Little Folks

Greetings, dear Reader!

This week I welcome back Henry Cordes, who has his own memories to share about growing up in a "Mr. Dog Family," and some nice thoughts about keeping stories and traditions alive.

Enjoy!

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My family has quite a few Christmas traditions. There’s the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding we have for Christmas dinner, and the figgy pudding my grandma makes. She douses it in liquor and lights it on fire; it’s very exciting. Many families leave out cookies for Santa, but we always left out a little cognac as well. And then of course there’s Mister Dog, the tradition we will soon share with you.

Little Henry, big tree. How the Little Fellows do slip away from us!

Little Henry, big tree. How the Little Fellows do slip away from us!


On Christmas Eve as a little kid, I’d sit with my family by the fire in my red and green striped pajamas while the adults sipped their drinks and talked and admired the tree. And at some point my grandpa would shuffle over to the bookcase and take down a very old, battered volume and say, “I think it’s time for Mr. Dog, don’t you?”

Mr. Dog's Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn first appeared in this 1898 volume of stories by Paine

Mr. Dog's Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn first appeared in this 1898 volume of stories by Paine

Albert Bigelow Paine’s “Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn” is but one in a series of story collections he wrote over two decades about Mr. Dog and the other Hollow Tree folks. Researching Paine in order to write a short bio about him for our book, I learned that he wrote these stories for his three daughters, and that “Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn” was to be the last story in his beloved series. But even as his older daughter grew up and began to lose interest, his younger daughters kept demanding new stories. After publishing “Mr. Dog,” Paine and his illustrator J.M. Condé went on to create two more books. As Paine wrote in the preface to the very last in the series:

How Little Ladies do slip away from us! The first Hollow Tree stories were told for one who is now a Big Lady, and the Snowed-In stories for another, who will soon be a Big Lady, too. But in the Deep Woods the years do not count. The Hollow Tree people never grow any older, but stay always the same, and the Story Teller and the Artist have to keep stepping backward to find out the new Hollow Tree stories and to tell them to the new Little People that come along.

Until we started this project I’d assumed I was probably one of the last of the little people who would ever come along. Paine put Mr. Dog down on the page over a century ago, and in the natural course of things even the best loved relics fade from memory. What makes this project so exciting for me is stepping back, like Paine and Condé, to breathe new life into some well-loved characters. It is my sincere hope that our republication, and Adam’s wonderful new illustrations, will bring this gem into the hearts and memories of many more Little People, and that Mr. Dog may become your Christmas tradition too.