Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Little Stories for Bedtime 1920

The Stories

Illustration for "The angry trapper" (January 2, 1920)
January 2 to January 5. Farmer Brown's boy confiscates the poacher's traps and makes friends anew with Jerry Muskrat. (Continued from 1919).
Illustration for "The rats plan to kill Billy Mink" (January 13, 1920)
January 6 to February 7. Billy Mink hunts rats at a local farm. Reprinted in Billy Mink.
Illustration for "How Chatterer made his great jump" (February 13, 1920)
February 9 to February 14. Billy Mink pursues Chatterer the Red Squirrel, who makes a great jump to escape.


1920 was the last year Burgess would write "Little Stories for Bedtime" for Associated Newspapers. (This is explained elsewhere in greater detail). On February 17 Burgess would begin a new series, "Burgess Bedtime Stories," syndicated by the New York Tribune.

The Billy Mink episode represents a dark tonal shift for Burgess; it is easily his most bloody story line to this point. It is essentially a gangster story, with rats serving as the hoodlums and the mink as the police force (allied with a grateful farmer) charged with cleaning up the place. The difference is that while the rats plot to kill the mink, the mink tracks down and EATS THEM one by one. While Burgess allows no sympathy for the rats, it is still shocking to see sentient animals being massacred in a children's story.  Billy Mink, eight years earlier the boy-like trickster, has become a dark and dangerous character, a fact reinforced by his deadly pursuit of Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

The dark tone would not continue immediately in the new series, but would emerge again eventually.

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