What Tuck Everlasting Taught Me About Life

My love for Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt began with the movie, which is probably grounds for immediate exile from the creative writing community, but stay with me.

The two leads were being played by a couple of my favorite people so when the trailer started playing I was hooked. I must have watched that movie a hundred times before my mom finally gifted me the book. I’ve had the same copy since 2002. It’s tearing at the sides and pages are bent and yellowed, I’ve probably spilled coffee or splashed water on it more times than I can count. Since I got this book over a decade ago I’ve read it about every six months without fail. Every time I read it I find something new to love and learn from it.

 Winnie Foster (Alexis Bledel) and Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson) in the film adaptation of Tuck Everlasting (2002)

Winnie Foster (Alexis Bledel) and Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson) in the film adaptation of Tuck Everlasting (2002)

Why should you have to be cooped up in a cage, too?

It begins with Winnie Foster, an eleven-year-old girl stuck in a house she’s not even allowed out the front garden of. She says this to a toad sitting just outside her reach when she promises to run away. Winnie starts this story out as a young naïve girl, curious about the outside world and overeager to prove herself. But, underneath all of that, she has an understanding and compassion of other living things. She wants to keep the toad as a pet so that she can have someone to talk to but she realizes that keeping a toad inside of a cage is the same as her being kept inside her house. Keeping something small does not mean keeping it safe.

We might as well enjoy it, long as we can’t change it.

Jesse Tuck is 17 years old and has been for 87 years and will continue to be 17 for the rest of eternity. When the Tuck family tells Winnie Foster their secret to their eternal life Jesse is the only one excited to have someone new in on the secret. Jesse is the perfect example of the eternal optimist. He tells Winnie about his adventures and all he’s seen in the past 87 years, all he hopes to see in the future and invites her to join him when she’s also 17. Jesse, although being alive for 104 years is forever the positive, unafraid of the future young kid we all were. Why fuss over what you can’t control?

I want to grow old again, and change. And if that means I got to move on at the end of it, then, I want that, too.

 Angus Tuck is the patriarch of the Tuck family. He’s gruff, hardworking and perpetually miserable with his eternal existence. He takes Winnie out in the rowboat and explains to her why living forever isn’t as nice as it sounds. He explains to her that life is a wheel, and everyone lives their time and then gets off the wheel to make room for someone new. I think Angus Tuck’s speech to Winnie is why I never thought living forever would be as fun as all those vampire novels made it seem. In every version of this story, book, movie, musical this speech moves me to tears. When I was young I wondered why Winnie wouldn’t want to live forever and go on adventures with the Tucks but each time I read this book Angus reminds me that everyone has a part to play in the wheel of life and taking up too much space is like being a rock stuck at the bottom of a lake with everything else moving on around you.

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Tuck Everlasting is my favorite book, one of my favorite movies, at least on the top five of my favorite musicals. I have experienced this story a million times over but each time there is something new for me to love. I bring this story up in every chance that I can and if I could make it required reading for everyone in all of existence, I would. Thank you, Natalie Babbitt, for your story, it has truly changed my life.


by Carly Herriges