Recently I looked at Blyton’s secret but homely homes, where children turned caves and trees into lovely cosy places to stay. That got me thinking about some of the other strange ‘homes’ Blyton wrote about, and so I thought I would have a look at them today. I think that some from the previous post would come under the heading of ‘strange’, hollow trees and willow houses aren’t exactly normal but as I’ve already written about them I plan to stick to (mostly) bricks and mortar dwellings that could at least pretend to be normal from the outside.
Mountains, in and of themselves, are not a terrible unusual place to live. But most people would live on a mountain or by a mountain. Blyton has two lots of people who live inside their mountains, and that’s pretty strange!
The Secret Mountain (The Secret Mountain)
The Secret Mountain is a strange place to start with. Located in an unidentified part of Africa, it has a completely flat top. The natives are afraid of it because of its inhabitants – a cult of sun-worshippers with yellow skin and flaming red hair.
The mountain is entered by way of an enormous slab of rock with pivots and slides away if you press it in the right place. Inside is a warren of passages and rooms – and an underground river which bursts out of the side of the mountain to form an enormous waterfall. To top it off – literally – the flat mountain top has an alter used for the sun worshipping and ritual sacrifices!
Fang Mountain (The Mountain of Adventure)
Eight years later, another mountain with some very similar ideas featured in the Adventure Series. Fang Mountain, in Wales, also has a flat top, a series of passages and rooms, and a crowd of folk who more or less sacrifice unsuspecting people!
You enter Fang Mountain through a narrow gap in the rock, hidden by a trailing ivy. Inside you can’t seem to go any further as it’s just a small cave mostly filled by a still, dark pool. But if you know where to look, you’ll find a wheel which, when turned, reveals a rope-ladder and the way into the rest of the mountain. Like The Secret Mountain there’s a throne room and many other spaces (but no river) on the way up to the top.
Killimooin (The Secret of Killimooin)
The mysterious robbers of Killimooin don’t live inside a mountain, but they pass through one on their way into a forest which is entirely sealed off in a ring of mountains.
The little village is reasonably ‘normal’ if very old-fashioned, with wooden huts clustered amongst the trees. Getting there is decidedly not normal, though.
First you must find the secret button on a statue in a small ruined temple, and go underground into the mountain. There you’ll find a rushing river, and the best way down into the forest is by boat!
RAMBLING OLD HOUSES (AND CASTLES)
Blyton wrote about a lot of castles and big old houses, so I will try to stick to ones that were lived in (however temporarily) by the children she wrote about.
Craggy Tops (The Island of Adventure)
Craggy Tops is a very striking building, built right into the cliffs by the sea. It is continually sprayed with sea-water and shrieked at by sea-birds. It would have been a grand home when it was first built, but by the time the Mannerings live there a lack of money has caused it to fall into disrepair. It has no heating, electricity or even running water. The tower-room has no glass in the windows, and some parts of the house are even in ruins. Excitingly, down in the cellars, there is a secret passage leading to a cave on the beach, and another passage which starts down the well and heads under the sea to the Isle of Gloom.
Moon Castle (The Secret of Moon Castle)
Moon Castle is in better condition than Craggy Tops, but it’s probably a lot stranger. It seems perfectly normal for an old castle – though the tower-door is locked and hidden – until strange things happen. A portraits’ eyes glow, a music box plays itself, books throw themselves from shelves, the musical instruments go TWANG and DONG all by themselves, and there’s a secret passage halfway up the wall in Prince Paul’s room. It’s not magic or otherworldy things going on, though, the castle has been built with secret hiding and spying spaces which are utilised by the strange Brimmings to oust the Arnolds and Prince Paul.
Smuggler’s Top (Five Go to Smuggler’s Top)
Smuggler’s Top is a strange house in a strange place. It is built at the top of Castaway Hill, so-called because when the mist rises off the marsh it is cast-away from the mainland. It is only accessible by one road that winds through the marsh which takes you into the narrow, steep, cobbled streets within the walled village on the hill. If you navigate your way to the top, you’ll find Smuggler’s Top, a huge rambling house.
There are multiple secret passages in the house – entrances can be found just inside the front door, Mr Lenoir’s study, the dining-room, Marybelle’s bedroom and two in Sooty’s bedroom, though they seem to run all through the house and there may be even more entrances. Two of the bedroom ones drop straight down into the mass of catacombs that fill the hill – though the other passages also link up to those.
Rockingdown Manor (The Rockingdown Mystery)
Rockingdown Manor is, by most people’s standards a reasonably normal house. It’s very large, of course, being a manor, and the strangeness comes from three things. One, it’s abandoned with lends a creepy air and a lot of cobwebs to it. Two, it has a macabre back-story of a child falling to their death and another dying from scarlet fever. Three, it has a secret entrance in the cellar to an underground river.
Three Men and a Tub Inn (The Rubadub Mystery)
The name alone is unusual enough – it is named for the nearby whirlpool which has a scrubbing-board shaped rock beside it. The inn itself is old-fashioned even by 1950s standards with oak beams on the ceilings and diamond-paned windows. It also has a skylight in the hall on the top floor, accessed by some wooden steps. That’s not so terribly odd, though it just happens to line up perfectly with a gap in the cliffs – very handy for signalling out to sea! The whole roof is quite a curious place a large, uneven place with attic windows and chimneys here and there, if you are daring, or daft, enough you could wander from one window to another.
Old Towers (Five Get Into a Fix)
Old Towers, at first glance, could seem like a pretty normal if old and rambling house atop a hill. That effect is quickly destroyed if anyone happens to try to drive (or ride) up to it – the hill is essentially magnetic and would slow any metal vehicle to a crawl. Then, if anyone happened to look at the house at night then they might see a strange shimmering in a colour they’ve never seen before, and hear a strange rumbling too. In addition to all that weirdness, there’s a series of secret tunnels under the house containing an underground stream.
Peep-Hole (The Secret of Spiggy Holes)
Peep-Hole is a crooked old house with a tower, and is set in a dip in the cliff, so like the Three Men in a Tub Inn, it is perfectly located to signal out to sea and also to the tower of the other old house.
While a house without a secret passage is uncommon in Blyton’s books, secret passages are still uncommon enough in the real world. Peep Hole is another house with a secret passage, this one to be found half-way up a chimney in a tower bedroom. It leads down to the beach and from there also to another old house a little way inland.
And that’s where I will stop today, but I will be back with a few more strange homes another time! What’s your favourite strange or unusual home from a Blyton book?