The Enid Blyton Society
The Secret of Killimooin
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Book Details...

First edition: 1943
Publisher: Basil Blackwell
Illustrator: Eileen A. Soper
Category: Secret Series
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Artwork
Review by David Cook
Further Illustrations

Reprints


Frontis from the 1st edition, illustrated by Eileen A. Soper



1st German edition published by Mosaik Verlag, in 1966,
illustrated by Rolf and Margret Rettich, with the title The Arnold Children on a Hot Trail

In Germany the Secret Series and the Adventurous Four became one series,
firstly called 'The Arnold Children' and later 'The Bold Four'
The advent of this fourth story brought with it its own mystery — a change of titling. Advance publicity prior to publication had given a far more suitable and intriguing title — "The Secret Forest". This original title certainly gave the reader a greater expectation of what the story was about than the mysterious Killimooin, which referred to a range of mountains. The Secret Forest certainly plays a major part in the story and is certainly referred to far more than the mountain range, so why was the title changed?

The only guess I can make on this is that it would have put the second book, The Secret of Spiggy Holes out of step with the rest of the series and all Enid's individual stories were given distinction and uniformity in the manner of their titling. To bring in a second "The Secret of ... " title balanced the series up more. The Secret Series was Enid's first major holiday adventure series and she never made this mistake again in all her subsequent series, in which the individual titling made plain which series they belonged to.

The book was also slightly different in appearance to the previous three. Whilst it still retained the same look, colour front cover picture (used again inside as the frontispiece), white spine with details of the rest of the series on the rear. The dimensions were slightly different. The previous three books had measured 6 inches by 8 inches. For some reason this current one measures 7 inches by eight and a half inches giving it a squarer appearance. Its illustrations are immediately recognisable as being by the inimitable Eileen Soper, which she must have done concurrently with those for Five Go Adventuring Again published a month earlier. Needless to say they are the best illustrations of the series reflecting the true maturity of the child characters.

The time is the summer holidays. Indeed all the adventures in this series of books take place annually in the summer holidays one year following on from the last. It's lucky that Captain and Mrs Arnold are adventurers themselves or the children would never be left alone! As the captain says...
"We want boys and girls of spirit and courage, who can stand on their own feet and are not afraid of what may happen to them. We want them to grow up adventurous and strong, of some real use in the world."
This year represents the culmination of the previous two when Prince Paul invites the Arnold children to "come to my land of Baronia with me for the holidays".

Immediately we are given impressions of what it will be like. Mike describes it as...
"a country hidden in the heart of the mountains — with a few beautiful towns, hundreds of hidden valleys, great forests."
Prince Paul later adds...
"It is not a very big country, but it is a beautiful one and a very wild one. Ah, our great mountains, our great forests, or beautiful villages. The stern, rough men, the laughing women, the good food... ..I could tell you of wild robbers... ..and of fierce animals in the forests... ..and hidden ways in the hills, deep forests where no foot has ever trodden."
Later he adds that Baronia is wild, rugged and beautiful. He says comparing the two countries that "Britain is like a tame cat sitting by the fire, while Baronia is a wild tiger roaming the hills".

Paul accompanies Mike and Jack to the railway station to meet the girls' train and give them their invitation. Although he is the youngest and has been in danger in the past it is notable that he has no Royal Protection guards as British Princes do. Indeed we hear he is allowed to indulge in school pranks like getting covered in mud wading through a duck pond to regain a ball and tearing his coat to rags squeezing through a hawthorn hedge to escape an angry cow!

In contrast to Paul, Nora previously the most immature of the Arnolds organises a porter to move the girls' trunks in a much more adult fashion and the children repair once again to the Arnold's flat.

The next day they travel to the aerodrome to meet Ranni and Pilescu and Paul's plane. Captain and Mrs Arnold plan to fly to Baronia in the 'White Swallow' at the end of the holiday to collect the children. It's mentioned that they tried to fly all the way to Australia before anyone else did — no wonder they have adventurous children. The Captain climbs into the cockpit of Paul's plane and says "My word, she is a marvellous machine! I'll say this for Baronia — you have some mighty fine designers of aircraft! You beat us hollow and we are pretty good at it too."

