The Magic Pudding
Frontispiece for first edition
|Genre||Children's novel, Picaresque novel|
The Magic Pudding: Being The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and his friends Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff is an Australian children's book written and illustrated by Norman Lindsay. It is a comic fantasy, and a classic of Australian children's literature.
The story is set in Australia with humans mixing with anthropomorphic animals. It tells of a magic pudding which, no matter how often it is eaten, always reforms in order to be eaten again. It is owned by three companions who must defend it against Pudding Thieves who want it for themselves.
The book is divided into four "slices" instead of chapters. There are many short songs interspersed throughout the text, varying from stories told in rhyme to descriptions of a character's mood or behaviour, and verses of an ongoing sea song.
Wanting to see the world, Bunyip Bluegum the koala sets out on his travels, taking only a walking stick. At about lunchtime, feeling more than slightly peckish, he meets Bill Barnacle the sailor and Sam Sawnoff the penguin who are eating a pudding. The pudding is a magic one which, no matter how much one eats it, always reforms into a whole pudding again. He is called Albert, has thin arms and legs and is a bad-tempered, ill-mannered so-and-so into the bargain. His only pleasure is being eaten and on his insistence, Bill and Sam invite Bunyip to join them for lunch. They then set off on the road together, Bill explaining to Bunyip how he and Sam were once shipwrecked with a ship's cook on an iceberg where the cook created the pudding which they now own.
Later on they encounter the Pudding Thieves, a possum and a wombat. These nasty varmints are scum of the earth, barely fit to own the air that fills their lungs. Bill and Sam bravely defend their pudding while Bunyip sits on Albert so that he cannot escape while they are not looking. Later that night sitting round the fire, Bill and Sam, grateful for his contributions of the day, invite Bunyip to join them and become a member of the Noble Society of Pudding Owners.
Later the next day, through some well-thought-out trickery, the Pudding Thieves make a successful grab for the Pudding. Upset and outraged, Bill and Sam fall into despair and it is up to Bunyip to get them to pull themselves together and set off to rescue their Pudding. In the course of tracking down the Pudding Thieves they encounter some rather pathetic and unsavoury members of society, but eventually manage to get led to the Pudding Thieves' lair. Bunyip's cleverness lures the robbers into a trap from where Bill and Sam's fists do the rest and they retrieve their pudding.
Some time later the Pudding Thieves approach the three Pudding Owners proclaiming that they bear gifts of good will and will present them to the pudding owners if they would only look inside a bag they have with them. When doing so they pull it over their heads and tie it up leaving them defenceless as the thieves take their pudding and run off.
An elderly dog, market gardener Benjamin Brandysnap, comes along and frees the Pudding Owners. The bag had been stolen from his stable, and he joins the Pudding Owners to get revenge on the Pudding Thieves. Another clever plan by Bunyip lures them into another trap where the Thieves are given yet another battering and the Pudding retrieved.
The next day the travellers come to the sleepy town of Tooraloo where they are approached by men dressed in suits and top hats and claiming to be the real owners of the Pudding. They turn out to be the Pudding Thieves up to yet another attempt at getting the Pudding and the subsequent fight brings along the Mayor and the cowardly local Constable. In the argument that follows, the bad-tempered Pudding pinches the Mayor who orders his arrest.
The Pudding is taken to court where the only officials present are the judge and the usher who are playing cards, but they prefer to eat the defendant rather than hear the case. To settle matters, Bunyip suggests that they hear the case themselves. Bill becomes the prosecutor, the Pudding Thieves are charged with the attempts to steal the Pudding and the theft of Benjamin Brandysnap's bag and the Mayor and the Constable stand in as “12 good men and true” — conceding that the unconstitutionality of the court is "better than a punch on the snout". The proceedings do not go well however and result in utter chaos. When it is at its height, Bunyip suddenly announces that the Pudding has been poisoned. The judge, who has been eating away at the Pudding, goes suddenly crazy and attacks the usher, the Pudding Thieves, the Mayor and the Constable with a bottle of port.
In reality, Albert was never poisoned and the Pudding Owners take advantage of the confusion to beat a hasty retreat. They then decide that it would be best to settle down somewhere rather than continue with their travelling. They build a house in a tree in Benjamin's garden and settle down to a life of ease.
Norman Lindsay, a well-known artist, illustrated the book himself with numerous black and white drawings, and also designed the cover. The original sketches can be seen at the State Library of New South Wales.
Significance and reception
First published in 1918, The Magic Pudding is considered a children's classic, and continues to be reprinted. A new edition was released in 2008 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the book, and October 12 was declared "Pudding Day". The new edition features the original artwork as well as a biography, the first book reviews, letters between Lindsay and his publisher, and various recipes.
The Magic Pudding is said to have been written to settle an argument: a friend of Lindsay's said that children like to read about fairies, while Lindsay asserted that they would rather read about food and fighting.
Out-of-print outside Australia for many years, the book was re-issued by The New York Review Children's Collection.
An animated feature-length film adaption was released in 2000, with John Cleese voicing the title role, Hugo Weaving as Bill, Geoffrey Rush as Bunyip, and Sam Neill as Sam. It deviated heavily from Lindsay's book, was critically derided, and was not a financial success.
In 2010, Marian Street Theatre for Young People, based in Killara, NSW, presented an adaption of Lindsay's script. Adapted by Andrew James, the production was the first to portray most of the characters in Lindsay's story using actors, rather than puppetry.
In 2013, [Victorian Opera] presented 'The Magic Pudding - The Opera'. The music is by Calvin Bowman and the libretto is adapted from Lindsay's book by Anna Goldsworthy. 
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- The Magic Pudding at Project Gutenberg
- Publisher's brochure and order form for the first (September 1918) edition / National Library of Australia
- The Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum
- A set of illustrations
- Christopher Kelen 'The Mirror in The Magic Pudding ' JASAL 6 (2007)
- The Magic Pudding at Librivox.org
- The State Library of New South Wales
- Floreo - Welcome to the Pudding
- Powell's books - About the author
- Introduction, New York Review Children's Collection 2004 reprint edition
- Matthew Stadlen (24 September 2011). "BBC 5 Minutes with Philip Pullman". Five Minutes With: Philip Pullman (video interview). BBC News. Entertainment & Arts. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
- The Magic Pudding animated film on IMDB
- Production description on Australian Stage.