“An Egregious Degradation of the Law in the Freddy the Pig Series”

A Corrected & Emended Transcript (Abridged) of an Address Delivered to the Ladies’ Literary Society of Centerboro
by Guest Speaker Mr. Edward Henry Anderson on Saturday, September 12, 1959

Published as "Freddy the Felon" in the Winter 2000 Bean Home Newsletter

     Good afternoon, ladies. I think most of you know me or know of me, but if you don’t, let me introduce myself. I’m Edward Henry Anderson, and I, like all of you, have been a lifelong resident of Centerboro--and if you promise not to believe half of what you’ve heard about me, I’ll do the same for you! (Pause for laughter) Now, today it’s my purpose to bring to light a very serious matter. Your president, Mrs. Humphrey Underdunk, has given me to understand that you’ve been reading and discussing some of the Freddy books by Walter R. Brooks. Knowing of my studies and research in the series, Mrs. Underdunk invited me here to address you on a topic of my choice which I have titled “An Egregious Degradation of the Law in the Freddy the Pig Series” or “How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm After They've Seen the Centerboro Jail?” Now, I don’t pretend to be a legal expert, but I do have a sense that the law is frequently given a careless treatment in the series, and it is my intention to expose this dangerous, socially subversive thread of lawlessness and moral turpitude that runs through so many of the Freddy books, which, as you must know, are based very loosely on people just like you and me and upon events in Centerboro.

     To begin then, what is law? <<Deleted here for the sake of brevity is a lengthy disquisition on natural and positive law, the Sumerian Code of Hammurabi, Mosaic law, Greek and Roman law, the Napoleonic Code, Norman law, and English common law.>> I then asked my cousin Dougal, a lawyer, for a down-to-earth definition of “law.” He said, “Laws are rules that keep us within the boundaries on the playing field of life.” I told him, “That’s very nice, Dougal, but could you be less poetic and more practical?” He then replied, “Well, when you get right down to it, Eddie, I suppose laws are what keep us from tearing each other’s throats out, stealing everybody else blind, and spitting on the sidewalk.” Now, Dougal may come across as a bit flippant, but when you think about it, he’s quite right. What he means is that laws keep us from injuring ourselves and harming or annoying others as might be our natural inclination if we were left to our biological impulses. Law protects us from our lower selves that urge some of us to become “red in tooth and claw”! Not that everyone would be bad! Oh, no. I’m absolutely certain we could except the present company! But imagine for a moment what would happen if we suspended the law for a day or two and freed everyone from the consequences of criminal behavior. Can you just imagine the immediate increase in petty thievery, disturbing the peace, simple assault and battery, public drunkenness, sundry traffic violations?--and these are the least of it! Yes, ladies, couldn’t we sensibly anticipate an increase in murderous rampages, arson, and other felonies, if our species were allowed to roam about unrestrained by the law? Let’s agree then, that the law is a necessity, and that for civilization’s sake, it must be firmly in place and uniformly and neutrally administered by our duly elected servants! Is this the case in the Freddy the Pig books? I think not. Today we are going to take a broad look at how the concepts of the authority of the law and punishment are treated in the Freddy books. I am not going to explore any one book in depth, and I must assume you are familiar with the series. After that, I am going to list for you a number of examples of lawlessness and questionable conduct that run through the series like a bad gastrointestinal bug!

     To begin then, in Chapter 5 of Freddy the Detective, the animals determine to police their own and create their own jail, thereby instituting a simple system of justice among themselves. However, things do not go as planned, and soon the conditions in the animals’ version of jail foreshadow a similar resort-like atmosphere in the Centerboro Jail. A rabbit speaking to Freddy says, “And I wanted to go to jail--the animals there have such a good time, and don’t have to work, and they play games and sing songs all day long, and other animals are sorry for them and bring them lots of good things to eat. Oh, please, Mr. Freddy, take me to the judge and get me a good long sentence.” Jail is so much fun, indeed, that even the animals’ judge, Charles, contrives to sentence himself to a term. Elements of the animal population become so enthralled with the idea of enjoying the good life in jail that the “Hoho Club” is formed; that is, the “Hilarious Order of Habitual Offenders” whose members commit crimes solely to get into the jail. This caricature of the law and punishment insinuates itself into human affairs before long in Freddy’s Cousin Weedly.

