Bom the Little Toy Drummer
First edition: 1956
Publisher: Brockhampton Press
Illustrator: R. Paul-Höye
Category: Bom Series
Publisher: Brockhampton Press
Illustrator: R. Paul-Höye
Category: Bom Series
On This Page...
Cover from the 1st edition, illustrated by R. Paul-Höye
Endpapers from the 1st edition, illustrated by R. Paul-Höye
Title Page from the 1st edition, illustrated by R. Paul-Höye
In the EBSJ No.11, I made comment on the fact that many of the Blyton names seem to have been thought of on the spur of the moment. Hickory Ho was one mentioned, and there was Niggle, Fiddle-De-Dee, Flip & Flop — the latter two were given to a couple of Brownies. Also there were Tiddley-Pom and Clickety-Clack and Bong who was a dragon. Bom seems to be another of the names that fits into that list although there is a kind of link — I suppose Bom-Bom-Bom could represent a drum being played and in Bom's case, the drum he lugs about with him is an essential part of how we see him.
Like Noddy, Bom ranges through a Series and other publications which include an annual and strip booklets. The Series contains eight volumes and Bom confronts a varied run of events which include his initial absconding, and then later editions tell us about a Wishing Spell, a Goose-Girl and a Skipper whom Bom befriends. Further on we meet his Aunt Twinkle, and there's even an encounter with a rainbow.
Like Noddy once again, Bom is a child-like man who could be estimated as being in his late teens. He has to be at least that advanced because he's a fully-fledged soldier and described as a toy drummer. He lives in a fort and he happens to be the smallest of all the soldiers who are ruled over by Captain Bang. I suppose Bang is all right for the Captain seeing that bangs can be associated with a soldier's work but, unfortunately for him, Bom is afraid of guns and pretty useless at aiming them so there are a few accidents when he pulls a trigger or two. Bom is also not too hot on the drilling front because when Captain Bang shouts "LEFT — TURN!" poor Bom turns right and bumps into the soldier next to him, which causes the rest to fall down like a row of dominoes. For this transgression, poor Bom is locked up until "he grows a few brains!" Captain Bang is not a very nice person.
Tan-Tara (now, what does he play?) feels sorry for Bom because they are buddies and the next day he manages to get permission to take Bom's drum to him. Bom welcomes it with open arms and while he's banging it loudly he begins thinking about escaping because he's rather fed up with life as it is. He formulates a plan, and with the help of his drum, he carries it out and manages to get right away from the fort.
From this moment on, Bom is a fugitive and he needs to keep constantly on the move to ensure that he doesn't fall into the clutches of Captain Bang and his men who are of the opinion that Bom must return. Bang and his troupe set off in pursuit when Bom exits the fort but the runaway receives a little inadvertent help from some rabbits and is able to keep hidden when the soldiers approach the spot where his drum is lying. Realizing that Bom has escaped Captain Bang determines that he'll catch him "some time" and they return to the fort.
Bom is another Enid Blyton character who sings songs of his own composition. He straps his drum on and trills his first tune to the watching rabbits —
"March, little rabbits,'I think that we can now be 100% sure as to how Bom's name originated.
Away you go
Down to your burrow
In a long, long row,
The rabbits invite him to come and live with them but Bom shakes his head,
"No! I'm going to have adventures and everyone will know when I'm coming, because they will hear my drum," — and off he goes singing and banging away on his ... "Musical Instrument!"
After marching up and down the hills for a very long way, the little soldier becomes rather hungry and when he reaches civilization in the form of Heigh-Ho Market the fruit pies, sausage rolls and crusty loaves of bread look very tempting. He turns out his pockets and cannot find even a penny so he decides to imitate Tommy Tucker who sang for his supper but when he starts beating his drum and singing, the loud noise causes Mr. Loaf's bread and sausage-rolls to fall off his stall onto the grass. As the food is spoilt, Bom is required to pay for it and then, when Bom tells Mr. Loaf that he has no money, the baker somehow realizes that he's the drummer that Captain Bang is after and chases after him. Luckily for Bom, Mr. Loaf falls over a bucket of milk in the excitement and this allows the refugee to tear away into a shed where there are many baskets piled around the place. He takes off his drum and covers it with baskets and then hides under one himself. Mr. Loaf and the market people come into the shed to see if they can spot the runaway soldier but he's too well hidden so they leave and then Bom is able to get out, grab his drum, and creep out by a back way.
