The Magic Pudding

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Magic Pudding
The Magic Pudding.jpg
Frontispiece for first edition
AuthorNorman Lindsay
GenreChildren's novel, Picaresque novel
Publication date
Media typePrint

The Magic Pudding: Being The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and his friends Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff is a 1918 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 talking pudding named Albert which, no matter how often he is eaten, always reforms in order to be eaten again. He is owned by three companions who must defend him 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.

Plot summary[edit]

Wanting to see the world and unable to live with his uncle anymore, 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 magic pudding which, no matter how much one eats it, always reforms into a whole pudding again. The pudding is called Albert, has thin arms and legs, and is bad-tempered and ill-mannered. 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 named Patrick and a wombat named Watkin. 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.


  • Bunyip Bluegum: an accomplished young koala
  • Albert: is the Magic Pudding.
  • Bill Barnacle: A sailor.
  • Sam Sawnoff: a penguin is a shipmate of Bill Barnacle.
  • Patrick: a possum is one of the pudding thieves.
  • Watkin: a wombat is one of the pudding thieves.
  • Benjamin Brandysnap: an elderly dog.
  • Wattleberry: is the uncle of Bunyip Bluegum.


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.[1]

The Magic Pudding Sculpture by Louis Laumen, based on Lindsay's illustrations, is the centrepiece of the Ian Potter Children's Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.[2]

Significance and reception[edit]

The Magic Pudding is said to have been written to settle an argument: Lindsay's friend Bertram Stevens said that children like to read about fairies, while Lindsay asserted that they would rather read about food and fighting.[3][4]

First published in 1918, The Magic Pudding is considered[by whom?] a children's classic, and continues to be reprinted. The first edition was sold as a ‘guinea book’ (21 shillings). It was a limited edition quality art book.[5] Out-of-print outside Australia for many years, the book was re-issued in 2004 by The New York Review Children's Collection.[6] In Australia a new edition was released in 2008 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the book, and October 12 was declared "Pudding Day";[7] this new 2008 edition featured the original artwork as well as a biography, the first book reviews, letters between Lindsay and his publisher, and various recipes.[8] In 2018 HarperCollins released a centenary edition, and the State Library of New South Wales opened an exhibition of Lindsay's original drawings for the book.[9][10]

Philip Pullman has described The Magic Pudding as "the funniest children's book ever written"[6] and as his favourite book.[11]


In 1960 Peter Scriven adapted the book as a puppet show, for which Lindsay produced 40 drawings. Scriven's Marionette Theatre of Australia continued to perform the puppet show around Australia until 1988.[12]

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, received mixed reviews from critics, and was not a financial success.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]


In 1985 a postage stamp depicting an illustration from the book, was issued by Australia Post as part of a set of five commemorating children's books. [16]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "The Magic Pudding, being the adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and his friends, Bill Barnacle & Sam Sawnoff: original sketches, ca. 1918 / drawn by Norman Lindsay". Collection – State Library of NSW. 8 October 2002. Archived from the original on 19 December 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  2. ^ "Floreo – Welcome to the Pudding" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 23, 2008.
  3. ^ "Powell's Books | The World's Largest Independent Bookstore". Archived from the original on 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  4. ^ "The Magic Pudding: 100 years of Norman Lindsay's classic – in pictures". The Guardian. 22 September 2018. Archived from the original on 22 September 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  5. ^ Morley, Sarah (Spring 2018). "The Magic Pudding : 100 Years Ago" (PDF). SL Magazine. 11 (3): 16–17. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-03-01. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  6. ^ a b "Children's Collection 2004 reprint edition". New York Review. Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
  7. ^ "The Magic Pudding turns 90". Yahoo!7 News. 2008-09-22. Archived from the original on 2009-10-01. Retrieved 2021-09-09.
  8. ^ "The Magic Pudding". HarperCollins Australia. Archived from the original on 2020-04-06. Retrieved 2021-09-09.
  9. ^ B.C. Lewis (30 May 2018). "The Magic Pudding turns 100: Blue Mountains celebrates". Blue Mountains Gazette. Archived from the original on 2019-02-13. Retrieved 2019-02-12.
  10. ^ Sparrow, Jeff (26 October 2018). "The Magic Pudding can still make us laugh even after 100 years". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2019-02-12. Retrieved 2019-02-12.
  11. ^ Matthew Stadlen (24 September 2011). "BBC 5 Minutes with Philip Pullman". Five Minutes With: Philip Pullman (video interview). BBC News. Entertainment & Arts. Archived from the original on 26 September 2011. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  12. ^ "The Magic Pudding: A free exhibition from 15 December 2008 to 29 March 2009" (PDF). State Library of New South Wales. 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 December 2021. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  13. ^ "The Magic Pudding (2000) – IMDb". Archived from the original on 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2018-06-28 – via
  14. ^ "Production description on Australian Stage". Archived from the original on 2010-05-04. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
  15. ^ "The Magic Pudding: the Opera". 4 October 2013. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-04-30. Retrieved 2009-07-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)