Continuing my perusal of the short stories from Enid Blyton’s Anytime Tales, originally published in her Holiday Books.
The Surprising Broom
This is another Beware Naughty Children tale with all the usual Blyton hallmarks: disobedient kids, a despairing parent and a peculiar old woman dispensing a spell which results in a punishment. By now, this is quite what I expect from an Anytime Tale which follows a common format, using an actual object as a metaphor for the moral sentiment.
The children, Benny and Mollie do seem particularly insolent and unhelpful. All their poor mum wants them to do is sweep the yard, and they grumble about that! If I’m being picky, it does sound like the children have been just a little bit spoiled. We are told, early doors, that their mother hardly ever punished them, when punishment was acceptable and expected in the carefree pre-PC, Health and Safety heyday of Blyton. In fact, the P word pops up twice in the first few sentences – Enid sharpening the knives?
The spell is for the broom to do the sweeping for the lazy children. It’s a bit un-nerving to see a yard-brush suddenly sprut* a little head and start swishing itself about – over-efficiently, almost viciously. It is described as having a very ‘wicked-looking head’. I was left with an unsurprisingly sinister image in my head of a demonic yard-brush gone beserk, which to make it worse also whistled a little tune while swooshing up everything in its path, including Benny, Mollie and all their toys. Everything onto a dustpile!
Blyton addresses us at the end, again with a cheeky wink I feel, that if they start misbehaving again, she wishes she could be there so she can enjoy seeing the broom ‘going mad’. She invites us to feel the same. Sorry Enid, but I don’t laugh at others’ misfortunes. I’d rather the kids behaved themselves, and that the evil broom was destroyed!
The Old, Red Cushion
Ah, back to nice tales, but not without some troubles. Eileen’s mum is recovering from an illness, the family are not well off. Eileen’s friend old Mrs Johns is also financially up a creek, and on the verge of eviction as she can’t afford the higher rent her landlord is now asking.
All Eileen wants is a soft, comfy cushion for her mum, but she can’t afford one. Mrs Johns has one she is willing to donate. What’s nice about this story (apart from no need nor mention of punishment) are that Eileen’s good deeds are all listed. Little things like spending some of her limited money on peppermints for a friend, lending out a teapot when Mrs Johns broke hers, and the acknowledgement that she had cared for her sick mum for some time. Mrs Johns knows that Eileen’s visit must mean her mum’s a lot better.
And these are real people, not the middle class families Enid often writes about. These days, Mrs Johns would be on Pension Credit and receive Housing Benefit.
As in an earlier tale Cross Aunt Tabitha, the discovery of missing money solves problems, cheers everyone up and reminds us that for all the naughty folk in the world of Blyton, there are also lots of kind, deserving ones too. It’s nice to see, as the tale closes, that Eileen, with her new toy, is after all, just a little girl.
A Peep into the Magic Mirror
As this is the first Blyblog of the New Year, I have included the next Anytime Tale (11) now, as it is about looking ahead at the coming year, and how the choices you make can affect the outcome.
Jennifer and Benji are woken by New Year celebrations, then asked to be let inside by a toddler who suddenly and mysteriously appears in a tree outside the bedroom window. Said toddler is the little New Year, and he has a special magic mirror which allows whoever looks into it to see two sides of an upcoming event – a nice surprise if the viewer is good, and a nasty shock if they’re naughty.
Again this follows a similar theme of these tales – the famous Blyton Woe Betide and Heed the Warning. Fortunately, both Jennifer and Benji are generally acknowledged to be decent children (unlike Mollie and Benny of Surprising Broom fame who got severely punished and literally swept up).
Now if all this happened to me, I would be questioning certain things – first of all, how the chuff did a tiny, poorly-clad child end up in a tree? And what’s he doing with a magic mirror? Of course, the characters we’ve already met in previous Anytime Tales seem often enough to accept magic as a matter of fact – but magic is powerful, and can backfire.
As Blyton has suggested that these tales can be read anytime, I also, as a small child, took this as a matter of fact, and read the book before settling down to sleep. Unfortunately, I scared myself silly wondering why poor Jennifer should see herself in the mirror getting burnt, and why little New Year’s mummy should let her baby wander about by himself at midnight (and indeed talk to strangers!)
With me at least, Blyton made sure I was a good little girl. I never once got swept up with all my stuff onto a dustpile, or got burnt at a party – honest. It wasn’t just Jennifer and Benji who peeped into that magic mirror.
Coming next: She Stamped Her Foot and The Very Fierce Carpenter