Last time we ended on a minor cliff-hanger. The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe had stopped living in her shoe and had taken up residence in Moon-Face’s home instead. Obviously that just wouldn’t do so we can now find out how they get rid of her.
THE LAND OF THE OLD WOMAN
The Old Woman’s land is a strange one. It’s always quite hard to imagine ‘lands’ atop the tree. They are floating places, perhaps akin to the visions of the Flat Earth Society. This one is only as big as a garden and has a wall so the children don’t fall off.
With the Old Woman gone her children are running amok, deliberately doing as many bad things as they can. They seem rather awful but as the are regularly whipped and sent to bed without any bread (as the nursery rhyme goes) they probably don’t have a happy home life! It’s hardly surprising they are acting out when their mother-figure just abandons them because she’s fed up.
Dick tricks her into going back up by telling her the children are going to ruin her good clothes, and she is in such a rage she chases everyone, including our regular characters into the shoe. While Dick is being whipped (which much surely be scolded in new editions) the others escape, and Dick manages to follow just in time.
THE LAND OF MAGIC MEDICINES
The children’s mother is ill now, the doctor is stumped, and the children are worried. Dame Washalot takes in the washing Mother is paid to do for others. At first this seems like a true kindness, but it turns out that Dame Washalot loves doing washing so much that she will wash clean things, or even the Faraway Tree’s leaves if she runs out of dirty washing. I bet most women at the time the book was written would have loved for Dame Washalot to take their washing in!
Anyway, with amazing timing, the Land of Magic Medicines comes to the tree. Fanny stays home to look after their mother but the others go to seek a cure.
Unusually the hole in the clouds leads straight into a factory which is staffed by goblins and pixies and gnomes. The medicines they are making don’t just cure common ailments but also shortness and sadness in the eyes.
There are pills from the shadow of a mountain, the height of a tree and the crash of a thunderstorm amongst other things, used to make short people tall. Dick stupidly takes three of them and shoots up as tall as the roof. Trying to fix this, a pixie gives him go-away pills, but it’s far too many and he shrinks so small he can’t be seen.
Meanwhile the silly old Saucepan Man turns into Pinocchio by drinking a nose growing potion, thinking it is a rose growing potion. He is fixed with a disappearing medicine while Dick is restored by a growing bath but ends up with pink clothes (which are never mentioned when he gets home).
Before any more disasters occur they collect a general, all-purpose get-well medicine which leads to a miraculous recovery for their mother.
MR WHATZISNAME, MISSING FOLK AND BAD TEMPERS
Mr whatzisname turns up at the children’s house to say that Moon-Face, Silky and the Saucepan Man have disappeared. The Land of Tempers (sometimes referred to as the Land of Bad Tempers) is at the top of the tree but surely they wouldn’t have visited that?
In a repeat of previous tales Silky and Moon-Face’s houses have been stolen, this time by bad-tempered people.
Dame Washalot and Lady Yell-Around have a set to like Julian and Mr Stick, after Lady Yell-Around is drenched in Dame Washalot’s water once too often.
Lady Yell-Around and Mr Stamp-A-Lot both claim that Silky and Moon-Face willingly gave up their homes as they wanted to live in the Land of Tempers but that doesn’t ring true at all. Blyton comes up with a devious set of rules for this land, and a puzzle. If you visit the Land of Tempers and lose your temper there (which is very likely due to all the bad-tempered people there) then you have to stay. This makes it a) very dangerous for the children to go hunting for their friends and b) creates a mystery of how Lady Y.A. and Mr S.A.L escaped.
They take the risk of going up and spend a while forcing smiles on their faces (you can just imagine the awful grimace-smiles they must have) as they are snapped at, pushed and raged at by the folk of the land. The only person who isn’t awful to them is the grand head-man of the land. Fanny is smart enough to ask where Mr S.A.L and Lady Y.A. are instead of Moon-Face and Silky. This reveals that they have snuck off, and should not have. Then they are told that Moon-Face and Silky cannot be in the land as they have not lost their tempers and asked to take a house (slightly contradicting the earlier notion that you’re stuck there as soon as you lose your temper).
Back in the tree the Angry Pixie is pondering over a load of banging coming from inside the tree. It’s Silky and Moon-Face and they’re trapped in the blocked-up Slippery-Slip. The stuff is magically stuck there so a group of woodpeckers has to be inveigled to bore a hole for them to escape. With that achieved they are all able to gloat (nicely of course) as Mr S.A.L. and Lady Y.A. are dragged back into their own land by the head-man.
THE LAST LAND
Of course we have to end on a happier note, and so the final land of the book is the Land of Presents.
Dick soon finds out that it isn’t a land of presents for yourself. You can only take presents for others. This leads to the usual fun as the Saucepan Man mishears what people would like and fetches a clock and a lion instead of a frock and an iron. Everyone gets some lovely things in the end, though, and the story is over for the moment.
The best, most imaginative parts are the medicines and their ingredients in the Land of Magic Medicines and the trip to the Land of Tempers.
While those are inventive there are some ideas we have seen before such as houses being stolen and the Slippery-Slip being used as a trap.
Dick being greedy and/or foolish and the Saucepan Man’s mishearings are also repeated but these are more like on-going jokes or plot points and therefore more acceptable (though irritating if you found them tiresome the first time!).
I think the first book was stronger as more of the ideas were new and original, though this one had some strong elements. Of course children love to read more books about their favourite characters and with a whole host of different lands to potentially arrive at the top of the tree it would have made sense to carry on writing books.