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Literature / Arthur

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The cover for Arthur's Eyes.

Arthur is a children's book series by Marc Brown. The series stars a young glasses-wearing aardvark named Arthur Read in a World of Funny Animals.

The series began in 1976 with Arthur's Nose. Since then, it's expanded into other media, including several Living Books games, a long-running cartoon that aired from 1996 to 2022, and a short spinoff of the cartoon. Due to the popularity of the cartoon, it in itself has also received several children's books.

Additionally, the popularity of Arthur's sister D.W. resulted in a series of spin-off books focused on her character, though these are still generally considered part of the Arthur franchise and are sometimes marketed with the Arthur logo.

Arthur provides examples of:

  • Aardvark Trunks: In the first book, Arthur had a long flat nose pointing downward, more like a tapir's snout. In following books, his mouth and nose were at the end of his face but then his face was shortened until in his later design (and in the animated series) he and his family have absolutely no snouts at all, making them not even look like aardvarks. Awkwardly, said first book was entitled Arthur's Nose, in which Arthur faces bullying for his long nose and learns to accept himself as he is, making for a rather Broken Aesop.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • In the book Arthur's Computer Disaster, after the Brain couldn't find the problem with the computer, Arthur, D.W. and Buster then go to the computer repair shop.
  • Anthropomorphic Shift:
    • Arthur was originally a normal aardvark with a long nose. Over time his nose shrunk to the point where he's interchangeable with bears like the Brain.
    • Early on, the characters weren't all fully-dressed. Some didn't wear pants, while others were outright nude.
    • Fur Is Skin wasn't originally used. Characters had fur-toned colors, such as orange cats or grey rhinos.
  • Baths Are Fun: In D.W.'s Guide to Perfect Manners (later retitled D.W. Says Please and Thank You for paperback), D.W. is shown in the bath holding a toy mermaid in one hand, a rubber duck in the other, and splashing Mrs. Read and Pal. She states that at night, it's not nice to complain about taking a bath or brushing your teeth and you can play while you get clean, but sometimes she plays a little too hard.
  • Broken Aesop: In the first book Arthur's Nose, Arthur faces bullying for his long snout and considers cosmetic surgery to reduce its size before realizing he should ignore the bullies and accept himself as he is, proclaiming "I'm just not me without my nose!". However, Arthur's nose would get shorter and shorter with every succeeding book, and by the time of the cartoon, he barely had a nose at all — presumably because it looked so awkward. Did his entire family get those nose jobs after all? Nowadays, the most popular incarnation of Arthur is the one with a short nose.
  • The Bully: Francine bullied Arthur for his nose in Arthur's Nose.
  • Dream Episode: Arthur in a Pickle mostly consists of Arthur dreaming that he is in a town of pickles and later sent to pickle jail.
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference:
    • Arthur's Nose features the cast looking far more like the real-world animals they were designed after. As the books progressed, they became increasingly anthropomorphic, with Arthur in particular changing from a realistic aardvark to a teddy bear-esque creature whose species was purely an informed one.
    • Francine originally had a clearly defined muzzle. She also wore dresses, which is something she almost never does.
    • The Tibble Twins were originally humans instead of bears.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first books featured more more non-mammalian animals than usual, such as owls. Arthur's classroom also consisted of characters that were later scrapped. In Arthur's Nose, his best friends were Francine, an unnamed bear, an unnamed bird, unnamed twin cats, an unnamed giraffe, and an owl.
    • Arthur's family wasn't named in the original book.
    • Arthur was a first grader in Arthur's Nose, not a third grader.
    • The books featured humans early on.
  • Guilt-Induced Nightmare: In "Arthur in a Pickle", Arthur lies to Mr. Ratburn that his dog Pal ate his homework and Mr. Ratburn tells him he's "in a pickle". He has a nightmare that night about being trapped in a world full of literal pickles.
  • Honesty Aesop: The book "Arthur in a Pickle", Arthur lies that his dog Pal ate his homework. Due to his guilt (and because Mr. Ratburn told him he was "in a pickle"), he has a nightmare about a world of pickles. The next day, he apologizes to the principal Mr. Haney and admits that he had forgotten to do his homework, so Mr. Haney doesn't punish him.
  • Informed Species: While aardvark characters did have long noses in early books, they curved downward rather than being straight like real aardvarks' noses, making them more closely resemble tapir-like trunks. As the art style of the books changed, this became even more prominent, with aardvark characters looking closer to teddy bears.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: The first few books featured humans, but this was later done away with for a World of Funny Animals.
  • Loose Tooth Episode: In "Arthur's Tooth", Arthur has his first loose tooth. Francine and the other kids make fun of him for not losing any teeth yet, so he does everything he can to get his tooth out. At the end, Francine accidentally whacks him in the face when she's pretending to be the tooth fairy and this causes his tooth to finally fall out. This was also made a TV episode.
  • Messy Hair: The picture book D.W.'s Guide to Perfect Manners depicts D.W. with messy bed hair in the morning before heading off to preschool.
  • Not Where They Thought: In "Arthur's Eyes", Arthur goes into the girls' bathroom after ditching his glasses and is initially confused as to why Francine is in there until she screams at him to get the heck out because this is the women's room.
  • Pet Contest Episode: In Arthur and the Dog Show, Arthur tries to train his dog Pal to win a competition. While Pal is unable to learn tricks, he ends up winning the competition due to being the most loving dog.
  • Scarily Specific Story: In the book Arthur Babysits, Arthur draws the misbehaving Tibble twins out of hiding by mentioning a swamp monster. He says the monster likes eating boys (especially twins) and describes it approaching an old mansion, like the Tibbles' house. When the door opens, they scream... only for it to be their grandmother returning home.
  • Sickness Equals Redness: When Arthur is sick in Arthur's Nose, the front of his snout is red.
  • Token Human: In the early books, the Tibble family were the sole humans in a town of Funny Animals,
  • Training the Pet: In "Arthur's New Puppy", the recently-adopted Pal annoys the Reads by keeping them up all night and tearing up things in the living room (among other things). Arthur decides to teach Pal tricks, and by the end of it, it works and David and Jane say Pal no longer has to stay in the garage.
  • Unconventional Food Usage: In the book "Arthur's Halloween", Buster uses Jell-O, spaghetti and peeled grapes for fake brains, hearts, and eyeballs for the Halloween party. Arthur is too squeamish to touch them, much to Francine and Muffy's amusement.
  • World of Funny Animals: The world of Arthur is a mundane world, except that it's populated by (predominantly mammalian) Funny Animals instead of humans.
  • Wrong Bathroom Incident: In "Arthur's Eyes", Arthur ditches his glasses, but due to how bad his eyesight is, he ends up walking into the girls' bathroom by mistake. Francine yells at him to Get Out!.