Saturday, August 20, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and the Ignormus (1941)

Here's one of the most popular Freddy books.  A lot of people call it their favorite, including my dad.  Let's see, shall we?

What's an ignormus?  Well, it's not an ignoramus.  For a while I thought that was what it was and assumed my dad had been mispronouncing it when reading it to me.  But nope—ignormus.  The word has a good flow to it.  I approve.

Right, so there's this area of deep woods that all the animals are afraid to visit because there's supposedly something—possibly an ignormus—in the area.  There are also rats around, in a non-unrelated development.  Yes, Simon and his family are back.  He gets this gruesome little burn on Freddy:

I've been visiting my relatives in Iowa.  That's a great place, Freddy.  Lots of pigs in Iowa.  But they don't make poetry.  No, no.  Out in Iowa the pigs make pork.  Pork, not poetry, Freddy.  You ought to take a little trip out there.

Jeez.  Anyway, things are going from bad to worse as the Ignormus blackmails various animals into bringing him food.  So now in addition to everything else, Freddy and friends have to prove that they're not thieves who are robbing Mr. Bean.  You'd think at this point he'd be willing to give them a little benefit of the doubt, but seems not.  Ultimately they find the Ignormus's lair and ready their troops, many of whom “couldn't be expected to do much fighting against a creature like the Ignormus, or even against rats, but they could do a lot of shouting and running around, which is a large part of any battle anyway.”  Right on.  Then there's a fun climactic battle sequence of sorts.  I suppose it's probably relevant that this was written during World War II, though it would've had to be pre-Pearl-Harbor.

Also—I almost forgot to make note of this, but I really ought to—this book introduces Jinx's sister Minx.  The reason I forgot is that she has little to do with the plot, but her thing is that she's super-cosmopolitan and always one-upping other animals about their achievements.  Shrug.

This is a fun book, although Freddy's attitude toward the rats may make you cringe a bit.  “I think you will agree with me that there is no place in a republic of free animals, for rats.”  But, point-counterpoint, there IS a more compassionate attitude, as made by Mrs. Bean:

“I don't like rats any better than you do, Mr. B.  But maybe it isn't their fault that they're bad.  Maybe they didn't have the right kind of bringing up.  And maybe, too, it isn't easy for them to be good, even if they want to.  I mean that when everybody suspects them, and all the cats and dogs chase them, it's hard for them to get a living, and they almost have to steal to get enough to eat.”

A bit overly “Gee Officer Krupke?”  Maybe, but she's making some real points.  I'm pretty sure the rats will only appear later on as villains, but still.  Exit Simon:

Simon turned.  “Thank you, ma'am,” he said.  “And I'll tell you this: I've had the first kind word from you today that I've had from any animal or human since the day I was born.  Oh, I don't want kind words, and I don't deserve 'em.  But because you've given me them, I'll promise you this: that form now on I'll leave the Bean farm alone.”  And he turned and walked out of the gate, and off up the road.

Simon the Rat is a brooding anti-hero.

Just two other things: “One of [Freddy's] best friends was a garter snake named Homer who lived down by the brook.”  Man, we had BETTER meet this Homer at some point, or I'll think you're blowing smoke, Brooks.  And finally, from a frog named Theodore, what looks like a somewhat surprising anti-corporal-punishment line:

“When we'd been bad my father used to haul us out on it and take us across his knee and spank us.  There were about fifty of us, so it kept him pretty busy, and finally he gave it up.  He said he was doing so much spanking that he was neglecting his business, and we'd just have to get along without it.  We were all a lot happier after that, and it's a funny thing, but we behaved better too.”



Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

Huh! When I took a peek on the title of the post, I missread it "Freddy the ignoramus".

2:50 PM  

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