Snugglepot & Cuddlepie
The best known of May Gibbs' work, Snugglepot & Cuddlepie: their adventures wonderful, was published in 1918 by Angus & Robertson. This enchanting story of two little gumnut brothers and their friends, set in the Australian bush, captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of children. Offering lessons for its young readers, the story balanced good with evil by introducing the bad Banksia Men and Mrs Snake. There was also an underlying conservation message: “Humans, please be kind to all Bush creatures and don't pull flowers up by the roots”.
Although already an established author and illustrator, Gibbs still had to endure the uncertainty of awaiting the publisher's verdict on her manuscript:
"When may I hear the results of your consideration of the book "Snugglepot and Cuddlepie? Everything is ready and I'm just longing to get on with it..."
- May Gibbs to Mr Shenstone, Angus & Robertson papers, MLMSS 314/33
Gumnut babies books
Gibbs dedicated the book to ‘Lefty and Bill’ which were nicknames for her beloved mother and father. When the book was released in late 1918 it was an enormous success with the first, second and third editions selling out almost immediately.
May Gibbs continued the story of her gumnut babies and their bushland fantasy in two subsequent stories – Little Ragged Blossom (1920) and Little Obelia (1921). Much was borrowed from her earlier unpublished manuscripts, particularly John Dory: His Story written about 10 years earlier. In 1940 the three books were combined into one volume, The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, which remains one of Australia’s most popular children’s classics to this day.
Selections from Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
Here are the Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.
They were Foster Brothers and this is how it came about.
When Cuddlepot was very small that is – when he had only been out of the Bud a few hours- a great wind arose and lifting him out of his Mother’s arms carried him far across the tops of many trees and left him in a Spider web.
This saved his life – but again he nearly lost it- for a shortsighted old Bird was about to eat mistaking him for a grub was about to eat him up, when, a Nut, beholding shouted
"Bird! Bird! mind the Snake!"
The Old Bird ,very frightened flew away.
Then the Kind Nut climed up the Spiders web, lifted up the little cold, weeping baby and gently carried him home.
Now this was the home of Snugglepot and the kind nut was his father.
Here then lived Cuddlepie side by side with Snugglepot and they grew strong and Fat as you see them in the pictures.
One day a Wise old Kookaburra came to the Neighbourhood. All the Blossoms & Nuts crowded I to hear him speak.
He said "I am old"
"I have travelled"
"I have seen Humans"
"Humans are strong as the Wind – Swift as the River – Fierce as the Sun"
"The can scratch one stick apon another and lo, there will be a Bush Fire"
" They love the Fire – the male Human carries it about in his skin and the smoke comes out of his mouth and out of his nostrils."
"They whistle like the birds they are cruel as the snake"
" The have many skins
"which they take off many
"times , when all the skins
"are off the Human looks
"like a pale frog."
Now Snugglepot & Cuddlepie were scared all over to hear
Of these things, so they went often to listen to the Wise Kookaburra.
"These Humans"said Mr. K.
"are as bad as bad – but
"there must be bad things
"in this world as well as
"good, it would be very
"awkward for me if there
"were no snakes for me to
"eat "said he."
And Snugglepot & Cuddlepie thought very much about it all.
One day they asked Mre Bluecap Wren if it were all true.
"Quite" said she "I have some relations living in the Sydney Domain and I know" she said.
"I want to see a Human" said Snugglepot
"In the distance" said Cuddlepie.
One very hot night, when the Cicada were singing so loudly that Snugglepot couldn’t hear his father snoring – he and Cuddlepie crept out of bed and out of the house.
"Where are you going?" asked Cuddlepie.
"To see the Humans" said Snugglepot.
"Only in the distance" pleaded Cuddlepie-
Then they began their journey. When they had walked a long way- Snugglepot said-
"It is getting Day let us pretend to be birds so that no one will know us"
"Yes" said Cuddlepie "but we can’t fly."
They found an old nest and took the feathers from it and dressed themselves in them.
When the Sun rose they were far from home.
In the little home the kind Father and Mother and little baby brother were had looked out all night long into the darkness but Snug. and Cud. Were far away. No one had known them but all who passed had said-
"What Strange Birds"
Then Snug and Cud had chuckled in his neck and Cud had chuckled in his neck too.
All day they walked upon a busy high road.(see them in the picture – Snug is leaning out of a nut stealing a bun. It is a grass root bun)
At last it grew dark and being very tired they went to sleep in a hollow tree. Now it so happened that a very Greedy Owl lived in this tree.
When Cud went to sleep Snug had covered him with dry leaves to keep him cosy. So when greedy Owl opened his eyes the first thing he blinked at was Snugglepots little fair body lying in the moonlight.
"Pink Mouse! Pink Mouse!" and I am so hungry"muttered Greedy Owl.
Then he pounced down upon Snugglepot and flew with him out into the Sky.
At the flutter of wings Cud awoke. When he saw the terrible thing that was happening he screamed aloud.
"Take me! Take me!
"I don’t want to be left
" I would rather be eaten with Snugglepot than live
"alone without him."
But the Greedy Owl flew on. Away, away till he was but a speck in the distance.
Poor little Cuddlepie tried to run after them but the tears in his eyes were so big that he could not see which way to go.