The Enid Blyton Society
The Folk of the Faraway Tree
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Book Details...

First edition: 1946
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: Dorothy M. Wheeler
Category: Faraway Tree
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Reprint Covers
Artwork
Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations

Reprints


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Dorothy M. Wheeler
Connie is the outsider in this Faraway Tree tale and she comes to stay with Jo, Bessie and Fanny as a paying guest of sorts. Her mother is sick and thinks that her daughter would be well placed because she considers the Faraway Tree children to be Good and Well-Behaved and the right sort of children for her dainty and pretty but rather spoilt daughter. Jo and his sisters look on Connie as rather stuck-up and a bit curious (as in stickibeak) but their mother needs the money so they are ready to put up with the little girl for a few weeks.

The Faraway Tree is just that — an enormous tree which reaches faraway into the sky and it is populated by many of the fairy-folk. Every now and again a strange and wonderful land arrives and rests on the topmost branches and the children have visited many of them and experienced all kinds of adventures. If you've read the first book (The Enchanted Wood) you might remember a little pixie that becomes very angry when any person, purely out of curiosity, peeps through the window of his little house which is set into the tree-trunk. The children are sure to take Curious Connie up the tree so you can add two and two.

Connie arrives and her hosts find that she knows Dick who featured in the previous book and he's told her about his experiences when climbing the Faraway Tree. Connie thinks it's all a load of rubbish so she needs convincing. She becomes a little more condescending when she learns that the children's mother has met some of the people who live in the tree but there's no report of her going to see for herself which is a bit of a contrast to the current climate. As we know in this age of communication anyone who knew of such a tree would have spread the knowledge world-wide.

Moon-Face pays a visit to the children shortly after Connie arrives and he hands over an invitation to have tea with him and Silky the next day! Now the names Moon-Face and Silky might appear a little curious, and they are, but it's due to the fact that they belong to curious (as in different) people. Moon-Face is short with pointed ears and a big round moon-like head. He is the "Dearest, Darlingest, Kindest, Funniest, Nicest, etc" man you could meet according to Fanny and he lives in the Faraway Tree as does Silky who is a very attractive little elf. Does Connie fully believe yet? No — she still needs more convincing.

Next day Jo and his sisters introduce Connie to the magical Faraway Tree and up they go. It's easy to climb with its broad branches and little pathways worn into the boughs by thousands of little folk who have walked up and down them over the years. Two and two do make four — Curious Connie is a prime candidate for the Angry Pixie's wrath and she naturally peeps into his window. Bessie, who had done this in earlier days, had a jug of water thrown over her but Connie fares worse! Next on the list is another drenching lesson which teaches her that a hundred-plus-year-old washer-woman who lives further up the tree has a getting-rid-of-the-dirty-water routine. That's it! Connie wants to go home but things become more amenable when Jo pushes her on and up to a small doorway in which stands the prettiest little elf it is possible to see with her fine-as-silk hair like a golden mist. This is Silky. She's as kind as can be and soon has Connie all dried out from her two unhappy encounters with Faraway Tree hazards. Then the Saucepan Man appears. For people who have never read a Faraway Tree book the Saucepan Man might be a person selling saucepans and you'd be right but he doesn't own a cart or a shop. He wears his pots and pans and kettles all round his body. Get that! He looks very peculiar indeed to Connie as he climbs down to Silky's house singing one of his rhyming songs. I guess he makes them up himself because the little ditties couldn't in any way be considered on par with the verse of say — George Byron or that much lauded playwright — William Shakespeare. In case you want to be fair in your judgment here is a sample of the Saucepan Man's creativity:
Two worms for a sparrow
Two slugs for a duck
Two snails for a blackbird
Two hens for a cluck!
His forthright manner combined with a hearing impediment contrasts with Connie's rather arrogant personality and sparks begin flying. Things are eventually smoothed over and they all troop off to Moon-Face's house further up. We've already met him and can imagine the children and friends all crowding inside his little dwelling and waiting to sample some Hot-Cold Goodies. We can also begin wondering what might happen if a curious girl like Connie comes across a large hole in the floor. You might well wonder! Connie is the type of girl who adds a lot of material to the substance of the book and very shortly she comes to grief in an accident caused by her unassailable desire to find out how things tick. When that's all cleared up she's still not satisfied and is off again to look for more trouble. She finds it! In short — she disappears, and the first adventure in this book is a search for the troublesome girl which involves Giant-Land, The Land of Marvels and even a Ladder-With-No-Top! Connie is found after she's experienced several nasty shocks but the girl is due for more hard-times because she's of the type that attracts woe.

