ladies. I think most of you know me or know of me, but if you dont, let
me introduce myself. Im 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 youve heard about me, Ill do the same for you! (Pause for
laughter) Now, today its my purpose to bring to light a very serious
matter. Your president, Mrs. Humphrey Underdunk, has given me to understand that
youve 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
dont 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.
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, Thats 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 others
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, hes
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. Im 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, couldnt we sensibly anticipate an increase in murderous
rampages, arson, and other felonies, if our species were allowed to roam about
unrestrained by the law? Lets agree then, that the law is a necessity, and
that for civilizations 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!
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 dont 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 Freddys Cousin Weedly.
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, thats all right, aint it, eh? Prisoners
cant get out. The sheriff responds with this preposterous elaboration:
They cant get in. Most of em are out visiting their families
tonight or at the movies, and theyre going to be good and sore if they come
back and find they cant 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 wouldnt
have any job. You see...we dont have any crime in Centerboro, and if I didnt
keep a nice comfortable jail that people want to stay in, why I wouldnt
get any prisoners to look after, and whered 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 dont say its right of em, but its reasonable.
Reasonable to break unimportant laws?! Excuse me, but Im sure
you will agree that reason dictates we must obey laws for the sake of our societys
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!
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 sheriffs office, for the jail doors were never locked. The sheriff had
explained this once to Freddy. The prisoners dont like it, he
said, and to tell you the truth I wouldnt like it myself if I was
a prisoner. I want em to be happy here. In Chapter 9, the sheriffs
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 aint ever
had an escape in all the years Ive had charge here. Trouble seems to be
to get em to go when their times up. One little escape wouldnt
be held against me. Remember, the audience for these books is children with
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, youd 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: Theyd be proud and happy to have you join us, too,
maam. Show em your hat and have him sing for them. Kind of brightens
up the day for them. Its little entertainments like that that make my jail
one of the most popular in the state. The sheriffs overt delinquency
as an elected law official is further demonstrated in Freddy the Pied Piper.
Hes revealed in Chapter 3 to be mostly image and no substance in the reference
to the pistol handles hes had sewn into his hip pocket. Thats right!
The sheriff has only the appearance of a sidearm, and this signifies his lack
of power and authority.
7 of Freddy the Magician, Red Mike, a recurrent jailbird character and
the jail baseball teams 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 hell have to go. Freddy states, My goodness, most of em
are here because theyre thieves, arent they? As the sheriff
hems and haws about this, Freddy helps him out: Hes being punished
for being a thief by being put in jail. But its against the rules, kind
of, for him to go on being a thief while hes being punished. The sheriff
says, Thats right. If hes 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!
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. Im sorry for that Mrs. Filmore;
shes a real nice woman. And I dont like Anderson--never did. But we
havent 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 dont tell
me what it is. Im an officer of the law, you know; it wouldnt look
right if I was to go round committin crimes. Indeed not!
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, mam, the sheriff says. [Y]oure askin
me about Freddy. You know its my duty to arrest him if I can find him.
Mrs. Church replies: Yes. You neednt be afraid Im going to tell
you where he is. Anyway, I dont know. Not that I dont think hed
be safer in the jail than out hiding somewhere. Whatever Freddys intentions,
he is still a felon, and winking at his crime is deplorable.
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, Id 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 cant make
out the descriptions of these criminals and then offers this advice: If
theyre smart, theyll take to the woods for a while. Theyll know
that if I dont catch em today, Im 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: Id like to warn
that pig, bein hes a friend of mine. But Im the sheriff--I cant
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 well 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!
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 wasnt 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 didnt 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 taint any training for good citizenship if youre 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 didnt want to leave when their
time was up. (By the way, this theme is paralleled in Boomschmidts
circus, as you may have noticed. For example, in Freddy and the Men from Mars,
Boomschmidts observation about his menagerie seems a veiled reference to
the jail: Animals arent really wild except when theyre shut
up....Youd 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 Mikes
sentence has once again expired and there has been a going-away party for Centerboros
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 cant 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 dont know what all. Of course, they couldnt put me in jail for
it, because Im here already. But they might put me out of the jail, which
would be worse. And I ought to tell you boys that theres been some criticism
in town of the way I handle things here. (Is this Mr. Brookss way of saying,
Theres been some criticism of the way I write about the law?)
Folks say Im too good to you boys, that lots of you do wrong just so you
can get back here, and that Im causin a crime wave in these parts.
So Im askin you when youre out around town, dont talk
too much about the good times we have. Tell em Im a hard man--rule
you with an iron hand--that sort of thing. Later in Chapter 16, were
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, theres another affront to our legal system in Red Mikes
lecture on practical burgling in the jails 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 dont think so.
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 theyre 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, doesnt it?
I am not
the only one to have noticed and complained about Mr. Brookss 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!
matters of the sheriffs 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...
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?
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
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 wouldnt 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 mustnt get the wrong side of the law with
respect to keeping Adoniram--but he enjoins the animals to contrive a plan: The
law cant 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.
and the Perilous Adventure, the sheriff, ever a friend to Freddy, recognizes
the balloon thief-fugitive Freddy in the scarecrows 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 its a chipping away at the
foundations of society!
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 Willeys garage with which to haul the deer away.
and the Ignormus, Freddy borrows Mr. Beans 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 shouldnt be a detective after all, Jinx. I shall always
feel so sorry for the criminals when I find them that Ill probably let them
flabbiness surfaces again in Freddy and Mr. Camphor, when Mr. Camphor chooses
not to press charges against the Winches. Instead theyre 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?
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 Jimmys
good qualities as buried treasure and excuses the boys poor
behavior: I think other people have always been bad to him, and he doesnt
know how to act any different. Mrs. Church, too, finds an excuse for Jimmy:
Hes 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 Horaces being scrubbed clean and Jimmys
being dunked in the duck pond. Can it be that simple? Life tells us otherwise.
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.
the Magician, Freddy investigates Zingo. He enjoins his comrades Hank and
Jinx to join in: Look, are you two boys with me? I mean, itll be burglary,
sort of, and maybe trouble if we get caught, but-- Jinx chimes in with:
Burglary? Boy, Ive 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!
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 Camphors 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. Ehas dishonesty.
Doesnt that strike you as contrary to due process?
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 Freddys
bail, but to her partial credit, she doesnt. 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 Freddys cousin Weedly. A travesty!
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, Im
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 books end. And what about Freddys
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.
the Pilot, although Sniffy Wilson does not feel right about it, the Wilsons
and the Horribles burn down a barn and Condiments 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 cant help
us; weve 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.
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!
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
isnt 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, Taint
legal. Jinx replies, Oh, phooey! Its fun, isnt it? And
justice, too. Well, go on back to your jail and be legal, then. If you dont
see it happen, you wont 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.
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.
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 Freddys 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?
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. Beans arrest. The sheriff makes it a point to let Freddy know that this
is an invalid warrant because there is no J in Freddys 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.
Im 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 childrens
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!
I thank you very much for your kind attention. Ill 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