The Faraway Tree
|Cover artist||Georgina Hargreaves|
|No. of books||4|
The Faraway Tree is a series of popular novels for children by British author Enid Blyton. The titles in the series are The Enchanted Wood (1939), The Magic Faraway Tree (1943), The Folk of the Faraway Tree (1946) and Up the Faraway Tree (1951).
The stories take place in an enchanted forest in which a gigantic magical tree grows – the eponymous "Faraway Tree". The tree is so tall that its topmost branches reach into the clouds and it is wide enough to contain small houses carved into its trunk. The forest and the tree are discovered by three children named Jo, Bessie and Fanny, who move into a house nearby. It is then that they embark on adventures to the top of the tree.
The first title of the main trilogy, The Enchanted Wood, was published in 1939, although the Faraway Tree and Moon-Face had already made a brief appearance in 1936 in The Yellow Fairy Book. A picture-strip book, Up the Faraway Tree, was published in 1951. Over the years, the Faraway Tree stories have been illustrated by various artists including Dorothy Wheeler, Rene Cloke, Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, and Georgina Hargreaves.
The Enchanted Wood
In the first novel in the series, Jo, Bessie and Fanny move to live near a large wood. One day, they go for a walk in the wood and discover an enormous tree whose branches seem to reach into the clouds. This is the Faraway Tree.
When the children climb the Faraway Tree they discover it is inhabited by different magical creatures, including Moon-Face, Silky the fairy, The Saucepan Man, Dame Washalot, Mr. Watzisname and the Angry Pixie. They befriend some of these creatures, in particular Moon-face and Silky. At the very top of the tree they discover a ladder which leads them to a magical land. This land is different on each visit, because each place moves on from the top of the tree to make way for a new land. The children are free to come and go, but they must leave before the land moves on, or they will be stuck there until that same land returns to the Faraway Tree. In various chapters, one of the children gets stuck in the land.
The lands at the top are sometimes extremely unpleasant – for example the Land of Dame Slap, an aggressive school teacher; and sometimes fantastically enjoyable - notably the Land of Birthdays, the Land of Goodies, the Land of Take-What-You-Want and the Land of Do-As-You-Please.
The first land the three children visit is the Roundabout Land, where they give some cake to two rabbits, and the rabbits dig a hole for themselves and the three children. The last land they visit in this book is the Land of Birthdays, where the brownies and the inhabitants of the Faraway Tree celebrate Bessie's birthday.
The Magic Faraway Tree
Dick, the cousin of Jo, Bessie and Fanny comes to stay, and he joins the secret adventures in the lands of the Faraway Tree. Dick is not interested at first but later on he becomes interested, and gets into mischief.
The Folk of the Faraway Tree
Connie, a mischievous girl, comes to enjoy a few days with the children while her mother, Lizzie, is sick. At first Connie refuses to believe in the Faraway Tree or the magical folk who live in it, even when the Angry Pixie throws ink at her and when Dame Washalot soaks her. Jo, Bessie and Fanny take her to the lands at the top of the tree and Connie gets a few surprises! The Saucepan Man's mother decides to live in the tree, leaving her job as a baker in Dame Slap's land. She sets up a surprising cake shop in the tree.
Up the Faraway Tree
Jo, Beth and Franny are joined by Robin and Joy, two children who have read all about the magic Faraway Tree and the Enchanted Wood. Along come more exciting adventures in the various types of lands at the top of the Tree. All the children are captured by the devious and sinister Enchanter Red-Cloak, they have exciting times in the Land of Wishes, and give a delicious tea-party when the Land of Cakes arrives.
The main characters are Jo, Bessie and Fanny, three siblings. Fanny is the youngest, Bessie is next in age and Jo is their big brother. They live near the Enchanted Wood and are friends of the residents of the Faraway Tree. Other characters include:
- The Angry Pixie, who lives in a house with a tiny window and has a habit of throwing cold water or any liquid at hand over people who dare to peep inside.
- An owl lives in the house next to the Angry Pixie's. He is a friend of Silky's.
- Silky the fairy. Silky is so named because of her long, silky, golden hair.
- Mr. Watzisname cannot remember his name. He sleeps and snores all the time. During a particular story at the Land of Secrets, Mr. Watzisname discovers that his name is 'Kollamoolitumarellipawkyrollo'. This is forgotten by the end of the story (even by the man himself) and he goes back to being Mr. Watzisname.
- Dame Washalot, who spends her time washing her clothes and throwing the dirty wash-water down the tree. If she has no clothes to wash, she washes the dirty laundry of other people and even the leaves of the Faraway Tree.
- Moonface, named for his round face that looks like the moon. His house is similarly round, and is filled with curved furniture. He is the owner of the slippery-slip, a slide in the middle of his house which lets you slide down to the bottom of the Faraway Tree instead of climbing down; given its obvious use as a means of gaining access to the tree, it has played an important part in some of the adventures where others have sought control of the tree or their rooms.
- The Saucepan Man, who lives with Mr. Watzisname. His name stems from the fact that he is covered all over with saucepans and kettles. Sometimes, he cannot understand what his friends are saying because he is partially deaf, which is further aggravated by all the noise from the pans and kettles which he carries all the time. In the cartoon series he looks very similar to Horace and Jasper from 1961 Disney film One Hundred and One Dalmatians. The Saucepan Man also appears in another lesser-known Blyton book, The Book of Brownies (aka Brownie Tales), helping the travellers out of one of their many bouts of trouble on their journey.
- The Saucepan Man's mother, who lives with Dame Washalot. She runs a cake shop.
- Dame Slap, who runs a school for bad pixies which, in some of the adventures, the friends accidentally land in.
In modern reprints, the names of some of the characters have been changed. Jo has been changed to Joe, the more common spelling for males, and Bessie is now Beth, the former name having fallen out of usage as a nickname for Elizabeth. Fanny and Dick, whose names now carry unfortunate connotations, have been renamed Frannie and Rick. Dame Slap has become Dame Snap, and no longer practises corporal punishment but instead reprimands her students by shouting at them.
Entire passages of the original have been rewritten to remove references to fighting. For instance, when the tree is taken over by Goblins in The Enchanted Wood, the Goblins were originally fought off, with descriptions of Mr. Whatzisname 'pummelling them as if he were beating carpets' and the Saucepan Man throwing his saucepans at them. These have been replaced with cursory references to 'chasing'.
In October 2014, it was announced that the books will be adapted for the cinema for the first time and are being developed for a live action film version by Sam Mendes' production company, Neal Street Productions.
In 1997, stories from the novels were adapted into ten-minute episodes for the TV series Enid Blyton's Enchanted Lands.
- The Faraway Tree, The Enid Blyton Society.
- Row faster, George! The PC meddlers are chasing us!, The Daily Mail.
- "Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree set for cinema". BBC News. 22 October 2014.