Friday, September 28, 2012

Little Stories for Bedtime 1918


The Stories

Illustration for "The last of the Gray Terror" (January 10, 1918)
January 2 to January 11. After Mr. Goshawk takes one of Farmer Brown's boy's pet pigeons, Farmer Brown's boy shoots him (not fatally).
Illustration for "Thankfulness in the Old Orchard" (January 21, 1918)
January 12 to January 26. Peter Rabbit is shocked to discover Welcome Robin in the dead of winter. After an ice storm, the robins need help from Farmer Brown's boy. Bully the Sparrow proves an irritant. 
Illustration for "A snowy explosion" (January 29, 1918)
January 28 to January 29. Reddy Fox just misses catching Mrs. Grouse in the snow.
Illustration for "Black Pussy gets a shock" (January 31, 1918)
January 30 to February 1. Black Pussy discovers Shadow the Weasel in the barn. Robber the Rat decides it's time to move.
Illustration for "Johnny Chuck disappoints some friends" (February 2, 1918)
February 2. Johnny Chuck doesn't come out (for Ground Hog Day)
Illustration for "Robber drives himself back to the barn" (February 9, 1918)
February 4 to February 9. Robber the Rat moves to Farmer Brown's shed and Black Pussy is powerless to drive him away.
Illustration for "Reddy and Roughleg hunt together" (February 18, 1918).
February 11 to February 28. Reddy Fox and Roughleg the Hawk team up to try to catch Danny and Nanny Meadow Mouse. Then Blacky the Crow tries to use Old Man Coyote to catch him.
Illustration for "Chatterer tries to pick a quarrel" (March 5, 1918)
March 1 to March 11. Peter Rabbit learns about crossbills. The crossbills tell him about Whiskey Jack and Jill, the Canada Jays. 
Illustration for "Peter finds a real sign" (March  14, 1918)
March 12 to March 18. Peter Rabbit sees signs of spring and Danny and Nanny Meadow Mouse rejoice now that Roughleg the Hawk is gone.
Illustration for "The difference" (March 28, 1918)
March 19 to April 17. Jerry Muskrat is swept away by a flood and shot at by hunters but through the help of the Quacks, Peter Rabbit, and Farmer Brown's boy as well as his own natural fierceness when cornered, he makes it back to the Smiling Pool. 
Illustration for "In the nick of time" (April 27, 1918)
April 18 to April 27. Chatterer the Red Squirrel uses his tail to escape from the floodwaters.
Illustration for "Piper has a terrible fright" (May 7, 1918)
April 29 to May 14. Peter Rabbit learns about Piper the Hyla and protects him from predators.
Illustration for "Sammy Jay accuses Mrs. Jay" (May 16, 1918)
May 15 to May 21. Marital discord between Mr. and Mrs. Sammy Jay is resolved when Sammy saves his mate's life.
Illustration for "Doctor Whitefoot" (June 10, 1918)
May 22 to June 11. After Buster Bear steps on a loose porcupine quill he makes idle threats against Prickly Porky. It is up to Whitefoot the Wood Mouse to help Buster recover. Meanwhile what happens when Farmer Brown's boy pokes a porcupine with a stick?
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit and Slow Poke dine together" (June 17, 1918)
June 12 to July 8. Peter Rabbit learns about Slow Poke the Box Turtle and protects Mrs. Slow Poke's eggs from Jimmy Skunk and Unc' Billy Possum, to Jimmy's annoyance. 
Illustration for "The tender heart of Farmer Brown's boy" (July  26, 1918)
July 9 to July 27. Peter Rabbit makes friends with Nimble Heels the Jumping Mouse after he beats Peter in a jumping contest. Farmer Brown's boy makes friends with Nimble Heels after the mouse accidentally jumps up his pants leg.
Illustration for "Longlegs fights" (August 1, 1918)
July 29 to August 1. A trick played on Peter Rabbit turns dangerous, but Longlegs the Heron proves a hero.
Illustration for "Johnny Chuck has a terrible fright" (August 10, 1918)
August 2 to August 29. Johnny Chuck leaves Polly to make a new home. Close encounters with automobiles and foxes convince him to return home. Sammy Jay helps out.
Illustration for "Peter notices a funny smell" (September 9, 1918).
September 2 to September 10. Peter Rabbit makes friends with Short-tail the Shrew.
Illustration for "Reddy's smooth tongue" (September 30, 1918)
September 11 to October 31. Jerry Muskrat builds a new house and plays an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse with Reddy Fox. Reprinted in Jerry Muskrat at Home.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit gets a pain in the neck" (November 2, 1918)
November 1 to November 6. Peter Rabbit learns that birds migrate at night.
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy is carried away" (November 18, 1918)
November 7 to November 25. A giant bird terrorizes the Green Meadow and carries away Farmer Brown's boy. Peter Rabbit has a difficult time convincing everyone that it is man-made (an airplane). 
Illustration for "Happy Jack and Chatterer accuse each other" (December 7, 1918)
November 26 to December 10. Chestnut blight has made things difficult for the squirrels of the Green Forest. After Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Happy Jack raid each other's storehouses, Sammy Jay must be brought in to settle the conflict.
Illustration for "The Bob Whites get a square meal" (December 16, 1918)
December 11 to December 21. After the Bob Whites visit Farmer Brown's boy's feeding stations, Bully the English Sparrow makes a deal with Reddy Fox to get rid of them. 
Illustration for "Happy Jack's Christmas Tree" (December 24, 1918)
December 23 to December 24. Happy Jack's spirits improve when he sees the food-covered Christmas Tree in the Old Orchard.
Illustration for "An unpleasant double surprise" (December 30, 1918)
December 26 to December 31. Black Pussy goes hunting and learns how dangerous the outside world is. (Continued in 1919). 


