Sunday, September 30, 2012

Little Stories for Bedtime 1919

The Stories

Illustration for "An old friend appears" (January 8, 1919)
January 2 to January 10. (continued from 1920) Black Pussy is trapped in a tree between a porcupine (above) and a coyote (below). Bowser the Hound comes to the rescue.
Illustration for "Bowser is a prisoner" (February 5, 1919)
January 11 to March 1. Old Man Coyote tricks Bowser and gets him lost in the Green Forest.  Blacky the Crow uses Reddy Fox's desire for a fat hen to bring Bowser and Farmer Brown's boy together again. Reprinted in Bowser the Hound
Illustration for "Peter grows very, very bold" (March 19, 1919)
March 3 to March 24. Farmer Brown's boy destroys the great horned owls' nest. The owls move to an old red-tailed hawk nest. Peter Rabbit, not expecting them in the new place, finds himself trapped. Meanwhile he stumbles upon Buster Bear's winter sleeping spot.
Illustration for "Prickly Porky feels disgraced" (March 28, 1919)
March 25 to April 16. After Prickly Porky loses his quills getting tangled in an old sweater, Buster Bear seeks revenge for old slights. Buster gets more than he bargained for.
Illustration for "Buster Bear gets his stomach warmed" (April 23, 1919)
April 17 to April 29. After Farmer Brown's boy discovers Buster Bear has been drinking from his sap buckets, he fixes things so that Buster will never be tempted to drink from them again.
Illustration for "The end of Whitefoot's worries" (May 3, 1919)
April 30 to May 7. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse makes friends with Farmer Brown's boy in the sugar house. Reprinted in Whitefoot the Wood Mouse.
Illustration for "The joy that was turned to rage" (May 9, 1919)
May 8 to May 10. The red-tailed hawk couple are upset that owls have claimed their old nest. 
Illustration for "Peter learns some things about Creaker the Grackle" (July 9, 1919)
May 12 to September 27. Peter Rabbit learns about birds. Reprinted as The Burgess Bird Book for Children.
Illustration for "Nanny Meadow Mouse is worried"   (October 14, 1919)
September 29 to October 25. Danny Meadow Mouse discovers the Smiling Pool is a very dangerous place for him.
Illustration for "Visitors to Paddy's Pond" (November 11, 1919)
October 27 to December 9. A long two-part episode featuring Lightfoot the Deer. In the first, Lightfoot joins with Paddy the Beaver to avoid a hunter and is eventually sheltered by a kind farmer. In the second, Lightfoot finds a mate and fights off a rival. Reprinted in Lightfoot the Deer.
Illustration for "Billy Mink finds some queer fences" (December 13, 1919)

December 10 to December 31. A trapper has made the Smiling Pool and Laughing Brook too dangerous for minks and otters, who leave. Jerry Muskrat is nearly caught and loses his trust of humans. Farmer Brown's boy is furious. Reprinted in Billy Mink and Jerry Muskrat at Home. Continued in 1920. 


1919 featured fewer and longer extended narratives than previous years, some later published as lengthy books. The largest block of stories, from mid-May to the end of September, effectively comprised the first draft of The Burgess Bird Book for Children, published the following year.  The bird book has a good reputation, and may rank among Burgess's most successful works, but its stories are rather different in form than the typical Burgess bedtime story and I wonder if daily newspaper story readers eventually tired of its seemingly endless descriptions of bird species. And poor Harrison Cady, who generally drew generic "birds" when faced with the job of illustrating bird characters, was not exactly suited for the task of representing species-level distinctions (Louis Agassiz Fuertes would provide new illustrations for the book). 

Thornton Burgess's anti-hunting theme resumed with a vengeance in 1919. Hunters stalked Lightfoot the Deer and a poacher set traps along the Smiling Pond and the Laughing Brook.

A great deal of action revolved around the sugar house, Farmer Brown's boy's seasonal home in the Green Forest: Prickly Porky's mishap, Whitefoot the Wood Mouse's adventure (he had been living there) and Buster Bear's encounter with hot peppered maple syrup.