We once again get the impression of supersonic flight. They meet at the aerodrome at ten o'clock and Ranni plans to be in Baronia by lunchtime, one o'clock. Enid gives us a nice description of their en route flight...
"It was fun watching for the sea to appear and re-appear between the gaps in the clouds. Then the plane flew over land again. The clouds cleared away, and the children could see the country below spread out like an enormous coloured map. They flew over great towns, wreathed in misty smoke. They flew over stretches of great countryside, where farms and houses looked like toys. They watched the rivers curling along like blue and silver snakes. They flew over tall mountains and on some of them was snow."
The general feel to Baronia is akin to Austria or Switzerland or the German Harz Mountains — certainly a very fairy tale image, accentuated by their first view of the Royal Palace on a hillside.
"It was a beautiful place with shining towers and minarets and below it was a blue lake in which the reflection of the palace shone."
Needless to say with all this description, Eileen Soper is in her element.

The children are greeted by the Royal Family and it's noticeable that while the King is the ruler, it is the Queen who is in charge! It transpires that Paul has four younger brothers and sisters waiting to greet him and another still a baby in the nursery. There are suitably opulent playrooms and nurseries for the royal children with an incredible selection of toys. Prince Paul also has his own sailing boat, which the children use to sail on the lake by the palace. Their apartments also have a touch of the Cleopatras sporting sunken baths!

The children are thrilled by their surroundings and supplied with Baronian clothes. Soper makes a rare mistake when she depicts the dark-haired Nora admiring herself in a full-length mirror as the blonde Peggy.

The plot advances when after a week of recreation, Pilescu suggests to Paul that they go up in his aeroplane to show the visitors the extent of Baronia's lands and Paul suggests showing them the Secret Forest. Naturally the Arnolds are intrigued by this name and Paul shows them the Secret Forest surrounded by the impassable Killimooin Mountains on a map before they fly over the area themselves on a tour of Baronia.

It appears that Baronia is suffering from the Greenhouse Effect, decades before the phenomenon was discovered. Jack says it is hotter than Africa, and he should know. The Queen complains "the winters are so cold and the summers so hot" and because of this the previous year the King had a 'little castle' — Killimooin Castle — built of local stone in a cool gully on the edge of the mountain range where two winds meet.

The King despatches his household to Killimooin Castle. It's two hundred miles from the palace and four or five hours journey by road, except for the last twenty miles that have to be covered on ponies! Quite how the castle was built without any roads about it isn't quite explained! The alpine tracks over the valleys, hills and rivers are extremely vertiginous.

On arrival at the castle they meet the caretakers, Tooku and his wife Yamen, and learn from them of the dangers of robbers in the area, who steal goats and hens from the local peasants and hold up travellers on the road. These robbers cannot be caught as no-one knows where they live. They also hear of wolves who howl for food in the wintertime, a forerunner of something depicted later in The Mountain of Adventure.

To learn more of the area, the caretakers despatch the children to find Blind Beowald the goatherd, who lives on the mountainside with his goats and Enid introduces us to a major character, effectively a Mafamu for this book. Soper does some lovely illustrations of Beowald and his goats, who appear more like the Chamois breed, virtually a cross between goats and antelopes!

Blind Beowald is perhaps the most striking character in the book. He is dressed in rough trousers of goatskin. He has a deep musical voice and indeed plays a flute. Despite being blind, he senses the eagles that soar above his head and knows the flowers that grow beneath his feet and trees that give shade.

Because it is always dark for him, he sleeps days and moves around at night, with his ears and his feet seeing for him. He always knows where he is by the pebbles, rocks, grass and flowers beneath his feet and feeling the winds, which bring the smell of pine trees and wild thyme, which are perhaps even more pungent at night. In the stillness of night he hears the robbers creeping down the mountain paths, calling like owls and he hides in caves while they pass as he knows they are fierce and wild like wolves in winter as they seek men to rob and slay.

Beowald leads the Royal Party up the mountainside for a view down onto the Secret Forest. The way ends at a sheer precipitous drop that is steeper than anything encountered in Africa. Beowald shows them a shorter route back to Killimooin Castle, which takes them by an old ruined temple, with some statues of men inside. It's known as a bad place where men were turned to stone for their wickedness. However it's later said that the statues come alive and walk at night.

At this point in the story Enid has once again put everything in place for a stirring imaginative adventure. Within days Tooku and Yamen, amongst others, are robbed and when Ranni and Pilescu investigate, they are captured by the robbers, leaving the boys to go to their rescue. As with the previous book they are menaced by a dangerous reclusive tribe who have a hidden base for their home. Enid describes a strange perilous journey on a subterranean waterway as they find the hidden access to the Secret Forest. Here they are also threatened by Nature when caught up in a vividly detailed storm that reflects some of the monsoon-like downpours we are all now too familiar with. Nature's many moods would also feature strongly in the later Adventure Series.

Eileen Soper is in her element here using light and shade to dramatic effect, graphically depicting all the thrilling escapades, which flow with the relentlessness of the river that the adventurers encounter. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.