I am working on a project to re-print all sixteen of the illustrated stories from Mary Graham Bonner’s 1923 collection, 365 Bedtime Stories (see my Bonner biography and project introduction). Sixteen of the 365 stories were illustrated by Florence Choate and Elizabeth Curtis. The third of the illustrated stories is The Tired Eagles, which Bonner wrote for February 25. I re-print the story below with its original illustration by Florence Choate (see original on Project Gutenberg).
Reprinting “The Tired Eagles”
“In the house where Kenneth lived there was a chair which had always fascinated him. It was a very, very old chair, and Kenneth’s mother and daddy were very proud of it,” said daddy to Jack and Evelyn. “Kenneth’s daddy had bought it at a sale of old and curious things. It was a Roman chair, and on either side were two heads of eagles. These four heads in all always made Kenneth wonder, for they looked so very life-like. He used to imagine that even little wooden eagles must get very tired of always being just the same. And late one afternoon, sitting in the chair he fell asleep.
“‘You’re terribly tired, aren’t you?’ said the first eagle, who suddenly seemed to be looking at him.
“‘Yes, I’m a little tired,’ Kenneth admitted.
“‘Well, you’re not as tired as we are,’ said the second eagle.
“‘No, indeed!’ said the third eagle. ‘You’re only tired because you’ve played so many games. We’re tired because we’re always still.’
“Kenneth listened eagerly, because he’d so often thought just what he was hearing. ‘Yes,’ said Kenneth very sympathetically, ‘I should think you would be very dull. I’ve often thought that. Have you been there a long time?’
“‘Oh, ages and ages!’ replied the fourth eagle, who up to this time had not spoken. ‘We were very old before your daddy got us. We’ve been on this chair so long. We can’t remember how long. And what makes us feel so sad is that we are called eagles and should fly and yet are forever glued to this chair.’
“‘Kenneth, Kenneth,’ cried Kenneth’s mother, ‘it’s long past bed-time!’
“‘Oh, I am not so tired as the eagles are!’ said Kenneth. And Kenneth’s mother wondered if he was talking in his sleep.”
This is our second consecutive Bonner bedtime story involving a dream. But where In Dreamland taught a tough moral lesson, The Tired Eagles is a quaint story of a boy’s imagination working in his sleep. I found the final line, “Kenneth’s mother wondered if he was talking in his sleep,” to be quite clever. The subject matter of the poem should be relatable to young readers. Beautiful eagle heads carved into an old wooden chair is the sort of thing that has a tendency to fascinate small children and, in some cases, stimulate the imagination. Kenneth comes away from his likely dream experience with the realization that staying still can be tiring in its own way.
Related: See category archive for all posts in this series.