I Want a Hug
By John A. Rowe
The only thing that Elvis the Hedgehog wants is a hug. Traveling around town, Elvis politely asks people for a hug only to be turned down because he is “prickly as a pine needle.” With his attempts soon proving futile he hears Colin the crocodile asking someone for a kiss. Elvis agrees to give Colin a kiss and for that Colin gives Elvis a big hug.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Nick MacLeod
This is a story of young Elvis the hedgehog on a mission to get a hug. After much disappointment and rejection it seems he won’t be getting a hug after all. But his consistent courage and determination eventually lands him a big hug. This story raises many philosophical issues such as physical differences and deformities, love, friendship and altruism.
The first set of questions deals with physical deformities and individual difference that sets people apart from each other. The questions are meant to introduce ideas as to why some people are treated differently for physical differences they possess. Hopefully it will elicit some thought about discrimination and mistreatment of others. Our society today is very judgmental towards people that are different from the majority. Even though these differences are usually genetic and permanent, minority groups are almost exclusively treated differently. This treatment is often negative and discriminatory in nature. Attempt to relate these ideas to the children and see if they have ever been treated or treated others differently because of their physical differences. Introduce the idea of the Golden Rule; one should treat others as one would like to be treated themselves. In order to avoid indoctrination of this rule it would be helpful to break it down into its subsequent parts. How should we treat other people? How do you as an individual want to be treated? Then it can be continued to include how we treat others when they are different from us. In relation to the story some children may say it is necessary for people to treat Elvis differently because his prickles are painful and would hurt if they were to hug him. Ask the children for real world examples where they treat people differently and make sure they can explain why. If discussion follows this path it would be helpful to create a list of qualities or situations where mistreatment of others is necessary.
Another topic introduced in the storybook is the idea of love. More generally how we all deserve to be loved and treated kindly by others. It is apparent in the story that the other characters are showing their love for one another by giving and receiving hugs. Questions of what is love and who deserves to be loved should elicit a fair amount of discussion. We use the word love to describe many things such as our love for food, love of animals, love of friends and romantic love. What sets these apart? Does giving a hug mean you love someone? Challenge the discussion group about different situations in their lives and whether they are considered love. Attempt to create a definition of love with the children by asking what they think the three most important qualities of love are.
Furthermore, this discussion could be continued with friendship and altruism. Did Colin and Elvis become friends at the end of the book or was it just an altruistic act of Elvis to give Colin a hug? Friendship is an extremely abstract concept and is a good starting point for a discussion. Humans are social beings and thrive on human connections. Friendship is a necessity in our lives and is extremely important in defining who we are. Some argue that a best friend is someone who is complementary, or in other words provides a balance, emotionally and mentally to the friendship. Others would argue that a friend is someone who shares common values and beliefs and is therefore very similar. What makes a friend a friend? When do you call someone a friend? What characteristics are essential for a best friend? Each individual is going to have a very different definition of friendship. See if the group can narrow down the necessary qualities of a friend. This can then be tied in with altruism. Altruism is the act of providing something of value without assumption of reciprocation of similar actions. Some would argue that we have a moral obligation to appease this concept while others would contend they are just random acts of kindness. Do we only do nice things for our friends or can we do unselfish things for people we just met? The group can be stimulated to think of examples from their own life.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
Ideas to stimulate conversation
Ask the group to put themselves in Elvis’ or Colin’s shoes and see what they would do.
Elvis was consistently discriminated against because of his permanent and unchanging physical differences.
There are many types of love and what defines love is different for everyone. Does something like a hug symbolize love?
Friendship and Altruism
Elvis eventually meets Colin and they both received what they desired and they were happy.