Monday, November 5, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1935

The Stories

January 1 to January 12. Buster Bear is after Bobby Coon. Will Prickly Porky help?

January 14 to February 2. Ladderback the Three-toed Woodpecker tells tales of the North, including stories about Pekan the Fisher, Spite the Marten, and Glutton the Wolverine.

February 4 to February 9. Farmer Brown's boy is astonished to discover that the source of mysterious singing is a house mouse. 

February 11 to February 16. Blacky the Crow is too wise to be fooled by a decoy owl set up by hunters. Two of his compatriots aren't as lucky. 

February 18 to March 9. After slaughtering chickens in a hen-house, Gray Fox finds himself caught in a steel trap and must decide whether to lose toes or his life.

March 11 to April 18. Johnny Chuck avoids Reddy Fox and must fight off an impudent young chuck. 

April 19 to April 25. Jimmy Skunk defends Reddy Fox from a dog. 

April 26 to May 3. Johnny Chuck, Peter Rabbit, and Jimmy Skunk discuss the nature of paternity.

May 4 to May 15. The foxes move their den after a young trapper discovers their home. 

May 16 to May 31. The tables are turned when Redtail the Hawk chases rabbit-chasing Flip. Then Farmer Brown's boy intervenes to protect Peter Rabbit from Shadow the Weasel. 

June 1 to June 26. Old Mr. Toad changes his suit and digs in the earth to escape Mr. Blacksnake's notice. Then he meets Stickytoes the Tree Frog and they chat about clothes. 

June 27 to July 6. There is a fire caused by drought (Sticktoes is blamed again) and a cigarette carelessly tossed from a car. King Eagle reports that men have extinguished the fire. (Partially reprinted in The Crooked Little Path).

July 8 to July 14. Reddy Fox feeds his children before himself. 

July 15 to July 27. Unc' Billy Possum uses his "playing dead" trick on consecutive occasions. 

July 29 to August 3. A cat rides on Reddy Fox's back. Later Reddy discovers he likes to swim.

August 5 to August 8. Bobby Coon feasts on turtle eggs and clams.

August 9 to August 15. Grandfather Frog, who isn't as wise as folks think he is, alerts predators to his presence. Jerry Muskrat learns frogs can breathe through their skins. (Partially reprinted in At the Smiling Pool).

August 16 to August 22. Mrs. Timmy moves her children when Farmer Brown's boy appears. Later the young flying squirrels learn how to glide. (Partially reprinted in The Crooked Little Path).

August 23 to August 24. Hooty the Owl realizes he wasn't hungry for porcupine after all. 

August 26 to August 31. Chatterer wants to know who is the most "independent" animal: skunk, porcupine, or bear.

September 2 to September 12. Blacky the Crow eats Mrs. Quack's eggs. 

September 13 to October 5. Wood Duck ducklings get picked off one by one by a variety of Smiling Pool predators. [Only six of twelve survive]

October 7 to October 16. Striped Chipmunk collects watermelon seeds and dodges predators. 

October 17 to November 2. Peter Rabbit's friends gather to ward off enemies after his leg is stuck under a fallen rock. Farmer Brown's boy eventually saves the day.

November 4 to November 23. "Gangster" dogs chase the deer. Only one of the fawn twins, Slimlegs, survives. Later Slimlegs watches as a hunter kills his father's rival. 

November 25 to November 30. Welcome Robin and Winsome Bluebird decide to stay the winter. 

December 2 to December 10. Rattles the Kingfisher gets a clam caught on his bill. Later Blacky the Crow figures out how to open the clam.

December 11 to December 13. Hooty the Owl demonstrates how his hunting call helps flush prey. 

December 14 to December 31. A crow mob keeps Buster Bear from sleeping. Later Whitefoot the Mouse moves in. (continued in 1936).


The grim mood continued in 1935. The Wood Ducks lost half of their twelve children (the serial loss of ducklings to predators is a nature story trope that Burgess had not engaged until this point but would from this point on). And Lightfoot the Deer, in one of Burgess's most suspenseful tales, lost a child to marauding dogs. (The negligence of dog owners in allowing their pets to chase wildlife in packs was a major Burgess concern).

Lightening the the mood a little bit was Farmer Brown's boy's discovery of a singing house mouse. The fact that wood mice can sing had been disclosed in a series of stories a couple of years previously. But the singing house mouse had become a Burgess obsession, which he discusses at length in his autobiography. Apparently it is not rare for a mouse to sing but unusual for the song to fall within a frequency audible to humans.

Farmer Brown's boy was once again important in several storylines but not at the center of everything. And the anti-hunting theme was also present but relatively subdued, except for the friends of Blacky the Crow (duped by a owl decoy) and Lightfoot's rival (whose death is seen in some graphic detail by Lightfoot's son, Slimlegs).

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