I’ve talked about Thomas the Tank Engine and his pals here once before. They were a huge part of my family’s life for a long time, and although I perhaps don’t always feel the love, it’s clear that the appeal of these characters is magnetic when it comes to most small boys. (Yes, I know, girls like Thomas, too! But I’ve yet to meet the little girl who has converted as fully to the Cult of Thomas the way that nearly every preschool boy I’ve met has.)
So I got to wondering how it was that these stories evolved. I knew that the original stories had been written by Reverend Wilbert Awdry, but why? Was he a train buff? Was the ministry not paying enough? So I dug around a bit, and I found a pretty good summary of how Thomas and his friends came to be. It turns out that the Rev. Awdry invented these tales to entertain his son Christopher while the boy was recovering from scarlet fever.
(Hey, some of the greatest stories start with a yarn spun for a sick kid, y’know.)
Wikipedia further notes that “Many of the stories are based on events from Awdry’s personal experience.” Which… well, I don’t want to know. (“This one time, we were enjoying scones for breakfast and a train just crashed right through the wall. It was the darndest thing!”)
The first “Railway Series” books were published in 1945, and the rest—as they say—is history. It’s a short jump from that to stop-frame animation on PBS, apparently.
Do you have a Thomas fan on board? Check out the all-new Thomas & Friends Store at Ty’s. Perhaps you’ll be assisting Santa with his shopping this year…? (If Junior has been especially good, perhaps Santa will bring him this.)
Not shopping right now? No problem. You can still feed the need for Thomas. Check out the online Thomas activities and coloring pages here and here. Even if perhaps you’re tiring of your child’s Thomas obsession, listen—one day he will declare that Thomas is just for babies and you’ll wish for the days when you needed a crowbar to separate him from his train table. Trust me. So indulge him while you can, because he’ll be on to the next thing before you know it.