Farmer Brown's Boy

Farmer Brown's boy continued to be a fierce defender of his animal friends, showing real rage when he discovers the poacher's traps (he confiscates them and leaves a note telling the poacher where to find them). He is especially distressed when he realizes the traps have damaged his relationship with Jerry Muskrat. On the other hand, when it comes to protecting Lightfoot the Deer, it is another figure, an unnamed farmer, who takes the role of guardian and hunter-scold. Farmer Brown's boy is no longer the only human who cares for the animal world.

Farmer Brown's boy also continued to intervene to protect his friends from animal predators: he tears down a great-horned owl nest and takes their eggs.  In this case, however, Burgess ironized Farmer Brown's boy's actions. Instead of making his friends more safe, he has made their world more difficult. The owls simply move, disrupting the lives of the red-tailed hawk couple (they are "good" hawks) whose nest they steal, and putting Peter Rabbit into danger as he accidentally stumbles across the new nesting area (the animals knew where the old area was and avoided it). Thus Farmer Brown's boy is not merely Burgess's mouthpiece. His ardor also causes him to make the occasional instructive mistake.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Little Stories for Bedtime 1918


The Stories

Illustration for "The last of the Gray Terror" (January 10, 1918)
January 2 to January 11. After Mr. Goshawk takes one of Farmer Brown's boy's pet pigeons, Farmer Brown's boy shoots him (not fatally).
Illustration for "Thankfulness in the Old Orchard" (January 21, 1918)
January 12 to January 26. Peter Rabbit is shocked to discover Welcome Robin in the dead of winter. After an ice storm, the robins need help from Farmer Brown's boy. Bully the Sparrow proves an irritant. 
Illustration for "A snowy explosion" (January 29, 1918)
January 28 to January 29. Reddy Fox just misses catching Mrs. Grouse in the snow.
Illustration for "Black Pussy gets a shock" (January 31, 1918)
January 30 to February 1. Black Pussy discovers Shadow the Weasel in the barn. Robber the Rat decides it's time to move.
Illustration for "Johnny Chuck disappoints some friends" (February 2, 1918)
February 2. Johnny Chuck doesn't come out (for Ground Hog Day)
Illustration for "Robber drives himself back to the barn" (February 9, 1918)
February 4 to February 9. Robber the Rat moves to Farmer Brown's shed and Black Pussy is powerless to drive him away.
Illustration for "Reddy and Roughleg hunt together" (February 18, 1918).
February 11 to February 28. Reddy Fox and Roughleg the Hawk team up to try to catch Danny and Nanny Meadow Mouse. Then Blacky the Crow tries to use Old Man Coyote to catch him.
Illustration for "Chatterer tries to pick a quarrel" (March 5, 1918)
March 1 to March 11. Peter Rabbit learns about crossbills. The crossbills tell him about Whiskey Jack and Jill, the Canada Jays. 
Illustration for "Peter finds a real sign" (March  14, 1918)
March 12 to March 18. Peter Rabbit sees signs of spring and Danny and Nanny Meadow Mouse rejoice now that Roughleg the Hawk is gone.
Illustration for "The difference" (March 28, 1918)
March 19 to April 17. Jerry Muskrat is swept away by a flood and shot at by hunters but through the help of the Quacks, Peter Rabbit, and Farmer Brown's boy as well as his own natural fierceness when cornered, he makes it back to the Smiling Pool. 
Illustration for "In the nick of time" (April 27, 1918)
April 18 to April 27. Chatterer the Red Squirrel uses his tail to escape from the floodwaters.
Illustration for "Piper has a terrible fright" (May 7, 1918)
April 29 to May 14. Peter Rabbit learns about Piper the Hyla and protects him from predators.
Illustration for "Sammy Jay accuses Mrs. Jay" (May 16, 1918)
May 15 to May 21. Marital discord between Mr. and Mrs. Sammy Jay is resolved when Sammy saves his mate's life.
Illustration for "Doctor Whitefoot" (June 10, 1918)
May 22 to June 11. After Buster Bear steps on a loose porcupine quill he makes idle threats against Prickly Porky. It is up to Whitefoot the Wood Mouse to help Buster recover. Meanwhile what happens when Farmer Brown's boy pokes a porcupine with a stick?
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit and Slow Poke dine together" (June 17, 1918)
June 12 to July 8. Peter Rabbit learns about Slow Poke the Box Turtle and protects Mrs. Slow Poke's eggs from Jimmy Skunk and Unc' Billy Possum, to Jimmy's annoyance. 
Illustration for "The tender heart of Farmer Brown's boy" (July  26, 1918)
July 9 to July 27. Peter Rabbit makes friends with Nimble Heels the Jumping Mouse after he beats Peter in a jumping contest. Farmer Brown's boy makes friends with Nimble Heels after the mouse accidentally jumps up his pants leg.
Illustration for "Longlegs fights" (August 1, 1918)
July 29 to August 1. A trick played on Peter Rabbit turns dangerous, but Longlegs the Heron proves a hero.
Illustration for "Johnny Chuck has a terrible fright" (August 10, 1918)
August 2 to August 29. Johnny Chuck leaves Polly to make a new home. Close encounters with automobiles and foxes convince him to return home. Sammy Jay helps out.
Illustration for "Peter notices a funny smell" (September 9, 1918).
September 2 to September 10. Peter Rabbit makes friends with Short-tail the Shrew.
Illustration for "Reddy's smooth tongue" (September 30, 1918)
September 11 to October 31. Jerry Muskrat builds a new house and plays an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse with Reddy Fox. Reprinted in Jerry Muskrat at Home.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit gets a pain in the neck" (November 2, 1918)
November 1 to November 6. Peter Rabbit learns that birds migrate at night.
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy is carried away" (November 18, 1918)
November 7 to November 25. A giant bird terrorizes the Green Meadow and carries away Farmer Brown's boy. Peter Rabbit has a difficult time convincing everyone that it is man-made (an airplane). 
Illustration for "Happy Jack and Chatterer accuse each other" (December 7, 1918)
November 26 to December 10. Chestnut blight has made things difficult for the squirrels of the Green Forest. After Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Happy Jack raid each other's storehouses, Sammy Jay must be brought in to settle the conflict.
Illustration for "The Bob Whites get a square meal" (December 16, 1918)
December 11 to December 21. After the Bob Whites visit Farmer Brown's boy's feeding stations, Bully the English Sparrow makes a deal with Reddy Fox to get rid of them. 
Illustration for "Happy Jack's Christmas Tree" (December 24, 1918)
December 23 to December 24. Happy Jack's spirits improve when he sees the food-covered Christmas Tree in the Old Orchard.
Illustration for "An unpleasant double surprise" (December 30, 1918)
December 26 to December 31. Black Pussy goes hunting and learns how dangerous the outside world is. (Continued in 1919). 


