The Folk of the Faraway Tree
Review by Prabhu Viswanathan (June 19, 2006)
"Awful Dick! Silly Enchanted Wood! Ridiculous Faraway Tree!" says Connie. "Stupid Moonface! Stupid Dame Washalot! Stupid Mister Watzisname! Mad, Deaf Saucepan Man!" Hmm. Poor sad, ignorant Connie. Will she ever learn?
Now then, children of all ages between eight and eighty, strap yourselves in for a mad and magical dash up a gigantic tree and into the whitest of white clouds, from which—if you aren't careful—you may never return. We're off to visit the Folk of the Faraway Tree in this, the third and final book in the Enchanted Wood series.
Pretty Connie—spoilt and stuck up, attired in dandy dresses and dainty ribbons, daughter of an old friend of the children's mother—has come to the cottage to stay awhile. Jo, Bessie and Fanny are looking forward to introducing their strange and lovable friends to this city-gal. When Moonface invites them all to tea in the Enchanted Wood, Connie is excited despite her disbelief that such a place could ever exist. But a splash of the Washalot Water, and a dash of the Pixie's Angry Ink, soon shocks her into reality, and when she sobbingly wants to go back home, kind Silky comes to her rescue.
But before they can settle down to a feast of Hot Cold Goodies, with Pop Biscuits and Google Buns, Curious Connie (will she ever learn...?) slips sans cushion down the slippery slide, and lands, torn dress and all, down at the bottom of the tree. When the others take her back up, all she can do is rebel yet again (will she ever learn...?) and, unnoticed, steps into the Land of Marvels at the top of the Tree just as it is leaving. Horrors! Where is Connie? Will she be saved?
And so to the rescue. But how does one visit a land without waiting for it to return? "That's easy," says the Saucepan Man, beaming. "Same way as Jack-and-the-Bean-Stalk did, of course. Up the Bean-Stalk." Hurrah!!
So off they go, our brave heroes, chugging along in a tiny train to where Jack lives. Will he help? Oh, Poor Connie!
A sturdy young man, polite and hospitable, greets them welcomingly, and on hearing of their mission, Jack (for it is he), presses magic, mouldy beans into the ground. In short order they are on their brave and merry way, for the beans have become giant stalks, and Giant Land beckons. And so do the huge feet and enormous hands of the creatures that live there, and when Saucepan sticks a saucepan on the thumb of an uninvited giant that is about to introduce himself, it is time to run-run-run madly away. Brave Saucepan Man rushes to the dandelion plant and, shaking it violently, releases their plumy seeds into the air. By the time the giant bends down to look for them, our heroes are flying high and wide, gazing down upon the enormity of it all.
But work is to be done, and spoilt city girls have to be saved. The rescue team find their way to the Land of Marvels, and as the Tree-That-Sings whispers a beautiful song to them they learn that Connie is now up the Ladder That Has No Top.
Read on, folks, about the daring operation that brings Connie back home, unhurt but unrepentant. Meet Miss Muffet and the Spi-i-i-(shudder)-d-eerrrr! Say hello to Dame Slap, and don't turn your other cheek to her. And don't you dare listen in on Mrs Hidden, for she has a nasty temper. Our silly Connie does all of this, and therefore must say goodbye to her voice. Sad little Connie. Now she cannot speak... until she is forgiven by the beautiful fairy whose secret she overheard. Then, much to the disappointment of the Folk, she can speak again. Non-stop!
But now grim times are upon them. Troll Thieves are cutting at the roots of the Faraway Tree in search of jewel stones, and the tree is now dying. There are no fruits anymore, and the leaves are old and withered. It's a dim and dark age, and the Folk grow sad and worried.
However, wonder of wonders, the Land of Know All is upon them, and in a fitting climax, full of happy rabbits and giant caterpillars, the Bad Trolls are despatched unceremoniously to the land of Smack, and all is almost well again. Almost because Jo has goldfish in his ears. But that's for you to read about...
It's a happy ending after all, and Connie, nicer now, says goodbye to the Folk of the Enchanted Tree. Wisha-wisha-wisha, sighs the tree. "How lucky," says Connie, "that the other children live so close to the Enchanted Wood." Yes, how lucky. How I wish I could live there!
It is with a sigh that I turn over the last page of this book. It's late at night, and there are whispering sounds from across the fields, where strange and giant trees tremble softly in the silvery moonlight. My head is full of Magic Lands and White Clouds, and my heart is filled with happiness! My head droops down, and my eyes slowly close. My mouth is full of Google Buns...