I had thought about doing an April fool of my own but with current events as they are (and a lack of particularly convincing ideas) I thought instead it would be fun to have a look at the best tricks, jokes and pranks from Blyton’s books.
The school tricksters
Blyton’s schools always seem to have at least one trickster in each class. Alicia Johns at Malory Towers, and her cousin June, Janet Robins and Bobby Ellis at St Clare’s, Tom at St Rollo’s and Julian at Whyteleaf. Saying that, half the classes seem to get involved at one point or another – and even the mistresses aren’t immune to a trick now and again.
The first trick we see at Malory Towers is played by Alicia – she pretends to be deaf and the class find hilarity in repeating things more loudly for her, while she deliberately misunderstands them. She plays it on Mam’zelle Rougier, the French mistress always a target for these things as she rarely suspects a trick is being played on her.
Mamzelle: Can you not hear?
Alicia: What do I fear?
Betty: Can you not hear?
Unfortunately for Alicia this backfires when she genuinely becomes a bit deaf after swimming underwater, and Miss Potts believes it’s another trick and moves her to the front of the classroom.
7/10 for how funny it is, but only 2/10 for ingenuity as her brother had already played the trick and told her all about it.
The next attempt is just as funny – and a bit more complex. Alicia has some magic chalk that when rubbed on a surface is invisible, but when warmed up it turns bright pink. She rubs it over the music master’s chair and turns his derriere bright pink – the beauty of it that he has no clue it was a trick.
Darrell then goes to repeat the trick on Mam’zelle but goes a step further and writes ‘oy’ on the chair (backwards of course). This is even funnier as she goes around flashing OY on her behind – but it’s so obvious that it’s a trick that they have to stop her and clean it off before any mistresses see it.
9/10 for hilarity and a solid 10/10 for bravery in setting it up
The third form sees the girls deploying some sneeze pellets. These have been sent by one of Alicia’s other brothers, and once wet they produce a vapour that causes whoever is within four feet to sneeze like mad. They play it on Mam’zelle Dupont of course, and she ‘snizzes’ over and over, so much she falls off her chair. Miss Pots comes to investigate the noise and then she is overcome with sneezes too. Mam’zelle looks so ill that Matron is sent for and then she starts sneezing too. It’s a wonder none of the girls had rolled onto the floor with laughter.
Even Darrell catches a sneeze as she disposes of the pellet. Unluckily they get caught out on this one and have to forfeit the next half-holiday, but it sounds like it was worth it.
10/10 for being hilarious, I can just imagine the three adults sneezing away helplessly!
As often is the case a trick is played near the end of term, just when the girls’ spirits are flagging. In the fourth form the trick is played after they’ve sat their exams. This time it’s something Betty has brought in, more pellets, but these produce large bubbles when wetted. These bubbles float down and when they burst they make a loud ‘ping’.
This one’s also played on Mam’zelle, who is of course entirely baffled when something ‘pings’ right by her ear. She’s especially baffled when nobody else can hear anyof the mysterious pings.
Mamzelle: Do you not hear a ping, Sally?
Sally: You don’t mean a pong do you?
Irene: Perhaps she means a ping-pong
Miss Williams rumbles the trick, but she’s a sport and doesn’t get them into trouble as she’s found it quite funny herself.
8/10 for being funny though so much of that is from Mam’zelle’s reactions
In the fifth form the girls think they are too old to play tricks and so the tricks come from the lower form, the second form in particular. June has followed in her cousin’s footsteps and ordered tricks from catalogues. Her first is a balloon contraption which she can inflate and deflate under her clothes giving the illusion she is growing and shrinking.
Of course she plays this on Mam’zelle Dupont, who else? Mam’zelle is very alarmed to see June swelling up in front of her eyes. Unluckily the valve breaks and she’s left alarmingly swollen just as Mam’zelle races off for Matron. There’s nothing for it but to burst the balloons and try to hide the evidence.
6/10 for the funny factor, 8/10 for the unintentional humour of June’s trick backfiring on herself.
The unintended consequence of June’s balloon trick is that Mam’zelle Dupont confiscates her trick books and orders herself a set of terrifying false teeth which she uses to play her own ‘treek’ She dons these plastic fangs and walks around the grounds one afternoon, flashing them at unsuspecting girls. This is terribly funny by itself, it becomes ten times funnier when Miss Grayling spots her and wants her to talk to the parents of some prospective pupils. Mam’zelle manages to mutter a few comments, then, forgetting, she gives them a grin of terrifying proportions and has to scurry off to laugh at their faces.
