Tossing Lines: News flash - 1960s social revolution caused by talking pig
Reading children’s book reviews in The Day, I thought it disappointing that today’s kids may never know my childhood literary hero, a remarkable talking pig whom The New York Times deemed responsible for the 1960s cultural revolution in America.
Freddy the Pig cracked criminal cases, defended victimized consumers and fought for social justice. He once rescued Santa Claus.
A 1994 New York Times article insinuated author Walter R. Brooks’s anti-Establishment and social themes in his Freddy the Pig books likely molded impressionable young minds, encouraging the cultural revolution of the 1960s: “Small wonder, then, that some of the children who grew up on these books went on to found alternative newspapers, to march for civil rights and to become ardent environmentalists.”
Freddy lived on Bean Farm in upstate New York, a respected leader in a world of animals who converse eloquently, even with humans.
Throughout the 26-book series, written from 1927-1958, Freddy leads his friends on adventures, assuming roles of detective, poet, journalist, space traveler, political activist and other characters. He’a a true Renaissance man... or pig, rather.
The entire series deals with adult themes in a childlike way, but there’s one that definitively suggests Brooks was preparing youngsters to beware of the Establishment: 1957’s “Freddy the Politician.”
In Politician, the woodpecker president of the new Animal Bank, assisted by a corrupt bird from Washington (beware of swindlers from Washington), tricks board member Freddy, and the woodpeckers steal control of the bank.
Meanwhile, the animals hold a presidential election on the farm to show Farmer Bean they can run things while he’s away. The woodpecker party, desperate to establish a dictatorship, starts mudslinging and stifling free speech (beware of political lies and those who threaten free speech).
The woodpeckers tamper with the election ballots, but their underhanded tactics are exposed, and farm candidate Mrs. Wiggins the Cow wins the presidency (beware dishonesty and election meddling).
Sore losers, the angry birds overthrow the new animal government, and Freddy is taken political prisoner (beware ruthless dictators).
But the wasps help Freddy escape. Disguised as an Irish woman, he hides out in town, where he barters a deal with the local banker. Together with Freddy’s animal friends, they run the woodpeckers out of town, ending the coup and saving the bank.
Author Brooks also addressed social inequality. Freddy once said the wealthy and evil Watson P. Condiment “slapped me because I am a pig. If I were a boy or a man he wouldn’t have done it.” Brooks’ villains were often rich (beware the upper class).
The series has garnered literary accolades and is still published by Overlook Press.
The New York Times’ insinuation may seem far out to some, but it was right on: Freddy the Pig exposed the Establishment, planting seeds of social activism in young minds.
Personally, I think the government keeps him off bookshelves now, concerned he might spark another revolution.
Freddy taught me to never trust the government.
John Steward lives in Waterford. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read more at www.johnsteward.online.
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