The Carrot Seed

***This is an adaptation of a recent speech I gave based on the classic children’s book The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss.***

THE CARROT SEED by Ruth Krauss1

A little boy planted a carrot seed.

His Mother said, “I’m afraid it won’t come up”.

His Father said, “I’m afraid it won’t come up”.

His big brother said, “It won’t come up”.

Everyday the little boy pulled the weeds around the seed and sprinkled the ground with water.

But nothing came up.

And nothing came up.

Everyone kept saying it wouldn’t come up.

But he still pulled up the weeds around it every day and sprinkled the ground with water.

And then, one day,

A carrot came up.

Just as the little boy had knownit would.

This seems like a simple book, but I wanted to make sure my interpretation wasn’t way off base…

So, I looked at a couple of book reviews to see if the way I interpreted it was what others thought…it turns out it’s not.  Let me show you some of these reviews.

  1. When a little boy plants a carrot seed, everyone tells him it won’t grow. But when you are very young, there are some things that you just know, and the little boy knows that one day a carrot will come up. So he waters his seed, and pulls the weeds, and he waits…This beautiful simple classic is a fantastic “how-to” story about gardening, which teaches the patience and technique of planting a seed and helping it grow.

–  If this is a “how to” book about gardening, then I am way off…Let’s see if the next review picks up on any subtle metaphors?

  1. The plot of this one is, some kid tries to grow a carrot and everyone doubts him. “That’ll never work,” say his parents. “What a terrible plan,” says his brother. But the kid waters it and – wait for it – it grows! Of courseit grows, it’s a stupid carrot. Do you know how easy it is to grow a carrot? It’s like one step up from crab grass. I don’t know why anyone would need a book on how to grow a carrot.

–  Yep, strike 2! I’m beginning to feel like I’m the one who missed the point?

  1. This book is deep. It explores the complex nature of family and gardening technique. I’m not sure what is going on with his landscape for planting the seed. Are we not seeing the whole picture or is he really planting a single carrot seed in a small patch of dirt? I would question his gardening know-how. How is the soil? What kind of fertilization is done? The shovel also seems much too large for the task at hand. Although this boy’s gardening skills have come into serious question, I still don’t appreciate the lack of support from the family. What is this book teaching my children? Are we encouraging kids to not try something because everyone else says it won’t work? I find the lack of family unity deeply disturbing, except for the older brother, which is to be expected. The one bright spot in the book is the boy’s resilience and dedication to this carrot. But the end gets a little fishy when nothing has come up for however many days and then suddenly it all comes up at once. It seems to me that better books on gardening must be out there.

– Yeah, so I never imagined this was actually a book about growing carrots, I saw the entire thing as a metaphor for believing in yourself…

I didn’t look at this story in terms of gardening at all, let me give you my interpretation, which is clearly wrong, but if a little boy can grow a carrot in a suspect patch of dirt and a giant shovel, perhaps I can gleam something useful from this literary gardening masterpiece.

My take is: even when people doubt you, sometimes it pays to believe in yourself, even if it means disagreeing with those who are close to you.

Apparently, when I was little, I missed the point on gardening completely, but this book was everything to me when I was young, I loved this little epistemological jewel.

Growing up I could relate to this boy everyday of my life.  I grew up in a rough neighborhood, which wasn’t so much on the wrong side of the tracks as much as it was directly on the tracks.  People had pretty low expectations of me and my friends and for the most part they were right.  I was really good at school, and always thought I could go to college, but most people around me just kind of scoffed.  My neighborhood was a blue collar Detroit neighborhood, and working in the auto industry is pretty much what was expected of everyone…if you made it that far.  Most of us didn’t.  But I always believed I had a ‘carrot’ that would grow.  The majority of my friends weren’t so lucky.  My best friend died of alcohol poisoning at a very young age, for another friend it was a self inflicted shotgun blast because the bullying pushed him too far, another ended up in prison for armed robbery, another is just a stat in the opioid epidemic, my friend Tammy though, she had all the tools to do anything she set her mind to.  Her and I were really good friends, we made it through High School and actually got into college together; we literally beat the odds, despite suffering some pretty sad losses along the way.

We were pretty competitive with grades, maybe I was a little bit better?  Just joking, I was a lot better.  Just joking again, she was better.  It didn’t really matter who was better, because we both worked hard to overcome the odds, and we both made it. We both actually made it into college.  We used to study at a coffee house together nearly every day, and so the day that she didn’t show up I knew something was wrong.  She was 19 when she OD’d on heroin in the back of her bosses van.

