The Ring O’ Bells Mystery


Ring O’ Bells is probably my favourite from this series, but after telling Stef this was what I’d review I had to do a hasty double-check that it was indeed the next in the series. It is, of course, and that makes sense when you know that Rubadub comes next with its progression in the Barney-and-his-mysterious-father storyline. But as always, I doubted myself and decided to check the books. Many books from series have a little list of previous titles in them (though annoyingly, if its a reprint, they may list all books minus the book you have open and leave you none the wiser). Thankfully Blyton often includes a short message to her readers along the line of this book being the third in the series, but each is complete in itself.

So, I checked what Ring O’ Bells said. To my slight surprise the little message reads:

This is the fourth book about Roger, Diana, Snubby and his dog Loony, and Barney and his monkey Miranda.
The other three books are:
The Rockingdown Mystery
The Rilloby Fair Mystery
The Rubadub Mystery

At that point I entirely believed I had been wrong and took The Rubadub Mystery off the shelf too. Inside that reads:

This is the fourth book about Roger, Diana, Snubby and his dog Loony, and Barney and his monkey Miranda.
The other three books in this series are:
The Rockingdown Mystery
The Rilloby Fair Mystery
The Ring O’Bells Mystery…

Clearly they can’t both be right! Common sense then kicked in, and saw that Ring O’ Bells was first printed in this edition in 1953, and reprinted in 1954, while Rubadub’s dates were 1954 and 1955. It would seem that an error has crept into Ring O’ Bells possibly when it was republished. I’m not sure what other differences there are between these editions and the originals, though, as they are both by the same publisher – with just three years in between – and there’s no distinction make on the Enid Blyton Society listing.

Anyway, superior detective skills won, and Ring O’ Bells was the right book. Incidentally, though, the foreword there tells us that Blyton clearly didn’t know what to call the series either! The books are known equally as The Barney Mysteries and The R Mysteries it would seem. Both are much catchier than the Roger, Diana, Snubby and his dog Loony, and Barney and his monkey Miranda Mysteries.


THE ACTUAL STORY

Four hundred or so words ago, I told you this was my favourite in the series, so let’s get back to that. This story has some similar chilling and historical aspects to Rockingdown, though much of it has a fairytale spin.

The most chilling part is the reference to the drowning – though it plays a much smaller part in the story than perhaps I had remembered. It’s a dark little tale, though, and somewhat unusual for Blyton although she had used a similar idea in Rockingdown with the deaths of the children at the manor.

As for the fairy-tales there’s Naomi Barlow, known to the children as Old Red Riding Hood, thanks to her tattered red hooded cloak and cottage in the woods. Despite it saying many times that she has white curly hair in addition to the witch-green eyes, I have always pictured her as a much younger woman.

Naomi Barlow aka Old Red Riding Hood

Naomi Barlow aka Old Red Riding Hood

There’s also Mother Hubbard, though like Old Red Riding Hood this is a nickname bestowed upon her by the children. It’s mostly just because she lives at Hubbard Cottage, but is compounded by the fact that she – gasp – has a cupboard! The fact that it’s a larder full of food is irrelevant, but the children’s reaction makes you wonder how rare cupboards were in those days!

Then there’s the myths and legends surrounding the bells at Ring O’ Bells Hall which apparently rang out to warn of enemies in the past. ROB Hall is a typical Blytonian Hall, meaning it not only boasts a hiding-niche up a fireplace and a secret passage behind a panel but also a stern and unpleasant curator who wishes to keep out riff-raff such as inquisitive children and their dogs.

These are all things which have graced many of her books. Talking of which – the reason they are in ROB Village is they have had the ‘flu  (after four! weeks of Easter hols) and have therefore been instructed by the doctor to go somewhere they can relax and have a ‘change of air’. This time it’s not sea-air or mountain-air they need though (who knew different types of air was so important?) so they end up going to a different village than the one they live in for this change of air.

Secret passages (especially ones behind sliding panels) are practically a staple in Blyton’s adventure worlds, but this one shares similarities to two that feature in Famous Five books. One similarity is with Five Go Off to Camp and a brick wall, the other to Five Have a Mystery to Solve and one entrance to the cave of treasures. Actually, it’s also very similar to the Craggy Tops’ entrance to the undersea tunnel in Island of Adventure when it comes to that.

Old Grandad could be straight out of any number of stories as an old bearded fellow of indeterminate but great age who can tell of past tales and legends. There’s Yan’s Grandad from Five Go Down to the Sea, Great-Grandad from Five on Finniston Farm, Jeremiah Boogle from Five Go to Demon’s Rocks… 

Old Grandad. Not to be confused with Yan's Grandad or Great-Grandad or any other patriarchal figures.

Old Grandad. Not to be confused with Yan’s Grandad or Great-Grandad or any other patriarchal figures.

Ringing the bells to wake the village and get help to the hall is an idea that is used again in Five Go to Demon’s Rocks – both scenes have quite an impact it has to be said.

Unfortunately, perhaps, in Ring O’ Bells old-fashioned attitudes towards women are quite prevalent – including in this bell-ringing scenario. I tend not to notice this too much as I don’t believe Blyton was a raging sexist – George shows she was quite the opposite – but there are several instances of women being portrayed firmly as the weaker sex.

Diana is not in the hall when Barney rings the bells as she has willingly agreed to stay home, rather too afraid to go though she feels she ought to. It’s debatable whether the boys would have let her go anyway. She’s also absent from exploring the passage from the end in the woods. Instead she often gets to be the one to help make up the lunches and do other chores. When the bells ring dogs bark, cows low, cats flee, men throw back the bedcovers and leap out and women? The women scream! It’s also Diana who is the first to go white and weak after their first day of exerting themselves.


MY THOUGHTS

After saying that this is my favourite of the series, I have to admit that the mystery/adventure elements are perhaps not Blyton’s strongest. It’s a fairly straightforward tale of hearing noises in the night (much like at Rockingdown), investigating a tunnel and finding a dead-end, a little chatting to people in-the-know of these things, some further and more exciting tunnel exploring, and then a finale which somewhat redeems the story. I say somewhat as although both Roger and Barney are trapped by the criminals it’s for a very short time and they are never in any true danger.

It still remains my favourite, though, thanks to the added history and fairy-tales woven into the story.

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3 Responses to The Ring O’ Bells Mystery

  1. chrissie777 says:

    Fiona, thank you for another wonderful review. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, because Ring O’ Bells is my favorite R series sequel. Looking forward to your Rubadub review in the near future.

    Like

  2. Francis says:

    Great review – my granddaughter calls me Old Grandad!
    Francis

    Like

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