FEBRUARY
1995

 

 

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

 

02-09-95

Freddie Firefly Puts Children To Sleep

You've probably never heard of Freddie Firefly. Freddie is the lead character in a children's book titled “The Tale of Freddie Firefly,” by Arthur Scott Bailey. The book, published in 1918, is part of a series called the "Tuck-Me-In Tales." Bailey is also the author of “Sleepy-Time Tales,” so one gets the feeling that Mr. Bailey specialized in books designed to be read to children at bedtime.

Freddie and the other insect characters in the book are bugfolk in that they are part insect and part human. They have six legs, antennae, and behave like insects, but they also wear clothing, talk and think just like people. And, like people, they get jealous and fight with each other.

Characters in the book include Farmer Green, who lives in Pleasant Valley, where the story takes place. Non-insect characters include Benjamin Bat and Solomon Owl. Among the insects there is Chirpy Cricket, who is always cheerful. Buster Bumblebee has some ill-tempered sisters, one of which is named Peppery Polly. Other insects include Greenie Grasshopper, Moses Mosquito, Kiddie Katydid, Mehitable Moth and Jennie Junebug. Alliteration, it appears, is a good technique to be used when naming bugfolk, at least in children's stories.

In addition to whimsy, the book includes some insights into insect biology. For instance, Freddie Firefly first meets Jennie Junebug in a rather inauspicious way. She crashes into him one night while they are flying about. The impact of the collision knocks them both to the ground. Freddie is surprised to learn that Jennie ran into him on purpose. Being one of the junebug family, Jennie explains, she just can't resist flying to lights. Whenever a junebug sees a light, it flies straight to it whether it is a lantern or a lighted farmhouse window.

Freddie also learns that Mrs. Ladybug is very concerned about him, especially while she is away from home. The concern, it seems, is related to the fire she assumes is responsible for the light of fireflies. Mrs. Ladybug is worried that Freddie might get careless with the light he carries with him and ignite her home and burn her children. After all, Mrs. Ladybug says, people are always warning her that her house is on fire. The idea relates directly to the Nursery Rhyme, “Ladybug, Ladybug fly away home your house is on fire, your children will burn.”

A real glowing moment in the book is when Freddie gathers all of his relatives to provide the torchlight for a nighttime parade. However, the fireflies have trouble staying in line and go helter-skelter out across the meadow. While the twinkling of the firefly lights provides a beautiful display, it is not exactly what the organizers of the parade had in mind. Did Freddie Firefly get his relatives back in line? I don't know, because every time I read the book to my children, they were fast asleep at this point in the story.

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Andrea McCann