The Enid Blyton Society
Father Christmas and Belinda
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Book Details...

First edition: 1951
Publisher: William Collins
Illustrator: Hugh Gee and Shirley Hughes
Category: Belinda
Genre: Family
Type: Short Story Books

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Review by Terry Gustafson

In the Enid Blyton world many children have experienced a personal but brief contact with Santa Claus, and lots of toys have also shared the same privilege. Belinda, who is a "dear little doll" belonging to Jane, is one of the lucky ones and a boy doll called Tod is another. Belinda and Tod are much loved by their little mistress and she never goes anywhere without them - they even join her in bed at night. Belinda wears a red-check frock and her friend Tod wears a shirt with a tie and brown shorts.

One day, Jane takes them for a ride on her tricycle and both the dolls fall off when she pedals along a rather bumpy road. Belinda and Tod end up with lots of mud on their clothes and have to undergo a scolding from Jane because they "didn't sit tight." Tod's too dirty to accompany his mistress to a party that afternoon but Belinda manages to get by because she's not quite so messed up.

Great party with sandwiches, cakes, biscuits, and even crackers to pull but Belinda is a mite unhappy because Jane has been given a golliwog, and it's a "lovely" one. To Belinda's way of thinking, Jane will forget all about her because she'll want to play with the new toy and that's exactly what happens.

"You're so old and dirty," Jane says to Belinda and Tod. "I shan't like you any more till you have some new clothes."

They're banished from her bed and now it's the golliwog who cuddles up to Jane at nighttime. Christmas eve arrives and there are Belinda and Tod sitting on the window-sill instead of being in Jane's warm bed. When Mummy comes in to tuck her daughter up she says it's rather unkind to forget about the two dolls but Jane's made her choice and that's the end of it.

Toys aren't all that much into sleep and later on when Jane's dead to the world, we find Tod and Belinda climbing down the ivy outside the window after seeing a light shining from Daddy's work room. It bears investigation because Tod reckons it might be a robber but upon creeping over, they confront someone holding a lantern and dressed in a familiar-looking red cape with a white trim. What a surprise they get when they realize it's the one and only "Father Christmas!"

It turns out that he's looking for the one and only "them." Yes, he's heard that Belinda and Tod are unhappy and he's arrived to find out why. The dolls soon put him in the picture and Santa says he'll take them back to his castle and re-adorn them but first he utters a string of very magic words that causes the two dolls to grow as big as mistress Jane. What an exciting thing to happen. They hear the stamping of hooves on the roof so they follow Santa up the chimney to join four reindeer with a sleigh containing a great sack of toys. Once Belinda and Tod have climbed in and have been tucked up securely, there's a mad dash into the starry sky with a great jingling of bells. Passing over the twinkling lights of the town they carry on to the Land of Ice and Snow for the delivery of a beautifully dressed doll to a little Eskimo called Oolooloo. There's no chimney on an igloo of course so Santa Claus struggles through a narrow entrance with the gift and places it beside the sleeping girl.

A surprising night indeed! Belinda and Tod make out seals and polar bears far below and even meet some of the bears before following the route to Norway where a pair of skates is delivered to a boy called Sigurd. Then they're off over to France where Tod leaves a pair of shoes beside a young lad called Pierre who's fallen asleep halfway up the stairs of the belfry where his father is a bell-ringer. Once more they're away in the cold night air for a trip to the South Seas where a little girl called Rosamund lives. Her father and mother have taken her to a Pacific Island for a holiday and Rosamund is worried that Santa will visit her home in Australia instead of coming to the island. Don't worry, Santa's a very reliable man and soon the sleigh descends into warmer climes and lands where a full moon is lighting up palm trees, and the sea. While Santa is delivering the girl's present, Belinda and Tod go for a paddle on the shore where the Milky Way and the Southern Cross shine down upon them from the heavens. Is there another Enid Blyton book where a similarly wonderful trip is recorded? I don't know, although perhaps a case could be made for the children who flew around in a Wishing Chair.

Santa Claus, and the two dolls leave the island and, once more, the reindeer whisk the sleigh over country and ocean to visit America, the Land of Skyscrapers. They approach the most "Skyscraperish" city of all - New York. Somewhere, in what looks like Manhattan, they land on a snow-covered roof to deliver a gift and then it's back into the sky where they fly north for a while and ultimately dive through moonlit clouds to land in the courtyard of Santa's wonderful castle. They meet up with hundreds of dolls who make a real fuss of them and they're also introduced to rocking-horses, and teddy bears, and thousands of other toys. There's even a room full of humming tops so one could look upon Santa's castle as a Child's Paradise without equal that would take too much time to describe in detail. In a room reminiscent of "The Great Oz," there's a surprise to be observed in the magic mirror and guess who it is they see, looking very miserable?

Now it's time to return home which means another exciting journey and after they arrive back, Belinda and Tod are zoomed down to their original sizes before being put somewhere special. All problems are sorted out ... and what do you think? Mummy meets someone famous!

In this day and age with high photographic quality so easily available to the masses, one might take a "Ho-Hum" attitude to the photograph pages. On reflection however, the quality seems quite impressive for such an old book. Looks like a combination of models/dolls and sets, plus at least one composite. The children at the party are real enough, as are the depictions of Jane, her mother, and Santa Claus - all in colourful settings. In the mid-Fifties Enid Blyton produced some books with a photographic storyline featuring Tinker the Kitten and Floppy the pup but they were all done with black and white photographs that contrast greatly with the plates in the "Belinda" books.

The line drawings are what you make of them, and there are plenty. Children like lots of pictures.

Some picture-book characters such as Rupert Bear usually wear the same clothes. Noddy does as well, and also Belinda it seems because she sports her red check frock throughout the story and also in another book where she meets Humpty Dumpty. Red check clothing is the rage it seems because Jane wears a similar dress, and even her golliwog has trousers of the same pattern.

Like George's shorts in the "Comic Strip" productions featuring the Famous Five, Tod's pants could be classed as "Long Shorts" or "Short Longs!"

For five year olds and under, a "tricycle" is a bike with three wheels.

You can see how liberated children were in the early 1950's - Jane took her tricycle out of the gate and pedalled down the road, yet she still sleeps in a cot!

The modern image of Santa Claus with his red and white costume (Coca Cola colours) is often attributed to the Big Drink's many advertisements displayed on the backs of such magazines as National Geographic, but the (admittedly) "varied" images actually predate the ads; Still, Coca Cola kept the image of Santa as a "jolly sort of fellow" in the public consciousness for many years.

If you would like an unusual (trendy?) name for your next-born, try "Oolooloo."

"Sigurd" is also the name of a Viking boy Enid Blyton wrote about in another book entitled "Children of Other Days."

The picture on the cover of the volume was taken when Belinda, Tod, and Santa, were in Norway.

Rosamund received a teddy bear from Santa Claus.

"Dear Father Christmas, if you come, do leave me an aeroplane that can fly! Thank you very much. Love from Junior." In New York, they went "down" to the fiftieth floor to deliver a toy aeroplane to the fiftieth room. There's a saying: "Only in America!"

The "Wizard of Oz" movie (1939) contained the Art Deco influence that lent itself to buildings and various structures marking that particular era. Santa's Magic Mirror room has the "Emerald City" look about it.

Jane has received an invitation from Santa Claus to visit his castle.