Behind the Scenes
The pink “Sugapuelffuns” in the room
Mr. Snuffleupagus was my favorite character on Sesame Street. When I was a kid my parents bought me the whole series on VHS (up to that point) so I watched it all the way through. Because of this I saw the saga of Snuffleupagus play itself out.
I love to tell people about my theory of Sesame Street (actually I stole it from Slacker but whatevs) which is that the characters are all the sorts of miscreants one might encounter on the streets of a city: Oscar is a junkie; Cookie Monster’s a crackhead; Elmo is a speed freak; Bert and Ernie are gay; etc. But when I get to the part about how Big Bird is on acid and that one of the proofs was his imaginary friend Snuffleupagus, people are like what?
What these people forget or don’t know, is that for years Big Bird was the only one who saw Snuffleupagus. He would have conversations with Snuffy, sometimes musing with existentialism, but by the time Big Bird could get adults to come and see for themselves, this amazing creature had vanished into thin air.
This went on for years.
Over time the adults grew angry with Big Bird, thinking that he used Snuffy as a scapegoat when things went wrong. Anytime Big Bird brought up Snuffy the adults would basically ask him to shut up. But Big Bird always insisted it was the truth.
One of the best plot lines maybe of the whole show is “The Search for Mount Snuffleupagus” in episode 1094, when the show went on vacation in Hawaii with Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Finally some adults began to believe in Snuffleupagus after Buffy Sainte-Marie sang a song about how she too believed in the existence of Snuffleupagi.
Unfortunately I can’t find that video.
But in 1985 Big Bird organized an elaborate plan to reveal Snuffy to all of the adults by luring them to his nest under the pretense of “food.”
In a very literal way, Snuffleupagus is the elephant in the room. Truth. That ever evasive thing that children often grasp so very well, which goes apparently unseen by most adults. But if we look closer at the correct spelling of his name we’ll see that is a sort of portmanteau: snuffle/upagus. This becomes especially clear when one considers the 1988 book Meet Mr. Snuffle-upagus, which is like a retelling of how the adults came to believe in Snuffy after he brings a broken toaster to the fix-it shop.
Pāgus is a native Latin word from a root pāg-, a lengthened grade of Indo-European *pag-, a verbal root, “fasten” (English peg), which in the word may be translated as “boundary staked out on the ground.” In semantics, *pag- used in pāgus is a stative verb with an unmarked lexical aspect of state resulting from completed action: “it is having been staked out,” converted into a noun by -us, a type recognizable in English adjectives such as surveyed, defined, noted, etc. English does not use the noun: “the surveyed,” but Latin characteristically does. Considering that the ancients marked out municipal districts with boundary stones, the root meaning is nothing more than land surveyed for a municipality with stakes and later marked by boundary stones, a process that has not changed over the millennia. — Wikipedia
Jim Henson died 21 years ago today.