     In Chapter 3 of Weedly, the sheriff has stopped by to check on the Snedeckers who are staying at the Beans’ house while they tour Europe. At the end of their conversation, the sheriff tells Mr. Snedeker that he must get back to the jail because, “I just remembered I left the jail locked.” Snedeker replies: “Left it locked! Well, that’s all right, ain’t it, eh? Prisoners can’t get out.” The sheriff responds with this preposterous elaboration: “They can’t get in. Most of ‘em are out visiting their families tonight or at the movies, and they’re going to be good and sore if they come back and find they can’t get in.... It is a nice jail if I do say so. One of the most popular jails in the state. I have to make it nice, or I wouldn’t have any job. You see...we don’t have any crime in Centerboro, and if I didn’t keep a nice comfortable jail that people want to stay in, why I wouldn’t get any prisoners to look after, and where’d my job be? So I got the cells all fixed up with good beds, and we got a game room and tennis courts and so on, and we set a better table than the hotel does. Folks like to stay in my jail, so now and then they break a few unimportant laws so they can get sent there. I don’t say it’s right of ‘em, but it’s reasonable.” Reasonable to break “unimportant laws”?! Excuse me, but I’m sure you will agree that reason dictates we must obey laws for the sake of our society’s stability and security!  Later in the book, we come across this description of the jail: “[It is] a large pleasant looking house, sitting back from the sidewalk, and surrounded by green lawns bordered with flower beds. Little tables with gaily striped umbrellas over them stood about, and at them sat the prisoners, talking and playing games. There were open boxes of candy on nearly all the tables, and at one, an ice cream freezer was being opened. In the middle of the lawn, several prisoners were planting red geraniums in a large flower bed. They were working very fast, because the flower bed was to be a surprise for the sheriff. They were arranging the flowers to spell out the motto: THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE JAIL.” How very cozy and homey!

     This burlesque of justice continues in Freddy and the Bean Home News. In the seventh chapter of the book we read: “[Freddy] got to the jail safely, and walked right into the sheriff’s office, for the jail doors were never locked. The sheriff had explained this once to Freddy. ‘The prisoners don’t like it,’ he said, ‘and to tell you the truth I wouldn’t like it myself if I was a prisoner. I want ‘em to be happy here.” In Chapter 9, the sheriff’s “well-known slackness” is criticized in an editorial in the Centerboro Guardian, but since the article has been composed by a “villain,” Herb Garble, it is clearly meant to be discounted as self-serving, though it is certainly accurate. In Chapter 11, Freddy, who is in custody for illegally running about Centerboro unaccompanied by his owner, is encouraged by the sheriff to escape from the jail: “Of course,” said the sheriff, “this is an awful easy jail to escape from....It would be a novelty, in a way. We ain’t ever had an escape in all the years I’ve had charge here. Trouble seems to be to get ‘em to go when their time’s up. One little escape wouldn’t be held against me.” Remember, the audience for these books is children with impressionable minds!

     In Freddy and the Popinjay, Chapter 13, we again encounter this selfsame easygoing permissiveness. The sheriff is chitchatting with Freddy and Mrs. Church and invites them to the jail: “Well, you’d better come down there now, then, and have some ice cream. I told the prisoners to make a freezer full for supper.” He invites Mrs. Church, too: “They’d be proud and happy to have you join us, too, ma’am. Show ‘em your hat and have him sing for them. Kind of brightens up the day for them. It’s little entertainments like that that make my jail one of the most popular in the state.” The sheriff’s overt delinquency as an elected law official is further demonstrated in Freddy the Pied Piper. He’s revealed in Chapter 3 to be mostly image and no substance in the reference to the pistol handles he’s had sewn into his hip pocket. That’s right! The sheriff has only the appearance of a sidearm, and this signifies his lack of power and authority.

