Romantic and Jewish Images of Childhood in Maurice Sendak's Dear Mili

in Volume 42 (2009): Issue 1 (Mar 2009): Jewishness, Literature and the Child. Guest Editor: Katrien Vloeberghs
Restricted access

This article focuses on the intertwinement of the Romantic and the Jewish tradition in Maurice Sendak's picture book Dear Mili (1988) whose original text was based on a legend retold by Wilhelm Grimm, the German fairy tale collector. This picture book demonstrates precisely the extent to which the project of writing about Jewish children is influenced by elements of Romantic thought such as proximity to nature, the child as symbol of hope, the contrast between imagination and education, and the new concept of the “strange child”, created by the German Romantic author E.T.A. Hoffmann. Moreover, by juxtaposing Romantic images of childhood with the Shoah, Dear Mili works in multiple dimensions that transcend the meaning of the original story thus transforming it into both a timeless parable about the perpetual menace to children from war, violence and loneliness and a historicised narrative about the Holocaust.