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Thoughts on the Faraway tree

June 24, 2013

It was long ago, in a land far away. In fact, there were many lands and it was possible to visit them when you opened the book. You could join Jo, Bessie and Fanny in their perfect combination of adventure and security. For a child reading, it was the kind of place you wished you had and hoped that you would find somehow when you grew up. Perhaps, you thought, even if it was impossible now, this was a version of the world that adults, with all their power and experience, created for themselves with people they chose to have around them. Perhaps as an adult it was possible to build such an environment – part adventure, part haven – and live in a way that combined excitement and comfort in all the right proportions. When you closed the book the world was not like this. However, it was definitely something to look forward to.

Meanwhile, deep in its pages Mother was always happy to see them, at home there was always tea or supper served with a smile after a day in a forest – a forest of all places – and even though it might be late; even though their clothes might have been torn climbing the tree; even though they might be unsettled after confronting some odd characters and had their resourcefulness tested and nearly lost their equilibrium or their confidence, there was no shock in store from the emotions of their parent. She was reliable. She had things under control. At home their beds were always warm and clean and ready for them. After a night at home, they were always ready for another adventure.
Vintage Enid Blyton - The Magic Faraway Tree (1986) and The Enchanted Wood (1986)
And amongst their child friends, it would never occur to anyone to mock them for being named Fanny or Dick. They tried to help a newcomer fit in if even if you were new. If you had always been there, their loyalty was assured. They helped you to enjoy the adventures too.

Far away and long ago, Enid’s land was blighted. There was, of course, a war on. But as she wrote, she righted it. In the book, the tree grew into the clouds and the clouds did not conceal bombers; they hid instead a sky full of wonders that you could climb into and discover. The tenants of the tree were stranger than any Hun. They were a recognisable mix of the deaf, the daffy and the delightful. The children helped each other to deal with things – the unknown, the unpleasant, or the unlikely. Whether it was Moon Face’s toffee shocks, the Angry Pixie’s temper tantrums or Dame Washalot’s discarded water, they learned strategies that worked – vigilance, tolerance, a sense of humour. All the while, the more serious dangers above moved on, according to a pattern. They learned the pattern too. When it was time, they slid home down the great slippery dip. The shortcut home was cushioned and quick.

It is a land farther away than ever.

Gillian White

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