Friday

Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories: "The Two Carolines"

image Vernon Nye
"Caroline Herman was a very nice little girl in many ways" our story tells us at the beginning.  What ways?  Well, she's very pretty, apparently.

But, we are told, there are "two Carolines", the "home Caroline" and the "school Caroline."  At home, it seems, Caroline is quite cross.  But at school, she radiates kindness and joy-- probably, as the story suggests, because "she loved her teacher more than she did even her own Mother."  This points to trouble at home for Caroline, and one can only hope the teacher will intervene and contact the authorities to remove Caroline from what the reader can only speculate is an abusive or neglectful home situation.

We see Mother using Caroline for menial manual labor, as well as sending her young daughter alone to the store to buy groceries for the family.  Caroline always obeys, but she grumbles as she does it--the death knell for any little girl in an Uncle Arthur story.  It turns out that Mother has set up an ambush for her poor daughter, and without any Admiral Ackbar to warn her, Caroline had fallen right into the trap.  Mother has invited Caroline's teacher over so she could hear the girl complain as she set the table.  Caroline loses what appears to be her only ally in the world when the teacher scolds the "trembling" child, who "bursts into tears."

After that, we are told, Caroline never felt safe in her own home and likely never trusted an adult again, because "she could never feel quite sure that there was not someone listening to her in the next room" and judging her.

Lesson learned:
Fear is the best motivator for kids.


Maxwell, Arthur S.  "The Two Carolines."  Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories. Vol. 2.  Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1966.  15-19.
Buy Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories: Volume 1 on Amazon

27 comments:

  1. I just found your blog while looking for Uncle Arthur's take on evolution. These posts are hilarious and totally spot on. Glad to know I wasn't the only child traumatized by "Uncle Arthur", or "Oom Attie" as we knew him in Afrikaans!

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  2. Reading the twisted comment above it is not a wonder so many children today lack respect, and now have a sense of entitlement as opposed to possessing the knowledge that they have what it takes to contribute to the greater good of others.

    It is so sad. Children are beautiful little creations and have so much potential. Instead people like the writer above would prefer to influence children in a negative way.

    The 'Two Carolines' is an excellent story that influenced me, as a little child, to recognize the importance of treating all people respectfully, even those who I knew would love me regardless of how I acted.

    I am searching for copies of Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories to share these basic principles on how to be an honest, thoughtful,and caring human being with my beautiful grandchildren and hope they will aspire to the level of humanity that once was commonplace and not an anomaly.

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    1. My parents bought their three kids the whole Uncle Arthur set when I was seven, sixty years ago. What I would say to you is this: it's far better to treat everyone well because they deserve it and it's the right thing to do than to do it because "someone might be listening," say, Jesus perhaps. The former teaches that right action with others is good in itself; the latter teaches that we should do it because otherwise we might be embarrassed or punished. Goodness for its own sake is better than goodness for a reward.

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    2. But any goodness at all is better than none at all.

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    3. I have looking for this book for more than 20 years, excellent moral stories that this generation is lacking, found on amazon, can't wait to read to my adult children and grandchild.

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  3. Eugene, I, too, was traumatized! Seriously, I cannot sleep with an arm or leg hanging off the edge of my bed, for fear of DYING, all thanks to Uncle Arthur.
    So, to anonymous I say, if you want to scare and scar your grandchildren, more power to ya!

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  4. I was wondering if you could find the illustrations for the story about smoking cigarettes. I found your blog while trying to find an image of the green monster who represents being addicted to nicotine. That story gave me nightmares. Only in my nightmares Jesus was the one smoking. In my dream Jesus was the size of a sky scraper and was smoking and was laughing at all of his believers. Didn't really trust Jesus so much after that. So I'm sure that to people who grew up during "the war" they seem like beautiful life lessons, but if you grew up in the 80's they are terrifying.

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    1. I grew up in the 80s and wasn't terrified by these. I also didn't let my dreams change my view of ppl, bcuz dreams can be deceiving. I think the story you're looking for is "a boy in chains".

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  5. This is fantastic - I bloody HATED those stories. Poor kids were wrong no matter what they did, and more than one relative used to shove these morals down our throats.

    The only good purpose for this book is as a weapon against those who moralize!!!

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  6. I read Uncle Arthur's bedtime stories as a child and "The Two Carolines" in particular always stayed with me in that it helped to modify my behavior as a child, making me more consistent all around. I have two children and I didn't raise them with the stern hand my parents used to raise me and my siblings and now at 20 and 16 years of age I feel they could've benefitted from more discipline and stern parenting. I know they love me but they tend to do and say things I only ever imagined in my mind but never actually did or said. Sometimes I feel their behavior is disrespectful. The saying, "Give them an inch and they'll take a mile" tends to be true, in my opinion. Just look at the children today ... say anything, do anything.

