Saturday, September 22, 2012

Little Stories for Bedtime 1916

The Stories

Illustration for "Some New Year Resolves" (January 3, 1916)
January 3. The animals make New Year's resolutions
Illustration for "Quacker the Duck grows curious" (January 7, 1916)
January 4 to January 8. Granny Fox uses a curious method to try to catch Quacker the Wild Duck.
Illustration for "Jumper gets a queer reception" (January 12, 1916)
January 10 to January 14. Jumper the Hare learns about Lightfoot the Deer's "yard."
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy skates" (January 21, 1916)
January 15 to February 11. Farmer Brown's boy skates on the ice crust to feed the animals after an ice storm. Is filled with sorrow after he thinks he's killed Reddy Fox.
Illustration for "Poor, poor Mrs. Grouse" (February 22, 1916)
February 12 to March 2. Reddy Fox plots to catch Mrs. Grouse but has a change of heart after she gets caught in a snare.
Illustration for "Welcome Robin tells of his journey" (March 13, 1916)
March 3 to March 18. Spring is coming and Peter Rabbit greets his old friends, some of whom had just made dangerous journeys.
Illustration for "Mrs. Quack's name for hunters" (April 1, 1916)
March 20 to May 1. Mrs. Quack arrives and relates the terrors of spring migration. Everyone searches for the wounded Mr. Quack.  Much of it reprinted in The Adventures of Poor Mrs. Quack.
Illustration for "Winsome Bluebird's joke on Peter Rabbit" (May 15, 1916)
May 2 to May 15. Peter Rabbit and Chatterer the Red Squirrel search for Winsome Bluebird's nest, but Winsome is too smart for them.

Illustration for "When Peter Rabbit jumped over the barrel" (May 20, 1916)
May 16 to June 2. Peter Rabbit plays a trick on Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox and comes to regret it. Reprinted in The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk.

Illustration for "The story of the tail that held" (June 12, 1916)
June 3 to June 12. Digger the Badger is surprisingly good-natured while being harassed by Granny Fox and Farmer Brown's boy.

Illustration for "Bluffer tries another kind of bluff" (June 15, 1916)
June 13 to June 16. Farmer Brown's boy saves Mr. Toad from Bluffer the Adder but falls for all of Bluffer's tricks.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit's surprise party" (June 26, 1916)
June 17 to July 3.  When Peter gets sick from eating poisoned cabbage leaves, the whole community gets together to show him support.
Illustration for "Peter sees the Quack family" (July 6, 1916)
July 4 to July 6. Peter visits the Quack family.
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy hears a great racket" (July 8, 1916)
July 7 to July 12. Redtail the Hawk's greed causes Farmer Brown's boy confusion.
Illustration for "An egg that wouldn't behave" (July 15, 1916)
July 13 to July 17. Blacky the Crow is confused when he steals a china egg.
Illustration for "The King demands tribute" (July 22, 1916)
July 18 to July 28. Buster Bear and King Eagle quarrel over a fish dropped by Plunger the Osprey.
Illustration for "A hot place in a cool place" (August 8, 1916)
July 29 to August 19. Buster Bear finds a honey tree and encounters Farmer Brown's boy, with humorous complications.

Illustration for "Longlegs's breakfast is snatched away" (August 22, 1916)
August 21 to September 2. Peter Rabbit searches for the nest of Rattles the Kingfisher.
Illustration for "Peter grows curious about Sooty" (September 5, 1916)
September 4 to September 11. Peter Rabbit learns all about the nest of Sooty the Chimney Swift
Illustration for "Peter sees the Quacks off" (September 13, 1916)
September 12 to September 13. Peter Rabbit says farewell to the Quacks.
Illustration for "Lightfoot's new horns" (September 15, 1916)
September 14 to September 18. Peter Rabbit learns about Lightfoot the Deer's antlers. Reprinted in Lightfoot the Deer.
Illustration for "Peter makes a great discovery" (September 20, 1916)
September 19 to September 21. Everyone is surprised when Peter Rabbit is too busy working to play.
Illustration for "The surprising secret of Stickytoes" (September 26, 1916)
September 22 to September 27. Johnny Chuck prepares for winter and learns something surprising about Stickytoes the Tree Frog.
Illustration for "The foolish quarrel" (September 29, 1916)
September 28 to October 2. The Merry Little Breezes work hard to knock nuts from trees for Striped Chipmunk while Chatter the Red Squirrel and Happy Jack quarrel.

