Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy's Cousin Weedly (1940)

Oh ho!  You knew about Freddy!  But did you know about his cousin...Weedly? Well, now you do.  I sort of feel like these entries are going to get shorter as the series kind of establishes itself and starts feeling more familiar.  But, we'll see how it goes!

So Weedly is a little kid—a piglet—who lives with Freddy's other cousins on another farm.  His problem is that he's excessively timid.  Brooks consistently uses the word “scary” to mean something like “fear-prone,” which I don't think I've ever seen elsewhere.  Anyway, Jinx takes Weedly under his wing (that metaphor seems somehow malformed), and the animals teach him to be more confident by having everyone act scared when he's around.  I feel like the idea that everyone recoiling from you in horror all the time wouldn't necessarily be super-helpful for someone with self-confidence issues.  Possibly don't take child-rearing advice from Brooks.  Still, it does lead to one priceless exchange:

But Mrs. Wiggins shook her head.  “I don't know, Jinx,” she said.  “I'm willing to do anything within reason.  But I can't go cavorting off over the hills in hysterics every time I see him.  How would it be if I just looked startled?

“How do you think you look when you look startled?” the cat asked, and Mrs. Wiggins thought a minute, and then she opened her eyes wide and dropped her jaw and waggled her ears.  “Guess that's about it,” she said.  

“Good gracious!” said Jinx.  “You'd scare him to death!”

“H'm,” said Mrs. Wiggins.  “Well, how's this?”  And she suddenly sat down weakly, closed her eyes, and put one front hoof to her heart and said: “Oh!  Oh, dear!  Oh, dear me!”

“Splendid!” said Freddy.  “Mrs. Wiggins, you're a born actor.”

A little further on, there's an awesome picture of all three cows holding their hooves to their brows.  I'd reproduce it here, but it's not so easy with an ereader text.  Anyway, Weedly gets more confident, but the problem is, he also turns into an obnoxious douchebag who delights in scaring everyone for no reason.  But he learns a hard lesson in humility when Freddy tricks him into trying to scare Old Whibley, the owl, who with his nephew Vera plays a little trick on him (Whibley and Vera also figure in the previous book).  And this sets him to a more moderate course.

There's another plot parallel to this: it takes place immediately on the heels of Politician, so the Beans are still off in Europe (the bank's still a thing, but if there was even a passing reference to the republic, it has slipped my mind).  And the Beans' Aunt Effie and Uncle Snedeker have come to stay.  Which is fine, except that they have ulterior motives: they want to take a silver teapot that they feel by rights should belong to them.  Well, this is mainly about Effie.  Snedeker mostly just ineffectually bumbles around.  But Effie has her good sides, too, helping on the farm and whatnot, and she's prickly at first, but then she starts becoming friendly with the animals even though she's determined to take the teapot and they that she not (is this what the kids call tsundere?  I just want to be cool).

And finally, climactically, there's a play that Freddy's written that gets put on.  And we hear the nonsense plot (involving Queen Victoria, Sherlock Holmes, and other figures that the animals want to portray), at QUITE great length.  Some of it IS written in pretty amusing poetry—sometimes you think Brooks sounds like Dr. Seuss, sometimes that he coulda been another WS Gilbert in an alternate world—but on the whole, it's not super-compelling, as you might think it could be.  Still!  It is what it is!  Everything gets resolved amicably.  A rather low-key book, but extremely amiable.

I do have to mention one rather bizarre bit of worldbuilding.  As we've seen a little bit of in the previous book, Brooks tries to be sort of cagy about animals and talking—about how widespread it is and to what extent people are surprised by it.  Well, this goes to an extreme here.  We are told that “It is “a rule among animals never to talk to strange humans, and indeed most animals never talk even to the people that own them,” which is wildly contradicted by past and future books.  Also, at first Effie genuinely doesn't believe that animals can talk, and is shocked when she finds they can.  It's all fairly bizarre and unconvincing, but such is Brooks' skill that he can basically make it work anyway.


Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

From what you describe this story somewhat feels poorer compering to previews one. Like there isn't much going on.

As for "animals don't talk as a rule" - there was a cancled Garfield animated movie in the 80's titled "Garfield Judgmentday" (and when I mean cancled I mean, there was like 10 minutes animated in pencil tests before they project had scrapt) it was however release as a book. One of the big plot points was that all animals predict there is a natural disaster coming, have and have a meeting, where we learn there is a sacret rule that the animals can't talk to humans and Garfield convince them to brake the rule for the first time ever in order to warn the town. I can't put my finger about it but there is something errie about this concept.

10:09 AM  

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