The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes is a children's fantasy story by the British author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. It was first published in October 1911. The book was written primarily with the lucrative American market in mind. All of its characters are North American animals.
The book's title character and protagonist is a fat gray squirrel who is wrongly accused of stealing other squirrels' nuts. As a punishment, Timmy Tiptoes is pushed into a small hole in a hollow tree. Timmy Tiptoes finds that the hollow tree is home to a friendly chipmunk named Chippy Hackee. Unfortunately, Timmy Tiptoes is too fat to get out of the small hole in the tree.
Although The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes sold well when it was first published, it is now generally considered to be one of Beatrix Potter's weaker stories. It is widely seen as the work of someone who had grown tired of writing children's books and who had become out of touch with her child audience. By the time that The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes was written, all of the children to whom Potter dedicated her early works had grown up and no other children had taken their places in her affections. The illustrations to The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes are also generally considered not to be up to Potter's usual standard. This is often explained by the fact that Potter had only seen the North American animals depicted in the book in captivity and book illustrations. She had never seen any of them in their natural habitat.
The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes has been translated into other languages including Dutch, French, German and Spanish. An edition in the Initial Teaching Alphabet was published in 1965,
Timmy Tiptoes is a fat little gray squirrel. He and his wife Goody live in a nest at the top of a tall tree. One day, Timmy Tiptoes announces to Goody that the nuts are ripe and that they need to gather a store of them for when they wake up from hibernation. Timmy Tiptoes and Goody gather up a large amount of nuts and hide them in several hollow tree stumps near their home. When the hollow tree stumps are full, Timmy Tiptoes and Goody put some nuts in a hole that a woodpecker once made in a tree. The tree is hollow and the nuts fall to the bottom of it. Goody worries that they will not be able to get the nuts out again because the hole in the tree is too small for them to pass through. Timmy Tiptoes says that he will be much thinner when he wakes up from hibernation.
In the spring, Timmy Tiptoes and Goody are able to gather up most of their nuts because they remember where they hid them. Many other squirrels buried their nuts and cannot remember where they buried them. They sometimes dig up other squirrels' nuts by mistake. A bird comes to the place where Timmy Tiptoes and Goody are tying up their bags of nuts. The bird sings a song which sounds like, "Who's-been digging-up MY-nuts?" That is simply, "its natural song, and it meant nothing at all." Other squirrels, however, believe that the bird is calling Timmy Tiptoes a thief who has stolen their nuts. Several squirrels chase after Timmy Tiptoes, grab hold of him and push him through the hole that the woodpecker made in the hollow tree. Timmy Tiptoes falls through the tree, lands on top of a pile of nuts which he put there and loses consciousness. Goody goes out looking for Timmy Tiptoes but is unable to find him.
Later, Timmy Tiptoes wakes up and finds himself in a moss bed. The bed was made by a chipmunk, named Chippy Hackee, who is staying in the hollow tree. Chippy Hackee is happy to share the nuts inside the tree with Timmy Tiptoes. Although Timmy Tiptoes says that he will need to lose weight in order to get out of the small hole in the tree and go home to his wife, he keeps eating the nuts which Chippy Hackee feeds him. Timmy Tiptoes soon because so fat that it is impossible for him to squeeze out of the small hole.
Goody hides more nuts for the following spring by herself. She does not put any more nuts in the woodpecker's hole in the hollow tree because she is certain that she would not be able to get them out again. Instead, she hides nuts under tree roots. Unknown to Goody, a chipmunk lives under one of the tree roots. The chipmunk emerges. She complains about her home getting filled with nuts and about her husband, Chippy Hackee, having left her. Goody says that her husband has left her and she does not know where he is. The chipmunk says that she does know where her husband is because a little bird told her.
The chipmunk and Goody go to the hollow tree. They hear the sound of singing coming from inside it. Goody calls out Timmy Tiptoes' name. Timmy Tiptoes is happy to see his wife again through the woodpecker's hole. He is able to kiss her but he is much too fat to be able to get out of the little hole.
Two weeks later, the top of the hollow tree is blown off during a storm. Timmy Tiptoes gets out of the tree and goes home. Chippy Hackee chooses to stay in the hollow tree, even though rain comes into it and gives him a cold. It is only when he sees a bear near the tree that Chippy Hackee finally goes home to his wife.
- ↑ The North American eastern gray squirrel was introduced to the United Kingdom in 1900. Although it is now found all over Great Britain, having largely displaced the native red squirrel, it had not yet arrived in the Lake District where Beatrix Potter lived at the time when The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes was written.
- ↑ The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes provided A.A. Milne with the idea of a character becoming too fat to get out of a hole, which he used in his 1926 children's book Winnie-the-Pooh.