In 1918 one can see the first explicit references to technology in Burgess's bedtime stories.  Johnny Chuck digs his new home too close to the road and is terrified by the passing of "monsters" (automobiles) and bothered by the amount of dust they raise. (Burgess would be quite concerned about the dangers of cars to wildlife generally in future years). Then the animal community is terrified by a "giant bird" that turns out to be an airplane piloted by Farmer Brown's cousin, allowed to use the Green Meadows as a landing strip. (This plane too would have an important role in future years).

1918 was a war year, and though Burgess only occasionally made allusions to the war in his bedtime stories (World War II would be different), this is the year he founded "Happy Jack's Thrift Club" through a set of stories featuring the gray squirrel and his "thrifty" friends. These special newspaper stories, which originally ran in March 1918, were not run under the "Little Stories for Bedtime" heading.

The essential unfairness of hunting was dramatized in an episode about Jerry Muskrat, in which he survives floodwaters only to be shot at by hunters in a boat. This, however, is the only strong anti-hunting moment of the year.

1918 also saw the emergence of a new source of conflict--marital discord, an oddly mature choice for stories targeted at children. (Actually, in 1917, Mrs. Peter Rabbit suspected her mate was having an affair, given the amount of time he was spending with the wild turkeys). In future years, as Burgess's stories became more and more naturalistic, mate separation would become a perennial feature of breeding season.

On July 9, 1918, Burgess celebrated his 2000th story. He claims the stories come from the "Merry Little Breezes."

Farmer Brown's Boy

As already mentioned in the 1917 post, Farmer Brown's boy makes the (now shocking) decision to shoot a goshawk. In an era that measured the value of birds by their "usefulness," accipiters, including sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper's hawks, and goshawks, which fed on song birds and the occasional chicken, were commonly labeled as vermin. The trap that Farmer Brown's boy sets up to attract Mr. Goshawk is also unusually cruel--he chooses a live hen that has "outlived her usefulness" as bait. Neither the hen nor the goshawk are actually killed.

Generally, though, Farmer Brown's boy remained a great friend to the animals, particularly birds. Indeed in 1918 Burgess frequently used Farmer Brown's boy as a kind of deus ex machina, several animal's lives spared when Farmer Brown's boy and/or his dog just happen to walk by. 

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