The Enid Blyton Society
Rubbalong Tales (Shuffle the Shoemaker)
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Book Details...

First edition: 1949
Publisher: Macmillan
Illustrator: Norman Meredith
Category: One-off Character Books
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Short Story Books

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Reprint Covers
List of Contents
Review by Terry Gustafson

  1. Rubbalong Takes a Chance
    Story: Evening Standard Jan 7, 1949
  2. Grabbit Meets His Match
    Story: Evening Standard Jan 14, 1949
  3. Rubbalong Gets a Shock . . .
    Story: Evening Standard Jan 21, 1949
  4. Mr. Stamp-About
    Story: Evening Standard Jan 28, 1949
  5. Mischief in the Kitchen
    Story: Evening Standard Feb 4, 1949
  6. Walls Have Ears, and Shoes Have Tongues
    Story: Evening Standard Feb 11, 1949
  7. Ma Rubbalong Comes Home
    Story: Evening Standard Feb 18, 1949
  8. The Six-eyed Jingy-Bang
    Story: Evening Standard Feb 25, 1949
  9. Three Go Up a Ladder
    Story: Evening Standard Mar 4, 1949
  10. Rubbalong's Party
    Story: Evening Standard Mar 11, 1949
  11. Round and Round It Goes
    Story: Evening Standard Mar 18, 1949
  12. Snoozy Comes to Stay
    Story: Evening Standard Mar 25, 1949
  13. Sniff Gets Into Hot Water
    Story: Evening Standard Apr 1, 1949
  14. Ma Puts on Her Thinking-cap
    Story: Evening Standard Apr 8, 1949
  15. All Upside Down
    Story: Evening Standard Apr 14, 1949
  16. Dame Dandy's Umbrella
    Story: Evening Standard Apr 22, 1949
  17. Spreading the News
    Story: Evening Standard Apr 29, 1949
  18. Well, It Served Them Right
    Story: Evening Standard May 6, 1949
  19. Mr. Tuck-In's Handkerchief
    Story: Evening Standard May 13, 1949
  20. Mr. Dozey's Dream
    Story: Evening Standard May 20, 1949
  21. My Goodness What a Joke!
    Story: Evening Standard May 27, 1949
  22. Hurrah for Little Rubbalong!
    Story: Evening Standard Jun 3, 1949

Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Norman Meredith

Cloth boards of the 1st edition

Endpapers from the 1st edition, illustrated by Norman Meredith

Title page from the 1st edition, signed by Norman Meredith with his usual illustrator's signature
What's Rubbalong's ethnicity? He has the mandatory pointed ears but is he a Pixie? A Gnome? Well, he doesn't have the "Chinky" look about him and Gnomes receive a rather bad press in Enid Blyton books so perhaps we could settle for Brownie.

Tiptop Village acquires the services of another cobbler when Rubbalong and his Ma come to live there but first Rubbalong has to establish himself and he doesn't waste any time. There's no house-warming party or even a cup of tea. As soon as the trunk has been dumped on the floor of the little cottage they've taken, Rubbalong's off to seek work, leaving his Ma to put the kettle on if she so desires. He wanders into the village and eventually spies a man and his wife stepping down from a grand carriage. He learns that the gentleman's name is Mr. Tuck-In and that he's the richest person in the village but then he notices that the couple's shoes are in a terrible state of disrepair. Approaching them he suggests that Mr. Tuck-In's shoes could do with a little mending and that he (Rubbalong) would like the honour of attending to them. Unfortunately, it's not the done thing to accost a rich man and make a suggestion like that so the offer is treated as impertinence. Rubbalong's not put out though and after learning that the man's wife hates cats, he begins scheming and comes up with a very successful idea that earns him some money, a reputation, and the means to start up his own little business.

In case it's handy to know, Ma Rubbalong has powers that are fairly advanced. There may be degrees of capability in the magical arts and for argument's sake on a scale of - say five, those who possess an element of prowess slightly higher than that of a conjuror would be at the lower end. Next would come the general fairy folk that include pixies and brownies. Further up the scale there'd be the Witches and then on to the Wizards and after them we're into the echelons of the Super Enchanters such as Big-Brows from Frowning Hill or perhaps Magician Greatheart and others of his ilk. Ma Rubbalong would we well on her way to a Grade#4. The other thing to know is that the Rubbalongs possess three cats Tib, Tab, and Tubby.

