Hobbes, named for philosopher Thomas Hobbes, is the deuteragonist of the comics. He is Calvin's stuffed tiger and best friend, who, from Calvin's perspective, is a live tiger and real as anyone else in the strip. The interplay between the two title characters, and the question of whether Hobbes was real or not (Watterson said yes, but only Calvin can see that he's alive) is what gave the strip its unique personality that remained mostly untouched during its decade-long run.
Although he pronounces everything he says correctly, he is a bad speller (writing his name as "Hobs", great as "grat", and creek as "crk"); however, he might spell his name "Hobs" and creek as "crk" simply to shorten them because his writing is large (this is far less likely with his misspelling of "great", though he might pretend to misspell it to fool around with Calvin.). Hobbes often helps Calvin with his inventions, yet, since they all usually go wrong, Hobbes is usually reluctant to help.
Hobbes' first appearance was on November 18, 1985, where Hobbes was portrayed hanging upside-down from a tree after falling for a tuna sandwich-baited trap laid out by his close friend and co-star of the strip, Calvin. Since then, Hobbes was seen in almost every strip, following Calvin on his adventures, such as trips to the Jurassic and sledding down dangerous slopes. (although most of the time, he does so quite reluctantly).
By the time Bill Watterson wrote the Tenth Anniversary Book, he had changed his opinion about Calvin and Hobbes's first meeting, saying it was unnecessary and even detrimental to the feel of the strip. Much later, it is apparent in several strips that Hobbes and Calvin have known each other their whole lives, including when Calvin was an infant. This contradicted the first two strips, which show Calvin and Hobbes' first meeting.
One strip especially shows Calvin claiming that he didn't remember much of his infancy. While Calvin starts going on and on about how he suspects he was being brainwashed when he was very, very young, and asking nobody in particular what he remembered that someone wanted him to forget, Hobbes says "I seem to recall that you spent most of the time burping up." However, Calvin did not supposedly get Hobbes until he was six years old, which he of course remembers. There is also a possibility that Hobbes was around before Calvin. In one early strip, Hobbes says "That's because she wanted another tiger, not you!", implying that Hobbes was around before Calvin was born. Also, in an earlier strip, Hobbes once muses about some advice his father gave him. The reality of this comment is open to debate.
Hobbes shared his final appearance with Calvin in the final strip published on the 31st of December 1995. For the most part, Calvin and Hobbes converse and play together, revealing what is ultimately a deep friendship. They also frequently argue or even fight with each other, though their disagreements are generally short-lived.
Interestingly, Hobbes almost never calls Calvin by his name. Instead, he simply uses pronouns when speaking to his human counterpart.
Hobbes, unsurprisingly, always manages to score a retaliation at Calvin when he pulls a prank on him; for example, Calvin shooting him with a water pistol leads to Hobbes soaking Calvin with an inflated pool full of water. Calvin treats this as if Hobbes cannot take a joke.
Despite his terrible math skills, Hobbes is clearly smarter and wiser than Calvin. Also, while Calvin bursts out shouting what he dislikes, Hobbes takes a softer tone when discussing things he hates.
Whenever Calvin tries to do his homework, he asks Hobbes to do it for him, but Calvin doesn't notice how Hobbes gets questions wrong (for example, when he didn't know a subtraction problem, so he put in Atlanta, Georgia).
Hobbes also teaches Calvin in his math homework, but his theories are wrong (like in one comic where Calvin asks Hobbes what 3+8 is, so Hobbes teaches Calvin, "Well, first you assign the value as X. X always means multiply, so you take the numerator [that's Latin for "number eighter"], and you put that number on the other side. Then you take 3 from the other side, so what times 3 equals 8? The answer, of course, is six.") This however, is most likely intentional. Hobbes still claims that his knowledge of "math theories" is from instinct.
Several of the strip's running gags are centered on Hobbes.
The most famous is Hobbes himself, and the question of his reality. To everyone in the strip apart from Calvin (and Hobbes himself of course), Hobbes is just a little stuffed tiger. But with Calvin's wild imagination, Hobbes springs to life. Is Hobbes really a stuffed animal? Or is he actually alive and kicking? Oddly, Hobbes seems to be bigger when he appears in front of Calvin.
Bill Watterson stated that he believes Hobbes to only be an example of different perspectives. He is not a figment of Calvin's imagination, but neither is he a stuffed animal that magically comes to life.
