I’m only just over half way through the book (57% according to Goodreads) and I’ve already written two posts! There is just a lot to write about between all the characters, new lands and crazy adventures. I’m sure there will be a lot more adventures, and I’m thinking the children are a bit mad to keep going through the clouds not knowing what land will be there or if they will ever make it back. But then there wouldn’t be much of a book let alone a series if they had one bad visit and never went back!
In a rather contrived ‘coincidence’ of convenience (try saying that ten times fast!) the next land that they visit is the exact one they need in their lives.
They haven’t been to the wood in a while, not because they’ve come to their senses about the risks of the disappearing lands, rather, they’re in disgrace for getting so grubby in the last land especially when their clothes are in short supply. Suddenly it’s a big deal that the family are poor and we are spend a few moments in what feels like a Family-at-Red-Roofs type story. The children are hungry, the family grow their own veg. They long for hens, a goat, a new spade for digging.
Before you know it Moon-Face sends a message inviting them to visit The Land of Take-What-You-Want where everything is free. Me being me I immediately start to wonder how they’ll explain coming home with livestock, and that becomes even more of a wonder when the hens they find are green and yellow and the goat has blue spots. But mother just says Oh, you must have been to the Enchanted Wood, as if that’s all perfectly normal!
What’s rather less convenient is that the land leaves the tree before the children, Silky and Moon-Face can leave. The children are a bit upset, the land does have everything anyone could ever want apart from freedom, but they are not nearly as freaked out as you would expect! Obviously Blyton didn’t want to concern her readers much at all because within a few paragraphs they’ve found an aeroplane that’s as easy to fly as pressing a lever to go up, down, left and right and so obviously they can escape…
THE INFAMOUS DAME SLAP
The adventure is extended when the plane gets tired and they land in a safe-looking land outside a green cottage. Only that cottage turns out to be the school of Dame Slap where the sumptious spread of buns, biscuits, cakes and lemonade. Only the buns turn to stale bread and the lemonade to water when the children help themselves. Then there are the impossible puzzles to solve in class if you take away three caterpillars from one bush how many gooseberries will there be left?
At least the children don’t get spanked after lunch with all the other pupils as Dame Slap knows they weren’t misbehaving. Still, they’re keen to escape, wouldn’t you be?
THE FARAWAY TREE UNDER SIEGE
In a nice way to keep things fresh the next adventure is in the woods – the children can’t get up the tree because its inhabitants are being held hostage by marauding red goblins.
On a tip from the wisha-wisha-ing trees however they scale the slippery-slip up to Moon-Face’s house and with the help of the brownies they capture the goblins and free the folk of the Faraway Tree.
Another overly-convenient coincidence occurs next, when a wizard comes from the next land looking for a hundred servants, and wouldn’t you know, there are a hundred goblins trapped on the slippery-slip, and that problem is dealt with neatly.
BIRTHDAYS, CAKE AND MORE COINCIDENCES
Blyton really didn’t hold back on the coincidences in this book! It’s Bessie’s birthday coming up, and it just so happens that the Land of Birthdays is coming to the top of the Faraway Tree (some lands are scheduled now?). Needless to say their resolve to never visit another land crumbles when they hear you can wish for anything you like in the Land of Birthdays, but you can only go when someone in the group has their birthday.
The Saucepan Man’s deafness is actually a part of the plot here, rather than just an amusing quirk. He mistakes talk of a wishing cake for fishing, and accidentally wishes them all to a deserted island populated only by fishing gear. Luckily Bessie has a piece of the cake still and wishes them back. The other wishes are less disastrous – a pony for Jo, a talking doll for Fanny and real flying wings for Bessie (Moon-Face wishes for her as she used her wish to rescue everyone).
I don’t know how they explained those to Mother when they got back!
Although I like fantasy and supernatural books, Blyton’s fantasy books are not amongst my favourites of hers. I didn’t read a lot of them as a child – Amelia Jane being one of the few I did read.
That said, The Enchanted Wood has a lot going for it. It really shows off her inventive and creative side – the pop biscuits and toffee shocks (they grow huge and then explode to nothing in your mouth, giving you a shock) are clever and quite unique. I liked the steps made of saucepans down to the Saucepan Man’s house, and Silky’s walking clock.
The different lands keep things fresh and interesting, and also show off Blyton’s vast imagination. Lands that rock and roll? Lands that spin around? Lands that provide you with anything you want, and lands that house dangerous goblins, bears, giants… you never know what you’ll get.
It’s just a pity Blyton wasn’t as creative with her solutions – there are too many huge coincidences and problems solved in a second. While the concept of visiting a land which may be dangerous and may trap you forever sounds dark and scary Blyton goes wholly in the other direction and it’s almost a jolly laugh to be lost forever!