Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fantastic Fairytales - The Faraway Tree collection by Enid Blyton

Originally  published: 1939

The Enchanted Wood is one of Enid Blyton's most memorable and truly imaginative stories, capturing a world where almost anything can happen if you just believe in the magic of nature and its creatures.

Many adults will have fond memories of discovering the world of The Enchanted Wood: from the delightfully gentle Silky the Fairy, to the wonderfully bizarre but terminally jolly Moon-Face who along with a host of strange and mysterious characters live among the branches of The Magic Faraway Tree.

Kate Winslet, the award-winning actress, was captivated by the stories at an early age and during her pregnancy approached the company who own the rights to the Enid Blyton name to ask them if they would be interested in having her record these magical stories on tape. The result is stunning.

Winslet, with her gentle, singsong voice, captures the pure joy of these unforgettable stories from the moment the tale begins, and Joe, Beth and Fanny--the three young children who move from the city with their family to the country house surrounded by the Enchanted Wood--are captured as the wide-eyed and open-minded children they really are, eager to become involved in all manner of adventure and never once questioning that this strange world they have entered might not be quite, well, normal.

Whenever I am asked what book first started me reading, my answer is The Enchanted Wood, by Enid Blyton.  That's not strictly true, I had read many books before that - I was one of those annoying kids that could read chapter books almost before I started school - but this was the book that convinced me completely that reading was going to become a lifelong passion.

The Enchanted Wood  is a tale about 3 kids who discover a magic tree in an enchanted wood.  As you climb this tree you find different fruits growing on different branches - so cool.  As you are climbing you meet different 'people' who live in the tree: Silky the fairy; Moon Face the ?(sorry, never did quite work out what he is, maybe an elf?); Mr Whatchamacallit, who can't remember his name; Dame Washalot, who is constantly pouring dirty water down the tree; The Saucepan Man, who makes so much noise when he walks, and so many other diverse characters that I can't remember them all.  The best part about this tree though is that when you reach the top the branches lead into different worlds - and that's where the real adventures begin. Then when you are finished with your adventure you can pick up a cushion and slide down the inside of the tree to the ground.  Tell me, what could be better than that?

I remember visiting Upside Down world, and trying for days afterward to walk on my hands.  I had tea with the three bears, but not quite the ones I remember.  There were candy worlds, empty worlds, sad worlds, happy worlds.  So many I can't remember, but each world had at least a chapter all to itself and I was transported it my mind.

Enid Blyton wrote so many novels about so many different things.  Does anyone remember The Famous Five books - finding treasure on Kirrin Island (gold ingots in fact) - there were 21 of those and my kids read all of them.  Love boarding school books?  Ms Blyton wrote one of the best series about being away from home at school with the Mallory Tower books - the first one in 1946 - and don't forget the 6 St Clare's books, also about boarding school and written even earlier.  But for me it was the Faraway Tree books that were favourites.  There are four of them in all: The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree were the originals then there was Up the Faraway Tree - I didn't enjoy it quite so much, I think because some extra kids were added and the dynamics changed.

Yes I know they are incredibly dated now, but they hark back to a time when parents let their kids go out all day, as long as they were home for supper.  There were no electronic device and the world seemed just a little less scary.  If you haven't come across them yet and you ever see them, give them a try and let your imagination soar.

I think I'll have to try and find the recordings by Kate Winslet, just to see what she does with my favourite books.

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