Illustration for "Peter doubts his own eyes" (October 13, 1916)
October 3 to October 18. Old Mr. Toad escapes from a compost pit through an ingenious feat of engineering.
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy fools the hunters" (November 3, 1916)
October 19 to November 7.  Lightfoot the Deer and Mrs Grouse help each other avoid hunters. Farmer Brown's boy shelters Lightfoot.
Illustration for "Reddy and Bowser both get a fright" (November 10, 1916)
November 8 to November 15. Reddy Fox tries to act smarter than he is but Granny Fox will have nothing of it.
Illustration for "Danny sees the last of his own home" (December 19, 1916)
November 16 to December 23 and December 27 to December 30. Danny Meadow Mouse's adventurous ways land him and Nanny in Farmer Brown's barn. They meet Nibbler the House Mouse and Robber the Rat.  The Green Meadow/Forest community blames Shadow the Weasel for Danny's disappearance.
Illustration for "A very merry Christmas in Quaddyland" (December 26, 1916)
December 26. Farmer Brown's boy delivers food for the animals to celebrate Christmas.


 By 1916 Thornton Burgess was deep within the sphere of influence of the militant conservationist William T. Hornaday.  This is reflected in an increased number of hunting stories and anti-hunting references (even Welcome Robin and Winsome Bluebird were getting shot at) as well as an increased level of intensity in depicting the perspective and emotions of animal victims. The most famous example, written with clear legislative goals in mind, was the saga of "Poor" Mrs. Quack.  There was also attention paid to the hazards of garden pesticides (Peter Rabbit finds himself partially paralyzed after eating a poisoned cabbage leaf), though this would be a less perennial theme.

While Burgess, generally speaking, showed more attention to nature facts (the nests of chimney swifts and kingfishers, the antlers and "yards" of deer, e.g.), some stories showed a regression back to tricks and pranks (Peter Rabbit gets Reddy Fox to accidentally push Jimmy Skunk down the hill in a barrel) and rather un-natural behavior (the "surprise party" held by the entire animal community for Peter Rabbit).

A particularly shocking moment occurs during the surprise party episode: Granny Fox leaves a dead meadow mouse for sick Peter Rabbit. This shows both a quintessential Burgess emphasis on universal love and forgiveness (even the fox has sympathy for the sick rabbit) and a particular strain of Burgess irony--the fox's complete inability to perspective-take, trapped in its species-determined worldview. (A more heartless author might have made that meadow mouse Danny.)

 The Quaddy commercial venture continued to expand in 1916 and the Kansas City Star had Ruby Short McKim design a series of quilt block patterns (Quaddie Quilties) featuring the Burgess characters. A story in the Kansas City Star on April 24 reported that Burgess had signed a contract with a Hollywood studio to produce movies based on his characters:
 The scenarios will follow as closely as possible many of the stories written by Mr. Burgess....The scenes will be worked out with great detail. Mr. Burgess will probably appear in several of the films.
As far as I know these films were never produced (I would love to be shown otherwise). The story also mentions that he had been busy recording stories for a set of records to be sold by Columbia. These would be released in 1918.

Farmer Brown's Boy

Farmer Brown's boy continued his growth as a young environmentalist, posting more anti-hunting signs, taking an active role in the protection of the mallard duck family, and even sheltering a young buck (in apparent defiance of game laws) during hunting season. At the same time, he occasionally slipped back into old patterns: chasing, while skating, a fox to the point of exhaustion and trying to pull a badger out of its hole by its tail. (He regrets both, the latter misbehavior explained by boyish impulsiveness).

We also get a glimpse, for the only time I can remember in the 50 years of Burgess stories, at a more romantic side of Farmer Brown's boy, seen from a distance through the eyes of a meadow mouse. (see illustration above). We never learn the name of the "prettiest girl" at the husking bee to whom Tommy Brown makes the gift of an old meadow mouse nest. 

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