The Big Honey Hunt by the Berenstains is an Odyssean mythic journey. Our hero (heroes, actually) leave the house to achieve a mission and encounter various opponents along the way. They come up against nature and end up back home, ending with an outcome that is neither wonderful nor terrible. Unlike the ‘straight’ myths, this comedy version doesn’t lead to the characters finding their true self — instead, the reader is encouraged to laugh at how stock characters never actually change.
STORY STRUCTURE OF THE BIG HONEY HUNT
The main character here is the father. The son is the embodiment of the child reader, there in the action, offering the narration that the reader is no doubt thinking.
This father’s shortcoming is that he feels the need to prove his masculinity by going hunting for honey even though he can (literally) buy honey right next to his own house.
The holy grail for bears is frequently honey in picture books, but that’s just a McGuffin desire.
The storyline about a man having to prove his masculinity to himself and please a woman in his life is a surprisingly common one. It’s the mother bear who points out that the family is out of honey and this is why the father springs into action.
(Oftentimes this masculine need-to-impress-woman dynamic is quite a bit more complicated. Take, for example, the 2005 adaptation of War Of The Worlds. Cruise’s character really despises the ex-wife and mother of his children — and the viewer is encouraged to do the same when she criticises his living quarters — but he also needs to impress her. Sure enough, the wife delivers heartfelt thanks to Cruise for taking such good care of their children after he returns them safely to her.)
To be clear, this isn’t just a story about a father bear desiring honey. He desires an adventure and to impress his family with his hunting prowess.
They meet various opponents along the journey — a succession of animals who are angry to be disturbed inside the trees.
Walk into the forest and keep going until a beehive is found. To do this, follow a bee.
The big struggle scene happens when father and son do find the bees. The bees chase them in a swarm and they end up hiding in the river.
The river is ironically symbolic in this spoof of a mythological journey.
It’s pointless trying to hunt for honey today. Might as well just buy it from the vendor next door.
This is a picturebook riff on the old story of the fisherman who spends all day at the river (or elsewhere) and buys fish on the way home to present to the wife as if he caught it.
Everyone is home safe but now they have honey.
We can tell from the mother bear’s eyes that she knows exactly what went down.