It ends with her laughing the teeth out onto the grass, revealing the trick to the fifth formers who have gathered around her.
10/10 for how funny this is, and also 10/10 for the unexpectedness of the French mistress playing a trick of her own.
June’s next trick involves a very powerful magnet. She knows that any mistress would suspect a trick if she plays it, so she gives it to Susan who uses it to pull all the pins out of Mam’zelle Rougier’s neat little bun at the end of a French class. Of course her bun completely unravels and she is alarmed to think perhaps she forgot to pin her hair up that morning as there are certainly no pins there now.
They are so enamoured with their joke that they play it on Mam’zelle Rougier again – a very bold move as almost nobody dares play a trick on her once let alone twice – and this time Harriet wields the magnet. This time she deposits the pins by the classroom door for Mam’zelle to discover.
They even play this one a third time so that the staid sixth formers can have a laugh. Nora comes to their classroom while Mam’zelle Dupont is teaching and uses the magnet on her bun. She is just as alarmed as her colleague to discover her pin-free hair flapping down her back.
The second form then go one better. Felicity comes to the sixth form classroom this time and steals Mam’zelle Dupont’s hair pins. She rushes off to repin her hair, and when she returns a curious hissing noise fills the room. Alicia investigates and follows the sound to the chimney where of of the second formers has stuck a pellet which forms a hissing snake. There they have also hidden a pin cushion full of hair pins…
Mam’zelle suspects the sixth-formers have tricked her, but of course they haven’t and know nothing of snake-pellets. They are therefore amazed when Nora arrives to steal Mam’zelle’s second lot of hair pins and place a second pellet and pin cushion behind the blackboard.
10/10 for hilarity and 10/10 for sheer audacity
At The Naughtiest Girl’s School it is Julian who plays the tricks. At first he sticks to curious noises – a pot bubbling over, a hen clucking, turkeys gobbling, violins being tuned and so on to amuse the other children and disrupt lessons and meetings a little.
4/10 for hilarity but 8/10 for skill
His other tricks are less funny. He begins a campaign against Elizabeth who he feels has wronged him. First he creates an ingenious spring which he places under her books in class, it slowly unfurls and tosses all her books to the floor. Deftly he places another when she picks her books up, and then a third causing her to be sent from the room.
He then pastes some pellets above her chair so that little drips land on her throughout a lesson.
Lastly he puts sneezing powder in the pages of her textbook causing her to sneeze violently.
If these had been played in good humour on a teacher or pupil I’d score them quite highly. As they were played with malice and caused Elizabeth to get into a lot of trouble I have to give Julian a 0/10 for humour, and a grudging 7/10 for ingenuity.
There’s at least one joke per term at St Clare’s with Bobby and Janet vying for the role as class prankster.
First Janet puts firecrackers up the chimney to give Miss Kennedy a fright. Miss Kennedy is a bit of a poor soul and doesn’t cope well with the sudden explosions. Foolishly Janet tips the rest of the box in and when Miss Roberts comes back they all explode and she is furious.
This could have been quite funny but it was directed rather maliciously at Miss Kennedy, and given how upset she was and then how much trouble the girls got into I can only score this a 2/10.
Also mentioned in The Twins at St Clare’s are Janet’s trick pencils, which have varying qualities such a lead that slides back in, lead that wobbles and lead that just won’t write. These are only described in passing and unfortunately we don’t see them deployed.
6/10 if you imagine how funny they would be when given to an unsuspecting mistress.
The next book has Janet’s magic ink blot and blotting paper. The ink blot is a fake one – ordered from the same sort of catalogue that June Johns buys – and she puts it on her French prep to make Mam’zelle think she has ruined it with her fountain pen. Mam’zelle is mortified, even when June magically manages to blot it off without so much as a smudge. She then puts it on Doris’ desk, making Mam’zelle shake her pen in disbelief and causing several real inkblots to appear.
7/10 because it’s both clever and funny and Mam’zelle doesn’t suspect a thing.
Unfortunately they follow that trick with a cruel one and fill Mam’zelle’s glasses case with beetles, pretending the glasses are there and she is imagining things. She almost has a breakdown thinking she is having real problems with hallucinated beetles.
0/10 because it’s just mean
It’s Bobby’s turn next and without the aid of any joke books she hatches a plan. She sends a false note to Miss Roberts, luring her from the room. While she’s gone Bobby changes the time on the clock so that they get out of class ten minutes early and thus avoid a test.