     In Chapter 7 of Freddy the Magician, Red Mike, a recurrent jailbird character and the jail baseball team’s best pitcher, leaves the jail upon the expiration of his sentence. That very day he steals a chicken from Judge Willey who obligingly re-sentences him to another three months, just time enough to complete the baseball season. So much for discouraging recidivism and encouraging respect for the judiciary! A few pages later, Louie the Lout is discovered to be a pie thief. The sheriff says he’ll have to go. Freddy states, “My goodness, most of ‘em are here because they’re thieves, aren’t they?” As the sheriff hems and haws about this, Freddy helps him out: “He’s being punished for being a thief by being put in jail. But it’s against the rules, kind of, for him to go on being a thief while he’s being punished.” The sheriff says, “That’s right. If he’s allowed to go on stealing here, what becomes of the punishment?” Freddy grins and asks, “What becomes of it anyway in this jail?” This is certainly a question we all might ask!

     The prisoners dress up for a dance at Tushville while Freddy and the sheriff conspire to foil the fictional “Mr. Eha” in Chapter 13 of Freddy Goes Camping. “Mr. Eha” has driven out the owner of the Lakeside Hotel, Mrs. Filmore, by “haunting” her property. Freddy and the sheriff discuss what to do. The sheriff says: “I dunno, Freddy. I’m sorry for that Mrs. Filmore; she’s a real nice woman. And I don’t like Anderson--never did. But we haven’t got enough against him to do anything legal. Of course, if you got something illegal in your mind, I might help you, as long as you don’t tell me what it is. I’m an officer of the law, you know; it wouldn’t look right if I was to go round committin’ crimes.” Indeed not!

     This grotesque portrayal of the law is echoed in Chapter 11 of Freddy Plays Football when Freddy, who has stolen $5,000 from the bank to protect Mr. and Mrs. Bean from the “false Doty,” is in turn protected by Mrs. Church and the sheriff: “Well, ma’m,” the sheriff says. “[Y]ou’re askin’ me about Freddy. You know it’s my duty to arrest him if I can find him.” Mrs. Church replies: “Yes. You needn’t be afraid I’m going to tell you where he is. Anyway, I don’t know. Not that I don’t think he’d be safer in the jail than out hiding somewhere.” Whatever Freddy’s intentions, he is still a felon, and winking at his crime is deplorable.

     We see this same inexcusable laxness in Freddy Rides Again when the sheriff deliberately warns Freddy and Charles, who are being sought for attacking Mr. Margarine, to vanish. He addresses Freddy: “I have to do my duty. If I was to see--and recognize--either of these animals, I’d have to take ‘em down to the jail. Hold ‘em for trial.” As he scrutinizes the arrest warrant, the sheriff tells Freddy, “Forgot my readin’ glasses, I can’t make out the descriptions of these criminals” and then offers this advice: “If they’re smart, they’ll take to the woods for a while. They’ll know that if I don’t catch ‘em today, I’m too busy a man to go chasing them.” Later, the fugitives Freddy and Charles hide out in the old Grimby place. Margarine has just been sworn in as a deputy, and the sheriff ruminates aloud to some sparrows sitting on a jail windowsill: “I’d like to warn that pig, bein’ he’s a friend of mine. But I’m the sheriff--I can’t do it.” Of course, the sparrows will. Respect for the law is further undermined when we hear for the first and not the last time of the unique windows bars of the Centerboro jail: “The sheriff was a kindly man, and once several years ago the prisoners had complained about the bars. They had said that iron bars made them feel shut in, made them nervous. ‘We have to have bars,’ the sheriff had said. ‘Every proper jail has bars. But we’ll fix ‘em.’ And he did. Now the frames, bars and all, swung out like a casement window. All you had to do was to push them and climb out.” Indeed, as the sheriff observes later in Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans, the jail is “easier to get out of then to get into,” so much so that a special ordinance is passed for shooting off fireworks in the city, an ordinance made to order for ex-prisoners who wish, for the cost of a ten dollar fine, to go back to jail for another ten days. The firecrackers are easy to obtain. The sheriff keeps a supply handy at the jail for just that purpose!

