Oh help! Oh no! The international politics of The Gruffalo: Children’s picturebooks and world politics

Lee Jarvis, Nick Robinson

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The article explores the importance of children’s picturebooks – a seemingly-insignificant site of global politics – through an original reading of The Gruffalo. It argues that this text provides an important, polysemous, vernacular theorisation of global politics which: (i) reproduces the international as a pessimistic, anarchical world populated by self-interested, survival-seekers; (ii) simultaneously destabilises this reading through evocation of the social production of threat; and, (iii) offers opportunity for a more fundamental decolonial critique of the international through its parochial privileging of its protagonist’s journey through a ‘deep dark wood’. Three contributions are made. First, empirically, we broaden research on popular culture and world politics through investigating a surprisingly neglected example of the former. Second, theoretically, we demonstrate the work such texts perform in (re)creating and (de)stabilising (knowledge of) global politics. Third, we offer a composite methodological framework for critically interrogating the context, content, and framing of complex texts like The Gruffalo.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of International Studies
Early online date11 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Apr 2023


  • Popular culture
  • Global politics
  • children's literature
  • International Relations Theory
  • The Gruffalo

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