Raising Arizona, Was Leonard Smalls H.I.'s dad?

The classic Raising Arizona was on last night, and at moment before Leonard’s death I turned to my wife and said He is H.I.'s dad. I’ve always thought that, because of the matching tattoos and the baby shoes that fly off of him when he explodes. She strongly disagrees. Does anyone else have my take on him?

I’ve always thought they were brothers separated early. Your theory works too, I guess. Sometimes I think he’s a symbolic alter ego and there’s no relationship.

Whichever is true, I really enjoy that movie.

Interesting theory, Son. I’ve never made that connection. But then again, I don’t have a panty on my head.

I never thought about that. I did, however, find it odd that they mentioned the matching tattoos but never brought it up again.

Isn’t it implied that H.I. brings him into the world as, almost like a physical manifestation of Mrs. Arizona’s grief and need for retribution when he commits the kidnapping? I always considered him almost a creation borne from H.I.'s psyche, made real by the pain Mrs. Arizona feels. Like, he is a part of H.I., the bad part, split off and made real.

Smalls is Hi’s alter-ego - he represents Hi’s bad, criminal side. The fight between the two of them represent’s Hi’s internal struggle to shake off his old ways and become a good man. The identical tattoos is the big clue - Hi is Smalls and Smalls is Hi.

I thought that they were perhaps cousins. Hi makes a comment earlier in the film about how he comes from a long line of outlaws, or somesuch. So when I saw the matching tatts, I thought cousins.

Not that it seemed to matter much to Smalls; if anything he seems to become enraged when he see the matching tatts.

I don’t think Smalls was old enough to be Hi’s father.

As far as H.i. knows, he is a manifestation of his own conscience.

I always thought it was, in the literal sense, his father.

I like a lot of the theories posed here, but here is the theory I always had:

Leonard Smalls is the man Nathan Jr. would have become if H.I. and Ed had not returned him. Remember that, in his conversation with Nathan Arizona Sr., Smalls reveals that he was a kidnapped child who was sold off. H.I.'s parents are dead, and he may have never known them. They are both criminals, and the tattoo they share represents the cycle of children growing up separated from their parents. Indeed, it may even be that Smalls is Nathan Jr. coming to seek revenge on H.I., if we go the more symbolic route.

Smalls never says he was kidnapped. Only that he “… fetched $30,000 on the black market*. And that was in 1954 dollars.” The “black market” here would be a mother selling her child which was and is illegal.

So Leonard was a baby in 1954. (Tex Cobb was actually born in 1950.) HI’s rap sheets that the adoption agency guy looks thru has crimes going back to 1974. Figure that he was born in the late 50s if not earlier. So not much of an age difference.

Smalls becoming a man hunter, which includes missing children cases, could stem from his adoption and account for his appearance in this particular case. No need for a greater connection.

The main time anomaly in the film is that the big family dinner in the future at the end looks remarkably retro. But it was a dream.

  • No way would anyone pay $30k in 1954 for a kid. OTOH, the $50k he does ask for is far, far less after inflation. The numbers don’t make sense.

“Smalls never says he was kidnapped.”

True he does not say he was kidnapped. He could have been sold by his mother OR he could have been kidnapped and sold. The “black market” makes it ambiguous.

Yeah, well, if a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump it’s ass a’hoppin.

I can see adoptive parents telling their kid they shelled out a pile of money when they adopted him from his mother. Rich people brag about the weirdest stuff.* I can’t see them explaining that he was kidnapped and sold. Fessing up to being part of a quite serious crime and all that. FBI, death penalty, etc.

  • E.g., I still can’t understand all these tinpot dictators bragging about having rooms with a lot of “gold” stuff looks classy.

I’m not sure Leonard Smalls’ parents needed to sit him down and explain his origin to him. Being a master tracker and most likely an omnipotent supernatural manifestation of H.I.'s ego, Smalls would have had access to a number of natural and unnatural skill sets that would enable him to discover how much he sold for in the 1950s regardless of whether he was kidnapped or not. He does far more incredible things in the movie, including but not limited to (1) materializing via an explosion, (2) disappearing from Nathan Arizona’s office in a gust of wind, and (3) after catching a fly in mid-air with just two fingers. It’s safe to say he’s symbolic.

I think Smalls’ neatest trick is when Hi whacks him with a board and he stops dead falling off his motorcycle. Either that or Hi has superpowers.

Hmm. He stops a knife with a board while barely looking. He takes incredible abuse from Smalls and doesn’t seem permanently maimed or dead. Esp. the uppercut to the jaw that sends him up in the air in backwards. Doesn’t even keep Hi from talking right away. Then there’s the ability to avoid the shotgun blasts in the convenience store, all that running, etc.

Oh, and he has precognitive dreams.


Maybe the Mr. Power woodpecker tatoos are an emblem of a sort of superhumans’ club.

BTW: Smalls seems to be made up of a combustible material based on the fireball when the grenade went off.

(And don’t get me started on the Dr. Strangelove connection. The P.O.E./O.P.E. on the bathroom door means it’s set in that universe. But how did these people survive the Cobalt-Thorium G? Hmm, again.)

Sir or Madam, Thank you very much for this theory. It is the one I will stick to from now on, regarding this movie. It is poetic, round, and simply perfect. I am sure that if the Coen bros get to read your theory, and even if it is not the one they created… they will prefer it too!!