Having finally read the first book in the series, I figures I should just crack on with the second!
That raises a minor point though, what’s the series called? The Enchanted Wood series, or The Faraway Tree series. Both are used on the internet. Both appear in the books’ titles, the Faraway Tree appears more times (The Magic Faraway Tree, The Folk of the Faraway Tree and Up the Faraway Tree) and is arguably the main focus of the series, but the Enchanted Wood contains the Faraway Tree and hosts some storylines on its own.
Do feel free to tell me I over-think these things! The Enid Blyton Society calls it the Faraway Tree series and as the expert, they must be right.
This one took me the longest to find, and I found it in Leakey’s in Inverness. It’s a tenth impression from 1964, so hardly an early one but it has a full dustjacket and it only cost me £5 so I was very happy with that!
That’s how the book starts – giving it a fairy-tale feel. Continuing that theme is the fact that they are very poor and the children have to help around the house and the garden. Fairy tales always seem to have very kind, decent but poor folk who have amazing things happen to them. (The parents in Rapunzel, Cinderella [she’s not poor but isn’t able to access any of her own wealth], Dick Whittington… and so on.)
Fairy tales aside Cousin Dick is coming to stay, and the children are very excited to tell him about the Enchanted Wood and the Faraway Tree. Anyone rooted in reality would assume he’d laugh at them and refuse to believe it, but there’s no link to reality in these books!
When Dick arrives the girls, being girls and therefore subservient to boys unpack his things and put them away. I don’t get annoyed with Blyton for writing that – nor do I think those details should be discretely edited out – I just dislike that those attitudes were so normal less than a hundred years ago.
Anyway, they tell Cousin Dick all about the tree and all the characters they’ve met (which is useful for those who didn’t start with the first book – a little ‘previously on’, if you will). Dick believes it all very readily – I told you these books aren’t hinged in reality! Before long they go up the tree and bump into all the main characters and experience all the ‘traditional’ dangers like the Angry Pixie and Dame Washalot’s water. Well, it’s Dick that gets yelled at and soaked, as he’s inexperienced in the ways of the tree.
THE RIGHT WAY UP IS THE WRONG WAY AROUND
Their first land is The Land of Topsy-Turvy, where everything is upside down. It’s because of a spell, but nobody is allowed to be the right way up even if they aren’t cursed. An upside down policeman happens along and as Jo is a bit rude to him, Jo gets turned upside down too.
Convenience abounds in this book too – The Land of Spells is due to arrive shortly, and will contain a spell to turn Jo the right way up.
I think even the mother in these books would notice an upside down child, so Jo spends the night with Moon-Face. Perhaps I should have included mother (whose name turns out to be Polly) in my post about Blyton’s mothers [link], as she really isn’t the most on-the-ball with her parenting. On hearing the full honest story as to why Jo isn’t coming home she scoffs that the children must be lying and Jo just fancied a sleepover with Moon-Face. I have three problems with this. One is that the children don’t a) consider how far-fetched their story is before they tell it and b) don’t react to being called liars when we all know how big a deal lying is in Blyton’s world. Two is that their mother isn’t at all bothered by what she believes to be an enormous whopper of a lie. And third is that she isn’t bothered by her son staying overnight with a strange little man she’s never met.
But anyway… the next day Jo (still upside down) is able to go up into The Land of Spells with Moon-Face and Silky to procure a walking spell which over-rides his upside-down spell and turns him the right way up. We get another of Blyton’s wonderful little ideas here as the witch who sells them the spell is knitting stockings from the smoke from her fire. The fantasy books are not amongst my favourite Blyton genre but I have to admit she came up with some cracking details in them
So that’s their first adventure/disaster over with in the second book. Cousin Dick is now fully enrolled in the Faraway Tree world and I have no doubt they will get themselves in even more bother later as they just can’t stay away from the strange lands that appear.
Next post: The Magic Faraway Tree part 2