The Enid Blyton Society
Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm
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Book Details...

First edition: 1948
Publisher: Evans Brothers
Illustrator: Peter Beigel
Category: Six Cousins
Genre: Farm
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Anita Bensoussane
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Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Peter Biegel
Despite the farm settings, the Six Cousins books are not primarily about farming, like the Willow Farm books, or about British wildlife, like The Children of Cherry Tree Farm. They are family sagas with a moral element, in which characters are forced to face crises which may be the making or breaking of them. Full of comparisons and contrasts, these novels contain some of Enid Blyton's most mature writing.

Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm opens with the Longfield family enjoying a cosy high tea at Mistletoe Farm. There are 15-year-old twins Jane and Jack, 11-year-old Susan, Mr. and Mrs. Longfield (Peter and Linnie) and Crackers the spaniel. Their peace is shattered by a telephone call from Peter's brother, David. His beautiful town house, which wasn't insured, has burnt down and he wants Peter and Linnie to look after his three children while everything is sorted out. Rose, his wife, has been taken to hospital with shock and we find out that she is useless in a crisis when Peter remarks, "She always retires to bed when anything happens to her family."

The Mistletoe Farm children are alarmed at the prospect of their cousins coming to stay. They consider that Cyril, almost 16, is "affected," Melisande, 14, is vain and Roderick, aged 10 or 11, is a "darling mother's boy." However, while being basically likeable, the Mistletoe Farm children also have faults. Jane is untidy and careless, Jack uncommunicative and Susan impulsive. But their mother, Linnie, is "efficient, quick and commanding" — the exact opposite of Rose, who is weak and helpless.

The three town cousins have had a terrible time but, when they arrive, their aunt keeps them busy with work and play, giving them no opportunity to wallow in self-pity. This helps them move on. Linnie visits Rose, who is languishing in a nursing home, and warns her that the only way to work through troubles is to face up to them, but Rose refuses to listen.

David takes a farming job in Scotland, leaving his children at Mistletoe Farm for the time being, and the six cousins have no choice but to make the best of the situation. They find it tough at first, especially the older ones. Melisande is neat and tidy while Jane is messy, and Cyril is "arty" while Jack is down-to-earth. However, the children gradually find themselves changing for the better. Jane tries hard to be tidier and Melisande becomes less vain. Jack emulates Cyril's good manners and Cyril loses his airs and graces. Susan and Roderick make firm friends and Roderick, who is nervous to begin with, learns to stand on his own two feet and enjoy farm life.

When Rose comes for a visit one day, in frills and flounces, jewellery and high heels, she is shocked at the alteration in her children. She has cut herself off from her family and cannot see that their new-found strength and independence is a good thing. She is angry that they don't seem to need her as much as they once did and she cannot comprehend the way they have adapted so readily to country life, which she despises. After a day of tension and misunderstanding, Rose leaves, "even more of a stranger than when she had arrived."

Cyril befriends a man, Benedict, who lives alone in a cave like a hermit. He "dresses up" for his role in a pretentious manner, perhaps trying to appear prophet-like with his long hair, beard, robe and sandals. Describing himself as a thinker and writer, he aims to impress people by reciting poetry and philosophical writings aloud. Cyril is attracted by his apparently simple way of life but, to the other children, the hermit comes across as conceited and false. His statement that "I am on the side of law and order" is shown to be a lie when we find out that he is not a man of integrity at all, but a common criminal.

Twigg, a poacher but a good man at heart, is the opposite of Benedict. He has no time for airs and graces and probably received little formal education, yet he is the true naturalist, not Benedict. He knows the countryside like the back of his hand and loves to observe birds and animals, teaching Jack a great deal about wildlife. To Twigg, poaching is not wrong: "Twigg liked going against the law. It was exciting." (Compare this with Benedict's words about law and order.) Twigg believes that wild animals are there for the taking, so indulging in a spot of poaching is simply a matter of being true to his "beliefs." Where the law does not accord with his "beliefs," Twigg is quite ready to break it. He is utterly true to himself, unlike Benedict, and far more honourable in many ways. While Benedict makes use of Cyril for his own ends, Twigg is a true friend who is willing to sacrifice his own freedom to prevent Jack getting into trouble.

The story ends happily, with Peter buying nearby Holly Farm for his brother, David. David and his children are excited at the thought of running their own farm but one person is missing — Rose — leaving a question mark hanging over the end of the book.

Poetry in Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm

As a child, I assumed that the poetry quoted by Aunt Linnie and Cyril was composed by Enid Blyton! Only later on in life did I realise that that was not the case, when I recognised some lines from Milton! I have since been able to identify most of the poets, as follows:
And the milkmaid singeth blithe,
And the mower whets his scythe,
And every shepherd tells his tale
Under the hawthorn in the dale.
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures,
Whilst the landscape round it measures;
Russet lawns and fallows grey
Where the nibbling flocks do stray.
— John Milton, L'Allegro

Give fools their gold, and knaves their power,
Let fortune's bubbles rise and fall,
Who sows a field or trains a flower
Or plants a tree is more than all.
— John Greenleaf Whittier, A Song of Harvest

She was iron-sinewed and satin-skinned,
Ribbed like a drum and limbed like a deer,
Fierce as the fire and fleet as the wind,
There was nothing she couldn't climb or clear.
— A. L. Gordon, The Romance of Britomarte

The stately Lady-Hollyhock
Has graced my garden-bed for years,
Sedately stiffened in a frock
All frills and ruffles to her ears.
— Sarah J. Day, Hollyhock

He that will not live by toil
Has no right on English soil.
— Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke's Song 1848

For men must work and women must weep,
And there's little to earn and many to keep.
— Charles Kingsley, The Three Fishers
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