So here we are, ready to see what lands the children will visit and what other strange characters they will meet.
THE FIRST LAND AND THE SLIPPERY-SLIP
Arriving at the top of the tree the children creep through a hole in the clouds and find themselves in The Roundabout Land. All ideas of just peeking at it were clearly forgotten! The land is playing a tune like you hear on roundabouts, and then the land starts to swing around. I think we can see why it’s called the Roundabout Land already.
The Faraway Tree’s top branch is lost and the children need help from some rabbits to escape. They meet Moon-Face once they are back in the tree and use his slippery-slip to slide quickly back to the ground. Moon-Face is a bit of a strange one (like anyone in this book is normal!) he seems very jolly and kind but demands payment in toffee for the use of his slide.
THE NEXT ADVENTURE(S)
I had thought the book would be very episodic with a new land every chapter (like Mr Pink Whistle meets a new child every chapter) but I was wrong. The Land of Ice and Snow lasts for five chapters. Jo goes up alone (having learnt nothing from the last time) and ends up trapped by the mad snowman who is king of the land. The rescue involves a trip for Moon-Face and the other children to see Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a snowball fight and a very cosy cottage. There are shades of The Rat-a-Tat Mystery in it for definite. Moon-Face isn’t all bad then, and of course it has a happy ending.
As Moon-Face handled the rescue of Jo, it’s only fair that the children rescue him when he is trapped in the Land of the old Saucepan Man, even though they had planned to take a break from visiting any lands at the top of the tree.
It’s here I think I started to think how dark the idea is, that you go up a tree and into a strange land… and if you don’t come down quickly enough then the land sails off with you stuck on it forever! There’s no mention of times I don’t think so it seems madness to enter a land that might disappear with you on it in five hours or maybe only five minutes! They do say there’s a new land every day so perhaps they are there for 24 hours which would mean you had some warning, but it’s still scary stuff despite being handled very lightly by Blyton.
THE SAUCEPAN MAN COMES TO VISIT
As of yet I don’t know why the Saucepan Man is covered in saucepans. He’s not made of them, he just wears them all over himself. This makes him quite deaf (perhaps selectively so at times) so there are a lot of good laughs to be had at him mishearing things.
Perhaps they also make him a bit stupid, as next thing he turns up at the children’s home! Now he’s not a talking rabbit or an elf or anything otherwordly but he’s incredibly odd all the same and you’d think there’d be some sort of rule about not being seen by any grown ups. Children are generally OK, most books and films have child characters helping or getting involved with otherwise secret species. But when grown-ups find out there are Borrowers under the floorboards that’s when it all goes wrong and they end up exploited or hunted.
Mother finds the Saucepan Man quite queer but is happy for her children to go talk to him in the garden so that she can get on with the washing, and then she lets them go off with him for the afternoon. Perhaps she is doing what so many grown-ups do when faced with the completely bizarre and unexplainable, she’s thinking she has imagined or exaggerated the weirdness and he is just an ordinary travelling saucepan sales-man.
Referring back to my comments about the land(s) potentially disappearing with you on them, the opposite has now happened. The Land of the old Saucepan Man has gone, and left the Saucepan Man behind! So either there isn’t a set time or the Saucepan Man is so addled he forgot about it.
The land he and the others end up on is one that rocks and rolls and causes everyone to tumble about and it’s quite a feat to escape.
Blyton’s ‘fantasy’ books aren’t my favourites of hers, I prefer her mystery/adventure, school and family titles (in that order) but I can see why children would love the Faraway Tree. There are some very clever ideas for lands already and a lot of funny moments.
Next post: The Enchanted Wood part 3