     Going back for a moment to Freddy Plays Football, the sheriff offers an excuse for his slackness in the form of a flabby humanitarianism: “If you had to go to jail, Freddy thought, there certainly wasn’t a nicer jail to go to than the Centerboro one. It was just like staying at a hotel, only it was nicer than a hotel because you didn’t have to pay anything. Of course it was run differently than most jails. The sheriff let the prisoners have parties, and go to movies and ball games because, he said, ‘I want to turn ‘em into good citizens, and ‘tain’t any training for good citizenship if you’re locked up in a little cell all the time with no other citizens to talk to.’ The only trouble was that some of the prisoners didn’t want to leave when their time was up.” (By the way, this theme is paralleled in Boomschmidt’s circus, as you may have noticed. For example, in Freddy and the Men from Mars, Boomschmidt’s observation about his menagerie seems a veiled reference to the jail: “Animals aren’t really wild except when they’re shut up....You’d be wild yourself if you had to live in a cage.”) Perhaps Walter Brooks had received some criticism and his editor asked him to provide at least some rationale for his persistent mockery of authority and jails. And yet in Freddy the Cowboy, he reverts to mocking the system again. Red Mike’s sentence has once again expired and there has been a going-away party for “Centerboro’s most popular prisoner.” The sheriff speaks to the teary-eyed Mike: “Well, Mike, we are happy to have had you with us, and if you come back, we will have a big celebration. Of course, I can’t ask you to try to come back, because that would be askin’ you to commit another crime, and that would be a crime in itself--compoundin’ a felony and bein’ accessory before the fact and I don’t know what all. Of course, they couldn’t put me in jail for it, because I’m here already. But they might put me out of the jail, which would be worse. And I ought to tell you boys that there’s been some criticism in town of the way I handle things here. (Is this Mr. Brooks’s way of saying, “There’s been some criticism of the way I write about the law”?) Folks say I’m too good to you boys, that lots of you do wrong just so you can get back here, and that I’m causin’ a crime wave in these parts. So I’m askin’ you when you’re out around town, don’t talk too much about the good times we have. Tell ‘em I’m a hard man--rule you with an iron hand--that sort of thing.” Later in Chapter 16, we’re right back to the “little entertainments and parties to keep the prisoners contented and happy” that the sheriff thinks up. Is it any wonder that in Freddy and the Space Ship this passage is found? “[T]he Centerboro jail was known throughout New York State as being a very happy jail; many criminals considered a stay there as a delightful vacation, and they had to be pushed out when they had served their sentences.” And then in Freddy and the Men from Mars, there’s another affront to our legal system in Red Mike’s lecture on practical burgling in the jail’s assembly hall. Now we might take this as a criticism of jails-as-schools-for-crime, but given the earlier treatment of the sheriff as a representative authority figure and the jail as a place of punishment, I don’t think so.

     So what kind of view of the legal system does Brooks present to the youth of America (and elsewhere) in his depiction of a jail to which prisoners have latchkeys and come and go as they please? Where ice-cream sodas, striped umbrellas, candy pulls, and croquet are the order of the day? Where prisoners like Bloody Mike “just live” for the time they’re caught and sentenced to six months? Where barred windows swing out freely so as to not have the prisoners feel “shut in” or “nervous”? Where the apparently traitorous and felonious Freddy is put into a luxurious double room with a private bath, brass bed, desk, etc.? All resemblance to a place of incarceration and punishment end at the iron gates. In Freddy and the Dragon, Brooks even goes so far as to presume the approval of the good people of Centerboro for the “most popular jail in New York State” where “[t]o be sentenced...was similar to being elected to an exclusive club” and where a stay is like a “long vacation at the seaside.” According to the narrator of Dragon, “The Centerboro people were very proud of their jail. They often gave parties for the prisoners, who were always heartily welcomed at such things as church suppers and grange dances. Some of the prisoners who had children of their own at home always attended the P.T.A. meetings and made many useful suggestions.” Dear me, this seems to stretch the most elastic of imaginations beyond the limits, doesn’t it?

