The Enid Blyton Society
The Enid Blyton Book of Brownies (Hop, Skip & Jump)
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Book Details...

First edition: 1926
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: Ernest Aris
Category: One-off Novels
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Terry Gustafson
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Colour plates from the 1st edition, illustrated by Ernest Aris
In contrast to The Enid Blyton Book of Fairies this is not a collection of short stories and pictures about brownies although the title might give that impression. It's a saga the likes of which could be compared to The Wishing Chair Again and once more the imagination and creativity of the author knows no bounds.
It tells the story of Hop, Skip and Jump who live in Crab-apple Cottage. They are three rather naughty brownies who are peeved because they haven't been invited to a party which is being held by the King of Fairyland. Bad brownies are not allowed to attend functions such as this so His Highness must have been given a report on their recent activities — activities such as painting Old Mother Wimple's pig green and putting gorse in the bed of a wizard whom they dislike. Gobo's got an invitation. He's their next door neighbour and he reads it out to Hop, Skip and Jump who feel that they must do something about attending the party because there's going to be conjuring, dancing and presents for everyone. Providence lends a hand — they find out that the conjuror is not able to attend after all and another can't be found so that provides an opening for the three brownies but only if they can learn a few tricks. Providence helps again when they are visited by a witch who wants to know if they'd like to buy some magic. They tell her about the party and she offers to help them by demonstrating a particular trick with the use of a lidded basket which someone gets into, disappears, and is then brought back. They can have the trick but there's a proviso — if they manage to get into the party posing as conjurors they must do the trick with someone else besides themselves — a member of the Royal Family perhaps. The terms are agreed upon and the three brownies dress up as a magician and two assistants. Hop is looked upon as the leader of the three so it's he who will be disguised as Twirly-Wirly the Great Conjuror from the Land of Tiddlywinks.

Their idea works very well. They are admitted to the castle and when the time comes for the entertainment the brownies begin their act watched by the King and Queen who are seated on their thrones. Scores of fairies, brownies, and gnomes and elves are also watching as Skip jumps into the basket and vanishes when Twirly-Wirly recites a Rimminy, Romminy rhyme. He is brought back with another incantation and then it's time for someone else to jump in and vanish. The King and Queen have a daughter named Princess Peronel and she volunteers. Now ... when you put the factors together — a witch, a basket which makes people disappear, and a 'special' rhyme to be used if a Royal jumps in then an element of suspicion just has to enter the equation. The Princess is whisked away all right by means of the basket rising in the air and flying off over the trees towards the setting sun. It takes only a minute or so for Twirly-Wirly the Great Conjuror and his assistants to be unmasked as simply Hop, Skip and Jump and the King knows exactly where his daughter has gone because Witch Green-Eyes has often vowed to steal her away. Now she's managed it with the help of the naughty brownies.

"Oh my goodness!" says Skip.

"Oh my goodness!" says Jump..

I think it should be "Oh my Badness" — and the King agrees. "You haven't a bit of goodness among the three of you. I've a good mind to cut off your heads!"

