Sunday, September 30, 2012

Little Stories for Bedtime 1919

The Stories

Illustration for "An old friend appears" (January 8, 1919)
January 2 to January 10. (continued from 1920) Black Pussy is trapped in a tree between a porcupine (above) and a coyote (below). Bowser the Hound comes to the rescue.
Illustration for "Bowser is a prisoner" (February 5, 1919)
January 11 to March 1. Old Man Coyote tricks Bowser and gets him lost in the Green Forest.  Blacky the Crow uses Reddy Fox's desire for a fat hen to bring Bowser and Farmer Brown's boy together again. Reprinted in Bowser the Hound
Illustration for "Peter grows very, very bold" (March 19, 1919)
March 3 to March 24. Farmer Brown's boy destroys the great horned owls' nest. The owls move to an old red-tailed hawk nest. Peter Rabbit, not expecting them in the new place, finds himself trapped. Meanwhile he stumbles upon Buster Bear's winter sleeping spot.
Illustration for "Prickly Porky feels disgraced" (March 28, 1919)
March 25 to April 16. After Prickly Porky loses his quills getting tangled in an old sweater, Buster Bear seeks revenge for old slights. Buster gets more than he bargained for.
Illustration for "Buster Bear gets his stomach warmed" (April 23, 1919)
April 17 to April 29. After Farmer Brown's boy discovers Buster Bear has been drinking from his sap buckets, he fixes things so that Buster will never be tempted to drink from them again.
Illustration for "The end of Whitefoot's worries" (May 3, 1919)
April 30 to May 7. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse makes friends with Farmer Brown's boy in the sugar house. Reprinted in Whitefoot the Wood Mouse.
Illustration for "The joy that was turned to rage" (May 9, 1919)
May 8 to May 10. The red-tailed hawk couple are upset that owls have claimed their old nest. 
Illustration for "Peter learns some things about Creaker the Grackle" (July 9, 1919)
May 12 to September 27. Peter Rabbit learns about birds. Reprinted as The Burgess Bird Book for Children.
Illustration for "Nanny Meadow Mouse is worried"   (October 14, 1919)
September 29 to October 25. Danny Meadow Mouse discovers the Smiling Pool is a very dangerous place for him.
Illustration for "Visitors to Paddy's Pond" (November 11, 1919)
October 27 to December 9. A long two-part episode featuring Lightfoot the Deer. In the first, Lightfoot joins with Paddy the Beaver to avoid a hunter and is eventually sheltered by a kind farmer. In the second, Lightfoot finds a mate and fights off a rival. Reprinted in Lightfoot the Deer.
Illustration for "Billy Mink finds some queer fences" (December 13, 1919)

December 10 to December 31. A trapper has made the Smiling Pool and Laughing Brook too dangerous for minks and otters, who leave. Jerry Muskrat is nearly caught and loses his trust of humans. Farmer Brown's boy is furious. Reprinted in Billy Mink and Jerry Muskrat at Home. Continued in 1920. 


1919 featured fewer and longer extended narratives than previous years, some later published as lengthy books. The largest block of stories, from mid-May to the end of September, effectively comprised the first draft of The Burgess Bird Book for Children, published the following year.  The bird book has a good reputation, and may rank among Burgess's most successful works, but its stories are rather different in form than the typical Burgess bedtime story and I wonder if daily newspaper story readers eventually tired of its seemingly endless descriptions of bird species. And poor Harrison Cady, who generally drew generic "birds" when faced with the job of illustrating bird characters, was not exactly suited for the task of representing species-level distinctions (Louis Agassiz Fuertes would provide new illustrations for the book). 

Thornton Burgess's anti-hunting theme resumed with a vengeance in 1919. Hunters stalked Lightfoot the Deer and a poacher set traps along the Smiling Pond and the Laughing Brook.

A great deal of action revolved around the sugar house, Farmer Brown's boy's seasonal home in the Green Forest: Prickly Porky's mishap, Whitefoot the Wood Mouse's adventure (he had been living there) and Buster Bear's encounter with hot peppered maple syrup.

Farmer Brown's Boy

Farmer Brown's boy continued to be a fierce defender of his animal friends, showing real rage when he discovers the poacher's traps (he confiscates them and leaves a note telling the poacher where to find them). He is especially distressed when he realizes the traps have damaged his relationship with Jerry Muskrat. On the other hand, when it comes to protecting Lightfoot the Deer, it is another figure, an unnamed farmer, who takes the role of guardian and hunter-scold. Farmer Brown's boy is no longer the only human who cares for the animal world.

Farmer Brown's boy also continued to intervene to protect his friends from animal predators: he tears down a great-horned owl nest and takes their eggs.  In this case, however, Burgess ironized Farmer Brown's boy's actions. Instead of making his friends more safe, he has made their world more difficult. The owls simply move, disrupting the lives of the red-tailed hawk couple (they are "good" hawks) whose nest they steal, and putting Peter Rabbit into danger as he accidentally stumbles across the new nesting area (the animals knew where the old area was and avoided it). Thus Farmer Brown's boy is not merely Burgess's mouthpiece. His ardor also causes him to make the occasional instructive mistake.

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