The Little Engine That Could

The Little Engine That Could By Watty Piper. ISBN 0448405202 .

The unknowing progenitor of a whole generation of self-help books, Wally Piper's The Little Engine That Could is one of the greatest tales of motivation and the power of positive thinking ever told. In this well-loved classic, a little train carrying oodles of toys to all of the good boys and girls is confronted with a towering, seemingly impassable mountain. As nicely as they ask, the toys cannot convince the Shiny New Engine or the Big Strong Engine--far too impressed with themselves--to say anything but "I can not. I can not." It is left up to the Little Blue Engine to overcome insurmountable odds and pull the train to the other side. The Little Engine That Could is an entertaining and inspirational favorite, and the Little Blue Engine's rallying mantra "I think I can--I think I can" will resonate for a lifetime in the head of every child who hears it. (Ages 4 to 8)

"A good example of pioneer feminist lore, with girl engine as 'hero'." -- Publishers Weekly

The classic story of optimistic thinking that has delighted generations of children. -- Amazon review

A classic children's story. It begins when the engine carrying toys over the mountain for the boys and girls, the engine breaks down. A series of engines go by, each one giving a different reason why he can't take the toys over the mountain. Finally, a small maintenance engine comes by, sees the toys' predicament, and decides to take the risk, to try to bring the load of toys over the mountain. It's hard going, but eventually she succeeds, first saying "I think I can, I think I can", and then "I knew I could, I knew I could."

The story at this URL: though an interesting variation, is not what I have before me as I speak, with the cover displayed at the top of this page, marked "The complete original edition."''

This is a story of initiative and risk. Most people try to avoid risk. But for those who take the initiative, there is a chance of much greater gains, of growing, of doing something you didn't think you could do before. All the experienced engines in the story merely found AnAcceptableWayOfFailing. It was only the small engine who was willing to put her own neck on the line to progress.

At no point in the story does anyone tell the Little Engine she is unable to pull the train over the mountain. It was merely a question of whether she was going to try, or whether she was going to maintain the status quo. So in that respect, it's a story about innovation, innovating even if you're small, because even small innovators can make big differences.

WorryDrivenDevelopment is the enemy of initiative. It recently occurred to me that most of us, myself frequently included, teach our children WorryDrivenDevelopment. This thought especially struck me in light of LayneThomas's comment below.

-- TimKing
That's funny. When I read this story as a child, I understood the theme to be "Adults try to tell children they are weak and incapable, but with determination - you can accomplish anything they can". . . I never saw it as a "risk takers often win", just purely as "adults patronize perfectly capable children"

I wonder now if they were both correct - Do many people avoid taking the initiative because society insists they would fail?

-- LayneThomas

Of course what I've been watching recently is... That's my inspirational note for the day. ;->

See: IfYouThinkYouCanAndYouTryVeryHard

CategoryIdiom, CategoryBook

View edit of January 11, 2006 or FindPage with title or text search