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

Lee Jarvis, Nick Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The article explores the complicity of children's picturebooks in the construction and critique of world politics. Focusing on The Gruffalo, it argues that this spectacularly successful book: (1) stories the international as a pessimistic, anarchical world populated by self-interested, survival-seekers; (2) disrupts this reading and its assumptions through evocation of the social production of threat; and, (3) provides a more fundamental decolonial critique of the international through parochial privileging of its protagonist's journey through a 'deep dark wood'. In doing this, we argue, the book vividly demonstrates the world's susceptibility to multiple incompatible readings, while rendering visible the assumptions, framing, and occlusions of competing understandings of the international. As such, it theorises both world politics and knowledge thereof as contingent and unstable. In making this argument, three contributions are made. First, empirically, we expand 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 future research into the context, content, and framing of complex texts like The Gruffalo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-78
Number of pages21
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number1
Early online date11 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Popular culture
  • Global politics
  • children's literature
  • International Relations Theory
  • The Gruffalo
  • Global Politics
  • Children's Literature
  • Popular Culture

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