     I am not the only one to have noticed and complained about Mr. Brooks’s depiction of the law. Consider this. Shortly after the publication of Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans, a review of it appeared in the October 15, 1957 volume of Library Journal. The reviewer commented thusly: "Because of Freddy's large following, librarians will purchase this. Yet, Mr. Brooks's treatment of lawbreakers, jails, and spies, in this and his previous books might foster unfortunate attitudes in children." Unfortunate indeed!

     Now, the matters of the sheriff’s lack of authority and the resort-like jail are certainly serious, but the “unfortunate attitudes” are further fostered by a host of felonies, misdemeanors, and just plain old poor conduct throughout the series. Let me list for you a smattering of examples from the stories, and you determine what kind of message is being sent. To wit...

     In Freddy Goes to Florida, the animals appropriate half a bushel of gold pieces without making any serious inquiry as to whom the treasure may belong, and Mr. Bean receives this princely amount without asking a single question. Assume for a moment that Mr. Bean represents a kind of parent to the animals. Would a good parent allow such a thing?

     In Freddy Goes to the North Pole, the animals attack the customs officials on the bridge over the St. Lawrence River. At the end of the book, Santa and the animals kidnap Constable Henry Snedeker after he arrests them for exceeding the Centerboro speed limit, disturbing the peace, operating a menagerie without a license, and assault and battery. Santa then blackmails the judge to secure his and the animals’ release. Santa!

     In The Clockwork Twin, Freddy, Jinx, Ronald, Georgie, and Adoniram meet in Waterman, Dinkelstein & Co. and help themselves liberally to the goods. They leave the store with pockets “bulging with supplies.” I quote further: “...Freddy said he was sure the store people wouldn’t mind if [Adoniram] outfitted himself with things that he really needed....” Later Freddy encourages Adoniram to run from the police and knocks an officer down. As if this were not bad enough, the police care for Adoniram until he is to be sent home and allow him to keep the things he has taken from the store. Later, the animals encourage Adoniram to run away from home and go with them to the Bean farm where the Beans simply accept his presence without question and make inquiries about adopting the boy. Mr. Bean says, “We mustn’t get the wrong side of the law” with respect to keeping Adoniram--but he enjoins the animals to contrive a plan: “The law can’t touch animals,” he says. In this same book one of the animals’ own, the autocratic tyrant Uncle Wesley is said to have been kidnapped and deposited in the next county by an eagle confederate of the animals simply to get him out of the way.

     In Freddy and the Perilous Adventure, the sheriff, ever a friend to Freddy, recognizes the balloon thief-fugitive Freddy in the scarecrow’s clothes and warns him to stay away from home to avoid arrest. Those clothes, by the way, were stolen by Freddy. The farmer who reported the theft evidently never receives restitution in this book. Small potatoes, you say? I say it’s a chipping away at the foundations of society!

     In Freddy and the Bean Home News, the animals resort to a favorite trick to subdue their enemies. They keep Herb Garble awake so that he is unable to conduct a proper prosecution of Freddy. He fails to sum up to the jury because he has dozed off, and Whibley deliberately lies to Judge Willey to hurry the jury out for deliberations. Also in this book Freddy tricks Mrs. Underdunk into giving up the iron lawn deer given to her by her late husband and just happens to “find” a long heavy rope in Judge Willey’s garage with which to haul the deer away.

     In Freddy and the Ignormus, Freddy “borrows” Mr. Bean’s shotgun. The suggestion is that under the circumstances, it is perfectly justified. Do the ends justify the means? Later in the book, Mrs. Bean exhibits a soft-heartedness when she finds a reason for the rats’ poor behavior, a soft-heartedness previously exhibited by the sheriff and once by Freddy in Detective when he says, “Perhaps I shouldn’t be a detective after all, Jinx. I shall always feel so sorry for the criminals when I find them that I’ll probably let them go.”

     This moral flabbiness surfaces again in Freddy and Mr. Camphor, when Mr. Camphor chooses not to press charges against the Winches. Instead they’re “sort of on probation...with a suspended jail sentence” and continue to work for him after having stolen from him. Camphor hopes the dirty-faced boy Horace can be salvaged if he is removed from the continuous influence of his father. How facile! Freddy cleans the boy up, gets him interested in painting, and everything is rosy! Even Mr. Winch becomes “less objectionable” according to Camphor. Simple solutions! Should we accept criminals who become “less objectionable”?

