We’ve looked at The Disneyfication of Tom Sawyer. What about that other iconic barefoot boy, Huckleberry Finn?
First, let’s take a look at how an older movie treated him.
The one I’ll look at is a 1960 version, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which stars Tony Randall as “The King of France”.
It starts off with a barefoot Huck:
That quickly changes, but that is how it should be. You might recall that he is being cared for by the Widow Douglas, who makes him wear shoes. Here we see him with those shoes.
It is clear from the movie that they are brand new and rarely worn. He walks uncomfortably in them, and they squeak.
Huck lights out of there (after being accosted by his “Pap”, and faking his own death) and runs into slave, Jim. They head down-river on a raft. Barefoot, as they should be.
After they meet up with “The King of France” and “The Duke”, those two start to work their scam upon the Wilks sisters. Huck starts out there barefoot.
However, the sisters dress him back up again, and again he’s stuck with shoes.
But he escapes again after freeing Jim, and incidentally frees his feet again as soon as he can.
There is a later scene in the movie when he and Jim board what turns out to have been is Pap’s houseboat. The boat is listing in the water, and is very wet. Of course, bare feet make perfect sense there.
This movie has Huck barefoot pretty much throughout. The only time he is shod is when it makes some sense.
Now let’s take a look at the Disney version, from 1993, and starring a 12-year old Elijah Wood, and entitled The Adventures of Huck Finn. It’s on YouTube.
It starts out rather encouraging. In a voiceover at the beginning, Huck tells us
So kick off your shoes, if you’re wearin’ them. Get ready for a spit-lickin’ good time.
The movie starts with him in a fistfight with some other kid.
What are all those other kids doing shod? That’s not accurate.
Well, this is the last we see of a barefooted Huck. After the fight, Huck goes back to the Widow Douglas and gets reshod. And that is the way he stays for the rest of the movie.
Here he is after escaping from his Pap and meeting Jim, who is also shod (heck, booted) throughout.
I guess it’s OK to show him smoking while he’s out on his own. But barefoot? Heaven forbid.
They don’t even show him barefoot when it makes sense to do so. At one point he gets onto a log to paddle out to another boat.
Notice how his left foot looks a little odd? That’s because he is not barefoot. Those are flesh-colored socks. Yes, they had Huck Finn keep his socks on to paddle on a log.
I know it’s kind of hard to be sure. So look at this picture.
See his right foot behind his arm there. See how it’s bent? That’s because the sock is half off and dangling.
They also do a bit of a different ending, having Huck get shot (I think it’s just buckshot, but still). Here is Jim holding him, and again you can see that Huck is wearing flesh-colored socks.
Shortly after that Huck faints, where he wakes up in a very white bed and dressed all in white.
Oops. Wrong Elijah Wood picture. Here’s the real one:
Isn’t that really rather amazing that his Lord of the Rings appearance was presaged in Huck Finn? But even odder, how is it that Elijah ended up in two quintessentially barefoot movies and had to wear footwear in both? (Don’t forget, all the “barefoot” actors in the Lord of the Rings movies wore foot-shaped, toe-floppy prosthetics.)
But once again, with Huck Finn, Disney does its thing and forces shoes onto a non-shod movie, and into non-shod situations.