Warning: There is an incoming wall of text.
Okay, so quick show of hands…how many people out there have read “The Butter Battle Book” by Dr. Seuss? Oh right, I won’t be able to see your hands, so you can put them down now I suppose. Well, for those who may not know about it, here’s a brief history (I’ll be spoiling the ending, so if you haven’t read it, I’d go do that now unless you don’t care. Actually, I’d recommend you go read it anyways to refresh yourself with the story before reading this):
The Butter Battle Book is a story that was first published in January 1984. It tells the tale of the Yooks and the Zooks, two societies that are separated by a wall. It starts off by introducing the reader to a Yook grandfather and his grandson who have come to the wall for an undisclosed reason. The grandfather then begins to tell his story of being a member of the Zook-Watching Border patrol.
It’s high time that you knew of the terribly horrible thing that Zooks do.
The big conflict between the Zooks and the Yooks is that the Yooks eat bread butter side up, and Zooks eat bread butter side down. Oh, the calamity! Well, “butterbreadmity” I guess in this instance, since we’re not talking about seafood (Yeah, you’re just gonna have to deal with my terrible jokes).
Each society believes that their way is the right way, and the Zooks have established a border patrol (where the grandfather works). This occurs peacefully, until one day a Zook named VanItch decides to slingshot the grandfather’s Snick-Berry Switch (oh dear). This act sets off an arms race to deal with the situation. The Yooks develop a weapon, only to find that the Zooks have gone and made something even better. This builds and builds, until finally, both sides have developed the ultimate weapon: The Big-Boy Boomeroo! The grandfather then reveals that he still has this ultimate weapon, and is prepared to drop it on the Zook’s side of the wall. When he climbs up, VanItch appears with his own Big-Boy Boomeroo, and the book ends in a stalemate:
The entire story is actually an allegory for The Cold War, which I didn’t realize until re-reading it and doing research for this article. At this moment, I’d like to apologize to my 8th grade Humanities teacher Mrs. Vaughan for not paying attention during class, because I’m sure this book was assigned for us to read while we were studying that time in history.
Anyways, from what I do remember, we read through the book for class, and then we were given an assignment to continue the story from this final page. This was one of my favorite pieces of writing to this day, but I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I was left with only memories of it…until last night, when my mom brought back a copy that my grandmother had in her possession.
What follows is my ending to The Butter Battle Book:
The Yook and the Zook stood there on the wall
As days went by, and it turned into fall.
Fall turned to winter, and winter turned to spring
And still neither of the two had done anything.
The residents of each town were full of much fear
For they had been underground for almost a year.
But all they could do was sit there and wait
While above them the two soldiers were at a stalemate.
Nothing was said or done until finally one day
The Yook gained up enough courage to say,
“Why can’t we just get along and be friends?
We can leave this in the past like it was just pretend.”
The Yook saying this had stirred a reaction
The Zook realized that he had to take action.
“I am glad you’ve decided that I am the best
But I will not give in to your silly request.
You can try to defeat me, but you will not succeed
For in my hand I’ve got all the power I need.”
“But I’ve got just as much power as you” the Yook said.
“The only difference between us is the thoughts in our heads.
While I want to make peace, you want to make war.
Don’t you want the world to be a better place, for all to adore?”
“Why in the world would I want such a thing?
I don’t want compromise; I just want to be king!
We Zooks like our bread with the butter side down.
You Yooks on that side of the wall? Well, you just make us shake our heads and frown.”
“Well, we Yooks in our town feel the same way about you
And we don’t care about what you do.
So go ahead if you you think you must.
Go ahead, go on, and use your weapon on us.
And if you do use your weapon, then maybe after you’ll see
That using it on us will cause you great misery.
Who will you poke fun at?
Who will you taunt?
And I’ll let you know now, it’s you our spirits will haunt.
So go ahead with your plan, if you must, if you dare.
Just throw your horrible weapon right over there.”
After giving some thought to what had been said,
The Zook bent his knees, put his hands up and said,
“I have decided on what I should do.
I will not use my weapon, so peace will have to do.
I would like you to know one thing, my friend,
And that is that I will be with you, right to the end.
So why don’t we just take down this wall
So that there is nothing dividing us at all.
After we take it down, we will unite both towns,
And we can our enjoy our bread, whether we like it butter side up, or down.”
I honestly can’t remember how I came up with the words. They just kind of appeared in my head as I started writing words down on the page.
When I read this as an adult, I read it from an entirely different perspective. Rather than just a story for entertainment, it almost feels like a conversation I was having with myself, where I split my personality into two sides. One side as the Zooks and one side as the Yooks. I don’t believe I was really introspecting that deeply during 8th grade, but with my own life experiences, I think it makes for a nice thought experiment. In the end, I decided to compromise with myself, tear down my internal walls, start to reveal my true self, and be happy as a whole person.
I dunno, maybe that’s just the way I want to live my life now, so I’m reading it that way.