The Magic Faraway Tree revisited
Wishing to rule out unseemly giggling amongst young readers or, more probably, embarrassment to their elders, literary reformers have already changed some of the names Enid Blyton bestowed on her characters. However, there is much more to be done and I’ve picked up the baton.
“Well, Fanny – sorry, I mean Frannie – here we all are again. It’s been a long time since our first walk through the Enchanted Wood, hasn’t it, but you don’t look a day older.”
“Neither do you, Joe, even if you do spell your name with an ‘e’ now to prove you’re a boy. You’re looking good too, Beth, but I wish you’d stop sulking.”
“It’s all right for you two! When the editor said that I couldn’t be called Bessie any more because it was too old fashioned, I thought I’d be a Kylie or a Madison. I mean really… Beth! Isn’t she the one who died in Little Women?”
“Good point! Cousin Rick isn’t happy either. I’m sure there’s still a minor character called Dick in Swallows and Amazons and Titty Walker’s still going strong. No one’s felt the need to change her Christian name yet.”
Frannie shuddered. “Please don’t use the ‘C’ word. Even trees have ears and you’ll have us banned from school libraries again. Anyway, you’re wrong about that. She’s Kitty Walker now.”
“Cheer up! Political correctness isn’t all bad. At least Dame Slap – sorry, Dame Snap – won’t be able to hit us any more. She can only shout herself hoarse.”
“Just like the teachers at my school then. No need to take any notice of them either.”
Still laughing, the trio stalked up the new road that had been cut through the wood and right up to the Faraway Tree. A lorry loaded with scaffolding poles was just leaving and a man in a dark suit was bellowing into his Apple watch.
At the children’s approach, he smiled. “Hello, kids. Well, that’s all the boxes ticked for now. Looking forward to visiting your old friends and seeing what’s happening up top today? Better put these on. He reached into the back of his Smart car and handed them each a hard yellow hat. “You’ll find that we’ve made a few improvements since your last visit. Have a good time, now!”
“Thank you,” they chorused politely. What could he possibly mean? Well, the new safety harnesses he made them put on before they started to scale the branches were the next clue.
A note on the door of the Angry Pixie said that he was away on a compulsory anger management course. No more throwing water or ink over nosy parkers who peered through his tiny window. His neighbour the owl, normally asleep during the day, was sitting resentfully on a new perch, to which he was tethered. A sign next to him warned visitors to keep their distance or accept full responsibility for the consequences.
Silky’s little yellow door was open and the fairy sadly pointed out how the tiny knocker and shiny bell had been removed. “Noise pollution regulations, my dears. I have to sit here all day now, just in case someone wants to see me.”
“That’s awful! How can they do that to you?”
“Some of the tree folk have had it worse, Fanny. Sorry. Frannie. Mr Watzisname has got a tennis ball in the back of his pyjamas to stop him snoring and he hasn’t been able to sleep since. The Saucepan Man is now the Plastic Bowl and Wooden Spoon Man and, as for his mother…”
“What about his mother?” All the children had happy memories of her delicious cakes. “Not too good, I’m afraid. Lodging with Dame Washalot was fine, until someone from the Council became suspicious that laundry and baking were going on in the same kitchen. Anyway, Environmental Health wouldn’t let her continue until they had separate facilities installed.”
“So everything’s all right now?”
“Well, not quite. The poor old soul’s still getting to grips with the idea that everything she produces has to be free of nuts, wheat, dairy products, artificial colourings, flavourings and additives. They’ve told her to get rid of all her cookery books and look for new recipes on the Internet. The same applies to me, by the way. There’ll be no more Pop biscuits for you, I’m sad to say. For one thing, I don’t have enough room for an extra wash hand basin in my kitchen.”
“I’m sorry, Silky,” said Joe. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I can’t take any more of this. Come on, you lot, let’s get a move on and see which land is waiting up there for us today.”
When they reached the last house, they found Moon-Face in tears. “No more slippery-slip,” he gulped. “Health and Safety have done a full risk evaluation and boarded it up. My cushions weren’t good enough to guarantee absolutely no damage to clothing. And as for scrapes and bruises…”
“No such thing as accidents. Parents with £ signs in their eyes. Injury lawyers for you on the telly…”
“That’s right, young Joe. You’ll have to go back down the tree the way you came up, so try not to get too tired while you’re away.”
At the bottom of the ladder, which had, of course, now been boxed in and provided with safety gates at top and bottom, there was a large electronic signboard. A bored looking gnome helped them out of their harnesses and told them to take a seat and wait for the arrival of the next land. Only then did the gate swing open to allow them to climb up through the hole. What a strange sight met their eyes at the top! There had never been a land like this before.
Enid Blyton published The Magic Faraway Tree in 1943 and it was enjoyed by millions of readers in its original form.