The second story introduces us to Mrs. Well-I-Never, presumably so-named because of what she says whenever she receives a surprise. We also meet her brother Grabbit, another aptly named character as the reader will quickly learn. Grabbit robs Rubbalong of all his money so an adroit maneuver is needed to save the day. In a round-about way, Rubbalong enlists the help of Dame Dandy who considers herself to be more-or-less right up there with the Enchanters but she may be exaggerating a little. Possibly she's more on a level with Ma Rubbalong or even a bona fide Grade#4, so what hope has Grabbit? He ends up in a very blue state and it serves him right!

Button the Brownie is also a cobbler. Rubbalong's work is probably better but Button charges less so there's some friction building up and Rubbalong decides to go and have it out with his rival. There are heated words and the result is "No Button!" Well, there is a button but not Button the Brownie and now there's a frantic time for poor Rubbalong who's been a little reckless with his magic - yes, he has magic powers as well that probably hover around the Grade#2 mark. Mrs. Doodle and Tiggy the goblin boy are in this story as well.

One day Mr. Stamp-About arrives in Tip-Top Village to stay with his sister Dame Scary. The combination of "Stamp-About" and "Scary" conjures up visions of incompatibility so the Dame is in for a rough time with Stamp-About stamping all over the place, slamming doors, and flinging his boots across the floor. Ma Rubbalong feels sorry for the poor woman who's as timid as a mouse so she decides to lend a hand. When Stamp-About calls on the Rubbalongs, Dame Scary's problem is solved thanks to Ma.

Chapter#5 features one of Enid Blyton's nasty little goblins and Sniff is his name. He's taunting two brownie children so Rubbalong intervenes to rescue them and to give the goblin a taste of the treatment that the kids have endured which consists of throwing various articles of their clothing high up into a tree. Sniff gets his revenge though and a few days later Rubbalong and his Ma experience a rather frightening time but those two aren't bereft of ideas. Sniff is the loser in this tale because the Rubbalongs are formidable opponents when they join forces.

Mrs. Shifty is a customer who has a habit of not paying her bills and when Rubbalong mentions it to his Ma, she takes remedial action. A little magic is applied to a pair of Mrs. Shifty's shoes and the problem is solved.

Chapter seven records the time when Rubbalong is left on his own-some for a week, because Ma has gone to visit an aunt. She's hesitant to go because she wonders if her son can fend for himself sufficiently after all, there's a host of things to be done when running a household. Rubbalong hastens to assure her that he'll be fine so Ma sets off after leaving him various instructions. Can Rubbalong manage? Well, he's definitely alive when Ma returns but there are a few humorous (to us) mix-ups.

A cousin of Rubbalong's, whose name is Popalong, is suffering because a goblin called Fee-Fi-Fo keeps calling by. He'd once done Popalong a good turn and feels entitled to some kind of payment so he visits every now and again to eat the poor guy out of house and home and also to borrow money from him. In a nutshell, Fee-Fi-Fo is a nuisance. Popalong passes his concerns along to Rubbalong and a plan is hatched. A Six-eyed Jingy-Bang is the result and what a fearsome thing that appears to be.

Rubbalong has endured one encounter with an "ugly little fellow" called Grabbit before today and in "Three Go Up A Ladder," he has another. Rubbalong and Button spy the gnome on the woodland path one day and seeing he's bigger and uglier than either of them, they don't want to confront him if at all possible so they grab a nearby ladder and climb into a tree. Grabbit's got an issue to settle with Rubbalong seeing it's because of him that he has a permanently blue nose - an incident that occurred in the second story. He happens to spot the brownies and he gets an idea that they're hiding something from him. Up the ladder he goes to confront them but greedy Grabbit is no match for the artful duo and, once again, he comes off second best.

Chapter #10 signals the first anniversary of Rubbalong and his Ma coming to Tiptop Village and a party is called for. Mrs. Tuck-in suggests they have it in the Village Hall and everyone's invited - even Sniff and Grabbit despite their errant ways. The feast would rival one of the Kirrin children's picnic lunches sixteen different kinds of sandwiches, enormous jellies wobbling away, and dishes piled high with Mrs. Well-I-Never's nicest buns. One person, who's not invited, comes anyway. He's a tiresome pest BUT, he knows so much magic, that it wouldn't pay to cross him. He's the Enchanter Big-Brows from Frowning Hill and getting on the wrong side of an Enchanter with Big-Brow's powers is not advisable because it can cause bad feelings to say the very least. Unfortunately, that's exactly what has happened seeing he wasn't invited to the party. Big-Brows doesn't waste time - he immediately changes Ma Rubbalong, Mrs. Well-I-Never, and Dame Shifty into cowering mice and if Tib, Tab, and Tubby hadn't known who they really were, that would be the end of them. The Enchanter laughs and turns them back again. Ma Rubbalong's naturally furious and she informs him that her Grandad was cleverer than he. Sure, Big-Brows can transform others but it's far harder to change yourself into different things. Big-Brows, being one of the Super Enchanters, shows everyone his skill by transforming himself effortlessly into a wolf, a horse, a cushion, a clock, a pencil ... anything at all. Now ... how< are they going to get rid of this extremely unpleasant fellow? Something has to happen and it does.

