your Ducks on Drugs. Any Questions?

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Friday, June 24, 2005

These Are Your Ducks. These Are Your Ducks on Drugs. Any Questions?

While I was doing my day’s quota of thinking in the shower this morning, I found myself mulling over yesterday’s post, specifically the reference to the cop-out Hollywood ending of Five Little Ducks. It occurred to me that one or another of you might be unfamiliar with the tome in question, and may be curious about the copout ending. Having nothing else planned for today, I figured I’d bang out a quick first draft of my doctoral dissertation on Five Little Ducks. The text quoted is in the public domain. I was unable to get a scan of the images, but had I been able to, the ones I describe are © 2005 by Dan Yaccarino. I’ll be trying again next week, so check back and see if I got the images in. (Have you checked back? Good, because the images are in now [7/7/5].)

Five Little Ducks – An Examination of the Text: Single Motherhood and the “Empty Nest” Syndrome Among Impoverished Rural American Water Fowl
by P.D. Duvalier, D.B.W.*

Page One:

“Five little ducks went out one day, over the hill and far away.”

As we first encounter the duck family, all seems well. In a pleasant rural setting, the five little ducks troop in a neat line up a hill as their mother follows with watchful indulgence. The only sinister note is struck by the presence in the right foreground of a small green frog with a grotesquely cloven head. Has this frog been the victim of some anti-Ranidaean prejudice? This possibility is never addressed.

Page Two:

“The mother duck said, “Quack! Quack! Quack!” But only four little ducks came back.”

Here we see the mother duck landing from flight, apparently having spent the day elsewhere while her children roamed the countryside unsupervised. The four returning ducks appear indifferent to their mother’s anxiety, and in fact wear the same dreamy and untroubled expression throughout their adventures. Are they perhaps under the influence of some mood-flattening drug? As of the second page this is merely a possibility, but their absolute unflappability through the remainder of the book makes it seem a certainty. The mother appears confused, but not overtly concerned. On some level she may in fact be relieved that she now has one less mouth to feed. We will see on the next page how she deals with the inevitable guilt feelings raised by this response.

Page Three:

“Four little ducks went out one day, across the lake and far away.”

With loose limbs and a sensuously parted beak, the mother duck lolls on the surface of a pond, her head submerged. She appears entirely untroubled by the recent disappearance of her child. Clearly, she has self-medicated, likely from the supply intended for her children. She was greatly exceeded the numbing effect she intended and has lapsed into a Ritalin stupor.

Curious, the frog with the misshapen head reappears on this page, watched over by a second larger frog with a similar cranial cleft. The second frog is in shadow. Neither frog seems to be paying any attention to the mother duck or to her children. Again, the significance of this is uncertain.

Page Four:

“The mother duck said, “Quack! Quack! Quack!” But only three little ducks came back.”

As the three remaining ducks make their customarily impassive return via a hollow worm-ridden log, the mother duck turns around in surprise. In the background, we see an adult duck departing in flight. Given the lack of a male role model in the duck family up to this point, the obvious surmise is that the mother duck has been surprised by her children in the middle of a possibly illicit sexual encounter. A bumblebee hovers about the mother duck’s posterior. While certainly suggestive, the significance is again uncertain.

Page Five:

“Three little ducks went out one day, under the water and far away.”

As the remaining duck family dives synchronously under the surface of the pond, the mother duck for the first time wears an expression identical to that of her three children. Presumably she has adjusted her dosage.

Page Six:

“The mother duck said, “Quack! Quack! Quack!” But only two little ducks came back.”

At this point, the repetitive nature of the mother duck’s admonitions becomes apparent. Clearly, the little ducks are stifling in a home environment that does not engage and challenge their burgeoning intelligence and growing curiosity about the world. The mystery now is not where the little ducks are disappearing to, but why they are vanishing singly rather than en masse.

It is also worth noting that the two little ducks who return on this page do so standing blithely on the snout of what appears to be an alligator. How do the two ducks survive this perilous journey? A possible explanation is that the alligator is already full. This might also explain the whereabouts of the third duck, presumably charting an exploratory course through the unknown terrain of the alligator’s digestive tract.

Page Seven:

“Two little ducks went out one day, into town and far away.”

Here we have a glimpse of a previously unremarked urban environment, evidently within waddling distance from the farmland seen until now. The attraction the city holds for the duck children is evident, as they troop somnambulistically towards it. In the background is a stretch of coastline, another geographical feature which has been hidden heretofore. Above a lighthouse we see two more adult fowl circling, perhaps waiting impatiently for the mother duck to become available.

Page Eight:

“The mother duck said, “Quack! Quack! Quack!” But only one little duck came back.”

This last duck returns on the back of a turtle, an unlikely mode of locomotion for an animal capable of flight. Perhaps this is a reference to the notion from Indian mythology of the earth resting on the back of a turtle? Likely not, but I’m at a loss for what else to drag in on this page.

Page Nine:

“One little duck went out one day, into the woods and far away.”

As the last little duck departs, the mother watched nervously. It has taken some time, but the pattern of recent events has finally penetrated her drug-addled consciousness.

Page Ten:

“The mother duck said, “Quack! Quack! Quack!” But no little ducks came back.”

At last we see an honest expression of grief from the mother duck. She has overcome her fog of drugs and promiscuity and connected with the raw emotions brought forth by the loss of her family. Too late, of course, but what’re ya gonna do?

Page Eleven:

“Sad mother duck went out one day, over the hill and far away.”

The mother duck trudges up the hill in silhouette. When we first saw this hill on page one, it was light green and populated by frolicsome butterflies. In her solitude, the hill has become dark and foreboding for the mother duck. This is where her troubles began. It is now dark green and absent of any other signs of life. The imagery is all kind of obvious really, but again, what’re ya gonna do?

Page Twelve:

“The mother duck said, “Quack! Quack! Quack!” And all the little ducks came back.”

The ultimate feel-good cop-out ending. One is tempted to assume that the story originally ended on the previous page, but failed to test well that way. No effort is made to explain how little duck number three made it safely out of the alligator’s alimentary canal, but that’s the way it goes with these tacked-on focus group things.
*Fabulous prize to the first person to correctly guess what that stands for.


Blogger Brownstein said...

I would propose that your reading is only 11/12ths right. The story that ends on page eleven is in actuality the closing of the mortal life of mother duck, who, withdrawing from her drug stupor and childless from her own neglect, goes out on a final overdose bender.

Page twelve can be interpreted either as a final hallucination, where, as consciousness leaves her small avian mind, she believes she is reunited with her child; or as a religious message, where, despite her transgressions and neglect that led to the death of her infants, she has been reunited with them all in the afterlife.

8:56 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home