Often Hobbes beats up Calvin with an energetic pounce-and-tackle attack, which leaves Calvin bruised and scraped up, but not seriously harmed (this is usually how Hobbes greets Calvin when he comes home from school or when he opens a can of tuna).
Hobbes takes great pleasure in his demonstrations of feline prowess, while Calvin expresses keen frustration at his inability to stop the attacks or explain his injuries to his skeptical parents (not even with a picture he took, for his dad thought Calvin had thrown Hobbes into the view of the camera).
Hobbes also refers to the infamous "Noodle Incident" quite often, much to Calvin's dismay. Calvin is very defensive about it and gets mad when Hobbes makes a reference.
Hobbes is named after 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who had what Watterson described as "a dim view of human nature." Thomas Hobbes is famous for his claim that humans' natural state is one of war, and that there "the life of man [is], solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Hobbes' personality does not match with the philosopher's worldview. Hobbes is much more rational and aware of consequences than Calvin, but seldom interferes with Calvin's troublemaking beyond a few oblique warnings. After all, Calvin will be the one to get in trouble for it, not Hobbes. Hobbes' is more playful, loyal, and kind. The only time he usually has doubts is with Calvin's imaginary inventions (such as his Time Machine and Transmogrifier), which he is a reluctant participant at best. Hobbes acts as a big brother figure to Calvin, as he has a little more common sense than Calvin.
Watterson based some of Hobbes' characteristics, especially his playfulness and attack instinct, on his own pet cat, Sprite. Hobbes takes great pride in being a feline and frequently makes wry or even disparaging comments about human nature, declaring his good fortune to lead a tiger's life. In Calvin's philosophical ramblings, it is evident that Hobbes is usually Bill Watterson's voice on the subject, whereas Calvin usually seems to echo the sentiments (or lack thereof) of modern America. It may otherwise be asserted that Calvin rather portrays an alter-ego of Watterson.
"Notice I'm more of a yellow ochre than a straight orange." -Hobbes
Hobbes certainly changed in appearance over the strip's run. At the beginning of the strip's run, Hobbes was slightly shorter, and his tufts of fur were less defined and shorter. His eyes also had more of a round shape, as opposed to the oval shape of later years. The most notable change, however, were the pads on Hobbes' hands. Hobbes began looking like his current self around mid-1989. In earlier years, Bill Watterson drew the pads on Hobbes' hands as a reminder that they were really paws, but later removed them as he found them to be visually distracting.
From Calvin's point of view, Hobbes is a walking, talking, bipedal tiger, much larger (and often much stronger) than Calvin and full of his own attitudes and ideas. But when the perspective shifts to any other character, readers see merely a little stuffed tiger. This is, of course, an odd dichotomy and leaves in question the nature of Hobbes' reality.
Magic vs. imagination
Many readers assume that Hobbes is either a product of Calvin's imagination, or a doll that comes to life when Calvin is the only one around. However, both of these theories are incorrect. As Watterson explains in the Tenth Anniversary Book, "Hobbes is more about the subjective nature of reality than dolls coming to life": thus there is no concrete definition of Hobbes' reality.
Watterson explained: "Calvin sees Hobbes one way, and everyone else sees Hobbes another way." Hobbes' reality is in the eye of the beholder. The so-called 'gimmick' of Hobbes is the juxtaposition of Calvin and Hobbes' reality and everyone else's, with the two rarely agreeing. Hobbes is supposed to represent how imaginative kids see their stuffed animals.
There has been more than one instance of Hobbes appearing the way Calvin sees him around another person. One instance is when Calvin loses Hobbes in the first Calvin and Hobbes book, Hobbes is seen as a tiger in the company of Susie Derkins. However, she was facing the other way when it occurred (see picture on right). In a Sunday strip from the same book, the car stops going and Calvin and Hobbes beep the horn hoping for someone to come help. Hobbes is seen as a tiger when Calvin's mother is there, but she isn't looking. There is one strip when Calvin is fighting with Hobbes' and we see Susie's perspective in one panel, but some people think it was Calvin seeing him transform back into his stuffed animal form and expressing confusion.
At one point, Calvin stated that Hobbes was steering, however since Susie was there, the imagination became to 'realism', and Hobbes was riding in the back as a stuffed tiger, displaying a hint about whether Hobbes is real or not.
