Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Mind-blowing Video: The Butter Battle Book


We'll see...  Turner Network Television (TNT)
We'll see... Turner Network Television (TNT)

I don't have to explain the concept of mutually assured destruction -- or I certainly hope that I don't. If you grew up watching "War Games," you know that when it comes to nuclear war, "the only winning move is not to play."

If you missed out on "War Games," however, you might have encountered Dr. Seuss's 1984 children's tale "The Butter Battle Book." It describes the absurd arms race between two avian humanoid races, the Yooks and Zooks. One prefers their toast butter-side-up, while the other prefers butter-side-down.

'The Butter Battle Book'
Random House

They take their butter seriously, you see, and things eventually escalate to the brink of mutual destruction via explosive "Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroos." If the butter thing smacks of moral equivalence, then I might remind you that despite it's serious message, the book is still aimed at young readers. I also might encourage you to engage your human empathy and dare to gaze beyond whatever moral, political or religious miasma hinders your vision.

Turner Broadcasting adapted "The Butter Battle Book" into a 1989 animated short -- and it's quite good. "Wizards" and "Lord of the Rings" animation master Ralph Bakshi directed and Charles Durning provided the voice of Grandfather. Dr. Seuss himself praised it as the best adaptation of his work, and I'd personally go as far to say that the adaptation punctuates the ending even more effectively. It gives ME chills, at any rate.

Reading the book to my young son also gives me the chills. Most of us were born into this world of nuclear weaponry, into a species stained by the blight of wars innumerable and now the power of the bisected atom. I don't think that, rationally, any of us want that world for our children.

On that note, let's watch "The Butter Battle" again...


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.


More to Explore