"Round and Round it Goes" is all about the fact that it's heart-warming to pass little bits of kindness around without asking for payment. Rubbalong starts it off when he decides not to charge Mrs. Whine-A-Bit for the shoes that he's mended - seeing she's rather destitute. Mrs. Whine-a-Bit passes the kind act on to Mr. Tuck-In who passes it on to his wife who passes it on to Mr. Tappit who passes it on to Mrs. Clang the blacksmith's wife, and eventually, the kind gestures make the full circle.

A young fellow called Snoozy comes to stay with the Rubbalongs for a week or two and his name tells you that he's the laziest, sleepiest brownie you ever saw. A lazy person in Enid Blyton's world gets Come Uppance and in this case, thanks to Ma Rubbalong, Snoozy ends up doing the shopping without getting out of his bed ... and it's highly embarrassing for the poor lad!

Sniff the Goblin is reluctant to do the washing when his mother goes out but he has been ordered to. Pippy pokes his head in the door and suggests that he "borrows" Ma Rubbalong's magic scrubbing brush. That'll do all the washing by itself and Sniff can just sit back and relax. Unfortunately for Sniff, what occurs is much the same as that which happens to other lazy people who mess around with magic articles that don't belong to them.

Ma Rubbalong has a thinking cap and one day she dons it and works out a way to apprehend one of the villagers who's into a bit of thieving. The idea she has is a good one so good, that it has been used in other Blyton stories.

The next tale has Grabbit being a nuisance again and it's Rubbalong this time who produces an idea and without a thinking cap. The world of Rubbalong is rather different from ours insofar as the law of ownership goes. Grabbit and his sister Mrs. Well-I-Never have moved into Button the Brownie's cottage unannounced. Why he doesn't look to Mr. Plod the policeman for redress is something we aren't told but with Rubbalong as your friend it probably doesn't matter. Grabbit and his sister have the scare of their lives when a Rubbalong plan leads them to believe that some invisible, Upside Down People are also residing in Button's cottage!

Dame Dandy's umbrella is at the Rubbalongs' cottage. Ma had borrowed it and as she's going away for a couple of days she instructs her son to return the item. This should have been done promptly but Rubbalong forgets about it until the next day and even then he wouldn't have remembered if the umbrella hadn't reminded him! The end of the handle is shaped like a dog's head and it scares Rubbalong and the three cats out of their skins when it suddenly goes "WOOF!" It wants to go home so Rubbalong thinks he'd better take it but when he reaches Dame Dandy's house he finds a note saying that she won't be back until tomorrow. "OK. I'll leave it on the porch!" But, no the umbrella doesn't want to be left all alone and it follows Rubbalong home by discreetly hopping along after him. Rubbalong receives a shock when he opens the door to a knock and sees it standing there. Things might have been all right if the umbrella had simply stood quietly in the corner but it doesn't. It opens itself up each time Tib, Tab, and Tubby enter the kitchen and scares them like anything so Rubbalong chucks it onto the rubbish heap but it hops back into the cottage. It will not stay outside, no matter how many times Rubbalong tries to get rid it. The brolly even tries to sleep in bed with him but Rubbalong's having none of that because it's filthy after having been stuffed into the rubbish bin. What a miserable time for poor old Rubbalong!

We learn a little about Dame Scary in the next story and would you believe that she's too timid to take more than one lump of sugar in her tea! What a wretchedly nervous life she must lead. One day, because of an innocent mistake, Mr. Plod apprehends her. I think that a woman, who's too frightened to take more than one lump of sugar for her tea, would probably suffer some kind of trauma leading to total paralysis if the village policeman confronted her. A villager by the name of Mr. Snooper also plays a part in the horrific incident that besets Dame Scary.

Grabbit and Mrs. Well-I-Never come to the fore yet again when they confront Rubbalong who's on his way through the woods to deliver some boots and shoes to his customers and at the same drop to three of his Ma's wishing spells into Dame Dandy's. Mrs. Well-I-Never's sharp eyes see the spells in Rubbalong's basket and, demonstrating that grabbing obviously runs in the family, she snatches them! What would one do with three wishing spells? In the hands of Mrs. Well-I-Never and her nasty brother, one can only surmise. "A grand castle!" (that's Grabbit). "Just like a man! Who's going to live in a cold, draughty castle and cook your dinners and scrub the floors?" (that's Mrs. Well-I-Never). She wouldn't mind a few new hats! The rabbits that are watching dart back into their holes when Grabbit emits a loud snort. "HATS! Just like a woman. What do you want a hat for with a head like yours and a face like, like ...?" You have to be very careful indeed when arguing over wishes because the tendency, when one gets a little riled, is to say, "I wish you'd ..." It goes on from there.

