Friday, August 31, 2012

Little Stories for Bedtime 1913



The Stories

Illustration for "How a breakfast flew away" (Jan 9 1913)
January 6- January 9. A short episode featuring Mrs. Grouse. Peter Rabbit wonders about her unusual "snowshoe" tracks. (Meanwhile Jimmy Skunk and Billy Mink argue about rabbit tracks). Mrs. Grouse goes to sleep under the snow and surprises Granny and Reddy Fox when she bursts out.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit visits the Smiling Pool" (Jan 10, 1913)
January 10- January 13. Peter Rabbit visits the Smiling Pool, learns what ice is. Scares Jerry Muskrat from above. Little Joe Otter makes a snow slide.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit gets a new coat" (Jan 14, 1913)
January 14- January 20. Peter Rabbit (astoundingly, as he is a cottontail, not a hare) turns white. Learns to use it to hide from predators, fool Jimmy Skunk.
Illustration for "Jerry Muskrat at home" (Jan 21, 1913)
January 21- January 23. A big mink (not Billy) drives Jerry Muskrat from his comfortable home under the ice. Jerry is able to fight off the mink from the narrow passages of his "secret castle."
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit and Danny Meadow Mouse live high" (Feb 12, 1913)
January 24-February 15. A long episode, reprinted in the The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse. Danny narrowly escapes predators, ends up in Peter Rabbit's briar patch. Rescues Peter Rabbit, who has been caught in a snare.
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy chops down a tree" (Feb 24, 1913)
February 17 - March 3. A long episode, reprinted in The Adventures of Unc' Billy Possum. Unc' Billy gets trapped inside Farmer Brown's henhouse. A snowfall allows an escape but reveals his trail to Farmer Brown's boy, who chops down a tree he mistakenly thinks he is in. 
Illustration for "Sammy Jay gets even with Peter Rabbit" (March 7, 1913)
March 4 - March 7. Two short episodes featuring Sammy Jay (reprinted in The Adventures of Sammy Jay). In the first Sammy thinks he has tricked Chatterer the Red Squirrel but finds himself tricked. In the second he pays back Peter Rabbit for making fun of his vanity by imitating red-tailed hawk.
Illustration for "Gentle Sister South Wind arrives" (March 11, 1913)
March 8- March 19. Spring has arrived and Peter Rabbit spreads the news. He visits Johnny Chuck, who is awake though very thin. Jimmy Skunk escorts Peter home to protect him from Reddy Fox. Reddy tries to get even by framing Jimmy as a chicken stealer but Peter subverts the plan by telling Billy Mink about the chicken.

March 20- March 21. Peter Rabbit and Johnny Chuck search for the singers at the Smiling Pool. Turns out to be hyla (spring peepers), not birds singing underwater.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit makes a discovery" (March 22, 1913)
March 22- March 24. Peter Rabbit discovers owl pellets at the foot of a tree. Hooty is nesting in branches above.
Illustration for "A new home at last" (April 4, 1913)
March 25-May 12.  A very long episode, half of which was published in The Adventures of Johnny Chuck. Johnny Chuck, no longer a boy, feels adventurous. Leaves his home and proves himself a fighter. He falls in love with Polly Chuck, shows his worthiness by fighting off a dog, and the two settle down to home-making.

Sammy Jay reveals where their home is to Farmer Brown's boy.  Johnny Chuck is a proud father of three babies and once Sammy Jay sees them he has a change of heart and tries to protect them. Johnny Chuck teaches the youngsters about dangers but one day a little chuck "who didn't mind" gets caught by Farmer Brown's boy.

Johnny Chuck's three friends, Peter Rabbit, Jimmy Skunk, and Unc' Billy Possum each try in turn to see what happened to the baby chuck. Peter is chased off by a cat ("Thomas," not yet Black Pussy), Jimmy gets his head caught in a can and is almost caught by Farmer Brown's boy, and Unc' Billy is discovered by FBB in the hay loft.

Now Unc' Billy is also a captive. After Sammy Jay (feeling guilty) spots them, Jimmy Skunk holds a meeting. It is decided that Prickly Porky should gnaw through the boxes they are held in. Reddy Fox tries to disrupt this plan but fails. Unc' Billy escapes but the baby chuck refuses to come. He prefers being a pet.
Illustration for "Peter Cottontail" (March 15, 1913)
May 13- May 17. Peter Rabbit is discontented. His name is too common. Decides to use name "Peter Cottontail" and puts on airs. Skunk and coon decide to burst bubble of pretension and play a trick on him. There's nothing like the old name after all.
Illustration for "A hunt for trouble" (May 24, 1913)
May 19- June 9. Another long episode, reprinted in The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat. The denizens of the Smiling Pool discover the water level is going down. Five (muskrat, frog, mink, otter, turtle) decide to go upstream to investigate. They discover a huge wall with a pond behind it. Grandfather Frog suggests it's the work of a beaver. Jerry ruins dam during the day but finds it fixed the next morning. He finally meets the beaver and explains his problem. Paddy the Beaver (new character) agrees to take down the dam (it was just temporary anyway) and decides to live in the area.
Illustration for "The clever plan of Granny Fox" (July 5, 1913)
June 10-July 9. Another new character--Old Man Coyote (reprinted in The Adventures of Old Man Coyote). The green meadow community is disturbed by mysterious sound at night. After some investigation, they learn it is a coyote. Granny Fox tries unsuccessfully to drive coyote away: she provokes a fight between Old Man Coyote and Prickly Porky, and she leads Bowser the Hound to the coyote's napping site.
Illustration for "Peter and Little Miss Fuzzytail Quit Old Pasture" (August 2, 1913)
July 10-August 9  A very long story, much of it reprinted in Mrs. Peter Rabbit. Peter Rabbit is lonesome, visits the Old Pasture in search of mate. He finds "Miss Fuzzytail" but must wrest her from her overprotective, bullying father, Old Jed Thumper.
Illustration for "Mistah Mocker lends his voice to Sammy Jay" (August 14, 1913)
August 11- August 23.  Sammy Jay is falsely accused of stealing Drummer the Woodpecker's eggs. Jay joins up with Mockingbird (who has also been tricked) to set trap for real culprit, Chatterer the Red Squirrel. This story features the first illustrations by Harrison Cady (still uncredited).

