|"This is a Tale about a tail—a tail that belonged to a little red squirrel, and his name was Nutkin."|
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin was written by Beatrix Potter and first published in 1903.
One autumn day, Squirrel Nutkin, his brother Twinkleberry, and all the other little squirrels decide to gather nuts on Owl Island. They leave the Wood at the Edge of a Lake, go down to the edge of the lake, build a raft out of twigs, and paddle all they way to the island while using their tails as sails. They each have a large oar for paddling and a sack for collecting nuts. The squirrels also take an offering of three fat mice as a gift for Old Brown, an owl who reigns over Owl Island. When they arrive on the island, they go to the Hollow Oak Tree that Old Brown lives in, place the mice on the doorstep, and respectfully ask Old Brown for permission to gather nuts from his island. Nutkin decides to excitedly chime in and tells Old Brown a riddle, but the owl pays no attention to him and instead shuts his eyes and falls asleep. The little squirrels fill their sacks with nuts and decide to sail back home to the Wood at the Edge of a Lake in the evening. The next day, the little squirrels decide to go back to Owl Island to gather more nuts and, this time, they take a fat mole as an offering. They place the mole on Old Brown's doorstep and politely ask for permission to gather nuts but they run into one problem--Old Brown is asleep. Nutkin , starts dancing up and down and pokes Old Brown with a nettle while singing another riddle. Old Brown wakes up, picks up the mole, goes inside the Hollow Oak Tree, and shuts the door right in Nutkin's face. The squirrels begin gathering nuts from around the island but Nutkin decides to gather oak-apples and play marbles on a beech stump while watching Old Brown's door. On the third day, Twinkleberry and six other squirrels wake up early in the morning and go fishing at the lake. They each catch a minnow to give to Old Brown. They paddle over to the island and Nutkin goes with them but he doesn't have manners and does't take a present for Old Brown. Once again, Nutkin tells Old Brown a riddle but the owl takes no interest. The next day, the squirrels go back to Owl Island, this time taking six fat beetles wrapped in dock leafs and secured with pine needles pins. Nutkin decides to pick robin's pincushions off a briar bush and sticks them full of pine needle pins while the other squirrels are hard at work gathering nuts. The following day, the squirrels take an offering of honey for Old Brown and Nutkin begins skipping and singing another riddle while Old Brown takes the honey. Old Brown rolls his eyes in annoyance but eats the delicious honey anyway. While the other squirrels gather nuts, Nutkin sits on a rock and plays a game of ninepins with a crabapple and fir cones. On the sixth day, the squirrels go back to Owl Island and take an egg in a rush basket as an offering for the owl. Like always, Nutkin begins dancing around and singing riddles. Old Brown once again pays no attention but Nutkin begins singing louder than ever beffore. Suddenly, Nutkin leaps onto Old Brown's head and the owl lets out a loud squeaking sound during the scuffle. Twinkleberry and the other squirrels run away to hide in some nearby bushes and when they look back toward Old Brown, they see that he has captured Nutkin, put him in his pocket, and takes him inside the Hollow Oak Tree. Once inside, Old Brown picks Nutkin up by his tail and intends to skin him. Nutkin tries to get free and struggles so hard that his little tail breaks in two. He manages to run up the stairs and escape through the attic window but, sadly, he has lost his tail.