One day Mr. Tuck-In visits Ma Rubbalong to get hold of a spell to improve his memory because his wife is becoming frustrated. He's been down to the village to get some fish for lunch and returned with a new pipe, a tin of tobacco, the newspapers and a bottle of ginger beer. No fish! Ma is out, but young Rubbalong suggests that Mr. Tuck-In tries the old trick of tying a knot in his hanky and then when he sees it , he should be able to associate the knot with whatever he has to remember. Later on in the day Mr. Tuck-In takes a snooze outside in the sun. It's very hot and he needs something to put over his head so he takes out his hanky and makes himself a little hat by tying a knot in each corner. He has his snooze, and then later on in the day he feels a sneeze coming on so he pulls out his handkerchief what's this? There are four knots in it! Why?

There's a fat, lazy fellow living in a dirty little tumble-down cottage just outside Tiptop Village. His name is Mr. Dozey and one day he has a pleasant surprise because an invitation arrives in the mailbox. Mr. and Mrs. Tuck-In are giving a party and they've invited everyone in the village. Dozey hasn't been to a party for years and, accordingly, he hasn't anything suitable to wear. He can't borrow some clothes because the villagers have already experienced the lending of things to Dozey - he never gives anything back. He's too lazy to work so buying some new gear is out of the question. He has an idea. Why not visit Ma Rubbalong and borrow a Change-a-Bit spell to transform his old clothes into new clothes? He follows this up but Ma is very brisk with him and says the only reason she'd lend such a spell to Dozey is to change him from a lazy, sly old fellow, into a hardworking, decent one. "Now, away with you - I'm expecting my brother Mr. Rumbustious and he'll send you packing if you're still here when he arrives!" The lazy fellow buzzes off and on his way through the woods he becomes a little tired That's Dozey! He falls asleep under a bush and dreams a wonderful dream all about how he obtains a marvelous new suit of clothes. Guess what? When he wakes up, his dream appears to have come true because he sees a fine set of threads hanging in the branches of a nearby tree. It could be said that his dream has turned out kind of true, and not kind of true. The unfortunate result is that Mr. Dozey ends up having to spend three whole days working in Ma Rubbalong's garden, and he also misses out on the party - but is anyone sorry for him? I doubt it!

Two more stories to go and in this one, Mrs. Well-I-Never shows her brother Grabbit something she's found. It's a tiny box of blue powder a Blue Spell. Dame Dandy probably dropped it because she's into those kind of things as Grabbit knows only too well. Mrs. Ell-I-Never has an idea to get back at Rubbalong seeing he has caused her brother much shame before today. Why not bake a cake, shove the Blue Spell into the centre, and then present it to Ma Rubbalong - seeing it's her birthday? That's what happens and naturally, Ma is surprised at this act of kindness from a person who is not usually of that persuasion. However, she already has an enormous cake plus a few others so Rubbalong suggests they give it to Mrs. Nearby seeing she isn't able to attend the party. Unfortunately, Mrs. Nearby can't eat it because Doctor Healem says she mustn't partake of anything rich for the present so the cake is duly passed on (round and round it goes). Fact : Anyone who samples said cake will turn blue. Question: Who will end up eating it?

The final story begins on a sour note because Mr. Pooh who is a magician and a very clever one at that, has taken a cottage at the corner of the green. He's not a popular person by any means because he has a habit of poking his nose into peoples' affairs and pooh-poohing their efforts. He thinks himself so wonderful that he's offering a sack of gold (he's very rich) to anyone who knows better than he does. Here are two samples of why the man is disliked: He calls on Dame Scary when she's doing her washing. "Pooh! If that's the way you wash, I shan't ask you to do my things for me." To Mr. Clang the blacksmith "Pooh! What stupid little bellows you use to blow up your fire - no wonder it takes you ages to get it red hot." The villagers have had enough of this so heads are put together and eventually an idea springs from Rubbalong's fertile brain. He tells Button the Brownie to spread the news around that on Tuesday at half past three a wonderful Enchanter is visiting Tiptop Village. Mr. Pooh is bound to come along because he considers himself far cleverer than anyone else. Well, it all goes to plan and sure enough, when Tuesday arrives, everyone's assembled on the village green and there, dressed in a pointed hat and flowing cloak, is a bewhiskered Enchanter named Mr. Tricky. Old Pooh confronts him and jeers when Mr. Tricky writes down a few spells on a blackboard for everyone to see. How simple they appear to be ... kind of thing learned in his pram according to Pooh! Maybe so but Mr. Tricky has one or two things up his sleeve. Let Battle Commence!
Magician Greatheart appeared in "Adventures of the Wishing Chair."

