The Enid Blyton Society
Snowball the Pony
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Book Details...

First edition: 1953
Publisher: Lutterworth Press
Illustrator: Iris Gillespie
Category: Young Family
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Reprint Covers
Review by Robert Houghton
Further Illustrations


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Iris Gillespie

Frontis from the 1st edition, illustrated by Iris Gillespie
Snowball the Pony (1953), in direct contrast to the last Playways serial The Very Big Secret, is an amiable and down to earth story about the pony of the title and the adventures he encounters en-route to being grown up. It is a simple story, which also happens to be very entertaining, perfectly complemented by Iris Gillespie's wonderfully evocative illustrations. On the publishing side however, it is interesting to note that, amazingly, the dust-wrapper blurb on the front inside flap gives away practically the entire story, leaving no surprises for the reader whatsoever!

Enid gets the story off to a good start, with some really intuitive descriptions of the Pony's early life, describing how he feels the whole world must be just his field, unable to comprehend anything outside of his present experiences, rather like a child who only knows it's parental and home surroundings. Also interesting is the way in which Snowball's mother accepts that he must move on and go to live elsewhere as he grows up. Enid makes this part of the novel strangely unemotional; though Snowball himself is apprehensive about such a monumental move from the places and things he has known. By chapter two, he is on his way to this new home and his new owners, towards the 'blue hills' that up until now the pony has imagined to be 'the edge of the world'.

As in the books that came previously, Enid's descriptions are kept to a minimum, but are no less effective for this. She relies heavily on colours to conjure up her scenery, which seems a highly economical way of doing so: a white gate, the blue hills, a red bus, the green corn-fields with a poppy or two 'flashing a red eye at him now and again.' The children, when we meet them, are similarly under-described, but this is not a bad thing, for it helps to keep the character of the pony to the forefront without focusing unnecessarily on the children.

The children soon start discussing names for their new pony, 'black' names being discussed first: Sooty, Blackie and Cinders, before Sheila, the main child character and painted in slightly more detail than the others, suggests more comical names such as Snowball, Snow-white and Snowdrop. Snowball is chosen as a bit of a joke, but it immediately gives the book a deeper dimension than it would otherwise have had, and all credit to Enid for being brave enough to do it.

Enid continues in a style very similar to her other brilliant animal story Shadow the Sheep Dog, showing us most events from the pony's viewpoint, having the animals interacting verbally with each other, though never with the human characters of the story. She describes how Snowball feels afraid on his first night alone in his big field: how he is scared of practically everything: even the moon, 'a big round lamp in the sky' — a description that brilliantly conjures up the pony's loneliness. Sheila seems to understand this, and there follows a lovely description of the little girl coming to comfort him and actually falling asleep cuddled up to snowball under a tree, a moment that perfectly encapsulates the love and trust that can grow between humans and animals.

During the chapters that follow, we see Snowball exploring his new surroundings and, in true Blyton style, learning several lessons into the bargain. He races with Captain a 'strong and powerful horse' and loses, learning that 'It's better not to boast of what you can do till you've tried', then he goes to the pigsty and learns not to be greedy when the old sow chases him out for nosing in her trough. These episodes again bring to mind similar occurrences in Shadow the Sheep Dog in which the young pup learns several important lessons on how a sheep dog should behave before he is allowed the respect of the humans and the other animals on the farm.

The story continues realistically, with Snowball learning to take a saddle and bridle, and to give the children rides. It is Sheila who teaches him this, being the first to ride him. Enid explains how uncomfortable Snowball finds this at first, but goes on to say how he 'couldn't bear to make Sheila fall' as she is his favourite.

By the end of the first lesson all three children have taken rides and Snowball has 'got used to the saddle almost at once' and knows 'how to answer the pull of the reins.' By the end of the chapter we have been introduced to 'Lennie', a naughty 'big boy' who we quickly realise is to be the latest 'Blyton naughty character' to get his comeuppance before the books end. Lennie wants to ride Snowball but the children won't let him because, says Enid, quite tellingly, 'Nobody liked Lennie. He was selfish and unkind.'

Blyton takes Snowball back for a visit to his mother and very cleverly manages to convey the passage of time in the way Snowball perceives his field, remembering how once 'it had seemed enormous to him, like half the world. Now it looked very small! How strange. Had he grown or had the field got smaller?' She also notes how 'his mother looked smaller to him too.'

Snowball's growing maturity is also measured effectively by Blyton when he actually is seen to reject his mother's offer to stay with her in the field by saying, 'I love my new home and I love the three children. I don't want to stay here mother. But I'll come round and see you again soon.' Of course, in true E.B style, rather than being upset on hearing this, it is duly noted that Snowball's mother is 'very proud of him'.

Chapter nine sees Enid in full flow, beginning the main 'event' of the book — the punishment of the 'unkind and selfish' Lennie. Lennie wants to ride Snowball (indeed, he seems to exist purely to do so!) and though he is asked not to by the children, of course he disobeys them.

Someone in a Blyton book who is big, unkind, selfish, 'very heavy and fat' and is described by Snowball himself as 'a horrid boy' is bound to get his just deserts, and the reader awaits it with glee, even if it is a shame that Lennie's character has not really been built up enough by this stage for us to fully appreciate this. Snowball throws Lennie over his head — but even this doesn't deter the boy, who quickly cuts a stick from the hedge, leaps back onto Snowballs back and thrashes him with it as a punishment. Snowball gallops off, deciding he isn't going to put up with 'that boy one minute longer!' So we get our revenge and so does Snowball, when the pony gallops full-tilt to the duck pond, stops dead and flings Lennie over his head a second time, straight into the muddy water. Sheila, Willie and Timmy laugh 'with glee' at this, and, as Blyton affirms, Lennie had got 'a very good punishment indeed'.

The one slight weakness in this story, maybe, is that Blyton, conscious of the usual twelve (or in this case eleven,) episode rule, continues the story for two more chapters after this point, which would otherwise have seemed the perfect moment to bring it to a close. Instead, Blyton pads out the book with two stories that seemingly stand out on their own, and would have been better placed before chapter nine and not after it. In the first, Willie is ill and unable to fetch the family's newspapers so Snowball decides to fetch them instead, which he does successfully. In the final chapter Snowball is used at Lady Tomms' garden party, to give rides to children, pulling a little cart behind him. Whilst both these stories are filled with charm and are effective in their own right, they do appear to be 'tacked-on' to the story as a whole and don't really bring the book to a complete or satisfying closure, unless you count Snowball making money for the Cottage Hospital (a worthy cause of the kind very dear to Enid's own heart) and receiving praise from Sheila and the other children because of his hard work.

Snowball the Pony may not exactly 'set the world alight', but it is a pleasant enough tale, perceptively and simply told, and must surely rank as one of the best of Enid's animal stories for younger children. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.