Monday, 14 May 2012

Mustering Fairies- Part 3 Blyton and beyond

I'm going to move all the way up to date to the 1930s (I'm contemporary me) in my fairy mustering to the prolific and ubiquitous Enid Blyton and her, to my mind, best books; 'The Wishing Chair' series and 'The Faraway Tree' series. Jam packed with fairies, elves, pixies, sprites and every other sort of magical creature these were amongst my favourite rainy day comfort reading books as a child and it's no surprise they remain top sellers today.

Ordinary children discover parallel magical worlds full of adventure, very mild peril and frankly QUANTITIES of delicious things to eat. These were books I literally salivated over. Whatever you think about Blyton (and my thinkings are quite mixed) she certainly understood the way children's minds work: They're after in no particular order, independence, the ability to fly, and access to unlimited cake. The books offer all of these treats in abundance. I particularly loved 'The Folk of the Faraway Tree'. The concept of a tree which a. grows every different sort of fruit you like and b. has a selection of lands at the top many of which provide a combination of free flowing treats is pretty irresistable.

When Bill was 5 or so, I bought 'The Adventures of the Wishing Chair' and read it to him. It was only then that I discovered just how dreary they are in language and formulaic in conceit. What a shame; a childhood favourite it turned out I'd grown out of, (and there was I thinking I hadn't grown up at all). But as it turns out these are children's books in the truest sense; for children to enjoy on their own without adult as gatekeeper. Just how fairy encounters should be too I suppose. They are books to leave around your newly confident reader and let them discover solo; they don't repay being read out loud (or not if you're selfish like me and want to get something for yourself too).

'"Will you each wish for what you like best to eat?" said the magician in his kind,deep voice. "Take it in turn, please!"
A brownie next to him said, "I wish for honey-lemonade and sugar biscuits!"
At once a jug of yellow lemonade appeared by him and a plate of deliciopus sugar biscuits! The fairy next to the brownie wished for chocolate blanc-mange and a cream ice. They appeared even as she spoke the words! It was such fun to see them come.
Mollie and Peter watched in amazement as all the dishes and jugs on the table became full of the most exciting things when each little creature wished his or her wish. They had their turns too!
"I wish for cream buns and ginger-beer!" said Mollie.
"And I wish for treacle pudding and lemonade!" said Peter'

Well all right that random offering from the pages of  'The Adventures of the Wishing-Chair' makes me quite wistful for those curled up days of childhood again. Can I wish for a cup of tea and some marmite toast please?

One final and finally actually up to date offering for the sake of completeness. Bill had out from the library last year a book called 'Flax the Feral Fairy' by Tiffany Mandrake (What an appropriate name!-smirk). The first in the 'Little Horrors' series about an Academy for Badness in fairies and other magical creatures. I'm not going to make any great claims for it but he enjoyed it. If you are currently trying to keep your head above a wave of Rainbow Magic threatening to engulf your house they might provide a nice antidote.

'The Adventures of the Wishing Chair' (amongst others) by Enid Blyton, pub. Egmont isbn 978-1-4052-3958-5
Now off to Playing by the Books link up here, where you will find a whole host (fluttering? what is the collective noun for fairies?) of other winged offerings.


  1. We're yet to read any Enid Blyton, but lots of teachers at the girls' school listed the wishing chair as their favourite book from their childhood last Book Week, so M knows about it.

    1. if she's running out of Steve Cole I'm sure she'd love them...