Classic Children's Literature

Beatrix Potter Tales, Part 2

Ah, April is flying from me! I’m only just now getting my post for the second group of Beatrix Potter tales written up. Unlike the first group, which contained two I remembered well, these were mostly unrecollected, even those I’ve had the longest.

The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher - Beatrix PotterThe Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (1906)

This tale of a frog and his fishing misadventures was completely adorable! I’m really growing to love Potter’s writing – while her illustrations are wonderful, in their detail and accuracy, the way she tells the tales is equally delightful. Here, I loved the turn in the story – the suspense and surprise when the trout catches Jeremy. Her use of onomatopoeia, again, is lovely.

A GREAT big enormous trout cam up–ker-pflop-p-p-p! with a splash–and it seized Mr. Jeremy with a snap, “Ow! Ow! Ow!”–and then it turned and dived down to the bottom of the pond!

The Tale of Tom Kitten - Beatrix PotterThe Tale of Tom Kitten (1907)

An amusing little story that I didn’t recall at all. Mrs. Tabitha Twitchet is having friends to dinner, so she cleans and dresses her kittens then, foolishly, sends them out into the garden while she finishes preparations. Of course, being kittens unused to clothes, they soon manage to burst their buttons and lose their clothes to the Puddleducks (first mention!). Banishment to the bedroom ensues. I am not sure why the title only names Tom–although he is the one that is too fat and bursts his buttons, they all lose their clothes.

 

The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck - Beatrix PotterThe Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck (1908)

Potter, in this charming little tale, illustrates the phrase “bird-brained” very well! Jemima, understandably, wants to sit on her eggs rather than letting the farmer give them to the hen for setting. So she seeks out a good location for a nest, and finds one in the “summer house” of a very well-dressed, whiskered gentleman. Poor Jemima is so naïve – or dense! – that she doesn’t recognize him for a fox or that the many feathers in his house must surely have come from some other unfortunate birds… Rather than mischievous or disobedient, this protagonist is simply foolish.

 

The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies - Beatrix PotterThe Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909)

Another return to the world of Peter and Benjamin. Apparently Peter Rabbit manages to grow up responsibly – his lesson learned – but Benjamin Bunny does not. Both hinted at, of course, in Benjamin’s tale. Interestingly, it would seem that Flopsy doesn’t do much better than Benjamin, despite the fact that she was one of the obedient little rabbits in the first tale. Obedient, but not wise, perhaps, as it seems she is as poor a household manager as Benjamin.

It would seem the feud between the McGregors and the rabbits is long-standing. Of course. In this tale, though, they are NOT in his garden, just his rubbish bin. But it is an interesting image, that of a large family reduced to depending on help from in-laws and rubbish piles. An image of poverty in these otherwise gentle books. And an apt illustration of “improvident.” I think these rabbits could fit into Dickens… And how lovely, that it is Mrs. Tittlemouse that is the resourceful, problem solving one!

I noticed the effectiveness of Potter’s introduction of some new vocabulary in this one–not only does she do a great job of introducing “soporific,” but it is reinforced later in the story.

 

The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse (1910)

Ah, a story of frustration if ever there was one! I do feel for Mrs. Tittlemouse–all those uninvited guests!–, although I do wonder if perhaps she isn’t maybe just a bit too fastidious. Cleaning while the guests are there can be rude…even if they invited themselves in! (Come to think of it, a lot of impoliteness in this one.)

Another one with lots of great sounds in this one – the buzzing from the bees, the “tiddly, widdly” of Mr. Jackson.

 

The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes - Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes (1911)

A tale of a good little squirrel – and prudent. But sometimes bad things happen to good people, as when less prudent and more foolish squirrels become jealous and turn on the wiser one. But there is also a bit of an unexpected turn, in that this story turns to domestic matters. Mrs. Chippy Hackee has been abandoned by her husband–as Mrs. Goody Tiptoes believes has happened to her (though Timmy is just stuck down the hole in the tree). And Mrs. Hackee daren’t go down the tree after the pair for her husband bites. Sure enough, it will rain, the tree will fall, and Chippy will learn his lesson, but it suggests yet another portrait of a human character, the neglectful, selfish spouse, in animal form.

It is interesting how Potter is able to through these stories give a sense of human stories that might seem too grown up for young children were they not in the form of animal characters.

Despite the rapidly dwindling month (and available free-time), I do hope to finish reading these charming tales before the end of April. They have all been such a delight to read–and look at.

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