It’s a cold winter’s day here and going out into the freezing wind isn’t very appealing, so it seems like a good time to re-read The Magic Faraway Tree, which is the second book in the Faraway Tree series (published in 1943). This review will be a bit shorter than my last one, as I won’t have to introduce too many new characters, the Tree itself or the slippery-slip this time.
The book starts with the announcement that cousin Dick is coming to stay. The reason given is that his mother is too ill to look after him – that excuse seems to get used a bit for Blyton characters, along with them needing a change of scenery because they’ve been ill or that they need to play with children their own age and have their corners rubbed off (like another character in the Faraway Tree series, but that’s another, later story).
Dick arrives and it doesn’t take too long to convince him to come to the Enchanted Woods and climb the Faraway Tree, meeting all the children’s friends and getting soaked by the Angry Pixie when he looks in his windows along the way. The children have some pop biscuits with their friends, then it’s up the ladder at the top of the Tree and into the first land.
Unlike their first rather short adventure in one of these lands in The Enchanted Wood, the children, Moon-Face, Silky and Saucepan Man immediately embark on a much longer one that starts with Jo insulting someone in the Land of Topsy Turvey and continues over several chapters and lands, including the Land of Spells and being caught by both Mr Change-About and the Enchanter.
There are some shorter adventures – like the trips to the Land of Dreams (not nearly as pleasant as it sounds) and the Land of Do-As-You-Please (which is actually a nice place to visit), but Saucepan’s visit to the Land of Toys (which he believes is the Land of Goodies) is spread over several chapters as the others soon have to rescue him from prison.
This is followed by a trip to the real Land of Goodies, which should have been fun for everyone – nearly everything there is not only edible, but delicious – but doesn’t end well for Moon-Face and Saucepan, who have to leave the tree and stay with the children for a while. So when The Old Woman Who Lives In A Shoe comes to visit the tree, she takes over Moon-Face’s house as it’s empty, and he and the children have to get it back from her.
As usual, Saucepan causes several of the problems that land them in adventures, but Dick also contributes – he’s got a bit more personality than the other children, but he’s often described as being quite greedy. This leads to problems in the Land of Goodies, as visitors are welcome to eat the currant buns and biscuits growing on the trees, but it’s considered very bad manners to eat someone’s door-knocker. And having jelly fall down onto the Angry Pixie can only end in a spanking for someone.
Then in the Land of Magic Medicines, Dick manages to first grow to an enormous size and then shrink to almost nothing… and while they’re fixing him, Saucepan makes his own nose grow Pinnochio style in the hope of producing lovely roses from his kettles.
However, they aren’t responsible for all of the problems the children and their friends face; there’s another invasion of the Faraway Tree, this time from the Land of Tempers, and several people disappear before everything is cleared up and everyone is back where they should be.
There’s another nice land for them to visit in the final chapter – the Land of Presents, which is full of Christmas Trees and everything that you could want to give someone as a present. Unlike the Land of Birthdays, there isn’t a side adventure, but Dick does learn another lesson about being greedy.
Like The Enchanted Wood, this book is still as enjoyable to read as it was when I was a kid – the Land of Goodies in particular is still guaranteed to fire anyone’s imagination, with trees that grow food and flowers that produce jelly. And, in addition to pop biscuits and toffee shocks, Moon-Face introduces the children to Google buns, which contain a currant that, when bitten, releases a delicious sherbet. I’m still hoping that someone, someday, will figure out how to make these.