Adventure Time as a postmodern Book of Judges

If you haven’t watched Adventure Time, you’re missing out on a delightful, fun, sometimes philosophical, but always zany cartoon. Finn and Jake, a young blonde boy and a mustard colored stretching dog, maintain the roles as the heroes in the Land of Ooo. They battle against creatures and kingdoms that harm. And uniquely, there are many kingdoms: Flame, Ice, Candy, Lumpy Space, and the list just gets stranger. Yet, Jake and Finn do not inhabit any of these kingdoms.

Finn and Jake

The connection to the biblical book of Judges did not seem obvious to me at first. It was an episode from the current season titled “Walnuts & Rain” that tipped me off. Finn and Jake fall into separate holes somewhere in a forest. At the bottom of the hole Finn finds himself in the Kingdom of Huge. King Huge eats constantly, fed by the Food Boys. Finn asks politely to leave, but the King has the Food Boys bind him. Finn breaks free with some trickery of his own, but was caught by the King. In the knick of time, Jake also falls into the same space. With Finn in the King’s giant hands, he asks Jake, “What are you going to do about it?” He said this unassuming of Jake’s stretching abilities. Jakes makes a fist and stretches it across the King’s face. Jake and Finn make their way out of the hole and travel back to the Tree House.

Finn’s hole adventure parallels the story of Judge Ehud (Judges 3:12-30). In the story of Ehud, he makes his way to pay tribute (taxes imposed by another empire) to King Eglon of Moab. The writer notes that Ehud is left-handed. He hides a knife on the opposite side, on his right leg. (I guess this was not a place where the Ancient TSA patted). He gives the tribute to King Eglon, who also is a huge man, and then asks if he might speak with him privately. In the room alone, Ehud stabs the King, his guts fall out, and Ehud exits through the bathroom into the sewer.

Ehud
In this medieval painting, Ehud’s garb resembles Finn’s. Coincidence? I think not.

Captivity, plan-making, and King-hurting are present in both stories. While Ehud as a judge identifies and fights for the Hebrews, Jake and Finn represent wandering judges, not bound by place. As well, in the Book of Judges, God raises up Ehud. Finn and Jake have a calling, but have no caller. Even Grob Gob Glob Grod, who Ooo deems as a deity, does not call creatures to a purpose. When Finn and Jake embark on their adventures and face disrupters, harmers, and just plain evil (The Lich), they perform justice without a telos other than making sure others are unharmed.

Jake and Finn are postmodern characters because they know no boundaries, walls, or patriotism. Instead, it’s almost as if they are part of every kingdom. Sure, they are called upon by Princess Bubblegum of the Candy Kingdom and Ice King tries to pry himself into their lives, but it’s not as if they are private contractors for the Candy Kingdom. They are outsiders fighting for a just world.

The biblical tradition of judges continues with such people as Vandana Shiva, Cheryl Clarke, Cornel West, Naim Ateek, the leaderful movement of #BlackLivesMatter, Evo Morales, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Bill Wylie-Kellermann. May we listen and join them in their fight for justice and hope.


8 thoughts on “Adventure Time as a postmodern Book of Judges

  1. Adventure Time is a much smarter show than many people give it credit for. I wouldn’t have caught this particular Biblical parallel, but I did write a post about Lemongrab as Adam and Princess Bubblegum as God: https://taylorramage.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/the-creation-of-lemongrab-an-unacceptable-icon/

    I’ve found that there’s weirdly (or not so weirdly) a lot of Adventure Time fanart that casts the characters as religious icons. Like here: http://rebloggy.com/post/adventure-time-illustration-marceline-princess-bubblegum-fanart-madonna-ice-king/69785775359

    1. I love your post, Taylor!! I didn’t know PB created Lemongrab. I’ve only watched season 5 onward. I absolutely agree with how smart it is. Lemonhope Part 1 and 2 is probably the most philosophical episodes of television I’ve ever watched. Thanks for the fanart link. 🙂

      1. Thanks! I actually found links to the original artist’s tumblr and their art website. http://microbrkfst.tumblr.com/post/69785775359/modern-madonnas-updated-with-finished-version

        http://www.mcrcsm.com/#/madonnas/

        And now I’m working on a blog post about them.

        Tbh if we’re talking about postmodernism, Lemonhope is probably a postmodern Jesus, but I wouldn’t quite know how to make that reading work. I was expecting some parallels, but so far, they don’t seem that strong to me.

  2. I love this because this is the sort of things I hunt for in cartoons! Even when there are biblical parallels and themes, there never seams to be an authority figure for the hero to be accountable. The hero always follows his own heart. Where sometimes cartoons seam to really get the picture, they fall short at the end when they teach us that the power is within themselves instead of Christ. But, for all the corruption in hollywood, cartoons are doing pretty well.

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