The Enid Blyton Society
Smuggler Ben
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Book Details...

First edition: 1943
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: E.H. Davie
Category: Mary Pollock Books
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations


Tower House edition from 1945, illustrated by E.H. Davie

Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1950 reprint, illustrated by G.W. Backhouse

Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1955 reprint, illustrated by Leonardo
The smugglers of old were enveloped in mystery and romance. Ben also had an air of mystery and romance and he even found a lady-fair who came to his aid when he accidentally cut himself with a knife.
Professor Rondel has let Sea Cottage to a family of four — maybe five if Daddy happens to drop in. The beauty of a Blyton dwelling is always worth describing — the cottage has a white gate and a stone pathway set with orange marigolds at each side. The little house itself has three bedrooms. Mummy's looks out over moors ablaze with purple heather and the children's overlooks the blue sea. It's heavenly because they're in completely new surroundings, they're by the sea, and the holidays are just beginning and how many of us can relate to that wonderful feeling?

The first thing to do is to have a look round and as they need to buy something for tea the children set out along the sandy road where blue chicory blossoms and the red poppies dance. The nearby village consists of a tiny baker's shop-cum-post-office, a general store that sells almost anything, and some fishermen's cottages. On their way back from purchasing bread, cake, and buns they pass a lad mending a fishing-net. He's very dark-looking and the children gather that he's a fisher-boy. They think he looks a bit fierce but Smart-Alec says he's not likely to bother them because if the boy starts getting rough then he'll get rough too! Alec's sisters are Frances and Hilary and it's Hilary who considers that her brother wouldn't be nearly as strong as the fisher-boy, "I bet he's got muscles like iron!" No doubt she's right, but it's too lovely a day to quarrel so they leave it at that.

They have their first meal at the cottage and Hilary must be a little too excited to eat her full quota — she has only seven pieces of bread and jam, three pieces of cake and two currant buns. At least that's what Alec says but he's probably being smart again and for his cheek he gets his hair pulled. He yells ... and life carries on! There's a nice picture on page two of the three children running across the rocks by the sea-shore — ready to explore their new environment. They paddle at the waters edge, pick up shells and examine the rock-pools then discover a little cove where they spot the fisher-boy once again. He's doing something to a small boat and when he sees the kids he looks very threatening indeed and warns them to stay out of the cove because it belongs to him. It might difficult for him to prove that he is the registered owner but that's beside the point because he's prepared to defend his territory. Seeing that Alec and his sisters show no sign of moving away the boy adheres to the old Cubs and Scouts motto which is: "Be Prepared!" He's prepared all right because he takes out a sharp knife and is ready to commence battle. This aggressive lad looks as if he could handle himself in any situation and such is his appearance (his sullen face looked as black as thunder) that the children are pretty "frit." The girls want "Out" but Alec shows a surprisingly bold attitude — probably because he's furious at being threatened and he offers to fight the fisher-boy. No way will the girls have any of this and they manage to drag their brother away from the cove with such determination that they tear his shirt!

The thrill of being at the seaside lessens the effect of the distasteful incident and next day the children are looking forward to hiring a boat so that not only will they have the freedom of the beach (except for that little cove where danger lurks) but they will also have the freedom of the sea. Unfortunately, they don't have much luck — no one has a boat for hire because they're all in use. It's true that old Samuel the fisherman has a spare but he's stopped lending it out because it was damaged by the last lot who hired it. This is bad news but Mrs. Polsett at the general store happens to mention that there's one other boat in the vicinity and it belongs to Smuggler Ben! A smuggler? A real smuggler? No. he's not a real smuggler the old lady assures them. He happens to be her grandson and she points to the lad who is at that moment walking down the street. I think anyone could guess who Smuggler Ben is — he's none other that the dangerous-looking boy whom they came up against last evening. Hilary voices what the others already know. "He won't lend us his boat" — but Mrs. Polsett has a different opinion of her grandson. She's his grandmother of course so she speaks up for the boy and tells them there's no harm in the lad and he's a good boy for work and doesn't get into mischief like other kids do. According to her he's crazy about smugglers and acts as if he's one himself. He likes exploring the cliffs and he rows in his boat half the time and would the children like her to ask if he'll lend them his boat? The children know what he's like — didn't he pull a knife on them? They turn the offer down flat.

An evening or so later Frances and Alec decide to go on a long walk. Hilary doesn't feel like it so she takes a book and goes to sit on the cliff-top. She settles down in a nice spot with a view over miles and miles of restless blue sea and then she happens to see a narrow path leading off down the cliff. She thinks she'll follow it so she does and ends up in a position overlooking "That Cove". Down below is "That Boy" — Smuggler Ben no less! The lad is whittling something with his knife and Hilary witnesses an accident. The knife slips and cuts into the boy's hand. Blood flows onto the sandy beach but help arrives in the form of a fair-haired girl whose only concern is to assist those in trouble. She slips down the little path, drops onto the sand, and is greeted with a scowl but, ignoring it, she explains her presence and offers to tie her handkerchief around the wound to stem the flow of blood. Taking the boy's hand she bandages it up whilst chattering away and she even calls him Ben — Smuggler Ben. Hilary thinks his nick-name is marvelous and it turns out that she herself is interested in smugglers and even wishes she was one! Would you believe that the book she had taken with her is about smugglers? Well, it is and Hilary shows it to the boy.

