The Altruism of the Snozzcumber
By Jordi Gaton
What’s more horrifying than meeting a 24-foot Giant, who steals you away to Giant country? Figuring out whether or not you are on the menu.
In this Steven Spielberg adaptation of the beloved children’s book The Big Friendly Giant or BFG for short, dietary habits function as a means to define the humanity and kindness of the BFG. When Sophie first meets the BFG, she chatters nervously awaiting the same end that many of Odysseus’s men faced within the cave of the Cyclops. However, as she looks on at the BFG preparing dinner (Figure 1), she quickly learns than the BFG, as rough and scary as he may look, is in fact kind, gentle, articulate, and most importantly— vegetarian. The other giants of Giant Country: Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottler, and their brothers are all savage meat eaters, who feast on meat, constantly craving the flesh of men. Because of this fundamental dietary difference, the larger, carnivorous giants bully and chastise him for the kindness that he shows to living animals. In spite of this abuse, BFG overcomes because he possesses a degree of humanity that the other giants have lost in their savage diet. His love for humans, their dreams, and the kind escape they bring him from his hostile home give him the strength to eat the most vile and disgusting vegetable within Giant country— the snozzcumber (Figure 1).
While not quite entirely a cucumber, but entirely too close to a witch’s warty schnoz, the snozzcumber is a particularly horrible monstrosity of a vegetable that both appears and smells violent to the senses. Throughout the kitchen scene, Sophie reacts horribly to the smell and fibrous, snotty mess that is this horrible vegetable (Figure 1), questioning how even could the BFG stand to eat this horrible food day after day in the unholy amalgam seen in Figure 2. However, as horrible as the food may seem, the snozzcumber and his vegetarian lifestyle are essential for building the contrast between both he and his other giant brethren. In his abstinence from meat in all forms, both Sophie and the audience can better appreciate the humble humanity of the BFG, seeing him as more of the father figure or protector rather than horrible 24-foot monster. In this way, Steven Spielberg humanizes the image of the monster, encouraging the audience to look past his horrific appearance and grow to love the whimsical, kind soul alongside Sophie.
Another vital scene that showcases the link between the snozzcumber and the BFG is the moment when Fleshlumpeater runs into the cave shortly after Sophie meets the BFG. As Fleshlumpeater barges into the cave, he smells around for humans, catching Sophie’s alluring scent. BFG a runt at 24-feet, is dwarfed by his brother and wholly powerless to stop him. Therefore, the BFG resorts to distracting his brother, so that Sophie can hide. She finds refuge in none other than inside the snozzcumber that was recently cut in Figure 1. In this scene, the snozzcumber protects Sophie from Fleshlumpeater by masking her scene and valiantly protecting her with its own body, just as BFG does in his final fight with Fleshlumpeater much later in the film. This scene solidifies the link between BFG’s vegetarianism and his dedication to protect humanity by mirroring the later role given to him by the Queen of England to save humanity.
The altruistic sacrifice of the snozzcumber also represents elements the BFG’s selfless passion for safeguarding the dreams of the innocent children of London. These acts of silent kindness earn the BFG nothing but the satisfaction of knowing that he, despite his monstrous self, can pass on good to the world that showed him immense kindness through Sophie. The BFG’s diet therefore plays a vital role in defining his altruistic self and works as a recurring visual symbol of his love and humanity.
The final visual homage to the snozzcumber comes at the end of the film after the giants have been exiled to a secluded island. In these final visual sequences, Sophie tells the tale of the BFG’s new garden filled with many fruits and vegetables from the human world, remarking that he no longer needed to suffer with the horrible snozzcumber soup in Figure 2. Instead, in Figure 3, we see a much-improved soup that reflects the long overdue reciprocity from humanity for the BFG’s years of sacrifice and protection. These visual close ups that juxtapose the stew bowls represent how reciprocity and kindness have changed him as a character for the better. No longer relegated to the shadows and facing down the unending torment of his brothers, the BFG finally feels accepted and free to further foster his connection to humanity through both his reading and writing.
In the Big Friendly Giant, vegetarianism is a humanizing force that helps to demonstrate the kindness and altruistic character of the BFG. Through the use of the snozzcumber as a visual motif for sacrifice, Steven Spielberg further demonstrates how the BFG embodies these values and develops throughout the entire film. The food that BFG eats defines the kindness that he wishes to project to the world in his guardianship of the children and their dreams. Vegetables and the snozzcumber allowed the BFG to realize the power that lies within both kindness and selfless acts.
Big Friendly Giant. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Mark Rylance. The BFG. July 1, 2016 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.