In 1918 one can see the first explicit references to technology in Burgess's bedtime stories.  Johnny Chuck digs his new home too close to the road and is terrified by the passing of "monsters" (automobiles) and bothered by the amount of dust they raise. (Burgess would be quite concerned about the dangers of cars to wildlife generally in future years). Then the animal community is terrified by a "giant bird" that turns out to be an airplane piloted by Farmer Brown's cousin, allowed to use the Green Meadows as a landing strip. (This plane too would have an important role in future years).

1918 was a war year, and though Burgess only occasionally made allusions to the war in his bedtime stories (World War II would be different), this is the year he founded "Happy Jack's Thrift Club" through a set of stories featuring the gray squirrel and his "thrifty" friends. These special newspaper stories, which originally ran in March 1918, were not run under the "Little Stories for Bedtime" heading.

The essential unfairness of hunting was dramatized in an episode about Jerry Muskrat, in which he survives floodwaters only to be shot at by hunters in a boat. This, however, is the only strong anti-hunting moment of the year.

1918 also saw the emergence of a new source of conflict--marital discord, an oddly mature choice for stories targeted at children. (Actually, in 1917, Mrs. Peter Rabbit suspected her mate was having an affair, given the amount of time he was spending with the wild turkeys). In future years, as Burgess's stories became more and more naturalistic, mate separation would become a perennial feature of breeding season.

On July 9, 1918, Burgess celebrated his 2000th story. He claims the stories come from the "Merry Little Breezes."