On and on he goes banging his drum and singing until he spies a very tall tent — a tent which belongs to Mr. Toots' Circus and right now there's a problem that Mr. Toots needs to confront. The drum that the gate-keeper beats to attract the locals to the circus is out of action because Jumbo hit it with his cricket bat and made a hole in it! It's obvious what's going to happen next, and it does — Mr. Toots catches the sound of bom-tiddy-bom in the nearby lane and racing out to see where the drum is he spies Bom and asks him for a loan of it but Bom tells him —
"I'm the only one that beats my drum!"
That's fair enough so he's asked to beat it himself and what's more, he'll be paid for his services which is great so the little drummer stands by the gate and sings as he beats out BOM-BOM-BOM which informs the villagers that the circus is about to begin. They all rush to buy tickets and soon all the seats are full and the show begins. Enid Blyton usually describes the various acts when a circus makes an appearance in her books but not in this case — there's just a mention of the beautiful horses with their feathery plumes and swishing tales. It's a wonderful show and Bom watches it all then when it's over, darkness has arrived and the stars are out in the sky. The circus folk start their little camp-fires to cook their suppers and as Bom, for the time being, is one of the clan, Mr. Toots calls him over to have supper and also to pay him one shilling. What a wonderful evening. Bom feels so happy sitting by the camp-fire with a fine smell coming from the pot swinging over it and after an excellent meal he feels very sleepy.
He fell fast asleep cuddled up by his drum, with the camp-fire dying down, and the stars still shining in the sky. Good night little Bom and dream of your next adventure — Bom-diddy-bom-diddy-bom-bom-BOM!
The next chapter carries on with Bom's life in the circus where he's being fed and watered by kind Mr. Toots. Wandering around the camp one morning he sees a girl leap on to a horse's back and gallop up and down the field and then he receives a big surprise when Jumbo, using his trunk, lifts him up and places him on his broad back. What a surprise! The little girl on the horse appears and commands the elephant (what else could Jumbo be?) to take Bom for a walk and he does. Bom almost falls off but he manages to slide down Jumbo's trunk to safety.
He likes everyone there but his favourite characters are the clowns of which there are four — Smiler, Binks, Biff and Bash. The first clown's name describes him, Binks is wonderful at walking on his hands, and the other two are always pretending to fight each other. Bom thinks he'll try to walk on his hands like Binks but he fails miserably as soon as Biff, who volunteers to help him, lets go of his feet. Smiler's an excellent tightrope-walker and of course Bom has to have a go at it but this young man's talent is definitely not skewed towards being able to run along a rope. No, Bom's talents are mainly in the drum-playing and singing arena. He's terribly impressed with Mr. Long-Legs who's terribly tall. He's a giant of a man but Bom learns his secret and he's even allowed to strap on the stilts Mr. Long-Legs wears so that he can try walking on them himself which he does with apparent ease because he's able to beat his drum as he strides along —
"Here comes Bom. The Big Big Bom,
I've grown so high,
That I bump the sky ..."
There's Madame Wooky whose five monkeys boost the circus performances and Bom is not too happy when one of them grabs a drumsticks and runs off with it. The mischievous little creature leaps up onto Mr. Toots' caravan and annoys the circus-owner by drumming on the roof. Bom manages to capture the monkey with a net but it escapes again and dashes to the top of a tent where it props the stick into a corner and leaves it there. Luckily for Bom, Madame Wooky comes along and with a quick command a little monkey dressed as a soldier, jumps up on to the tent, grabs the drum-stick and returns it to a relieved Bom.
It's Horrid Shock time now because, in the distance, Bom suddenly spots galloping horses carrying soldiers and he recognizes them — it's Captain Bang and his men bearing down on the circus! The relentless Captain has learnt that Bom is being put up at Mr. Toots' circus and he intends to re-capture him and lock the young soldier up once again. What can Bom do? What is going to happen now?
In this simple story that came out over fifty years ago and which is rarely seen these days, it shouldn't hurt to relate what happens ... Captain Bang looking very fierce and waving his sword enters the circus gate with his men. Mr. Toots is surprised at the intrusion because he doesn't know what they want and in the meantime Bom is dreading being locked up again and wondering how to get away. Mr. Long-Legs passes by at that moment and upon being informed as to why soldiers are in the camp he decides to help little Bom to hide. He tells him to don his (Mr. Long-Legs') stilts and tall trousers so that he won't be recognized. That's a good idea and Bom rushes off to do that whilst Captain Bang who has entered the circus camp is talking rather threateningly to Mr. Toots. He orders the Ringmaster to Bring Bom out or he'll clap him in prison as well! As you can imagine, this aggressive stance does not endear Captain Bang to any of the circus folk who have come up one-by-one to listen to the exchange. They all hope that Bom is safely hidden away and it appears that he is because when the soldiers search the camp they come across all kinds of things but no Bom. One of them opens a cage that turns out to be full of bears and you can see a picture of the brave fellow racing away in horror with his hat bouncing off.