That was rough, but I learned right then and there that just getting into college wasn’t enough, the garden still had to be tended, the seed still had to be watered, and the weeds still had to be pulled, and it wasn’t easy, but I kept watering, and tending, and pulling weeds.  And when I decided I wanted to become a philosopher, the scoffs got louder, what good is that people asked?But I kept watering, and tending, and pulling weeds…When I got accepted into one of the top philosophy grad programs in the country, I knew the garden still had to be tended, the seed still had to be watered, and the weeds still had to be pulled, and so I kept watering, and tending, and pulling weeds.

I began to wonder if I would ever get a chance to stop watering, to stop tending, and to stop pulling weeds?  And I realize the answer to that question is no!  Because life isn’t about just one carrot, life is a string of carrots…each just as beneficial to a complete life as the last.  When I got my first teaching job…at the end of my first semester, a student came up to me, shook my hand, and thanked me.  I never expected that to be a thing, and I can’t explain how surreal it felt to have someone thank me for doing something that so many people doubted would ever happen. He thanked me for believing in him, for pushing him to see things a little differently.  For a minute I thought wow…this is my carrot, all the doubters and haters who never thought this carrot would grow were wrong, and it felt amazing.

That student signed up to take another class with me the following semester, it would only be a couple weeks before his mom called to tell me that he wouldn’t be coming back to class, because he had OD’d, she mentioned that I was his favorite teacher, and thought I should know… I just wanted to give up!

The very next day, I was headed to my nieces 1st birthday party, I stopped in a bookstore to grab her a present and I bought her a copy of The Carrot Seed.  As I read it to her for the 1st time, I was reminded of the little boys perseverance.

And the next day, I faced new barriers, it felt like I had to start all over again, watering, and tending and pulling weeds. In reality we are constantly starting over again, because there are always new obstacles, and new opportunities and new goals.  Part of life is that there will always be new doubters as well, but if for one second we give in, that’s the moment our carrots stop growing.

Throughout life we get a chance to grow numerous carrots, and throughout life we encounter numerous doubters, but if we remember to keep watering, and tending, and pulling the weeds then perhaps all the struggles will be worthwhile, and most importantly, no matter what anyone else believes, you gotta keep believing in yourself!

BUT hey…maybe the book really is just about how to grow a carrot?

Carrot (Co-writer) theDIHEDRAL

  1. Here is a reading in case you are interested.
  2. Epistemologically speaking this boy didn’t actually know the carrot seed would come up, but give him a break, he’s a little boy.
  3. My work mates started calling me eye-sock-la-please, this was actually a really endearing nickname…those bastards!

47 Replies to “The Carrot Seed”

  1. It’s funny how you get different perspective’s from different people. It is all about where you are coming from. I however share the same “take away” as you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Had to comment because “like” is not strong enough for this post. I love it! Of course you are right — it is a metaphor. We writers are subversive people. It’s just who we are. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. If this is a gardening post, then I would starve, because I still know nothing about gardening! Thanks for the re-assurance Jay-lyn!


  3. Wow!! Yeah, I don’t get that it’s a gardening book at all. If it was a “How-to” book, wouldn’t it mention that in the title?!!

    I agree with you. I think the carrot represents personal growth, we need to take care of (weed and water) our own soil in order for ourselves to grow, even if it means doing something that others, especially those in “higher power,” those we look up to, and those closest to us tell us we can’t.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I originally gave this talk to a hall of honors students and their parents, with the underlying point that despite what others claim to “know” sometimes you just gotta do you! Thanks for the note kristianw84!


  4. Possibly the most frequent line in the I Ching is “Perseverance furthers. No blame.” I think that sums up “The Carrot Seed”. Are you sure you didn’t make up those reviews?


    1. Well put! I never made that connection and now I am going to read the I Ching with a whole new set of eyes…thank you halffastcyclingclub!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. If a person wants instruction for growing a carrot, I guess they don’t need a book, just a packet of seeds. It’s all there. You’re interpretation is right. And I would add that no one knows the future. That kid’s family is clueless.

    The story also reminds me of Candide. Really tending our garden is all we can do. ❤

    This post brought tears to my eyes. I lived in a rough neighborhood as an adult, late 30s/early 40s. My best friends (and the only group of friends I've had in my life, being more a one or two friend person) were a handful of jr high/high school boys who lived in my hood. They rode BMX bikes. There were jumps at the place where I hiked, I drove a Ford Ranger, so they and their bikes came with me and my dogs. Some of them (all at risk kids) grew up OK (and I still know them). Most did not. One — the most talented athlete among all of us — shot himself the day after Kurt Cobain did.

