Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1932

The Stories

January 1. (continued from 1931). Mrs. Reddy kills a foolish young grouse.

January 2 to January 5. Who is happier during the winter, Peter Rabbit or Prickly Porky?

January 6 to January 13. Farmer Brown's boy shelters Reddy Fox in his barn from hunters. When the hunters complain he lectures them on the usefulness of foxes and the delusions of hunters.

January 14 to January 16. When Yowler the Bobcat, desperate with hunger, attacks the deer family, Lightfoot fights back fiercely, even without antlers. 

January 18 to January 19. Jumper the Hare and Peter Rabbit foolishly envy each other.

January 20 to January 28. A desperately hungry Old Man Coyote makes Paddy the Beaver uncomfortable but Little Joe Otter has fish to spare.

January 29 to February 4. Peter's curiosity gets him trapped in the skunk den.

February 5 to March 3. Farmer Brown's boy is thrilled when barn owls nest in the barn and start eliminating rats. When the rats move away, "Monkey-face" goes after Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

March 4 to March 18. The sap is running and Tapper the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is there to take advantage. Meanwhile Chatterer the Red Squirrel's greed lands him in a sap bucket.

March 19 to March 29. Farmer Brown's boy accidentally brings Mrs. Whitefoot and her babies into the sugar house. The wood mice "drum" to find each other.

March 30 to April 13. Farmer Brown's boy protects Whitefoot from Shadow the Weasel (Chatterer the Red Squirrel gets in the way). Later Shadow irritates Yowler the Bobcat.

April 14 to May 20. Rising water concerns the beavers and leaves the muskrats homeless. Jerry parts ways with Mrs. Jerry and finds himself at the beaver pond, where he gets acquainted with Paddy the Beaver. After saving a young gander from Yowler the Bobcat, Jerry decides to make his way home over land, narrowly escaping Buster Bear and Old Man Coyote along the way.

May 21 to June 9. Old Mr. Toad experiences familiar troubles (a hole and a snake) on the way to the Smiling Pool but the Smiling Pool also proves to be a dangerous place. Grandfather Frog, "the glutton of the Smiling Pool," eats a frog and screams when he is almost eaten in turn by a watersnake.

June 10 to June 20. Bluffer the Adder changes his suit, to the delight of Cresty the Great Crested Flycatcher. Then Farmer Brown's boy teaches a companion that there is no need to fear Bluffer.

June 21 to July 7. Peter Rabbit and Jimmy Skunk commiserate when they are kicked out of their homes during child-rearing time. Mrs. Jimmy teaches her little skunks how to be safe and gives a dog a lesson in politeness. Unfortunately headstrong little Two-Stripes doesn't mind and gets eaten by an owl.

July 8 to July 23. Inky the young black skunk joins with Grunty the young opposum and Quilly the young porcupine to ward off predators. Farmer Brown's boy, wondering which animal is best equipped for defense, lifts Inky off the ground and pokes Quilly with a stick. 

July 25 to August 19. Chucky the young woodchuck learns how to defend himself.

August 20 to August 26. Flip learns not to chase Peter Rabbit after getting sprayed by Jimmy Skunk.

August 27 to September 15. Sally Sly the Cowbird makes her annual visit to the Old Orchard. This time egg hungry Striped Chipmunk inadvertently helps out the vireos and Mr. and Mrs. Chippy end up raising the cowbird chick. Farmer Brown's boy keeps the real chipping sparrow chicks from harm. 

September 16 to September 19. Peter Rabbit learns about dragonfly metamorphosis.

September 20 to September 30. Reddy and Mrs. Reddy try unsuccessfully to find Mrs. Lightfoot's fawn.

October 1 to October 19. A grouse hunter trespasses on Brown land and kills three "heedless" young grouse. Mrs. Grouse saves another who's been wounded from dogs and Reddy Fox.  Later the brother of the wounded grouse gets caught by Terror the Goshawk because he hadn't been practicing "tree dodging" diligently.

October 20 to October 25. Peter Rabbit witnesses an army of caterpillars marching across the Green Meadows. Farmer Brown and his son stop them before they can get to the cornfield.

October 26 to November 14. Mrs. Peter tries to keep five little bunnies (Headstrong, Timid, Obedient, Heedless, and Wilful) safe after being forced from the Old Briar Patch because of army worm damage. They stop at the Old Stone Wall, where Peter Rabbit and Johnny Chuck discuss the virtues of Reddy Fox and discover that he likes to eat grapes. Later Wilful Bunny runs away and is killed by Hooty the Owl.

November 15 to December 2. It's beechnut time in the Green Forest and the squirrels and deer and bear compete for nuts. Buster is impressed when Lightfoot tries to trample Buzztail the Rattlesnake.

December 3 to December 12. Bobby Coon gets caught in a steel trap. Farmer Brown's boy nurses him back to health.

December 13 to December 17. Peter Rabbit learns about the amazing journey of Mrs. Eel.

December 19 to December 31. Little Joe Otter and his family arrive at the Smiling Pool and fend off Old Man Coyote. (continued in 1933).


1932 was another grim year in the world of Burgess, with the grouse family singled out for special punishment. Five were killed, some in relatively graphic detail, by hunters and predators. A young rabbit and a young skunk were also "never to be seen again." Other characters (including Grandfather Frog and Chatterer the Red Squirrel) were saved in the nick of time because Farmer Brown's boy just happened to come on the scene.

In general, though, 1932 was a rather familiar year, as Burgess continued to repeat certain situations and scenarios, some rather specific (teasing Bluffer the Adder, rescuing Old Mr. Toad from a hole, Sally Sly visiting the Old Orchard,  poachers hunting grouse on Brown land, Bobby Coon being nursed by Farmer Brown's boy) others markers of particular seasons (Lightfoot's antlers fall off, the sap starts running, the beechnuts open and drop).  This does not necessarily represent a loss of creative inspiration on Burgess's part, rather his stories had slipped into a kind of seasonal rhythm, the main patterns repeating but specific details changing.

The anti-hunting theme returned strongly in 1932, beginning with a direct confrontation between Farmer Brown's boy and hunters pursuing Reddy Fox. This was an opportunity, once again for Burgess to defend the virtues of certain animals labeled as "vermin" (this problem persists to this day in certain parts of the country) and confront so-called "sportsmen" with their own unfair practices. Farmer Brown's boy had been portrayed in this situation previously but this was his most forceful statement yet.   Goose hunters and (of course) grouse hunters were also subject to special criticism.

In the 1930s Burgess led a successful movement to have steel traps banned in Massachusetts. The figure of the suffering raccoon caught in a trap was a key image in the campaign, giving the 1932 Bobby Coon episode special meaning.

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