Suddenly, Mr. Long-Legs whispers something into Jumbo's ear and next moment Captain Bang is hit full in the face with a stream of water directed from the elephant's trunk! (For doing that little favour Mr. Long-Legs will buy Jumbo twelve currant buns). Captain Bang is VERY angry and threatening and then he spots an extremely tall man. He stares up in surprise — past the coat, right to Bom's little head at the top with his hat looking as if it's almost touching the sky. He towers over Captain Bang and almost frightens him to death —
"WHAT DO YOU WANT WITH ME, LITTLE CAPTAIN BANG? SHALL I KNOCK OFF YOUR HAT? SHALL I PICK UP YOUR HORSE?"
The terrified Captain Bang turns his horse and gallops away followed by his men but he tells them to bring Bom's drum which is lying nearby so one of the soldiers grabs it together with the drum-sticks as he races off. Jumbo however, reaches out and snatches the drum away in his long trunk but the soldier manages to hold on to the drum-sticks. Bom is very upset about that but the soldier should know better than to tangle with a circus because it contains trained animals which are capable of extraordinary acts and in this case it's Trip, one of the little monkeys, who comes to the rescue. He leaps through the trees by the roadside and drops down onto the fleeing soldier who almost falls off his horse in fright as the sticks are snatched away from him. The monkey then jumps up into the trees again and races back to Bom with his prize whereupon the little drummer takes off the stilts and thanks his helpers profusely. They all want him to stay at the circus but no, he decides against that. He wants to continue his adventures in other places and see the world.
Everyone calls "Goodbye". Jumbo puts his trunk around Bom's neck as a kind of "Farewell" and Trip the soldier-monkey hugs him and then away goes the little drummer to seek another adventure — beating his big drum, and marching valiantly as he sings a song —
Here I come, come, come,
With my drum, drum, drum,
The Bom books are of the rare series apart from Noddy that contain colour pictures and which are written in a style more for the younger reader's pleasure. There's Mary Mouse as well if one wants to be fussy although that lot came out initially as little strip booklets.
TanTara plays the trumpet of course.
There's an impressive line-up of the soldiers on Page. 10. They're dressed much the same as the Queen's guards although Bom's clobber is different.
In case you couldn't work it out — to escape from the fort Bom hid inside his drum and when the guard opened the door it rolled into him and knocked the man flying. It then rolled outside and across the parade ground, over the drawbridge, which luckily was open, and away down the hill, around a corner and straight into Mr. Apple's barrow of fruit. Leaving Mr. Apple and the resultant mess behind, Bom continued rolling inside his drum until he splashed into a duck-pond and rolled into a ditch. Some rabbits came out to investigate and ended up sitting on the drum which hid it completely from Captain Bang and his men.
A penny or 1d. is an old English coin of Bom's era ... 240 of which made up an English pound. You could probably get a bun or similar item at the market for a penny in those days.
When Bom tells Mr. Loaf that he has no money the baker somehow realizes that he's the person Captain Bang is after. I'm not sure how he could know because the good Captain and his soldiers wheeled round and went back to the fort when they couldn't locate Bom so, unless there was a highly doubtful occurrence such as a radio bulletin, the means of the baker knowing Bom's status has to remain a mystery.
One shilling or 1/ — is another unit of British currency of the time. It was worth twelve pennies so it was quite a reasonable sum to pay Bom for his drumming work at the circus-gate.
Trip, the little monkey, is always dressed in a soldier's coat and hat.
There are at least two other instances where a runaway or runaways were threatened by Authority descending upon a circus — one was in Three Boys and a Circus and the other occurred in Boys' and Girls' Circus Book.
Captain Bang hasn't taken his defeat lying down, he'll try again and again, to recapture little Bom.
Bom's a likeable and very smart little fellow but I've come across better E.B. song composers.
EBSJ stands for the one and only Enid Blyton Society Journal to which one can subscribe.