I loved that Adventures of the Wishing Chair (published in 1937) was one of Enid Blyton’s books when I was younger; the idea of a magical chair that grew wings and took you off on amazing adventures was very appealing. It’s also another book that I was recently able to replace – turns out my husband had a copy when he was a kid, which now lives on my shelves – so I’ve been enjoying it all over again.
The story starts when Mollie and Peter go into a strange antiques shop looking for a birthday present for their mother. They’ve spotted a little vase with swans around the base in the window, but the strange little man behind the counter can’t find any paper to wrap it in and keeps letting peculiar things, like green smoke, a large black cat or butterflies, out of the boxes instead.
The children become frightened as they locked in while the strange man and the wizard who owns the shop try to recapture everything, but help comes when they sit down on a chair and it grows wings. “Go on, wishing chair, take us home!”
It always seemed funny to me that the chair just stayed with them after this – didn’t the wizard want it back? To be fair, Mollie and Peter do at least make an attempt to return the chair to the shop once it flies them home, but its wings have conveniently vanished.
These wings regrow again at random intervals, which means they have to keep a look out to make sure they can go on an adventure and don’t lose the chair out the door or the window! They also disappear at odd times, sometimes landing the children in a lot of trouble.
Their next flight takes them to a giant’s castle, where they meet and rescue the pixie Chinky from doing sums for the giant who lives there. Chinky decides to live in their playroom, which is conveniently located at the bottom of the garden so the grown-ups don’t notice anything strange going on. This means he can let them know if the chair grows its wings and goes with them on their adventures.
Most of their earlier adventures, such as visiting the nasty Grabbit Gnomes, helping Chinky’s cousin Gobo get the wizard Ho-ho out of his village and attending a party given by a magician, are over in just a chapter or two. There’s even a quick visit to the Land of Dreams, which featured in one of the Faraway Tree books and is still as bizarre as ever. Where else would the chair turn into a dog, a duck and then icecream, while Mollie and Chinky become balloons?
As the book goes on there are a few more serious ones that run over several chapters. Mollie and Peter also spend four (!) chapters trying to find and rescue Chinky after they have a fight and he is kidnapped, and get their mother’s ring back from Big Ears the Goblin and the ridiculous-looking Snoogle over the last three chapters.
Unlike the mother in the Faraway Tree books, Mollie and Peter’s mother never realises her children are having strange adventures and seems to think they’re in their playroom while they’re really going off on a flying chair to visit witches, enchanters and talking mice. This actually leads to a couple of adventures, when she tries to sell the chair to Mr Twisty. After the children and Chinky foil this idea, she then decides she’s glad it wasn’t sold and brings it up to the house!
The stories are very similar to those in the Faraway Tree, with the strange lands, the charming (or horrible!) people they meet on their travels and the sometimes-surprising solutions to their problems. There’s a lot more emphasis on keeping their strange friends and adventures secret, but if you like the Faraway Tree books, I’d definitely recommend reading this.
Next post: The Wishing Chair Again