The three brownies are banished with the instruction that they may not return until they find their 'Goodness'. They flee as if a thousand soldiers were after them and don't stop until they're through the palace gates and deep in Cuckoo Wood which borders Fairyland. One thing they agree upon is that as it would be fairly impossible to locate one's 'Goodness' the only constructive thing they can do is to try and locate the Princess so they set off out of Fairyland altogether and here begins a series of adventures that combine to make up a vintage Enid Blyton tale which harks back to 1926.
They walk for a very long time in whatever direction they think they must go and eventually become very hungry and as they have no money they call into a cottage to see if they can get a little sustenance. Unfortunately the inhabitant is an old wizard who thinks the little brownies would make him good servants. Hop, Skip and Jump are against this idea however and turn to go but they can't — the wizard's seen to that because the door has vanished. He'll give them meals provided they become his servants and that's all there is to it so they have to fall in with his idea. When copying out some spells for their host they find one that will bring back doors which have disappeared but they need the wizard's magic stick to do that and, as he sleeps with it, this idea does not bear fruit. Then a goblin visits and it seems that the wizard is a little in awe of him so when he departs Hop tries out an idea. He asks the wizard if heís as clever as the Goblin and then gets him to prove it by changing his size. Magic like that is no problem to the wizard and he becomes as big as a giant and then when Hop asks him to make himself smaller he does so. Can he turn even smaller? Yes he can. Small enough to get inside that bottle? Of course — and he does so whereupon Hop shoves the cork in and the wizard is a prisoner. The brownies can now exit the cottage by using the magic stick to make the door reappear and they do so with the bottled wizard safely in Hop's pocket. They purloin some magic ointments as well just in case they might come in handy. Extraordinarily, the cottage has moved and is now on a sea-shore so they decide to sail away by using an upturned table as a boat. Off they go and towards sunset they land on an island where they meet a young ex-mermaid. She's 'ex' because the Red Goblin, who owns the island, caught her and changed her tail to feet so that she couldn't swim away. Yes, the Red Goblin is very powerful and it's a small world because the brownies have actually met him — he was the chap who visited the now-bottled wizard. Problems arise — their makeshift boat has drifted away and now they're marooned so it's going to need an extra dose of Hop's mental dexterity to get them out of this. They decide to enter the Red Goblin's great castle and see if they can fool him into thinking Hop's a powerful wizard in the hope that they might be able to wangle something. Through a little trickery they succeed but the Red Goblin loses his temper with Skip and Jump over an incident and turns them into mice. Hop counters this cleverly by showing the Red Goblin his bottled wizard —

"Do you know what I do to people who annoy me — I put them into bottles like this!"

His ploy works and the mice are turned back into brownies. The Red Goblin has been impressed by Hop's supposed magical powers and he becomes a little friendlier whilst Hop keeps on using his brains to get what they're after — freedom. With the use of the imprisoned wizard again and also a flying broomstick the three brownies plus the ex-mermaid manage to escape although initially they have to leave Jump behind because the broomstick is too small for all of them. Remember the magic ointments? Well one of those comes in handy and then they are all able to make their escape and the ex-mermaid is returned to her sea-habitat where her tail is restored with a spell from a merman. Then Hop, Skip and Jump fly up into the air again and resume their mission.

All night long the broom sailed over the sea. Soon the moon went down, and the brownies grew very sleepy indeed.
Their next distraction is in the Land of Giants where, once again, they are captured and the decision is that a land where even a lowly hen can peck at you as if you were a worm is an extremely undesirable place. Trickery is employed with the help of a magic ointment and the brownies manage to get away and flee down a worm-hole as big as a train-tunnel. At a crossroads a sign gives them the choice of going to four different lands. Giantland? No Way! The Land of Giggles, Crosspatch Country, or the Land of Clever People. In our innocence I think we all know which we'd choose and so do the brownies. The word 'Unfortunately' needs to be used again. It's a word that often has to be used when discussing Enid Blyton books ... Unfortunately, The Land of Clever People is not as benign as it sounds and once they enter through a turnstile they find out why. For a start you have to speak in rhyme — always! You have to make up a new riddle every day, and you also have to answer one.

Will the brownies end up as right nervous wrecks?

Because to rhyme all the time could be a pain in their necks!

It is indeed and furthermore there's unpleasantness awaiting them if they if they can't make up some tricky riddles or answer one in turn.

They want 'OUT!'

'Unfortunately' (there's that word again), on enquiry at the turnstile they find it is not permissible to leave the Land of Clever People until they can think of something that their Very Wise Man cannot do so it looks as if the three brownies are stuck there — perhaps forever. The compulsory rhyming whenever you speak is a nuisance. Sometimes a villager might speak and then wait for you to say the next sentence which has to rhyme with what they said. It appears you're not allowed to even giggle here either ... a policeman comes up and puts a heavy hand on Skip's shoulder -

"You mustnít giggle here, you know
Or else to prison you must go
This is not the Land of Giggles ..."