When I first read the book at a very young age I couldn't imagine there being female Enchanters - but why not? Let's elevate Dame Dandy to a Grade#5 because when you think about it, old Big-Brows didn't attempt to turn her into a mouse. He may have been a little wary of her.

Until I had read the sixth chapter, I'd never known that the floppy pieces under the laces of shoes are called tongues.

Questions about Dame Scary: How did she get on in her childhood presuming she was brought up with her loud brother? How come she's not rambunctious like him or why isn't he timid like her? Perhaps one or other of their parents married again. As Dame "Scary" is not Dame "Stamp-About," she obviously married a Mr. Scary but there's no sign of him when Stamp-About moves in. If a Mr. Scary had been there, he could have kicked Stamp-About out because it would be too much of a coincidence if he and his wife were both timid, despite their descriptive surnames.

The idea in Chapter #13 where Sniff gets into hot water because of an over-active bit of magic, has been used several times. There's The Magic that wouldn't Stop in "The Seventh Holiday Book," and The Spell that didn't Stop in "The Marigold Story Book," but possibly the most famous example would be where Mickey Mouse, in the movie Fantasia, is cast as an apprentice to a Sorcerer.

Mr. Plod the village policeman has a namesake or two. There are a few Mr. Plods around and one of them is in the Blyton series of Noddy books.

The incident where Mr. Tuck-In discovers four knots in his handkerchief would be a very fitting storyline for Mr. Twiddle - a doddery man who belongs in another series of books by the author.

Mrs. Well-I-Never lives with her brother Grabbit, so perhaps she's divorced - or maybe her husband has passed on.

Rubbalong is probably a surname seeing the two of them are "Rubbalong" and "Ma Rubbalong."

Ma Rubbalong's brother is Mr. Rumbustious and she's Ma Rubbalong. OK is this just another example of the casual attitude to relationships that exists in the fairy world or is it simply that she also has a late husband ... perhaps she's separated?

Rubbalong ends up a very rich little cobbler at the end of the book and we also learn that he has a heart of gold.

If Rubbalong is searched for in the Enid Blyton Society Cave it can be seen that he originally appeared in The Evening Standard newspaper in 1949.

In the Eighth Bedside Book (Barker) there's a story of Rubbalong and his Ma - looking nothing like the characters that we know. A man called Loll-About visits them and, true to his name, he's a loll-abouter meaning that he rarely stands up straight because he enjoys leaning up against things. EB applied fairly strict standards of behaviour at times and leaning against things is something she frowned upon so Loll-About experiences the same fate as did Lucy Loll in A Second Book of Naughty Children. Another tale starring the Rubbalongs in which they look a little more true-to-life is Away goes his Head and that's in the "Foxglove Story Book."

For some reason Rubbalong has a change of name in several reprints of the stories (as have other EB characters!) and now he's apparently Shuffle the Shoemaker.

The wrapper would be one of the most colourful and interesting of all the EB books although the "Holiday" and the "Gifford Flower" books, "I'll Tell you a Story," and "Let's Garden" would be contenders. The picture of Rubbalong that would be the easiest to recognize might be the one on the cardboard cover and it's repeated a couple of times inside the book. His basket had me wondering at first but I think it would probably contain repaired shoes that he's delivering to his various customers. It brings to mind the basket that Twit carried around with him "I'm the only baker in Peterswood that covers his bread up with a clean cloth" (Twit is a character found in "The Mystery of the Invisible Thief" - by the same author).

Inside the cover is a picture containing several of the Tiptop Villagers and of course Rubbalong and his Ma are out there in front. Mr. Tuck-In and his wife can be seen, and so can Grabbit and his sister, Mrs. Well-I-Never.

Rubbalong Tales contains a good selection of short stories that were created when Enid Blyton was near the top of her scale. Although you rarely see the original around these days, it's fortunate that Shuffle is available. The price is reasonably low because at the time of writing, a copy was being offered for about a pound so that's good news for anyone who hasn't yet read about Rubbalong's adventures. A reasonably well used, coverless (naturally) original was going for a "buy-now" price of about 6 - also at the time of writing.