The reserve has been broken through and there is a warm feeling of friendship between them. It turns out that Ben is an only child and he always plays alone because there are no other boys around — only girls and he doesn't like girls because they're silly! Hilary turns to go but Ben grabs her and tells her that she's not silly ... "I think you're sensible." This fisher-boy has secrets and he's willing to share a few with Hilary but the girl will not lend herself to this unless Alec and Frances can also be in on it. She convinces him that her brother and sister are as sensible as her ... "Frances is even nicer than I am. I'm always losing my temper and she doesn't." The bond has blossomed to the extent that Ben offers to take her back home in his boat. Hilary willingly accepts and under an evening sky they sail away from the shore, across the waves and past the jutting cliffs towards the beach near Sea Cottage. Because Ben's hand is quite painful Hilary has takes the oars and she handles the boat with much expertise having often sailed her uncle's craft. Alec and Frances are waiting at the top of the beach and are somewhat amazed to see Hilary with the Enemy but the enemy is no more — he's even offered to lend his boat to the children. Now that's marvellous news.

Alec, Frances and Hilary now have a theme for their holiday — Smugglers. They cajole their mother into forking out money for a few brightly-coloured scarves or sashes and 'smuggler's hats' similar to the one that Ben wears. Their wellingtons will do for smuggler's boots and as for knives? No! The three children are ready to join up with Smuggler Ben and away they go to meet him at his cove. Alec and Frances are formally introduced but Ben is wary until an agreement is made that he's the Boss and will give the orders. There is compliance although one member (as you would expect) is a little reluctant at first. Once this is established Ben proves to be a very likeable boy and he introduces the children to the secrets he has shared with no one. They follow their leader to a cave and through a hidden entrance into yet another cave they are astounded to see old barrels and chests which have been left there from "Illicit Doings" in bygone years. What an adventure for three young children on holiday! Ben is their good friend now and they play smugglers to their heart's content until reality strikes! When exploring a passage in the cliff they are trapped by the tide and whilst waiting for it to subside they are secret witnesses to invaders of their territory. Suspicious men and a motorboat are involved and the young smugglers, with their curiosity stoked when they overhear a conversation, resolve to find out more in the ensuing days.

The three children at Sea-Cottage invite Ben over one rainy day and together they find that Professor Rondel's well-equipped library provides some intelligence on the layout of various smugglers caves in the area. The Captain and His Men (Ben and Co.) do some exploring and there's a little excavating to be done which is all geared to their pursuit of the truth regarding the strange men whom they spied on in the cave. The next thing that happens is that Alec and his sisters have a surprise — their father and their Uncle Ned who are both in the army and have a bit of leave due to them, arrive for a short spell at the cottage. The story goes on from here and Uncle Ned plays a key-part. There is definitely some dirty work being planned and it must be stopped — In the Name of the King! The children play their parts and the resourceful Ben demonstrates courage and quick-thinking in the face of considerable danger. The identity of one evil person gives quite a jolt to the occupants of Sea-Cottage and this precedes a fulfilling and exciting conclusion.
There seems no mention of Ben's parents but he has a grandmother and also an uncle whom he joins on fishing expeditions so he probably boards with him.

The year 1943 was of war-time significance hence the reference to Alec, Frances and Hilary's father as being in the army. One or two Blyton books refer to the second global war because it would be hard to completely ignore such a world-shattering period in history.

The urge to be smugglers doesn't necessarily give the impression that Smuggler Ben and his team wanted to be outlaws. I'm sure they couldn't be distanced further from taking part in illegal gun-running or the clandestine importing of commodities to evade the tax laws. As stated initially, smugglers have an air of romance which can be conjured up with visions of boat-trips on the ocean under a full moon and the freedom of being able to land on a remote beach with no customs formalities. Standing on a cliff-top to view the seascape at nightfall with the world at your feet in all its serenity can be a stimulating experience. This can be added to with the knowledge that you and your chosen friends can leave whenever you like and be off over the sea in a twinkling.

The Enid Blyton Society supplies many original pictures from the author's books on this website. Any of the above references to illustrations are related to the 1950 edition which had as its artist — Geoff Backhouse.

"Frit" was coined by Enid Blyton as a second meaning for a fairly uncommon word and it's worth giving it an airing now and again. It's a term that working-class lads such as Luke Brown or Ern Goon might use to covey that they are "frightened." (Luke and Ern played important roles in the Find-Outer books which were also by Enid Blyton).

The 'smuggler's hats' that the children wear could be referred to as 'pointy-hats', 'conical hats', 'Santa hats', or perhaps 'Phrygian caps'. In this day and age, even the word 'beanie' might be appropriate — with the addition of a pom-pom!

I carried a blade when I was Ben's age and I'm not sure whether it was his influence or simply the natural urge to be prepared and what better way than with a knife. Besides being used for cutting they can act as a food utensil, a screwdriver of sorts, a lever or as a digging tool — the possibilities are endless. It's not wise in this alarmist world to carry one nowadays though so I had to fall back on the foldable Swiss Army knife which is even more useful with its built in gadgets including one for removing stones from horses' hooves!

Smuggler Ben ends with a marvelous surprise that can be equated to at least a couple of other books in the Blyton collection: The Secret of Spiggy Holes and The Adventurous Four. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.