Hop manages to chime in with

"How your little finger wiggles!"

That was a close call. The policeman looks at his little finger in surprise. It isn't wiggling but Hop has rhymed to fit so he says nothing more. There are policemen everywhere it seems because one strides up just as Skip says,

"We'd better find a place to sleep."

Oops!

Only just in time, Hop finishes for him, "Oh, look at that excited sheep!" Then they flee before the policeman can enquire about the non-existent animal. They manage to get lodgings at the house of an elderly woman who charges them sixpence. Their room is fitted with buttons which you can press whenever you want food and if, for example, you press the 'Soup' button or the ones marked 'Apples' or 'Chocolate' a little door in the wall flies open and there's the meal you desire. The bed comes up from under the floor when the 'Bed' button is pressed and Skip gives a giggle when it appears. Up goes the window -

Policeman: "Was that a giggle I heard?"

Hop: "No, just a cough. Don't be absurd!" ... and he slams down the window.

A gaily dressed little girl knocks at their door and enters. She asks if they are from the Land of Giggles because she had heard someone laughing. She doesn't talk in rhyme and it turns out she's not one of the Clever People and, like the brownies, she's trapped here. She was originally from the Land of Giggles but she thought she was too clever to live there so she came to this land and what a mistake that was. She can't get out because it's impossible to think of anything the Very Wise Man can't do and furthermore she is spanked on a daily basis because she can't think of a riddle that the Very Wise Man can't answer. Each morning all the people of the village troop off to the market-place to parade before the Very Wise Man who wears very big spectacles on a very big head. Everyone has to answer a riddle and ask one in return and the brownies notice that they all seem to be answered correctly. Now it's the little girl's turn. She fails to answer the Very Wise Man's riddle and she's sent to be spanked. Then the brownies ask their riddles. Here's a sample -

"What walks on its head all day?"

This and the rest of the riddles are just too easy for the Very Wise Man and now here's one of the riddles he asks -

"Why is a toasting-fork?"

Those Clever People must really be smart to answer riddles like that. Hop, Skip and Jump find the Very Wise Man's conundrums impossible to answer and they are sent off to be punished by the Spanker. They are all spanked soundly and this looks as if it's to be their lot day after day after day! They wander round the village and at one stage Skip and Jump are heard not speaking in rhyme so they are sent to the Spanker yet again. What a terrible place. In desperation, the brownies begin visiting the Very Wise Man each day and asking him to do something they think would be impossible but he always manages to do it whether it be building a castle in half an hour or making a ladder that reaches to the stars. For their failures they are spanked each time so life is rapidly becoming unbearable in fact it already is unbearable!

A sheer bit of luck enables them to depart from this dreadful land when Skip notices how curly the little girl's hair is. He takes some and tries to straighten it but he can't. Could the Very Wise Man straighten it? Is it worth a go? Yes! Incredibly, he can't straighten it at all when they confront him even though he tries wetting it, clapping it between his hands, ironing it, stamping on it and every other way he can think of.. This is the break they need and when the old man has exhausted himself with his attempts to de-curlify the hair he becomes very docile although when Hop begins talking out of rhyme he remonstrates. Hop tells him what a lot of nonsense it all is and then decides to make hay whilst the sun shines -
"Where is the Princess Peronel?"
"In Witch-land with Witch Green Eyes!"
"How do we get there?"
"Take the Green Railway to Fiddlestick Field ..."
"Will you let the little girl go back to the Land of Giggles?"
"No. I can't!"
Hop daringly shakes him, "Will you let her go?"
"Yes, Yes! Just leave me alone."
The defeated old codger takes them to the turnstile but just before they leave Hop asks him to answer the stupid riddles he had asked them and he admits that he can't! Hop dresses him down somewhat and sends him off to the Spankers although there's little chance that the Very Wise Man will obey that injunction. Hop, Skip and Jump and the little girl pass through the turnstile and there they are on the other side — Free! Thank Goodness for that.
Off they go to experience another adventure — this time on the Green Railway. The train passes Giggleswick where the little girl lives and she flings her arms around each of the brownies and invites them to stay in her country but Hop, Skip and Jump, as we know, are booked up so it' "Goodbye!" and they continue on their way. Following the instructions given them by the Very Wise Man they have to get to Fiddlestick Field but their journey takes on an Alice in Wonderland aura when the train keeps stopping to allow more people on. Anyone can just hail the train so after it has stopped and started about fifteen times the brownies are getting fed up. Then it stops again for the driver to have a long talk with a friend he happens to have seen. Hop tells him they're in a hurry and the driver has the sheer audacity to tell him he's off to have tea with his mate so the brownies are advised to get out and walk because the driver won't be back until about six o'clock! Can you believe it? Only in storybook land could this happen. The driver links arms with his friend and off they go leaving the passengers to settle themselves down on cushions and doze off!