Illustration for "Peter Rabbit's four babies in their nursery" (August 29, 1913)
August 25-September 26. Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Peter move back to the Old Briar Patch and start a family of four bunnies, one of which they name "Little Pete." They teach the children about danger. This doesn't keep Little Pete from being careless and getting lost. After some adventures, he is finally rescued by his father in Farmer Brown's garden.
Illustration for "Reddy Fox loses his temper" (October 2, 1913)
 September 27-October 2. Danny Meadow Mouse has narrow escapes from several predators.

Illustration for "Spotty the Turtle plays a doctor" (October 13, 1913)
October 3- October 31. A long episode featuring Grandfather Frog (reprinted in The Adventures of Grandfather Frog). After other animals try to pull pranks on him and the "worldly" Mr. Toad pays a visit, Grandfather Frog decides he wants to see the Great World.  He ignores the hazard of this plan and is chased by Bowser the Hound and captured by Farmer Brown's boy. He's able to get away thanks to the intervention of the Merry Little Breezes but immediately gets into more trouble before he is able to get back to Smiling Pool.
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy visits the Green Forest again" (December 6, 1913)
November 1-December 8. A long episode featuring Paddy the Beaver (reprinted in The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver) Paddy tells everyone he plans to build a dam and will need to shut down the Smiling Pool and Laughing Brook temporarily. Some protest but most delight in the elaborate construction process. Farmer Brown's boy and Old Man Coyote pose threats. Realizing how smart the beaver is, Farmer Brown's boy vows to protect him and the dam.
Illustration for "Shadow the Weasel enjoys himself" (December 11, 1913)
December 9-December 31. A very long episode featuring Chatterer the Red Squirrel (portions of which were reprinted in The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel.) Shadow the Weasel drives Chatterer out of the Green Forest so he needs to build a new home in the Old Orchard. Discovers Farmer Brown's corn crib and devises a way to get in. (continued in 1914).


In 1913 Thornton Burgess continued what he was doing in the second half of 1912, offering long continuous narratives featuring the adventures of a single character. Burgess's 1913 newspaper stories would be the source of 9 separate classic books in the Burgess oeuvre. Harrison Cady became the regular illustrator in August, though he didn't sign his name until later in the year.

While pranks and tricks and sheer adventure were still important aspects of the stories, Burgess was beginning to focus more and more on nature study, seen best in his meticulous descriptions of beaver dam/lodge construction in the Paddy the Beaver episode. Peter Rabbit and Johnny Chuck, the boy characters of 1912, became parents in 1913. Seasonality became a firm guide as to what stories were told when. And moral instruction became more and more explicit.

The "abducted baby chuck" story (April 17- May 12) apparently caused some consternation among parents and young readers, as Burgess delayed the resolution of the story for almost a month. I know of no other Burgess story with a more fairytale-like structure (three characters, one at a time, attempt a rescue) and the ending, in which the baby chuck refuses to be "rescued," is truly surprising.

Burgess also made his most glaring natural history error during 1913, in his January stories featuring Peter Rabbit and his new coat. Cottontails do not get white coats in the winter. Only hares do. This is a point that future Burgess (perhaps in compensation for his earlier mistake) would take great pains to emphasize. Surprisingly, however, instead of burying this embarrassing set of stories, Burgess would reuse them in minibooks published by John H. Eggers in the 1920s.

Farmer Brown's Boy

Farmer Brown boy in 1913 was still a nemesis of the Green Meadow and Green Forest communities, especially when it came to animals he regarded as pests and/or sources of food (bullfrog, oppossum) and income (beaver). At the same time, Burgess began to soften the character. While Farmer Brown's boy does forcibly abduct the baby woodchuck, he does it so that he can raise it lovingly as a pet. While he continues to carry stones in his pocket to throw at bullfrogs, he also fondly tickles Mr. Toad under the chin for being a help in his garden. The animal characters begin to doubt whether he is "all bad." Farmer Brown's boy's conversion into a friend of the animals generally can be said to have begun on December 6. In response to Paddy the Beaver's intelligence, he posts signs forbidding trespassers to interfere with the beaver and beaver lodge/dam.

Next: 1913 Advertising for Little Stories

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