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Who are the Real Calvin and Hobbes?

November 10, 2010

I can’t help but to laugh when I think of Calvin and Hobbes. This adventurous couple is the main characters in the Calvin and Hobbes series of books. These books illustrated and written by Bill Watterson contain comic strips where a boy 6-year old boy Calvin and his sardonic stuff tiger Hobbes go on humorous adventures. The antics of these two often leads to either a valuable lesson or a good laugh. It just happens that these two characters take their names and personalities from the two philosophers John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes. Watterson decided to make Thomas Hobbes and John Calvin best friends and send them off on crazy adventures in this fun comic. In the comic it seems that Calvin is trying to solve a troubling question or problem and is joined by his pal Hobbes who generally is the voice of reason.

In the article The truth About Calvin and Hobbes in Daily Republican newspaper they say that, “Hobbes was good-natured, intelligent, friendly, and enthusiastic. The cartoon Hobbes was very like Thomas in a sneaking-up-and-pouncing sort of way.”

The article gives personality traits to Hobbes and says those traits seem to be similar to the actual Hobbes in a “sneaking up and pouncing sort of way”, but the comic strips goes deeper I believe. In the Comic strips Hobbes is the voice of reason saying maybe this isn’t the best of ideas, but as long as it is within the rules he goes along. This is very similar to Thomas Hobbes’ views because he believes that man is free to wander and try anything to the full extent of the law. Man has the liberty to do what he pleases, as long as the sovereign, in this case Calvin’s parents, teachers, and imagination, keep the two friends within the limits of law set by the power figures or sovereign. This idea is very much like the one Thomas Hobbes lay out in his Leviathan. One should have the liberty to do what one pleases, but Thomas Hobbes believes in a greater power and that is the sovereign and we need to fallow the rules they set down. The cartoon Hobbes does this as well.


A little rudeness and disrespect can elevate a meaningless interaction to a battle of wills and add drama to an otherwise dull day.

Hobbes seems to be portrayed after Thomas Hobbes and the same goes for Calvin. That same newspaper article goes on to say, “John Calvin and the cartoon Calvin act as guides to express curiosity about the natural world.”

John Calvin was very interested in finding out about the natural world and nothing intrigued the cartoon Calvin more then finding out about and exploring the world around him. This curiosity often is what leads to the adventures Calvin and Hobbes goes on. John Calvin’s curiosity about the world around him and the part religion takes in his world partially leading him to explore the other possibilities for Christianity. This led to John Calvin forming Calvinism and a whole new branch of Christianity. Often the cartoon Calvin goes on explorations to answer a question or problem of great significance to him.


“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don’t help.”


These main similarities set up the story line for Calvin and Hobbes where Calvin usually goes off to explore without limits, but is helped by his friend Hobbes who tries to keep Calvin in check for the most part. The question I would love to ask Bill Watterson is if when putting together this comic strip did he start to laugh at the idea of putting John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes in cartoon form and as best friends. I would want to know if he started chuckling at the thought of specifically putting together these two philosophers. I find it humorous that he chose John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes, and have no clue how he could have ever landed on these two men, for the subjects of a comic strip. Maybe I should listen to Calvin when he says, “careful, I don’t want to learn this.” and take Watterson’s advice as this being the perfect fit.


Signed: I’m learning real skills that I can apply throughout the rest of my life … Procrastinating and rationalizing.




One Comment
  1. November 16, 2010 7:24 PM

    I would like to start by saying that I really enjoyed the post. I must admit that I never got into Calvin and Hobbes, the comic strip, or the philosophers for that matter. However, as a student in the school of education here, I think this is a refreshing way to teach material. In my courses we are always talking about creating new ways to teach the same material and most importantly how to engage students. I think this post offers teachers a great way in which they can approach the theories of these two philosophers. By using the cartoon characters to represent the political views, kids will no doubt be interested and they will learn something as well. I would need to think about how to actually use this in the classroom, but it would be an interesting way to convey the material, nice connection.

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