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Literature / The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck

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The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck is a children's book by Beatrix Potter.

Jemima Puddle-Duck wants nothing more than to raise her own brood of ducklings; unfortunately, the humans running the farm where she lives always take her eggs away and give them to a hen to raise. Jemima hatches a plan to lay some eggs at a secret location away from the farm and receives assistance from a generous sandy-whiskered gentleman, who may not be quite as altruistic as he seems.

Provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: Don't judge people by their superficial appearances, and if a stranger randomly offers you help, he might have a nefarious ulterior motive.
  • Affably Evil: Jemima's sandy-whiskered "friend" is unfailingly polite, even when implying that he'd like to eat Jemima's rival, the hen.
  • Babies Ever After: In the end, Jemima does get to keep and raise several eggs, of which four ducklings survive.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: At the end of the story, Kep, the farm collie, and two fox-hound puppies from the nearby village attack and chase off the fox, but Jemima and the reader only hear the fight and see nothing of it from within the locked shed.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Jemima lays her eggs in a huge pile of feathers and down in the fox's shed—feathers which could only have come from other unfortunate fowl who met their ends as the fox's earlier victims.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The sandy-whiskered man is a perfect gentleman who generously offers Jemima a place to lay her eggs and brings her food so that she doesn't have to leave her nest, because he wants to eat her and her eggs.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The dogs rescue Jemima from the foxy gentleman, but they also eat all of her eggs. However, she gets to raise her next batch of eggs.
  • The Cameo: The Fox here is very similar to Mr. Tod. Heck, even his stick house is the same. It’s safe to presume that the Fox was Mr. Tod, as the wooden Summer house of the Fox is later seen in The Tale of Mr Tod, and the Winter house the Fox mentioned is in the Earth, and Mr Tod’s Winter house is also in the Earth.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: The sandy-whiskered gentleman, although he didn't have to try very hard given how ditzy Jemima is.
  • Death of a Child: After the fox is chased off, Jemima's eggs get promptly eaten by the fox-hound puppies who helped save her.
  • Destructive Savior: While the fox-hound puppies do play a crucial role in helping the farm collie chase away the predatory fox, they immediately eat all of Jemima's eggs upon being let into the fox's cabin.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A charming secretly-evil gentleman befriends a naive trusting woman specifically because he wants to prey on her and her young children. The fox in this story comes across like an allegory for a sexual predator or a serial killer.
  • Dramatic Irony: The whole story runs on this trope, since the audience is aware from the get-go that Jemima's gentleman friend is a fox. The biggest example is how the story never calls the villain a "fox," even though he clearly is one, because it's being told from Jemima's point-of-view.
  • Foul Fox: The sandy-whiskered gentleman wants to eat Jemima and her eggs.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Jemima. The narrator even pokes fun at her cluelessness towards the end: "Jemima was a simpleton; not even the mention of sage and onions made her suspicious."
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The farmer's wife might seem harsh in not letting Jemima hatch her own eggs, but she does have a point: Jemima isn't patient enough to sit on the eggs (in fact, none of the ducks are), and she's not the most responsible duck in the world, as proven when only four of the brood she's allowed to keep hatch.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: A variation: Jemima can have children, but she's not allowed to raise them.
  • Maternally Challenged: The female ducks. Rebeccah bluntly tells Jemima that neither of them has the patience to sit on their eggs for 28 days. Even when Jemima finally gets to raise her own children, only four of them make it past egg-hood.
  • Pet the Dog: After losing her brood, Jemima is allowed to hatch the next one.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Jemima unwittingly sets this in motion by explaining the entire situation to Kep, the farm collie, who immediately enlists a pair of fox-hound puppies for help, and they drive away the fox in short order.
  • Take Our Word for It: Jemima ends up locked inside the shed, and we overhear the final confrontation between the dogs and the fox from her limited point-of-view, which makes the scene seem more sinister. Subverted in the animated adaptation, where we do see the dogs attacking the fox and chasing him away, though we cut to Jemima's perspective while he's being mauled.