     This same theme continues in Freddy and the Popinjay where Jimmy Witherspoon is cured of his cruelty to animals with a little attention, some cast-off clothes, a party invitation, and fun and games in the duck pond. Freddy thinks of Jimmy’s good qualities as “buried treasure” and excuses the boy’s poor behavior: “I think other people have always been bad to him, and he doesn’t know how to act any different.” Mrs. Church, too, finds an excuse for Jimmy: “He’s ashamed of looking so poor....” Brooks suggests that all we need to do is clean up the children and everything will be fine--a kind of baptismal ritual reflected in Horace’s being scrubbed clean and Jimmy’s being dunked in the duck pond. Can it be that simple? Life tells us otherwise.

     In Freddy the Pied Piper, the animals hold Mrs. Guffin prisoner. They unlawfully restrain her while they decide how to escape with Leo, whom she had imprisoned, and leave her locked in her pantry as they depart from Tallmanville for home.

     In Freddy the Magician, Freddy investigates Zingo. He enjoins his comrades Hank and Jinx to join in: “Look, are you two boys with me? I mean, it’ll be burglary, sort of, and maybe trouble if we get caught, but--” Jinx chimes in with: “Burglary? Boy, I’ve always wanted to burgle. Runs in the blood....” Quite a poor example for the eight- to ten-year-olds who were the intended audience of these books!

     In Freddy Goes Camping, where Brooks introduces a fictionalized version of me, “Mr. Eha” is harassed until he is forced to sign a spurious confession. The animals employ a favorite tactic--depriving “Mr. Eha” of sleep--and Freddy, Mr. Camphor, and Camphor’s Aunt Minerva get the confession--but not before Minerva murderously assaults “Mr. Eha” with an unjustified blow to the head with a heavy frying pan. All this shabby and illegal behavior on the part of the “good guys” is supposedly justified by Mr. Eha’s dishonesty. Doesn’t that strike you as contrary to due process?

     In Freddy Plays Football, Mrs. Church, a pillar of Centerboro society and a former Board of Trustee member of an orphanage, is in possession of stolen property. She agrees to hold the $5,000 Freddy has stolen from the bank to prevent Mr. Bean from giving it to the false Aaron Doty. At first she even agrees to use it for Freddy’s bail, but to her partial credit, she doesn’t. She does, however, bake it into a pie which she gives to Freddy to hide in the jail. Let me add that another thing that bothers me about Football is that Freddy, who has been arrested and is out on bail, is allowed to continue to be a member of the high school team, no doubt because of his critical usefulness. Later in the book when Freddy goes to trial, Brooks gives a nod in the direction of law and order: “Most of [the audience] knew Freddy and many of them were his friends, but the general opinion seemed to be that a robbery, even if committed with the best intentions, is not something that can be passed over with just a talking to.” However, the courtroom proceedings are undermined by fancy and questionable legal footwork by Whibley and a false alibi supplied by Freddy’s cousin Weedly. A travesty!

     In Freddy Rides Again, the innocent young readers of the series are presented with this: “This was not the first time Freddy had had to go into hiding. Twice before not only the sheriff but the state troopers, had been after him; but on both those occasions he had been innocent. ‘This time,’ [Freddy] said, ‘I’m guilty, because I really did fire off my pistol. And so are you, Charles. You really pecked his nose and knocked off his hat.” You will have no difficulty believing that everything turns out well for Freddy and Charles once again, as the fugitives from justice prevail by the book’s end. And what about Freddy’s kidnapping of Billy Margarine and his holding the boy against his will in the Grimby house for the safe return of Mrs. Wiggins? Another example of vigilantism and “the ends justify the means” philosophy.

