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Literature / Freddy the Pig

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A pig and his typewriter.

Freddy the Pig is a long-running children’s series written by Walter R. Brooks and illustrated by Kurt Wiese. Published between 1927 and 1958, the books feature a group of talking animals living on a farm in upstate New York. The central character, Freddy, often serves as the driving force behind their adventures, as he tries his hand (hoof) at various professions, becoming a detective, a newspaper editor, a pilot, a politician, and an astronaut, to name only a few. Along with the farm animals, the cast of the books features Mr. and Mrs. Bean, the owners of the farm, various wild animals living in the woods, and the population of the local town of Centerboro. The series consists of 25 books and a collection of poetry.

  1. “Freddy Goes to Florida” (1927) (“To and Again”)
  2. “Freddy Goes to the North Pole” (1930) (“More To and Again”)
  3. “Freddy the Detective” (1932)
  4. “The Story of Freginald” (1936) (“Freddy and Freginald”)
  5. “The Clockwork Twin” (1937) (“Freddy and the Clockwork Twin”)
  6. “Freddy the Politician” (1939) (“Wiggins for President”)
  7. “Freddy's Cousin Weedly” (1940)
  8. “Freddy and the Ignormus” (1941)
  9. “Freddy and the Perilous Adventure” (1942)
  10. “Freddy and the Bean Home News” (1943)
  11. “Freddy and Mr. Camphor” (1944)
  12. “Freddy and the Popinjay” (1945)
  13. “Freddy the Pied Piper” (1946)
  14. “Freddy the Magician” (1947)
  15. “Freddy Goes Camping” (1948)
  16. “Freddy Plays Football” (1949)
  17. “Freddy the Cowboy” (1950)
  18. “Freddy Rides Again” (1951)
  19. “Freddy the Pilot” (1952)
  20. “Freddy and the Spaceship” (1953)
  21. ”Freddy and the Men from Mars” (1954)
  22. “Freddy and the Baseball Team From Mars” (1955)
  23. “Freddy and Simon the Dictator” (1956)
  24. “Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans” (1957)
  25. “Freddy and the Dragon” (1958)

  • “The Collected Poems of Freddy the Pig” (1953)

Aside from the very well written dialogue, one of the things that makes the series stand out is its treatment of talking animals. While all animals are capable of speech, only the Bean Farm animals choose to speak to humans, making them moderately famous. As Freddy interacts with the people of Centerboro throughout the series, he often encounters prejudice from the human villains, usually leading him to develop his own animal version of various human institutions. By the time the series ends, he has helped to create an animal newspaper (The Bean Home News), an animal bank, and even an animal government, the First Animal Republic, complete with a F.B.I expy, court system, and prison.

The stories are also notable for reflecting the times in which they were written, with victory gardens and scrap drives featuring in those books written during WWII, while those written after often deal with the fear of Communist infiltrators. Ultimately though, the series lands high on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, with Freddy and his friends almost always saving the day through cleverness and common sense.

These books provides examples of:

  • Brainy Pig: That would be Freddy, who is quite intellectual and successfully tries his hand at quite a number of jobs over the course of the series.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Freddy, who often prefers napping, overeating, and writing poetry to whatever he is suppose to be doing. Jinx the cat, to a lesser extent.
  • Cardboard Prison: Centerboro jail. The prisoners’ window bars can be pushed open from the inside and they are routinely allowed to go to the movies and baseball games by themselves as long as they come back before curfew. Justified, in that none of them are really dangerous criminals and they don’t want to leave anyways. The few times the jail is holding someone truly bad, they are kept in an ordinary prison cell.
  • Carnivore Confusion: In Freddy Goes Camping, Freddy cooks up a campfire breakfast of flapjacks and bacon. He even writes a short poem about how delicious the frying bacon smells. Granted, the text doesn't specify that he eats the bacon (just the flapjacks), but still, does he not know?
  • Closer to Earth: Mrs. Wiggins the cow. Freddy’s partner at the detective agency and eventually president of the F.A.R., she often serves to balance out his wilder ideas with common sense.
  • Cowboys: One of the many occupations Freddy tries. Mainly the Dude Ranch variety, along with some of the Singing Cowboy.
  • Darker and Edgier: “Freddy and Simon the Dictator”. Featuring a full-scale violent revolution of animals against humanity, led by Simon the rat.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the first two books of the series, Freddy was just one of the farm animals, before being promoted to the protagonist in “Freddy the Detective”. Also, in the early books the animals couldn’t speak to humans, having to get their point across through pantomime.
  • Earth All Along: In “Freddy and the Spaceship”. A fight aboard the ship ends up turning them around, so that they end up landing only a little ways away from where they took off. As there had been a forest fire, they mistake the burnt landscape for the surface of Mars for a few chapters.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Adoniram and Byram share one. They are so embarrassed by it that they refuse to reveal what it is or anything about it, save that it starts with an R, to anyone, even though it could prove that they are biological brothers once and for all. Once Freddy works out a way they can exchange their names without either having to say theirs first, they are willing to share it with him. Upon hearing it, Freddy is overcoming by laughter, staggering away into the night. We never find out what it is.
  • Fake Defector: Jinx the cat during Simon’s rebellion. While his true loyalty to the Beans is always clear to the reader and most of the other farm animals, Mr. Bean is deeply hurt at the thought of his own cat betraying him.
  • Fantastic Racism: An underlying theme throughout the series. Despite being sentient creatures, animals do not have the right to vote and are owned by humans. Freddy himself faces the threat of being shipped to Montana and butchered several times, and is often treated as a second-class citizen by human villains.
    "’He slapped me because I am a pig,’ Freddy thought. ‘If I were a boy or a man he wouldn't have done it.’"
    • Late in the series, Simon the rat would tap into the resentment this treatment causes to goad animals into rebelling against humanity.
  • Flying Car: Well, it is not capable of real flight, but Uncle Ben’s car had a pair of extendable wings and a small rocket in back that allows it to glide short distances. He invented it after getting tired of being stuck in traffic.
  • Flying Saucer: The Martian’s ship. Far faster and quieter than Uncle Ben’s rocket.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Uncle Ben. Invents a Mobile-Suit Human, a rocketship, and a flying (well, gliding) car, to name only a few examples. All with early 20th century technology.
  • Great Detective: Based on the Trope Codifier himself, Sherlock Holmes. Freddy learned everything he knows about detective work by reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, and employs most of the same methods Sherlock does.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Almost literally, when the animals tease Freddy on realizing that his dignified invitation addressed "Frederick Bean, Esquire" looks like the sentence "Frederick Bean is queer." Brooks presumably meant they were calling him weird, not being homophobic.
  • Headless Horseman: One of the mysteries involved a short man with a frame built atop his shoulders, a very long coat, and a painted bowling ball masquerading as a headless horseman.
  • Henpecked Husband: Charles the rooster, whose bluster and self-aggrandisement is always undercut by his wife, Henrietta.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The real Martians, who are described as being about two feet high, with four arms, two legs, three eyes, and antennas. They are apparently descended from spider-like creatures, and their language can be understood by the spider characters. Despite their appearance, they are perfectly friendly, only coming to Earth in order to rescue what they think are captive Martians, and are happy to tour with the circus for a few years and share the workings of their saucer with Uncle Ben.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: The Martians traveling with the circus look a great deal like rats with beards wearing red suits. Of course, this is because they are rats, specifically Simon and his family.
  • The Jeeves: Bannister, Mr. Campor’s butler. It is mentioned a few times that he is paid to be dignified so his employer does not have to be.
  • Literal-Minded: Mr. Campor and Bannister, who are constantly debating and testing out old proverbs. For example they test “a rolling stone gathers no moss” by rolling stones down a hill and comparing them to other stones.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: A problem with the F.A.R.’s first attempt at a jail. Most of the initial wave of criminals just treat imprisonment as a vacation and permanent party. So much so that the judge eventually ended up ‘sentencing” himself. Solved by sentencing all prisoners to heavy labor. The human jail of Centerboro is an example as well, with free ice cream and window bars that can be pushed open from the inside.
  • Mobile-Suit Human: One of the older examples of the trope. Invented by Mr. Bean’s brother Uncle Ben, Bertram is made of wood and metal, and is powered by clockwork. He’s controlled from inside a small cockpit in the chest by a bird, who also provides the voice.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Most of Freddy’s disguises consist of putting on an outfit, a fake beard/wig, and an awful accent. None of this covers up the fact that he is a pig, yet he is able to have face to face conversations with people without anyone save his close friends and the extremely observant noticing anything odd.
  • Renaissance Man: Well, renaissance pig. As a glance through the series titles will show, Freddy successfully masters quite a few different careers, including private detective, poet, explorer, newspaper editor, stage magician, football player, cowboy, pilot, political strategist, banker, and baseball manager. At the conclusion of one book he even gets elected mayor of Centerboro!
  • Retro Rocket: Uncle Ben’s rocket is a classic example, built by the inventor to reach Mars.
  • Robot Me: Bertram for Adoniram. Not to be confused with Byram, Adoniram’s identical twin.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Employed by a villainous real-estate agent in "Freddy Goes Camping” to encourage people to sell their property cheaply. Indeed, every example of the supernatural in the series turns out to be this.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Charles the rooster can never resist any opportunity to launch into long-winded oratory. Several other minor characters have tendencies to this as well.
  • Sleazy Politician: Walter Brooks did not have a high opinion of most politicians. While the members of the F.A.R. tend to either be highly intelligent or at worst a Windbag Politician, almost every human politician is one of these, always pandering for public approval and willing to do anything to get votes. Freddy eventually manages to get animals the vote by pointing out that as rural creatures, they are more likely to vote Republican, allowing the party to overcome the Democratic majority based in New York City.
  • Stage Magician: Another of Freddy’s interests. He eventually ends up in a duel with another magician, each trying to top the other’s tricks.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Simon’s revolution against the humans. Animals under his command poison wells, block roads, and trap farmers in their own homes, all for the purpose of establishing a new animal-run government.
  • Tonto Talk: Subverted. While Freddy does run across some Native Americans who talk like this, it turns out that this is just for the benefit of tourists. They speak perfect English among themselves and their friends.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The orphan children Mr. and Mrs. Bean adopted in earlier installments (Everett and Ella in Freddy Goes to the North Pole, and later Adoniram and Byram in The Clockwork Twin) don't seem to be around in later books, with no apparent explanation. Maybe they got Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome and went to college?
  • Windbag Politician: Most politicians in the series who aren’t Sleazy Politicians. Special mention must go to Charles the rooster, who becomes even more longwinded than normal whenever he is given a hint of power.
  • You Dirty Rat!: The rats in the series are basically a mob family, led by their patriarch Simon. They also frequently team up with human crooks for various schemes. In "Freddy and Simon the Dictator" Simon goes so far as to stage a full-blown fascist takeover of the farm.