Don't worry. Fiddlestick Field is reached in double quick time because Hop decides to drive the train himself. He does so and away they trundle but they can't find a 'Stop' lever and they end up speeding past their destination and on up and down dale until they crash and are flung into a pond. Consternation ensues. The brownies flee to a weird little village made of toadstools and mushrooms but they are caught despite their best efforts to escape. Into prison they go and next day it's time for a judge to determine their fate. The pros and cons are argued and finally a technical point arises which needs to be settled in the afternoon when the train arrives. In the meantime it's twelve spanks each for their other misdeeds. When the next train arrives the driver is told to get down and the brownies are ordered to prove whether or not they can drive the engine to clear up the point that has been argued. It appears they'd be quite proficient especially as there's a 'Stop' lever and, climbing into the cab, they shoot off but instead of going a little way and then returning they hurtle off into the distance — back to Fiddlestick Field. They arrive and abandon the engine then look round for a certain fellow who can direct them to their goal as per their instructions.

The Saucepan Man is an extremely well known figure in the Enid Blyton World. He appears in the 'Faraway Tree' books and it seems that that he predates Jo, Bessie and Fanny by more than a decade because he's the person whom the brownies need to find to show them the way to Witch-land. It's not too difficult to locate the Saucepan Man because, let's face it, he does make a lot of noise with all of his pots and pans jangling around him. Yes, there he is and perhaps there's no reason to think this isn't the same little man who starred in The Enchanted Wood and tales of that ilk although he does have a beard — but beards can be removed. He's also smaller and skinnier but one could explain that by the difference between the Ernest Aris and Dorothy Wheeler interpretations of just how the Saucepan Man should look. Anyway, they've found him — the good old Saucepan Man making such a din that he's very nearly deaf. The brownies can't make themselves understood and after weathering some inane conversational snippets they follow him to his cottage and resort to writing messages for the Saucepan Man to read in order to communicate. Then it's time to settle down for the night and see what the morning brings.
They set off next day with their guide but the journey is blatantly disturbed when an enormous and horrible-looking Dragon-bird swoops down, grabs their new-found friend, and flies off to a castle on top of a faraway hill. This is really becoming too much for the poor brownies because it's now their bounden duty to rescue the ill-fated Saucepan Man before they can continue their original mission. They trek for miles to get to their destination but first they stop off at a friendly dwarf's cottage to scrounge a little food and drink which they are able to pay for with a nice new saucepan because they had been helping the Saucepan Man to carry his wares. Their host imparts some information. Apparently the castle where the Dragon-bird took the Saucepan Man is inhabited by the Golden Dwarf and he's a terrible fellow who captures people to eat but if he could be approached there's a word that would stop him in his evil ways. It's a terribly long word but the brownies have to try and memorize it and then trust to luck that they'll be able to gain entrance to the castle. It seems rather a forlorn hope though because their new friend has never even seen the Golden Dwarf despite having lived in his little cottage just down from the castle for a hundred and forty-three years. That's not quite right — it'll be a hundred and forty-three years come November. What chance have the brownies got? How on earth will they be able to get into the castle when it hasn't got a door? Can they rescue the Saucepan Man or will he be eaten by the Golden Dwarf? What about the Dragon-Bird? Yes, he comes into the play again and, astonishingly, he plays a big part in this story. Who is the Labeller? How could the Bottler be a Godsend? Just as young Dorothy Gale had to enter Witch Territory so do the Brownies — but can they? Would it be dangerous? I believe it would! What happens when a black cat betrays them and will they EVER meet up with and manage to rescue the young Princess Peronel so that they can all live happily ever after? In the old days you would enter the newsagent in your town and for a mere 5/- your curiosity could be satisfied. Nowadays it's a little different because there are more varied outlets.
The titles of all but two of the chapters begin — Their Adventure "in" or "on" or "with" — e.g.: Their Adventure 'With' The Saucepan Man, or Their Adventure 'In' The Land Of Clever People.