However, it is possible that Calvin took the helm at the last second because Hobbes did a poor job of steering. The panel format, however, makes this impossible to confirm or deny.
Sometimes Hobbes breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader, such as when Calvin tries to parachute from his house's roof ("His mom's going to have a fit about those rose bushes"). On other occasions, it is difficult to imagine how the "stuffed toy" interpretation of Hobbes is consistent with what the characters see. For example, he "assists" Calvin's attempt to become a Houdini-style escape artist by tying Calvin to a chair. Calvin, however, cannot escape, and his irritated father must undo the knots, all the while asking Calvin how he could do this to himself. In a rare interview, Watterson explained his approach to this situation:
- Calvin's dad finds him tied up and the question remains, really, how did he get that way? His dad assumes that Calvin tied himself up somehow, so well that he couldn't get out. Calvin explains that Hobbes did this to him and he tries to place the blame on Hobbes entirely, and it's never resolved in the strip. Again I don't think that's just a cheap way out of the story. I like the tension that that creates, where you've got two versions of reality that do not mix. Something odd has happened and neither makes complete sense, so you're left to make out of it what you want. (Richard Samuel West, "Interview: Bill Watterson", Comics Journal, February 1989.)
In response to the journalist's assumption that Hobbes was a figment of Calvin's imagination, Watterson responded,
- But the strip doesn't assert that. That's the assumption that adults make because nobody else sees him, sees Hobbes, in the way that Calvin does. Some reporter was writing a story on imaginary friends and they asked me for a comment, and I didn’t do it because I really have absolutely no knowledge about imaginary friends. It would seem to me, though, that when you make up a friend for yourself, you would have somebody to agree with you, not to argue with you. So Hobbes is more real than I suspect any kid would dream up. (Ibid.)
In another story, Susie Derkins has to stay at Calvin's house after school because her parents are working late. Calvin only finds this out on the way home; when Calvin and Susie reach the house, Hobbes is waiting by the door for Susie and wearing a tie. But the question is, how is Hobbes wearing the tie? Another instance of ambiguity is a strip in which Calvin imagines Hobbes and himself on the front page of many newspapers after winning a contest. Although these newspapers are clearly a figment of Calvin's imagination, Hobbes appears in "stuffed" form. Calvin has taken photographs of Hobbes, but on each occasion, when adults see the pictures, Hobbes appears as a stuffed toy. Also Hobbes pounces on Calvin when he arrives home from school. The issue remains about how Calvin would hurt himself as such.
One probable theory as to Hobbes' existence springs from the first two strips. In these strips, immediately after Calvin caught Hobbes he takes him home and asks his father what to do with him, to which his father replies "take it home and stuff it." It is clearly depicted that Calvin mistakes this and feeds Hobbes. From this springs the belief that perhaps the reason that Calvin's parents don't see Hobbes as real is that they just assume he's stuffed. After all, psychology has shown that people may not always see something that's plainly obvious if it conflicts with what they are inherently predisposed to believing. Thus, the reason people don't see Hobbes as real is because their brains can't grasp that he could be real, and that it takes Calvin's complex imagination to believe it.
TVTropes calls this Scully Syndrome. A character, seeing something in conflict with what he/she believes, censors it out. The Trope Namer is The X-Files: Agent Scully is a staunch skeptic, and therefore refuses to believe in alien life at first, even when it's plainly obvious and there's hard evidence in front of her.
This is, in fact, the only rational explanation.
- Whenever Hobbes pounces, Calvin clearly is dirty, beaten up, and anything you would expect from a six-foot tiger ramming into you at 20 mph.
- Hobbes always accompanies Calvin to the bus stop, and always returns home unaccompanied.
- When Hobbes cut Calvin's hair, the effects were clearly noticeable by anyone.
- Hobbes once tied Calvin to a chair after Calvin claimed he would escape and be the "Next Houdini." Calvin was unable to escape. His hands were tied to the arms of the chair, making it impossible for him to have done it himself, as the endpoint to tighten the knot was on the backrest.
- When Susie was invited to stay at Calvin's house for a day, Calvin was not informed until his mom told him. And yet, Hobbes was waiting at the door with a tie. If Hobbes was a figment of Calvin's imagination, then 1) how did he know Susie would be coming and 2) how did he put on the tie?
