Sunday, November 25, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1945

The Stories

January 1 to January 13. Peter Rabbit falls in a deep hole. Blacky the Crow expresses dismay that Peter is simply "going to waste." Flip, alerted by crows, finds Peter and fetches Farmer Brown's boy.

January 15 to January 17. Farmer Brown and his boy are thinning out trees in the Green Forest. Chatterer the Red Squirrel is indignant while Mrs. Grouse likes the brush piles produced by felled trees.

January 18 to February 13. Chatterer the Red Squirrel uses his wits to reclaim his tree hole from Saw-whet the Acadian Owl. Then Chatterer moves into the Old Orchard to avoid Shadow the Weasel. After he starts feeding from the corn crib, Farmer Brown's boy puts out corn ears for him. 

February 14 to March 7. Getting enough food is tough for many animals during the winter, particularly Reddy and Mrs. Reddy Fox. Lightfoot's family, having exhausted the food in their yard, is also starving. Meanwhile, Little Joe Otter is doing fine. Reddy steals his fish. (Partially reprinted in The Crooked Little Path).

March 8 to March 10. Spring begins to arrive. The deer are delighted while Danny Meadow Mouse grumbles. 

March 12 to March 17. Buster Bear awakes. Peter Rabbit is lucky that Buster doesn't have an appetite right away.

March 19 to March 20. Lightfoot's antler buds cause him some discomfort, but it's worth it.

March 21 to March 24. Peter worries that many birds have migrated north too soon. He is right--a storm kills many, despite Farmer Brown's boy's food supply. 

March 26 to April 3. Unc' Billy Possum explains some things. He disagrees with Reddy Fox about child-rearing. 

April 4 to April 28. A flood strands many animals on rafts. Some rafts land at the Old Briar Patch. Reddy Fox tries to take advantage of the flood to get himself a young muskrat. 

April 30 to May 9. Danny Meadow Mouse moves into a jug, which he thinks is a perfect home until a snake shows up. 

May 10 to May 12. Black Pussy (now a male cat) gives up on chasing Nimbleheels the Jumping Mous
May 14 to May 22. "General Tommy" checks his "allies" (Bob White, Tommy Tit, Jimmy Skunk) in the war against harmful insects (especially Japanese beetles). 

May 23 to June 4. Whitefoot and Mrs. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse move to a bird's nest to avoid snakes. And Shadow the Weasel.

June 5 to June 13. Everyone is afraid Striped Chipmunk has been killed when Shadow the Weasel enters his home. Striped Chipmunk reveals he had simply "closed a door."

June 14. Farmer Brown's boy invites readers to join "Peter Rabbit's Army" and buy extra War Stamps or Bonds.

June 15 to July 7. Jenny Wren breaks English Sparrow eggs to try to get them to leave the Old Orchard. Then Peter Rabbit learns all about marsh wrens.

July 9 to July 17. Mrs. Grouse uses Farmer Brown's boy to drive away Reddy Fox.

July 18 to July 24. Mrs. Happy Jack makes peace with her rival Mrs. Ragtail after she battles Black Pussy. [a "true story"]

July 25 to August 7. Peter Rabbit observes a bee colony and meets lazy (and doomed) Brother Drone, dependent on welfare. 

August 8 to August 16. Peter Rabbit learns about bats.

August 17 to August 25. Peter Rabbit learns about snails.

August 27 to September 5. Little Jimmy Junior follows in his father's footsteps and gets his head stuck in a jar. Farmer Brown's boy shows people (who were going to kill the skunk) that removing the jar is easy and risk-free. Later an owl kills Little Jimmy Junior's brother. 

September 6 to September 28. A smart young fox matches wits with a smart young chuck. The chuck's mother helps him out while the fox recruits his brother for assistance. 

September 29. What is is more important, good eyes, good ears, or a good nose?

October 1 to October 4. Hummer the Hummingbird is a great show-off and not a very helpful father.

October 5 to October 24. After being mistakenly considered a chicken thief, a young fox must learn how to trick pursuing dogs.

October 25 to November 2. A bad acorn crop brings Happy Jack to the Old Orchard. Chatterer the Red Squirrel has a stash of dried mushrooms and pine cones so he doesn't go.

November 3 to December 11. The fawn twins learn many things, including the importance of respecting skunks. Meanwhile Lightfoot escapes from a hunter by submerging himself in the Smiling Pool. A hunter tries to convince Farmer Brown's boy that hunting is needed to prevent the overpopulation and starvation of deer.

December 12 to December 22. Flying squirrels and hares frolic in the moonlight. Hooty and Reddy fight over a young hare.
December 24 to December 31. Peter Rabbit learns that what happens far up north affects what happens near him. For example, snowy owl numbers.


1945 featured what was probably Burgess's most fully realized use of war imagery in his nature stories, as "General Tommy" surveyed his allies in the war against harmful insects (and pitched War Stamps). This was a set of figures that dated back to Burgess's WWI stories, particularly his Green Meadow Bird Sanctuaries campaigns. Bob White, the bird with the "good American name," represented the spirit of freedom; Tommy Tit, Yank Yank the Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpecker were Old Orchard "MP"s; the swallows and nighthawks were the day and evening "allied air force." "Corporal Jimmy" (he had two stripes) helped stem the "invasion" of Japanese beetles, and Farmer Brown's boy recruited new toad allies at the Smiling Pool. The idea that wars were ultimately won on the home-front had been a strong WWI theme; in these stories Burgess provided an outlet for younger readers who couldn't serve in the military to contribute to the war effort. On June 14, Burgess introduced a new club, "Peter Rabbit's Army," with the explicit goal of increasing the sales of War Bonds and Stamps.

Generally speaking Farmer Brown's boy resumed a place of relative centrality in the 1945 stories. The anti-hunting theme was subdued. While Burgess was as critical as ever of dog owners who allowed their pets to chase wildlife, he introduced a measure of doubt into his previously rigid anti-deer hunting stance. In one story one of Tommy's friends has just loaded up a buck onto his car and shows a dismayed Farmer Brown's boy that it is not Lightfoot (now a legendary deer too smart for hunters). When Tommy begins to criticize, his friend fires back that some hunting is in the deer's best interest, better than the starvation (which Burgess had dramatized in many winter stories) that comes with overpopulation. While Tommy admits that he himself could never bring himself to shoot such a beautiful animal, he does give on that point. Burgess's title for the story: "The Hunter was Right."

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