A Tale of Two Chickens

A few weeks ago, the Filson newsmagazine had a small article on my upcoming Filson Friday lecture. The lecture, scheduled for July 13, is going to be on the Filson’s collection of children’s literature. Since then I have been corresponding with Jim Coorssen who still had a large collection of books from his childhood, and last Monday he brought them to me. There are some wonderful books in this new collection that span his life from young child to teenager. Several books are from the Little Color Classics series published by McLoughlin Brothers, Inc of Springfield MA. There are some books from the Uncle Wiggily series; and an early movable parts book from 1942, by Walt Disney called “The Victory March” which originally contained an album for Savings Stamps. A copy of “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come” by Kentuckian John Fox, Jr, is a first edition containing illustrations by N.C. Wyeth.

Two of the books that he received in 1940 contain the story of the chick who got bonked on the head with something from above. One story is titled “Chicken Little.” After he is hit in the head with a peapod Chicken Little is sure that the sky is falling, and he needs to run tell the King. Along the way he finds Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Duddles, Goosie Poosie, Turkey Lurkey, and Gander Pander who all decide to follow him to see the King. Then they run into Foxy Loxy who thinks they would all make a great meal.  He shows them a shortcut to the King’s Palace that is really the entrance to his cave. As they Foxy Loxy kills them one after the other, but Henny Penny cries out to Chicken Little who runs all the way home. Kind of gruesome for a child’s book.

In another book I found the story of “Henny Penny.” One day she wandered into the woods where an acorn fell on her head, and she thought the sky was falling. As with the other story she finds Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Drakey Lakey, Goosey Loosey, Gander Lander, and Turkey Lurkey, who want to come along to tell the King about the falling sky. However, in this version when they run into Foxy Loxy and he tries to get them to take his ‘short-cut’, they all think of something important that they should be doing back home and never enter the deadly den.

Below is a picture from each story. Which one represents the tale of grisly death? If you picked the bright colorful, cheerfully dressed animals picture you would be right. There is Chicken Little dressed in overalls. The red cape on Foxy Loxy reminds me of Little Red Riding Hood, another story that has different versions. The picture with the scary looking fox is from “Henny Penny,” where they all live to see another day.

These new books will be cataloged and added to the Filson’s children’s literature collection; and will be helpful additions to my Filson Friday lecture in July. Thank you, Jim Coorssen and all other wonderful donors, for whom we are truly grateful.

Kathryn Bratcher

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