Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1957

The Stories

January 1 to January 12. Farmer Brown's boy leaves a hen out for Reddy Fox to celebrate the New Year. Then Reddy pursues Starnose the Mole and is astonished to find out he can swim under water. Later Reddy watches muskrats and mink feed and fight under the ice.

January 14 to January 31. Blacky the Crow watches with envy as Ringneck the Pheasant feeds on Farmer Brown's boy's seed. Farmer Brown's boy leaves an ear of corn out for Blacky but Chatterer the Red Squirrel steals it. Blacky wins when Farmer Brown's boy squirrel-proofs the corn, Black Pussy chases Chatterer, and Chatterer's storehouse bursts. 

February 1 to February 2. Peter is startled to find Johnny Chuck awake. But Johnny has no idea whether the cold weather will continue or not. 

February 4 to February 9. Reddy Fox eats frozen apples then stalks Black Pussy and steals his meadow mouse. 

February 11 to February 20. Young Bucky is proud of his antlers but ashamed when they fall off. He feels better when he learns Lightfoot loses his as well. 

February 21 to March 30. Who has the earliest babies in the Green Forest? Bears, not great-horned owls. The bear cubs, Chubby, Tubbie, and Cubby, are told to stay away from the tree where Little Hoot and Little Toot are being raised but do they listen? Later Young Hoot learns the hard way that porcupines and huge snakes are to be avoided. 

April 1 to April 17. The Red-tailed Hawks make a new nest (the owls took their old one). Then Harrier the Marsh Hawk threatens the rabbit babies.

April 18 to May 4. Welcome Robin and Old Mr. Toad compete for worms driven to the surface by Miner to Mole.

May 6 to May 31. There is excitement in the Old Orchard as tree swallows and bluebirds put aside their quarrel and join together to force out the house sparrows. Then the barn swallows appear and Farmer Brown's boy puts out white feathers for the tree swallows. Mrs. Cresty wants snakeskin for her nest while Mrs. Chippy wants hair. Scrapper the Kingbird arrives and drives away Blacky the Crow.

June 1 to June 28. There is a scandal in the Old Orchard as Sally Sly, unsuccessful in placing an egg with the yellow warblers or wood pewees (Sammy Jay eats it), lays her egg in Mrs. Redeye the Vireo's nest. Later when Black Pussy scares the fledgling cowbird away, Sally Sly leads him to the cow pasture.

July 1 to July 17. The Goldies (Baltimore Orioles) drink the hummingbird sugar water and eat donuts and incorporate colorful yarn into their nest. Meanwhile Chatterer tries to get their eggs but is mobbed and knocked off the tree. He lands on Black Pussy and takes a ride on his back. 

July 18 to July 31. Sunshine the Yellow Warbler and Zee Zee the Redstart tell Tommy Tit about the birds of Trinidad.

August 1 to August 25. Mrs. Grouse is able to protect her eggs from Reddy Fox but is less lucky with her ten little chicks. Chickie, one of the remaining seven, gets his leg caught but is rescued when his mother fetches Farmer Brown's boy.

August 26 to September 4. Old Mr. Toad and Little Mr. Green Snake both change their suits but only Mr. Toad eats his. Then Old Mr. Toad and Peter Rabbit hang out and Peter admires the toad's tongue.

September 5 to September 21. Timmy the Flying Squirrel and Flitter the Bat agree that Timmy glides and doesn't really fly. Then Timmy finds himself stranded on the beaver lodge after an exceptionally long jump. Paddy gives him a tow back to shore.

September 23 to October 23. Paddy the Beaver, restless at home, goes on an adventure. He shares clover with Peter Rabbit, meets Little Joe Otter on the Big River, gets chased by Buster Bear, warns Mrs. Lightfoot about Yowler the Bobcat, and finally has Blacky the Crow give him directions home. 

October 24 to November 4. Everyone in the Green Forest is frightened by a strange shrieking scream. Reddy Fox is the source, it turns out.

November 5 to November 8. Croaker the Raven encounters Mrs. Flathorns the Moose and her calf at a pond in blossom.

November 9 to November 20. Reddy Fox eats all sorts of unusual things, including sand, apples, grapes, and earthworms. 

November 21 to November 23. Tommy Tit takes a sip from the hummingbird cup.

November 25 to December 24. Chatterer the Red Squirrel must find a new home after Farmer Brown chops down his tree. He makes it into his new hole just in time to avoid Spite the Marten. Spite has confrontations with Reddy Fox and Billy Mink and is rocked out of a tree by Buster Bear.

December 25. Christmas brings peace to the Green Forest, at least temporarily. 

December 26 to December 31. Pekan the Fisher appears and chases Jumper the Hare but hurts his leg in the process. (continued in 1958).


In many ways 1957 was a rather familiar year for Burgess stories. Burgess returned for a short time to the fauna of Trinidad, we learned yet again that owls nest extremely early in the year, and Old Mr. Toad changed and ate his suit. There was probably more attention paid to bird-life than usual and readers learned more than usual about the red fox's opportunistic diet. 

The major difference in 1957 was the almost total absence of (human) hunters. Along with the relative decline of Burgess's use of Farmer Brown's boy seemed to come a decline in some of the more strident anti-hunting and environmental messages seen in previous years. Burgess seemed to content to finish his years concentrating on animal facts and spinning stories about his characters. 

Also of note was the beginning of a little slippage in Burgess's formerly rigid story-season correspondence. In November, for example, he depicted a "pond in blossom," as a background for a moose-raven episode. This trend would intensify as Burgess's series neared its end. 

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