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CoverTaleOfJemimaPuddleDuck

Front cover of a first edition of the Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck from 1908.

The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck is a children's fantasy story by the British author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. It was first published in July 1908. Its title character and protagonist had previously appeared in Potter's 1907 book The Tale of Tom Kitten.[1] Beatrix Potter considered The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck to be a reworking of the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood".

The plot is set in motion when a farmer's wife refuses to allow any ducks on the farm to hatch their own eggs. All of the ducks' eggs are hatched by hens. Jemima Puddle-Duck is very upset by this. She decides to secretly lay some eggs far away from the farm. She finds a clearing in a wood where a "gentleman" has a small house and shed. The "gentleman" tells Jemima that she can lay her eggs in the shed. Jemima Puddle-Duck does not realize that the "gentleman' is a fox who plans to eat her.

Beatrix Potter began work on The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck shortly after having purchased Hill Top Farm in the village of Near Sawrey, Cumbria. The book is dedicated to Betsy and Ralph Cannon, the children of John Cannon who managed the farm on Potter's behalf. The Cannon children and their mother appear in the book's illustrations.[2] Mrs. Cannon believed that ducks were not good at hatching their own eggs. She routinely took ducks' eggs and had hens sit on them instead. She found that one particular duck at Hill Top Farm often tried to hide its eggs from her and tried to hatch them itself without much success.

The character Jemima Puddle-Duck is probably named after Jemima Blackburn (1823-1909), a Scottish painter and ornithologist whose best known work is the 1868 book Birds from Nature. Beatrix Potter writes in her journal about her delight at having received a copy of Birds from Nature as a present for her tenth birthday.

The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck has been adapted for radio, film and television.

Plot

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Jemima Puddle-Duck tries to hide her eggs but they are found and taken away from her. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter. Betsy and Ralph Cannon, the two children to whom the book is dedicated, appear in the illustration.

The farmer's wife does not permit any ducks on the farm to hatch their own eggs. She gives them to a hen to hatch instead. Jemima Puddle-Duck very much wants to hatch her eggs herself. She tries to hide them but they are always found and taken away from her. She decides to make a nest far away from the farm. She walks to the top of a hill and sees a wood in the distance. Although not used to flying, she is able to fly over the wood and lands in a clearing. There she finds a fox reading a newspaper. Jemima Puddle-Duck does not know what a fox is. She thinks of the animal as a "gentleman".[3]

The fox asks Jemima Puddle-Duck if she is lost. Jemima replies that she is not and says that she is looking for a place to make a nest. She explains how her eggs are always given to a hen to hatch on the farm. The fox appears sympathetic. He says that he would like to meet the hen and teach her a lesson. He tells Jemima that she can make a nest in his woodshed that is full of feathers. He leads her to a shed made of old soap boxes that is next to a shack made of earth and sticks. He says that the shack is his summer residence. Jemima Puddle-Duck is surprised by the vast amount of feathers inside the shed. She finds it comfortable, however, and soon makes a nest and lays a few eggs. Afterwards, she tells the fox that she is returning to the farm for the night. She adds that she will come back the following day to lay more eggs. The fox appears sorry to let Jemima go. He tells her that he loves eggs and ducklings and will be happy to have a nest full of them in his shed.

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Jemima Puddle-Duck and the fox. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter.

Jemima Puddle-Duck returns each afternoon for several days and lays more eggs. One afternoon, she indicates that she has finished laying eggs by announcing to the fox that she will begin sitting on them the following day. She says that she will bring a bag of corn from the farm so that she will not have to leave her nest while hatching her eggs. The fox says that will not be necessary because he will provide food for her. He adds that, before Jemima Puddle-Duck begins the dull task of sitting on her eggs, he will treat her to a dinner party. He says that he will make an omelette and tells Jemima Puddle-Duck to fetch sage, thyme, mint, parsley and onions from the farm with which to flavor it. The foolish Jemima Puddle-Duck does as the fox asks. She does not realize that she is gathering the ingredients for stuffing for roast duck.

A collie dog named Kep sees Jemima take two onions from the kitchen. He asks her why she is taking the onions and where she goes every afternoon. Jemima Puddle-Duck tells Kep everything. He smiles when she describes the, "polite gentleman with sandy whiskers". Kep asks Jemima for the exact location of the shack and the shed. He then goes off in search of two foxhound puppies.

Jemima Puddle-Duck returns to the fox's shack. The fox, speaking much less politely than usual, orders Jemima to give him the ingredients for the omelette. He tells her that she can have a quick look at her eggs before coming into the shack. While Jemima Puddle-Duck is in the shed, Kep and the two foxhound puppies arrive. Kep locks Jemima Puddle-Duck in the shed for her own protection. A fight ensues between the three dogs and the fox. Kep and the two foxhound puppies are wounded in the fight but defeat the fox and chase him away. The fox is never seen again. Kep unlocks the shed to let Jemima out. Unfortunately, the two foxhound puppies rush in and eat all of Jemima's eggs. Kep escorts the tearful Jemima Puddle-Duck back to the farm.

The following June, Jemima Puddle-Duck lays more eggs and is finally allowed to keep them. The eggs do not all hatch but four of them do.

Adaptations

A segment based on The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck appears in the 1971 Royal Ballet film Tales of Beatrix Potter.[4]

An animated cartoon which combines adaptations of The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and The Tale of Tom Kitten is presented in the third episode of the British anthology series The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends. The episode was first shown on BBC1 in the United Kingdom on July 22, 1992 and on the Family Channel in the United States on September 13, 1993. In the version of the episode seen on British television, Jemima Puddle-Duck is voiced by the comic actress Su Pollard. In the version seen on American television, the character is voiced by Sandra Dickinson.

A fifteen-minute British radio play based on The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck first aired on BBC Radio 4 on December 25, 2013 as part of the mini-series The Tales of Beatrix Potter.[5]

See also

Footnotes

  1. Jemima Puddle-Duck also appears in illustration only in Beatrix Potter's 1909 book The Tale of Ginger and Pickles.
  2. Mrs. Cannon is depicted in this Illustration. The illustration which depicts Betsy and Ralph Cannon can be seen in this article.
  3. Although the illustrations clearly show a fox, to reflect Jemima Puddle-Duck's ignorance, the character is never referred to as a fox in the story. Instead, he is called "an elegantly dressed gentleman", "the gentleman", "the gentleman with sandy whiskers', "the bushy long-tailed gentleman", "the sandy-whiskered gentleman", "the hospitable gentleman with sandy whiskers" and "the polite gentleman with sandy whiskers". The character to is referred to as "the foxy gentleman" and "the foxy-whiskered gentleman" in sections of the book where Jemima Puddle-Duck is absent.
  4. Other segments in the 1971 film Tales of Beatrix Potter are based on The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, The Tale of Two Bad Mice, The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse, The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, The Tale of Pigling Bland and The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  5. Other episodes in the BBC radio mini-series The Tales of Beatrix Potter are based on The Tale of Pigling Bland, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Mr. Tod and The Tale of Ginger and Pickles.

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