     In Freddy the Pilot, although Sniffy Wilson does not feel right about it, the Wilsons and the Horribles burn down a barn and Condiment’s airplane within to put him out of commission. When the animals capture Condiment, they nail him under floorboards. Vigilantism again, as Freddy says, “The police can’t help us; we’ve got to do it all ourselves.” Similar to the incident involving Mr. Eha in Camping, a confession is forced out of Condiment after he meets up with the “Demon Woman.”

     In Freddy and the Space Ship, another miscarriage of justice occurs when a bogus verdict of guilty is brought in against Ed Bismuth contrary to proper court procedure. The judge intervenes, but sentences Bismuth to two years for another crime for which he was not even on trial. Preposterous!

     In Freddy and the Men from Mars, the animals once again resort to illegal restraint when they padlock Simon in a parrot cage in the barn even though they have absolutely nothing on him with respect to the missing chickens. Later in the same book, there exists a distinctly suspect idea: Freddy asks the sheriff if there would be “trouble” if they threw the rats out of the Grimby house. The sheriff says that if there isn’t a law against something, you have a right to do it. Even though the animals do not exercise this “right,” the fact that the sheriff promotes such a notion is wrong. Even more wrong is the burgling of the Underdunk house by Freddy and Red Mike who are looking for the kidnapped chickens. Another example of the lack of moral authority on the part of the sheriff emerges when Freddy explains to the sheriff a plan to capture Garble. The sheriff says, “’Tain’t legal.” Jinx replies, “Oh, phooey! It’s fun, isn’t it? And justice, too. Well, go on back to your jail and be legal, then. If you don’t see it happen, you won’t know anything about it.” The sheriff, not wanting to miss out on the “fun” joins in, luring Garble to an ambush and helping to nail him in the crate that the Martians whisk away to Montana.

     This will not be the only time Garble is kidnapped by the animals though. In Freddy and Simon the Dictator, they kidnap Garble after a meeting of the revolutionaries and lock him in a cabin at the Oteseraga village where he is threatened with being burnt at the stake.

     Isn’t it ironic then, in Baseball Team, that Freddy has the temerity to say of the Martians: “They sure are learning a fine American disrespect for anyone in authority.” Ironic, too, is Freddy’s editorial in his Bean Home News where he complains about the statewide thefts of jewelry: “What are our police doing? Do we pay them to stand idly by when our citizens are daily victimized by gangs of bold and insolent criminals who laugh and giggle contemptuously at the minions of the law?”

     In the last book of the series, Freddy and the Dragon, Freddy is suspected of mischief once again, and once again the sheriff comes to his assistance. Mrs. Peppercorn and the sheriff conspire to have her swear out a warrant for Frederick J. Bean’s arrest. The sheriff makes it a point to let Freddy know that this is an invalid warrant because there is no “J” in Freddy’s name and warns Freddy that there are numerous warrants circulating without the “J.” This, of course, gives Freddy time to assume a disguise and hide out.

     In conclusion, I’m sure that some of you think that I am overstating my case, and that the recurring positive themes of the Freddy books--courage, friendship, fair play, and so on and so forth--far overshadow the motifs of moral vagueness and lawlessness There might be some truth to that view. However, my case must be stated because it is too obvious to ignore and too important to simply shrug off. I think the distinguished jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., would agree with me. He said: “The law is the witness and external deposit of our moral life. Its history is the history of the moral development of the race.” If the law is treated indifferently and not given the proper respect--especially in a children’s book series!!--what can we hope for in the future other than a gradual coarsening of morals and behavior in public and private matters? I wonder today what the years leading to the next millennium will bring!

     And now I thank you very much for your kind attention. I’ll be going to the table by the front entrance presently to chat with you and sign copies of My True Story: The Centerboro Flying Saucer which you may purchase at a ten percent discount today only.


Note: The Internet version of my address does not include the well-chosen illustrations that the President and Newsletter Editor inserted in the FoF Winter 2000 Bean Home Newsletter printing of this article. If you want to see them, I suggest that you join the Fiends...dang! I mean the Friends of Freddy and get the back issue (and all the other back issues as well)--for research purposes, of course. A two-year membership may be had for a paltry $15.00 as of this time. You can become a charter member and get all the back issues of the Newsletter for $60.00. Click here to join: FoF Website.

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