Frederick The Mouse (Annotated)

“Once upon a time, there was a mouse, I think his name was Frederick, so anyways, the story starts out, and it’s the middle of summertime, which is a really important time for field mice because they need to gather all the food they’re gonna eat all winter, because when there’s snow covering the ground they can’t collect all the seeds and whatnot that they’ll be eating all winter. So everyone in this mouse community is running around, working as hard as they can, they’re collecting all the seeds they can find and they’re storing them up in their communal storage facility underground. But Frederick is sitting on this rock, and his face is pointing at the sky and he’s looking all around him, and he’s not collecting any food. So a couple of the mice come up to Frederick, and they’re pretty mad at him, because everyone else is working hard to collect food, and it seems like he’s sort of taking a nap. So they say “Frederick, what are you doing?!” and he says “I’m looking at the sky, and remembering the blue, I’m looking at the trees, and remembering the green. I’m looking at the flowers and remembering all their rainbows. And then the mice think he’s stupid and run away. So everyone else keeps working and they’re gonna be fine all winter. So now it’s February, and its grey, and there’s snow on the ground, and they’re all just hanging out in their tunnels, and they have food, but they’re sorta sad, and there’s not a lot going on. They’re really just waiting for the springtime to come again. And there’s nothing to talk about because they’ve all been just sitting together for a long time, and there’s nothing really new happening in the world. So Frederick comes out of his little corner, he’s a shy mouse so he’s alone a lot of the time, and he asks if anyone wants to hear about summertime. At first, everyone is sort of confused because they’ve all seen summertime before so they don’t really know what Frederick could tell them. But they decide to listen, at least for a minute, and so they all sit down, and Frederick starts describing everything that summertime looks like. And he’s describing in such vivid detail, that if the mice close their eyes, they can almost feel the warm sun on their faces, and they can see all the flowers blooming. And suddenly, springtime doesn’t seem to far away, and winter doesn’t seem so hard, and when the story is over, they’re all so happy that Frederick spent all this time collecting the colors of summer. Because he made them so happy and they realized that having these things is almost as important as having the food.”

The informant’s mother would tell her this as a bedtime story during cold winters in New England. She says that it made her excited for summertime and offered an escape from the sometimes-depressing elements of winter. This story is probably most effective in seasonal areas, where winter and summer are drastically different. Like the informant’s other story, Abiyoyo, again the small mouse is a child hero who rises to the occasion and proves himself. This structure is appealing for children, as they can easily see themselves in the hero’s role.  The informant later found out that the story is an adaptation of Aesop’s fable “The Ant and The Grasshopper” in which the grasshopper spends all summer singing for an ant as they collect their food, and then once winter comes the grasshopper is hungry and dying, and must ask the ant for food. The grasshopper is condemned for this, and the ant denies him any assistance. The moral of the story seems to be that those who are not cautious in preparing for the future will get burned. The “Frederick” version is actually a much more optimistic version, where Frederick, the one not initially doing the work, is praised and appreciated instead of left to die. Though “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is considered a children’s story as well, the harsh outcome makes it a little traumatic for a bedtime story. This may be why the informant’s mother chose to tell her the Frederick one instead.