When the Princess Peronel was whisked away in the basket the trick was apparently done on a square piece of grass which indicates that it was outside. The picture shows the King and Queen and the brownies inside the palace.

When the brownies were trapped in the cottage that had no door the Red Goblin managed to get in and out — but how? He did it with magic that allowed him to jump down and then back up the chimney.

When I originally read of the wizard being captured in a bottle I found it a little hard to believe. I thought that if he was magic enough to increase or decrease his size he would not have to worry about a cork. Surely he could have expanded himself and broken the bottle if need be or why not just push the cork out and ooze upwards. I can understand Rubbalong's method of ousting an Enchanter by getting him to change into the flame of a candle. "Phooooooo! That was little Rubbalong blowing out the flame." (Rubbalong Tales) Now that's a sensible solution!

When Hop, Skip and Jump set out on their journey they became hungry as most Enid Blyton characters do but they have no money to buy anything yet when they find lodgings in the Land of the Clever People they have the necessary sixpence.

I think the preferred choice of employment in The Land of Clever People would have to be that of Spanker because now that the brownies and the little girl have gone, he can pass the time sunbathing, going to the movies or even sleeping all day if he prefers it. The word would have gone out long ago — "Don't enter the Land of Clever People." However, the Spanker's job is an official one so he needs to be retained — "just in case." As the only other matter to be attended to would be if a Clever Person didn't speak in rhyme, I think he can rest in peace because the villagers are too clever to contravene the rules and there is no evidence of it ever happening in the book.

I wonder if Eric Merriman, one of the Round the Horne script-writers, ever read this book because in a few of the episodes the town of Giggleswade is mentioned — as opposed to the little girl's town of Giggleswick. (Round the Horne is a vintage radio programme).

Here's the answer to the riddle that Skip asked the Very Wise Man in the Land of the Clever People -

Q: "What walks on its head all day?"

A: "A nail in your shoe."

How did the Clever People answer the riddles put to them by the very Wise Man? Perhaps they were asked sensible riddles.

The Dragon Bird which belongs to the Golden Dwarf reminded me of the very frightening Green Griffin which appeared in Fairies Album of 1951.

What is the longest word in Enid Blyton language? Dothgothooelliothelin doesn't even get a look in! (That's the name of a farm that Bill Smugs came up with in The Mountain of Adventure). The answer might have been the real title of Mr. Watzisname ('Faraway Tree' tales). His true family name was found to be Kollamoolitoomarellipawkyrollo which has 30 letters. However there is another utterance which I think could be crowned the longest word in all the Enid Blyton books because it's 31 letters long. The magic word that was told to Hop, Skip, and Jump in the latter part of their adventures is — Kerolamisticootalimarcawnokeeto.

It should be noted that, despite the imminence of his demise, the Saucepan Man could hardly be eaten by the Golden Dwarf because he has yet to meet Jo, Bessie and Fanny — provided he's the same person.

Dorothy Gale was the little girl who was taken to a witch's castle in Lyman Frank Baum's tale The Wizard of Oz.

There's a little bit of reminiscing in a five-verse poem at the very end of the book.

Several editions have been produced of course so if you are in the market it might pay to purchase an older copy if you're a stickler for original material. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.