Saturday, December 15, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1955

The Stories

January 1 to January 17. (continued from 1954) Farmer Brown's boy rescues grouse caught under the ice crust. 

January 18 to January 29. Dipper the Grebe stays too long and runs out of open water. King Eagle and Graywing the Gull covet his fish.

January 31 to February 4. The animals prepare for a bad storm. Peter Rabbit and Jerry Muskrat pity each other unnecessarily.

February 5 to February 22. Peter Rabbit is surprised to discover Welcome Robin singing during the winter. The robin's singing attracts Hooty the Owl, who is already nesting. 

February 23 to March 22. After a spring flood bursts the beaver dam, the beavers must rebuild it, while dodging Old Man Coyote.

March 23 to April 11. Peter Rabbit studies a dandelion and helps Queen Bumble.

April 12 to April 29. Longbill the Woodcock and Thunderer the Grouse show off. Everyone watches the drumming contest between the male grouses; predators show particular interest.

April 30 to May 11. Old Mr. Toad sings at the Smiling Pool. 

May 12 to May 18. There are a number of surprising things about Teeter the Spotted Sandpiper.

May 19 to May 27. Snapper the Turtle eats a duckling and a young muskrat.

May 28 to June 18. Rattles the Kingfisher has a big family (in the sand pit this time). Meanwhile Plunger also complains about the size of his family (and as usual has to pay tribute to King Eagle). 

June 20 to July 27. Gray Fox must teach his children how to hunt, climb trees, and be safe. Later a "venturesome" fox cub climbs the wrong tree, one with a red-tailed hawk's nest in it.

July 28 to August 11. Little Miss Elver the Eel must learn about the dangers of the Smiling Pool.

August 12 to September 2. Little Snowfoot the Wood Mouse takes a voyage in a tin can during a storm-created flood. Upon landing he gets advice from Little Friend the Song Sparrow.

September 3 to October 1. Jerry Muskrat is concerned that the water level in the Smiling Pool is too low. He learns from Little Joe Otter that beavers upstream are making a new pond. A sudden storm breaks the dam and fills the Smiling Pool again. Jerry joins his children in using his sharp teeth to ward off predators. 

October 3 to November 16. Young Reddy tries to catch frogs like a raccoon. Then Young Reddy foolishly plans revenge on Qwauk the Night Heron after the heron catches his frog (a young risk-taking frog, "Young Mr. Know-it-all"). Then Young Reddy learns indirectly to respect skunks. Later Reddy teaches him tricks to avoid dogs and hunters (including the "sheep trick"). 

November 17 to December 11. Hunters are back terrorizing the Green Forest (though Buster Bear gets in a little revenge). Thunderer and Mrs. Grouse must keep a wounded young grouse safe. 

December 12 to December 23. Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare must cope with Whitey the Snowy Owl and Gray Fox. 

December 24. There is a peaceful soundscape on Christmas Eve.

December 26 to December 28. Blacky the Crow resents competition from Croaker the Raven. 

December 29 to December 31. Timmy the Flying Squirrel finds himself trapped in his hole after an ice storm. (continued in 1956)


In January of 1955 Farmer Brown's boy set out to rescue grouse caught under the ice crust after an ice storm. After rescuing the grouse he disappeared from Burgess's stories for the rest of the year, not appearing in any story in any way until March 1956.  This would be the longest absence of the character in the 50 years of Burgess stories. Indeed, while Farmer Brown's boy would still appear regularly after 1956, he would have a diminished role, particularly compared to his centrality in the 1920s and 1930s.  Apparently the animals of the Green Forest and Green Meadows could take care of themselves.

Because Christmas was on a Sunday in 1955, we actually have access to a 1950s Burgess Christmas story (run on Christmas Eve)! Christmas, it would appear, was the rare time Burgess allowed fairyland into his stories during what was largely a period of naturalism.
Over in the Old Pasture Reddy Fox and Mrs. Reddy had just started out hunting. They stopped. They sat down and listened. Deep in the Green Forest on a rocky ledge, Yowler the Bobcat listened also. So did Old Man Coyote. Somehow they all forgot that they were hungry.  
It was a sound that carried far in the stilly night. It was a sound of such lovely sweetness that the very trees seemed to be listening. It was the sound of bells softened by distance, but silvery clear. They were coming from the church in the village and somehow it seemed as if they were ringing of themselves. It was almost as if they were fairy bells. They were sending forth a message of joy, a message of hope, a message of peace, that made itself felt throughout the Green Forest and over the Green Meadows. 
The trees began to whisper among themselves despite the bare limbs. And the whispering was of happiness for on every twig were the leaf-buds of spring. Hooty the Owl hunted no more that night. Neither did Reddy Fox and Mrs. Reddy, nor Old Man Coyote, nor Yowler the Bobcat, nor any other of the Green Forest hunters, so that there was no fear among the smaller folk. The spirit of peace wrapped all the earth. It was the night before Christmas. 
Fairy bells and whispering trees, indeed!

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