Farmer Brown's Boy

As already mentioned in the 1917 post, Farmer Brown's boy makes the (now shocking) decision to shoot a goshawk. In an era that measured the value of birds by their "usefulness," accipiters, including sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper's hawks, and goshawks, which fed on song birds and the occasional chicken, were commonly labeled as vermin. The trap that Farmer Brown's boy sets up to attract Mr. Goshawk is also unusually cruel--he chooses a live hen that has "outlived her usefulness" as bait. Neither the hen nor the goshawk are actually killed.

Generally, though, Farmer Brown's boy remained a great friend to the animals, particularly birds. Indeed in 1918 Burgess frequently used Farmer Brown's boy as a kind of deus ex machina, several animal's lives spared when Farmer Brown's boy and/or his dog just happen to walk by. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Little Stories for Bedtime 1917

The Stories

Illustration for "New Year Wishes and Resolves" (January 2, 1917)
January 2. The animals make New Year's resolutions.
Illustration for "Chatterer learns to have sympathy" (January 8, 1917)
January 3 to January 9. A snow storm rocks the Old Orchard and Chatterer the Red Squirrel learns what it means to be hungry during the winter.
Illustration for "Granny Fox plans to get a fat hen" (January 22, 1917)
January 10 to January 30. Hard weather brings Granny and Reddy Fox to the Brown farm in search of food. Reprinted in Old Granny Fox.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit gains wealth" (February 2, 1917)
January 31 to February 2. Peter Rabbit is stunned to discover a butterfly during the winter.
Illustration for "Peter Rabbit watches and is watched" (February 3, 1917)
February 2 to February 3. Peter Rabbit learns that Groundhog Day is a silly idea.
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy visits Paddy's pond" (February 10, 1917)
February 5 to February 14. Peter Rabbit and Farmer Brown's boy visit Paddy the Beaver's pond. Farmer Brown's boy performs an experiment. 
Illustration for "The planning of a new home" (February 24, 1917)
February 15 to March 3. Romance blossoms between Reddy Fox and Miss Swiftfoot. Reddy fights off a competitor, wins the approval of Granny Fox, and the couple make a new home. 
Illustration for "Bobby Coon has a bad dream" (March 5, 1917)
March 5 to April 12. Bobby Coon suffers a broken leg when Farmer Brown's boy chops down his tree. He is taken to the Brown house to recover (to the chagrin of Black Pussy). After being released, Bobby has a hard time finding a new place to sleep, but finally settles near his cousin Buster Bear. Much of it reprinted in The Adventures of Bobby Coon.
Illustration for "What Nanny Meadow Mouse was doing" (April 21, 1917)
April 13 to April 26. Danny and Nanny Meadow Mouse have adventures on their way back to the Green Meadows and Danny learns that Nanny can fend for herself.
Illustration for "Sammy Jay argues with himself" (May 2, 1917)
April 27 to May 4. Sammy Jay discovers the foxes have new babies and has to decide whether to reveal the secret. 
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy puts up signs" (May 9, 1917)
May 5 to May 10. Farmer Brown's boy creates a bird sanctuary in the Old Orchard.
Illustration for "Chubby wanders away" (May 25, 1917)
May 11 to June 9. The adventures of the four fox children: Chubby, Stubby, Dusky, and Cutie.  Dusky learns about scent trails and Chubby gets lost. 
Illustration for "Jimmy Skunk gets a bump on the head" (June 16, 1917)
June 11 to June 23. Jimmy Skunk and Unc' Billy Possum team up to raid Farmer Brown's hen house with disappointing results. Reprinted in The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk.
Illustration for "Learning by doing" (July 2, 1917)
June 25 to July 12. Billy Mink's five children learn how to fish and be safe. The "boldest little mink" is nearly caught by Hooty the Owl; the "timidest" little mink is wisely cautious.
Illustration for "Why Farmer Brown's boy got no potatoes" (July 14, 1917)
July 13 to July 17. Farmer Brown's boy needs to figure out how to get Jimmy Skunk out of his cellar. 
Illustration for "Grandfather Frog has a trying day" (July 21, 1917)
July 18 to July 21. Peter Rabbit learns how Grandfather Frog breathes underwater.
Illustration for "A surprise party" (July 23, 1917)
July 22 to July 26. Peter Rabbit sees baby turtles emerge from ground. 
Illustration for "Grandfather Frog's Eyes" (July 27, 1917)
July 27 to July 28. Peter Rabbit learns about Grandfather Frog's eyes
Illustration for "Peter grows curious about Ol' Mr. Buzzard" (July 30,  1917)
July 30 to August 18. Peter Rabbit, with the help of Sammy Jay, tries to find Ol' Mistah Buzzard's nest. Reprinted in The Adventures of Ol' Mistah Buzzard.
Illustration for "Big Tom asks questions" (August 23, 1917)
August 20 to October 1. Big Tom and Mrs. Gobbler prove too smart for wily Reddy Fox. Then Peter Rabbit must keep secret where Mrs. Gobbler has made her nest. 
Illustration for "Peter does a favor" (October 10, 1917)
October 2 to October 10. Peter learns all about Flitter the Bat and does some baby-sitting.
Illustration for "Buster Bear is piggish" (October 12, 1917)
October 11 to November 3. It is beech-nut time in the Green Forest and there is plenty for everyone, but that doesn't stop Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Happy Jack from fighting over nuts.
Illustration for "Mother Nature's healing touch" (November 10, 1917)
November 5 to November 10. Peter Rabbit tries to comfort Lightfoot the Deer, who is suffering from shotgun wounds.
Illustration for "Peter gets a lesson in logging" (November 15, 1917)
November 12 to November 16. Paddy the Beaver teaches Peter Rabbit about logging.
Illustration for "Farmer Brown's boy tries to smoke out Yowler" (December 8, 1917)
November 17 to December 10. Yowler the Bob Cat terrorizes the Green Forest. Bowser and Farmer Brown's boy intervene to drive him away.
Illustration for "How Buster Bear fought himself" (December 13, 1917)
December 11 to December 14. Buster Bear has a humorous encounter with a rock tied to a string. Then he decides to go to bed for the winter.
Illustration for "A test of two coats" (December 18, 1917)
December 15 to December 20. Peter Rabbit is envious of Jumper the Hare's white winter coat.
Illustration for "Was Johnny Chuck dead?" (December 26, 1917)
December 21 to December 26. Peter Rabbit is unsettled when he crawls into Johnny Chuck's house to see what Johnny looks like when he hibernates. 
Illustration for "The Great Fear" (December 31, 1917)
December 28 to December 31. Beginning of a story about the arrival of Mr. Goshawk. 


