I read this in an anthology in the UK around 30 years ago.

A bunch of robot toys are awaiting the arrival of replacement toys (similar to the start of Toy Story with Andy's birthday).

They are planning out their battle tactics and fallback plans, then their young human goes to sleep and the invasion of new toys begins.

The new toys are designed to be stronger and superior in every way and soon they win the nursery battle, they dismantle and dispose of the old robots and spend the rest of the night removing all traces of them.

Then they arrange themselves on parade ready for Christmas morning, knowing that they have a full year to plan their survival against next year's toys.

(A suggested answer is The Little Movement by PKD - but I've now read that story and unfortunately it isn't the one)

2 Answers 2


The War Beneath the Tree by Gene Wolfe. I read it in Christmas on Ganymede and Other Stories but it's also been collected in lots of other anthologies.

Robin’s mother went to the cookies on the stone shelf and ate half of one. Then she drank half the glass of milk. Then she turned to go back into her bedroom, and Robin retreated into the darkness of his own room until she was past. When he peeked cautiously around the door frame again, the toys— the new toys—were beginning to move.

They shifted and shook themselves and looked about. Perhaps it was because it was Christmas Eve. Perhaps it was only because the light of the fire had activated their circuits. But a Clown brushed himself off and stretched, and a Raggedy Girl smoothed her raggedy apron (with the heart embroidered on it), and a Monkey gave a big jump and chinned himself on the next-to-lowest limb of the Christmas tree. Robin saw them. And Bear, behind the hassock of Robin's father’s chair, saw them too. Cowboys and Native Americans were lifting the lid of a box, and a Knight opened a cardboard door (made to look like wood) in the side of another box (made to look like stone), letting a Dragon peer over his shoulder.

“Charge!” Bear called. “Charge!” He came around the side of the hassock on all fours like a real bear, running stiffly but very fast, and he hit the Clown at his wide waistline and knocked him down, then picked him up and threw him halfway to the fire.


For a moment, Bear thought of the cellar stairs and the deep, dark cellar, where there were boxes and bundles and a hundred forgotten corners. If he ran and hid, the new toys might never find him, might never even try to find him. Years from now Robin would discover him, covered with dust.

The Dancing Doll’s scream was high and sweet, and Bear turned to face the Knight’s upraised sword.

  • 1
    That's it, thanks. The war beneath the tree.... I've just read it again and I'd forgotten the scary ending, that must have been my subconscious blotting it out!
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 23:33
  • This was in an issue of Omni, which is where I read it. Almost certainly a December issue as it had a Christmas threme. Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 19:50

This sounds like The Little Movement by Philip K Dick:

The story follows a boy whose father buys him a toy robot called My Lord, who instructs the boy to keep silent of its plan and to go to Don's Toyland and pick up a shipment of toy guns and tanks. However, the boy's current toys, led by a teddy bear and a rabbit, spoil The Lord's plan, and it is revealed that the teddy bear and the Boy's current toys have destroyed several robots like The Lord, who were sent from "The Factory", to take over their child owners.

The story was first published in 1952, and has been printed in a couple of his collected works, including Beyond Lies The Wub, which was first published in 1988.

  • 1
    Thanks for suggestion, I've just downloaded and read The Little Movement but it's not the story I'm trying to recall, a few similarities but the tale I'm thinking of begins and ends in a toy nursery
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 15:35

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