This is more clever than funny, so 6/10
Bobby’s next trick is to use a squeaking biscuit toy to pretend there is a lost kitten in the classroom. Mam’zelle does fall for it but the whole thing makes her very angry and although they waste half a lesson cat-hunting they earn themselves an extra test too.
Quite funny as they all hunt for a nonexistent cat, but Mam’zelle’s reaction dampens it all a bit so another 6/10 for Bobby
Another trick by Bobby involves a plate connected to a rubber tube. Settling the plate at Mam’zelle’s seat at the head of the table she then presses a little bulb at the end of the tube and causes Mam’zell’s plate to tip and jiggle alarmingly. It happens over and over during the meal yet all the girls pretend not to notice anything.
Mam’zelle goes quite wild and when Miss Theobald comes over to investigate Bobby can’t help but make the plate move one more time. Luckily both teachers see the funny side of the joke!
This one’s really funny and as it’s taken in good spirit all around it gets 8/10
Janet plays the last trick as she has bought some little glass stink pellets. She lets one off in Mam’zelle’s class and it positively reeks. The poor girls have to suffer for a few minutes before it reaches Mam’zelle who feels bad she didn’t believe them at first. By the time she fetches Miss Theobald, however, the smell is gone. They play a variation on this after, pretending there is a bad smell when they haven’t actually created one. Mam’zelle fetches Miss Ellis who, excuse the pun, smells a rat.
Unfortunately for the girls Bobby has a stink pellet in her pocket and accidentally breaks it. The girls have been warned against a single protest about any smells so they have to suffer in silence. Miss Ellis can smell it too, and knowing it’s a trick leaves the girls some work to do and escapes the horrendous odour leaving them to suffer.
This is pretty funny, though I think Miss Ellis getting her own back might be even funnier. 7/10 for the original gag and 9/10 for Miss Ellis’ revenge.
There’s a couple of tricks in Mischief at St Rollo’s played by Tom Young. First he ties some cotton-reels to thread, puts them in a cupboard and then runs the thread to his desk so he can jiggle them from afar. He does this in Monsieur Crozier’s class (what is it with school kids playing tricks on the French teachers?) and causes alarm at the suggestion it may be mice. He actually then pretends to have found a mouse and chases it all over the classroom, landing himself in rather a lot of trouble.
7/10 for the original part of the trick as it’s clever but only 3/10 for the mad mouse-chase as it wa a bit over the top and blew the whole thing.
He is a master at thread tricks it would seem as later he ties threads to pegs on the blackboard and causes it to fall down not once but twice during a lesson. Unfortunately one of the other boys rats him out and he is caught with the threads in his pockets.
This is more clever than the first and is only rumbled due to spitefulness from someone else so 8/10.
I couldn’t think of many tricks outside of the school books. There are probably various ones amongst the short stories but I haven’t had the time to search them all.
Pip plays an excellent trick on the rest of the Find-Outers in The Mystery of the Invisible Thief when he puts on oversized shoes and walks through the flower-bed to make Fatty think that the invisible thief has come their way. It has the added bonus of helping them solve the mystery.
8/10 for being so clever, both purposefully and inadvertently.
Although Julian and Dick mention some tricks played by boys at their school I can only think of one trick actually played out across the 21 books and 8 short stories. In Five Go to Billycock Hill Toby dares to play a trick on George. She says she’s not afraid of spiders so he dangles a huge fake specimen over her at their camp, and manages to give her rather a fright.
Not hugely hilarious but he’s very brave to play a trick on George, 6/10
Brilliant! Love those illustrations too 🙂
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Of these, I’ve only read the St Clare’s books. I do remember being very taken with Bobby’s plate-lifting trick and at the age of about 9 I went to a joke shop – at that time, the 1970s, these were quite common and you could buy things like itching powder and all sorts of novelty tricks, but I don’t think they exist any more – and bought the necessary kit. It consisted, like Bobby’s of a rubber bladder, to put under the tablecloth and plate, with a tube leading to a bulb that you held in your hand to squeeze and activate the trick. It came in a packet showing the plate leaping up in the air, very much as in the illustration here. I set it all up underneath my father’s plate but, alas, it was a total flop. The pressure wasn’t enough to lift the plate and, anyway, he immediately spotted that there was something under the table cloth. An early lesson that real life isn’t like books, and that packaging can be deceptive! Chris
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