The Dorothy Wheeler illustrations are on every second or third page and they add considerably to the enjoyment of the chapters because they show us what the characters look like and bring us right into the stories. The adventures continue in their imaginative way and in one chapter there is an encounter with a spider which is a good excuse for Saucepan to display his talent yet again:
Two smacks for a spider
Two slaps on his nose
Two whacks on his ankles
Hi-tiddley-toze!
Maybe his poetry is a little esoteric for us to grasp and, in reality, is due for greater recognition by the Masters who understand the intricacies of such verse. Until that happens though I think it can be taken at face value but the good old Saucepan-Man or Saucepan as he is usually called adds lots of fun to the tales. They meet up with Dame Slap as they did in their first book (The Enchanted Wood) and they aren't too happy about that because the old dame runs a school and she is bad-tempered and violent. After a little suffering the children and their friends manage to outwit the woman and escape her clutches.

In this book we get to meet Saucepan's dear old mother and there is even a picture of her. Does she wear saucepans and kettles all around her? At first thought you'd possibly imagine that she does. Connie keeps on getting into trouble and this is an excuse to visit more strange lands at the top of the tree and naturally there are more explorations which involve dire happenings.

Towards the end there is a terrible period when it is discovered that the fabulous tree seems to be dying and some Trolls are behind this state of affairs. Trolls in most literature would be represented as evil. They have also been depicted as dim-witted with large ears and long noses and misshapen heads and as creatures which prefer moving around at night and many children have been introduced to them with a story entitled "The Three Billy-Goats Gruff." In this particular tale the Trolls are portrayed as fearsome critters working away underneath the ground and they have to be ousted otherwise it'll be curtains for the tree. There is a combined effort and much discussion as to what should be done. Everyone chips in — there's Moon-Face, Silky, Saucepan, Jo, Bessie, Fanny and Connie plus Dame Washalot and also a funny little chap who has forgotten his name thus earning the title — Mister Watzisname! Others that attend the conference are Mrs. Saucepan, a few owls, the Angry Pixie, some brownies and squirrels, a woodpecker, and even a pile of caterpillars! I'm not surprised at this because the Faraway Tree in the throes of death is a very serious matter. After a manned attempt at solving the problem, a decision is made that some advice is needed on how to proceed and what better place to go than to the Land of Know-Alls which, very fortunately, is the current land at the top of the tree. The whole saga takes up abut five chapters and is quite absorbing.

After all the intensity has passed it's "Goodbye!" to the Faraway Tree for this session and what better way to bow out than to visit one more land — a place that is simply one great Treat with a capital "T" and after that we are left waiting for the next book to arrive.
Like the others in the series, The Folk of the Faraway Tree was originally serialised in the old Sunny Stories magazines. This particular book which appeared in 1946 is the third of its ilk and like the others it has a particularly rich and colourful cover on which there are superb illustrations of the characters. Most of the regulars are depicted and they appear to be having the time of their life doing what most of the Enid Blyton characters indulge in to pass the time — eating, drinking and making merry. Although later editions feature some very capable work by other artists I tend to look upon the Wheeler pictures as the real icons.

On the back flap there is a description of a Faraway Tree card game with each card sporting a picture on the back. Put them all together and you have a colourful mosaic of Faraway Tree memorabilia. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.