Many people feel that the blurred reality between Hobbes' two forms is both amusing and philosophical. Hobbes is often the voice of reason, contrasting Calvin's manic impulsiveness. Readers are left to wonder if this rationality is in Hobbes as a distinct personality, or in Calvin as a kind of conscience. In the end, the question becomes less about absolute truth and more about different versions of reality: the nature of Hobbes' existence was never a puzzle to be solved, but rather a subtle comment on the power of imagination, and on the similar power of a lack thereof. All in all, Hobbes is real if one believes he is.
Favorite and Least Favorite Foods
Hobbes's favorite food could be people (perhaps with steak sauce, as Calvin once remarked), although he never seems too tempted to eat Calvin, so this may not actually be true.
- Hobbes' I.Q. is debatable. In some comics, he seems as if he was an utter genius. However, in the first strip, he contradicts this, saying "We're kind of stupid that way", in response to Calvin saying "Tigers will do anything for a tuna fish sandwich". Also, in many other comics, especially in comics where Calvin has a math problem, he is as dumb as Calvin and makes up math formulas such as "Y as in Y do we care?". However, he may just be fooling Calvin, shown with his reaction to Calvin believing three dimes was less than a quarter: "I think you better study harder." Hobbes also seems to have some knowledge of more advanced mathematics, referring at one point to imaginary numbers whilst helping Calvin with his math homework; he, however, appears to have no actual understanding for how these terms are used, or, indeed, what they mean.
- Hobbes, in most cases, is in love with Susie Derkins, but mainly girls in general.
- Its possible that Hobbes is older than Calvin, due to his infatuation with girls.
- Hobbes is often so sarcastic to Calvin that he has to chase Hobbes madly with him 'Whoo hoo hoo hoo hoo!'-ing, most likely a reference to Tigger from "Winnie the Pooh." Also, in one strip, Hobbes says "Toodle-Doo" which could be another reference to Tigger, as that is something Tigger would say.
- Hobbes often causes Calvin some problems. The examples are as followed: the time he tied Calvin up willingly to a chair; when he scratched the floor in "defeat"; when Hobbes eats like an animal, spreading mess everywhere; the time when he beat up Calvin for his lunch, and his daily pouncings when Calvin is coming home from school.
- Hobbes is a specific breed of tiger - he is a Bengal Tiger.
- Hobbes has once mentioned that he has/had a father. The rest of the information about Hobbes' family is unknown.
- Hobbes doesn't like Calvin's cardboard box. He doesn't want to be "transmogrified or duplicated or whatever".
- Hobbes often tries to get Calvin to stay out of trouble, as he would most likely see the down fall to Calvin’s actions. Such as,
- Stealing Susie’s doll.
- Fixing the sink by himself, (or simply using Dad's tools in general.)
- Backing the car out of the garage without mom’s permission.
- or throwing a snowball in the house.
- Unlike Calvin, Hobbes is not addicted to cartoons, or television altogether, though he will enjoy an occassional movie or nature documentary.
- Hobbes does not like Calvin's cereal, "Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs", for he says that it makes his heart skip. He would rather eat toast for breakfast.
- It is rumored that Calvin's parents put Hobbes in the trap as an "imaginary" friend.
- Hobbes likes to read and occasionally draw on Calvin's comic books.
- Hobbes always likes to surprise Calvin while Calvin says "I'm Home!" and Hobbes does his famous pounce.
- Much like Calvin, Hobbes loves music.
- It is unspecific when Hobbes and Calvin met. It appears as though they met after Hobbes was captured by Calvin in the first strip. A later strip contradicts this, with Hobbes remembering Calvin's behavior as an infant ("I seem to recall you spent most of your time burping up"), while another strip has him remember nothing about Calvin as a baby. It's also been said that Hobbes was just "a stuffed animal," given to little Calvin at his earliest age. Possibly, Calvin did not truly recognize Hobbes as a real tiger until he turned six (when the strip started.).
- In comic strips where Hobbes' drawings are included, Bill Watterson usually signed "& Hobbes" next to his signature. This would appear as & Hobs.
- Hobbes is shown to be in love with "those Tigress Babes they showed in the April issue", and also describes what he likes in women, saying "Redheads, (probably meaning nice dark red tigresses) green eyes, and long whiskers".
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