Remco's Elly and Andy Baby Mouse Tree House
by Tracy Harnish
Jerry Griswold, Director of the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature, once wrote a wonderful book length essay about some of the pervasive qualities of childhood that recur as themes in children's stories. One of these qualities he deemed "snugness," the desire of children for a small, snug, safe place of their own, like a treehouse, a fort carved out of the shrubbery, or a hideout made under a folding table draped with a sheet.
He noted the prevalence of places like these in children's literature, particularly the cozy homes of Mole and Badger in The Wind in the Willows, and the dollhouse in Beatrix Potter's classic The Tale of Two Bad Mice. Of such small playhouses he said, "What lies behind this miniaturization and the vision of enclosed space is a wish to make life more manageable, a wish for control."
I think his thesis on the importance of small, snug playspaces can be extended to children's toys too, as there are countless examples which reflect this longing for a space of one's own, and enable children to have control over a tiny world and its inhabitants. One of my favorite examples is the 'Elly and Andy Baby Mouse Tree House', made by Remco in 1967 as part of their T.V. Jones line.
The 15 inch tall tree trunk house is made of lithographed tin with plastic details including a branch swing, front steps, windows, a balcony, and even a working elevator. Inside, the little house is divided into two rooms, a bedroom and dining area. Cheerful colors make the interior cozy and appealing.
The tree trunk is home to 3 inch tall rodent siblings, Elly and Andy Mouse:
The furnishings include a hutch and dresser with a pull out drawer, an adorable mushroom table with tree stump chairs, and even a piece of cheese. The chairs have little notches cut out in the back to accommodate the mouse tails, a thoughtful touch.
Upstairs are two cozy loft beds, leading the way to an inviting balcony.
If recent sale prices for this toy are any indication (I've seen a MIB example sell for $350), the now grown-up children who played with this 40+ years ago are still longing for the sense of snugness, safety, and control over life which it provided. There's no stress in the tree house, just cheese snacks, swing sets, and cozy naps. It's a good life for these little mice.