In 1917 it was Reddy's Fox's turn to find a mate and have adventurous children. Miss Swiftfoot, usually called "Mrs. Reddy," effectively replaced Granny Fox as Reddy's hunting partner. She eventually became one of Burgess's greatest (if lesser known) female creations. Billy Mink also had children and Burgess began a practice of naming offspring by temperaments ("the boldest/timidest little mink"). In coming years, being labeled "the boldest..." would be a death sentence, but not yet.

The strong anti-hunting tone of 1916 was toned down, restricted to a week-long story about Lightfoot the Deer and his recovery from shotgun wounds. In May, Farmer Brown's boy went beyond simply feeding the birds and constructed a full-fledged bird sanctuary. This paralleled Burgess's work promoting bird sanctuaries for the People's Home Journal's Green Meadow Club.

Peter Rabbit and his endless curiosity remained the main conduit into teaching nature facts, from the shape of bullfrog eyes to beaver logging behavior. Burgess made Peter Rabbit envious of Jumper the Hare's white coat. You may remember that Burgess mistakenly gave Peter Rabbit a white winter coat in 1913. This seems to be a pattern--when he'd make a mistake,  Burgess would go out of his way to make a correction (sometimes repeatedly) in future years.

Farmer Brown's boy

Tommy Brown continued his role as savior and nurse to animals in need, to Bobby Coon in particular in 1917. He was still not above tormenting Unc' Billy Possum (tickling his nose when he tried to play dead) or "experimenting" with the beaver dam (and causing Paddy quite a bit of anxiety). And he would intervene (this would cease in later years) to protect his animal friends from fearsome predators, including Yowler the Bobcat and in a 1917/1918 story, Mr. Goshawk (later named "Terror").  The wild turkeys that show up in the Green Forest, it turns out, were released by Farmer Brown's boy.