Sunday, December 23, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1959

The Stories

January 1 to January 16. Buster Bear breaks into the sugar house before settling down to sleep under a snow blanket. Meanwhile Reddy and Gray Fox jump when they catch the scent of Mother Bear and her new babies.

January 17 to January 24. Little Woody the Wood Mouse foolishly thinks he's safe because Buster Bear is sleeping close by his house.

January 26 to February 16. Rusty the Fox Squirrel moves because he fears (justifiably) that his tree won't last the winter. Yowler the Bobcat plans to catch him in his new nest until Tufty the Lynx interferes. After Tufty steals his hen, Yowler puts a dog on his trail, driving the Lynx from the Green Forest for good.

February 17 to February 23. Mrs. Grouse eats Chatterer the Red Squirrel's nuts.

February 24 to February 26. Danny Meadow Mouse wishes there was snow on the ground all year long. 

February 27 to March 6. It's Spooky the Screech Owl's turn to be trapped in a hole after an ice storm. Farmer Brown's boy comes to the rescue. 

March 7 to March 23. Crows mob Chatterer the Red Squirrel when he tries to get crow eggs but their mobbing action turns tragic when they try it on Mrs Hooty.

March 24 to April 3. King Eagle watches Reddy Fox do his silly duck catching dance. Then steals his duck. Later Reddy gets even by stealing a fish dropped by an osprey in tribute to eagle.

April 4 to April 18. Sharpshin the Hawk can't figure out where the bluebirds are nesting (a hole in a fence post). 

April 20 to May 1. Mrs. Woodcock attacks Peter Rabbit for giving away the location of her nest. 

May 2 to May 21. Peter Rabbit asks Johnny Chuck a lot of questions about hole digging, then is surprised to learn that woodchucks eat cherries, and even grasshoppers on occasion.

May 22 to June 23. Little Jerry Junior learns to fear Snapper the Turtle after he sees him kill a duckling and then his little sister. Later Mrs. Snapper leaves the Smiling Pool to lay eggs. Jimmy Skunk gets there before Bobby Coon. 

June 24 to July 21. Mrs. Possum hisses at Peter Rabbit when he tries to follow her. He admires her tail. Then Peter asks Unc' Billy to teach him how to play dead. Peter gets a scary demonstration when a dog shakes a "dead" Unc' Billy. Peter is not very skillful at playing dead himself.

July 22 to August 1. Big Bully the Dog needs two bouts with Prickly Porky to learn to avoid him. Later, "not wholly stupid," he infers that skunks are not to be messed with when Prickly steps aside for Jimmy Skunk and decides that a buzzing rattle means a rattlesnake is dangerous.  

August 3 to September 16. Reddy Fox, who must provide for his new family, leads a dog away but finds his path blocked by a rattlesnake. Later six little foxes go to school on the Old Pasture. Little Red shows hunting talent. Then his father teaches him tricks to avoid dogs. Finally he is ready for independence. 

September 17 to September 29. Young Bob White, wounded by a hunter, stays in the Old Briar Patch. Then a stalking Black Pussy is frightened by an explosion of bobwhites.

September 30 to October 7. Johnny Chuck, chased by a dog and too fat to run, choose to fight. Jimmy Skunk helps out, in exchange for using old woodchuck holes in the winter. 

October 8 to October 21. Farmer Brown's boy rescues Sooty the Chimney Swift after he wets his wings in the river water. 

October 22 to November 2. Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse is ready to go to sleep but gets one last jump in over the head of Black Pussy.

November 3 to November 18. Instead of moving Striped Chipmunk decides to simply rearrange his house when Shadow the Weasel shows up. Then he gossips with Polly Chuck about winter preparations.

November 19 to December 12. Peter Rabbit visits Lightfoot the Deer and watches him fight a rival. The rival bucks get their antlers locked but the sudden appearance of Buster Bear and a lucky twist frees them. Later Buster wanders all the way around Great Mountain. 

December 14 to December 28. Young Bob becomes "Crippy" after he loses his leg in a trap. On Christmas a young trapper finds the leg, vows never to set another trap, and leaves food for the raccoon.

December 29 to December 31. A big snow storm makes hunting hard for foxes. (continued in 1960).


1959 was the last full year of new Burgess stories, though there was little sign that the series was coming to an end. Rather stories continued as they had in the past few years, a lot of repetition and a few new ideas. There was a return to explicitly humorous moments (more common in the earliest years than lately) with Peter Rabbit foolishly trying to play dead like Unc' Billy Possum (akin to his failed attempts to hibernate and be thrifty) and Buster Bear going wandering and finding that he had just made a giant circle. It is also worth noting a rather gruesome Christmas story, Burgess's last, centered around the discovery of a disembodied raccoon leg in a trap, though the present for the Green Forest would be the end of the young trapper's trapping career.

In 1959 Peter Rabbit's incessant curiosity (fueled, as Burgess himself indicated, by a staggering level of forgetfulness) was met with hostility at least twice. This had been a trend in Burgess stories, as Peter tried to discover things (particularly nesting locations) that were supposed to be secret. In 1959 Mrs. Woodcock actually attacked him (Mrs. Possum merely hissed at him). And in fact Mrs. Woodcock had been justified because Peter effectively led potential predators straight to her hiding place. It is worth reflecting on the pros and cons of his curiosity. On the one hand, Peter's constant need to know modeled an eager student and allowed Burgess to teach nature facts.  On the other hand, to the extent that some degree of secrecy is necessary in the animal kingdom, it might be possible to know too much--or more than is in the best interest of the animal. 

1 comment: