Blyton, E. (1978). The enchanted wood. London, United Kingdom: Beaver Books. [Fantasy]
This book was a favourite of mine during my early primary school years. I think I was first exposed to it as a class read-aloud in Standard 1 (Year 3) when my mother was my teacher. Once the class had finished listening to The Enchanted Wood I quickly went off to read the rest of the series independently.
The Faraway Tree books focus on three children who have lived in town all their lives, but now find themselves transposed to the countryside due to their father’s job. The children find their new surroundings idyllic, and are soon exploring the Enchanted Woods close to where they live. Inside the woods they feel magic all around them, and discover whispering trees, brownies meeting on toadstools and talking rabbits.
The children are soon led to the Faraway Tree where a strange mixture of creatures have made their homes. And at the to of the tree a ladder leads to different fantasy lands, which are hidden inside large, fluffy clouds. It is these lands that add the adventure to the books; they change at irregular intervals, sometimes with little warning, and are not always pleasant places for the characters to be.
There are many fairytale qualities to The Faraway Tree books. There is plenty of action, the stories move quickly, and are often humorous (McCahon, 1999). There are also spells, magical creatures, and a threshold to cross to get the characters into new lands (McCahon, 1999). There are multiple conflicts in each book, usually centering around the land at the top of the Faraway Tree; depending on which land it is, it will either create or solve the problem the characters have.
The Enchanted Wood appealed to me in middle childhood for a number of reasons. I liked the idea of a magical place being hidden in such an ordinary, accessible place – I lived on a farm surrounded by bush, could there be fantastical lands at the top of one of our trees? I liked the atmosphere of excitement and suspense (The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, 2011) that the ever-changing lands created – would the children end up in the Land of Birthdays with all those delicious things to eat, or would they find themselves in Dame Slap’s school where the sticky buns turned into stale bread and you got slapped if you couldn’t answer the nonsensical questions correctly? There is also great humour in these books, from the names of the magical creatures to the ways in which the children outsmart the mean adult-types they find at the top of the tree.
Enid Blyton’s book was first published in 1939 and I have recently spotted newly jacketed copies at the bookshop. I guess this illustrates The Open Polytechnic’s (2011) point that fantasy stories do not date as quickly as realistic fiction. Though I did notice that Fanny’s name has been changed!
I got my copy of The Enchanted Wood from my bookshelf.
You can find a copy at Napier Libraries.
McCahon, R. (1999). Fantasy, folklore, myth and legend. Lower Hutt, New Zealand: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.
The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. (2011). Module 1: Children and young people – developmental stages, literacy, and literature. In 72276 Literature and information resources for children and young people. Lower Hutt, New Zealand: Author.