    Then, teaching in community colleges, one in the inner city, death by something — guns, drugs, cars — was way too common. I wrote a letter to the court about a kid explaining what a serious student he was and that he shouldn't be in jail. Well, he was released, and OD's that very day.

    The amount of faith it takes to grow that carrot is amost inexpressible. It's nice to know from where you took your "handle."

    Please fix "Heroine"

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Martha, it’s wild how relatable what you wrote here is. It’s interesting that you use the word “faith” I’ve never really thought about it in that way, but I think there is something to it. Thank you! And another special thanks for serving as our default editor, you’re the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. How can people miss such an obvious moral to the story?

    And that is exactly how a carrot seed germinates. You don’t see anything at all for a couple weeks until one day there’s a tiny carrot plant peeking through the soil. People who have never planted anything ought not to comment on gardening technique.

    A much-shortened version of the story is, “Where there’s a will, there’s a won’t.”

    Doesn’t have anything to do with gardening or parenting or carrots or even being a little boy. Has to do with having confidence in yourself and standing up to the naysayers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. BOOM Fred, I have never heard that expression before, and it cracks me up. At the same time, it seems absolutely true! And thanks for the heads up on carrot growth, I had no idea that is how carrots worked!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I never read the book. Probably, it was written long after my son was past the age of reading it, too. I don’t think it’s about growing a carrot. While you can never stop watering and weeding, there does come a time when you aren’t planting new carrots but enjoying how well your patch has done.

    It’s called “retirement.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the depth of some children’s books, I don’t know much about children’s literature, but some of these authors are truly spectacular!


      1. I so agree. The messages were apparent to me even as a child. I’m always so surprised when someone reads something “else” into it other than the message which is pretty clear. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. “life isn’t about just one carrot, life is a string of carrots”
    Boy, hearing this from an academic is so reassuring. I’m currently in a PhD program and definitely need reminders that it’s okay that there are a lot of carrots–that’s just the way it is. Thanks for sharing this and for being so candid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right, people who only talk about the visions through rose colored glasses give an awfully one-sided perspective of the world. Keep pushing through the program, you’ll get to where you need to be!



  9. Your last line made me laugh.
    When I read the beginning I thought ‘hey, that’s life’. When I saw your reviews, I wondered if you were right that we’re wrong. I love your review though, for life is like that. Learning, growing. Being the little boy. I guess. However hard it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww thanks Eliza…learning and growing, what else is there? Thanks for your encouraging comment, I like trying to end on a fun note, I’m happy that you noticed!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love it when we find true meaning in something simplistic. Have you ever read Harold and the Purple Crayon? I have an interpretation of that book that I haven’t been able to verify anywhere on the internet.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No, I never wrote about it. Just some stuff I thought about as I read it over and over to my kids when they were little. I believe it tells the creation story, but no one else seems to think that. What you read into the carrot book made me think of it.


      2. I am for sure going to check it out, and keep that in mind when I do. Thanks for the recommendation!


  11. Someone put it once that big truth can only be seen on small stages and great truth can only be told through stories, I think that’s what this story is, a glimpse of great truth disguised as a child’s story. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is Brilliant! My personal take on this is right there with you. Funny how some things are so indepth, yet seen simply and clear to some, and to others the most basic becomes convoluted. There’s a powerful message in this. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I enjoyed very much this story and your comment. In my view – and I’m heading toward 53 – life is all about taking care of the growing of a carrot where many people around us, and mostly our own family members, tell us that what we’re trying is impossible. They are not wrong: they are correctly playing their role of misleading us, because life – at the earth level, at least – is the product of the raw encounter of two opposites. Obstacles are necessary constituents of life dynamics and quite paradoxically it is their greatness which makes great our lives: the bigger the overcome obstacle, the bigger we feel ourselves, the deeper we feel to have lived. Difficulties make our lives great.
    Am I mad, misleaded, completely lost in the thick jungle of thoughts?
    Maybe, but it’s with true friendship they I hug you

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Deep and heartfelt analysis of the analogy. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share your story so that others may feel less alone and be inspired by your tenacious and resilient spirit. Your inner faith in your carrot will help many others who follow that want to grow their own carrots…and in turn, may we have fields of carrots as we all learn to farm our dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wonderful, the post was a LOT different than I thought it would be. Love you insight and backstory.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I can’t believe those reviewers couldn’t figure out that it was a book to teach personal growth and perseverance! 😂😂 your post was really powerful. I’m sorry about your friends and your student. Hopefully, your story will help others to help themselves. Have a great day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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