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  7. I didn't get it quite like that somehow. Caroline good and Caroline bad means don't be two-faced and try to control your moodiness and favoritism. Yeah, it's difficult, but that's life. I do think the mother was wrong to hide the teacher and then embarras the child. But worse lessons loomed if Caroline did not learn it early.
    There is a sort of ruthlessness to the way morals are put across, but I think that's because until recently, the morals were thought to be more important than hurt feelings. It's all very debatable.

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  8. Loved uncle arthur stories as a child a would like to read these to my kids..

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  9. I thought that Charlotte's comment was excellent...that "until recently morals were thought to be more important than hurt feelings." That is also shown in some of those "prairie" TV shows where humiliation was used to correct or to redress acts of pure meanesss. Humiliate to teach? Or to get back, get even?
    What did Caroline learn about her mother? Trust?

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  10. Just found this -- those stories were so frightening and such peculiar theology -- Seventh Day Adventist morality of the 1920s. Scaring children into passivity and self-hatred.

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    1. passivity? self hatred? please elaborate: these stories had children actively doing kind deeds, owning up to mistakes, making amends, helping each other....

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  11. The Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories series is a priceless treasure. These stories are filled with timeless moral lessons which have been a benefit to countless children. Maybe if these stories--and ones like these--were more frequently read to this present generation, we would not see the delinquency and lack of parental respect that is now evident.
    As for "such a peculiar theology"... It is much easier to go with the current, than to swim against it. It is much easier to become enticed with the wine of Babylon, than to resist it. The Seventh-day Adventist theology is a beam of hope-bearing light that this world DESPERATELY needs. A world that has no idea of how "late in the game" in Earth's history, it really is.

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  12. these are beautiful stories and I love them now as an adult and would love to teach these values to my grands.to each it own.

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  13. These stories are wonderful. I was raised by them and they helped me make wise moral choices. I also read them to my children which have grown up to be fine, respectful, admirable young men. I can't imagine how someone would find them offensive. I find the disrespectful, immoral behavior of many today offensive and think they may have benefitted from these stories.

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  14. I LOVED reading these books when I was quite young. I remember thinking that most of the terrible things that happened in the stories were the result of not listening and learning from your parents, but instead learning lessons the hard way.

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  15. Most of the stories were, quite frankly, not suitable for children! One story, which my now grown daughter was read...often...was The Two Carolines. Unfortunately, she didn't learn the lesson and is still that way.
    As fate would have it, she's expecting her own daughter now. As my father told my (wild child) of a sister when she was expecting my niece, "I hope you have a daughter just like you were" lol Some traits are inborn, and no matter how hard you try, a mother won't change them...

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  16. My favorite bedtime story as a kid! hahaha! Thank you for sharing and reminding me of a precious memory from my childhood. This one was my favorite, but I liked Mother's Hands as well. Her selflessness made me want to be a giving mother too. Awesome. With the two Carolines, I learned not only to respect adults in the public arena, but also in private. I began to realize that I shouldn't be one way at home and one way at school, but obedient and grateful all the time....love it! I am so excited that I now know the series can still be purchased. I was sure it had to be out of print! Can't wait to get it for my sons!!! :)

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    1. I totally guilt ed my daughter with is one and nicknamed her "Caroline"! she's helpful and kind at school, but only whines and rolls her eyes with me :/

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  17. I also remember Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories! This one was relatively mild by his standards. There was one story that REALLY terrified me about two naughty children who get into their Uncle Pete's new car (why on earth didn't he keep it locked?!) and mess with the controls, and it starts going, and they can't stop it. A brave neighbour rescues them at the last minute, but to this *day* I sometimes have nightmares about cars running away with me and my being unable to stop them. Another scary story was about a boy who played ball against medical advice, and ended up being rushed to hospital with 'a serious heart attack'. I read this story when I was in hospital (not for that reason!) and found it very scary; why were these books always in hospital wards or doctors' surgeries?

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  18. I love this blog... hilarious!! Thanks so much! Amazing to find out I'm not the only one scarred for life by creepy uncle Arthur. I found you as I was searching for images of the Bible Stories for possible use in my art. I was trying to remember the whole Adam and Eve ( as well as Jesus and everyone else in the Bible) were apparently corn fed white folks from Iowa visual of it all. Keep writing please. ✨

    Eve

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  19. If JESUS Himself was misinterpreted how about Uncle Arthur...am so glad my mum read me those stories...my life has never been the same.

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  20. I remember reading these books as a kid even then I was both puzzled and repelled by this these weird moralistic and downright creepy stories. My own kids have done quite well without them.

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  21. I loved Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories. I had a rough time growing up, and having these stories to read, about a world where parents cared enough to set boundaries, and where children were valued, helped me to hold on until adulthood. God bless Uncle Arthur, wherever he may be.

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