The Enid Blyton Society
The Secret of Moon Castle
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Book Details...

First edition: 1953
Publisher: Basil Blackwell
Illustrator: Dorothy Hall
Category: Secret Series
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Review by David Cook
Further Illustrations


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Dorothy Hall

1st German edition published by Mosaik Verlag, in 1967,
illustrated by Rolf and Margret Rettich, with the title The Arnold Children on a Ghost Hunt

In Germany the Secret Series and the Adventurous Four became one series,
firstly called 'The Arnold Children' and later 'The Bold Four'
The fifth and final story appeared just over ten years after its predecessor, written by Enid to please her readers' demands. In her foreword to the book she explains... "You have asked me so often for this one that at last I have written it for you."

Consequently it is quite different in appearance to the previous books sporting a look very similar to the Adventure Series of which seven of the eight volumes had been written in the intervening years. Dorothy Hall supplies a full colour all round dustwrapper of the four children in the foreground looking up and back at Moon Castle very much in the vein of Stuart Tresilian's work for the Adventure books. Even the contents listing reflects the later series with the chapter headings being spread over three pages in the way of the first four Adventure books.

There is also a nod to the Famous Five Series with Hall's colour dustwrapper also being used for front and rear endpapers. With such a significant nod to marketing techniques I'm surprised the previous four books were not relaunched in similar fashion.

The time gap is illustrated on the first page of the story. It's July and Nora and Peggy are 'standing at their front gate' waiting for the boys to arrive home for the summer holidays in Paul's car, driven by Ranni. When it does arrive it's said that — 'the girls swing the big gate open as the car comes near. They yelled as the car swept in.'

The girls climb in the back of the car to greet the boys and tickle Prince Paul, who orders Ranni to stop the car and turn them out! Ranni ignores this and it's said — 'the car swept up to the front door.' So the Arnolds appear to have gone very up market exchanging the flat of the previous two books for a large house with a long driveway! They even employ a home help cum cook called Mrs. Hunt.

Ranni is introduced as 'Paul's man who had vowed to look after Paul from the moment he was put into his arms on the day he was born.' This had previously been ascribed to Pilescu, who receives no mention in this book at all.

Also in Chapter Two, Mike describes Baronia as not being modern, which is not the impression of the previous books. Prince Paul underlines this point, when during a meal he says, "Now this is what I call real food — almost as good as Baronia!"

The story evolves round a plan for the Baronian Royal Family to, as Mrs Arnold says, "come over here for a month or two and get to know us all better. They want to bring two of Paul's brothers as well, so that they may know a little of England before they come over here to school."

We later learn that names of Paul's brothers are Boris and Gregor, which sounds very Russian! They are also a far cry from names like Luiz and Felipe and Anna Diaz, so it would confirm the view that the rogues of Spiggy Holes were mercenaries.

With the inevitable entourage of a Royal Family it's decided to rent a castle. The one that seems to appeal most is Moon Castle, which is situated 100 miles from the children's home, but as it's not stipulated where the Arnolds now live that's not much guidance as to where it's located. The nearest towns are fictional, Bolingblow and Sarchester, and the house agent's brochures describe it as being high on a hill with 'wonderful panoramic views over a countryside of moorland, wood and waterways.' This impression along with the fact that there are abandoned tin mines nearby suggest either Cornwall or Wales. That's Enid Blyton's Cornwall or Wales of course, but the remoteness and general feel are similar to those of The Mountain of Adventure and Five Get Into a Fix, both set in Wales and sharing with this book a slight science fiction feel.

On arrival to view Moon Castle the part receive a somewhat hostile reception from the three caretakers, Mrs Brimming and her two sisters, the Missies Edie and Hannah Lots. The instigator of this appears to be Mrs Brimming's son Guy, who is described as a very very clever scientist, who needs peace and quiet to do important work. To this end he appears to have appropriated Moon Castle without the owner's consent. Indeed when he appears and confronts the visitors Guy Brimming refers to it as his castle and is aggressively abusive until faced with Big Ranni!

Moon Castle has a remote location, but the royal party will bring powerful cars with them and perhaps because of the hostile reception from the caretakers Mrs Arnold overcomes her initial instinctive misgivings and arranges to hire the castle for the Queen of Baronia. (It's interesting to note that although at first the notion appears to be the King's, it is made quite clear subsequently that the idea is the Queen's and she is once again in charge!)

Captain and Mrs Arnold will not be accompanying their children. Once again they will be flying, though this time it's a 'new job' and not self designed. Captain Arnold says of his job...
"it is to fly a new plane — a queer one but a beauty! ... It can rise straight up in the air at great speed ... it gains height in a most remarkable manner ... yes it's a test flight all right. I shall put it through a few hair raising tests ... The Speed it goes! I've got to wear special clothes over my head, because of the enormous speed — faster than sound again, you know."
So perhaps we are keeping up with the Baronians. Or has the Captain been over there spying?!

Later the Captain tells the children on the morning of their departure "If you hear something that sounds like a big sneeze and it's gone almost before it's come, it'll be me in the new plane," which is a very original description from Enid of flying through the sound barrier!

Inevitably the holiday plans are upset when Paul's brothers contract measles and the five children go on ahead to Moon Castle accompanied by Ranni and also by Dimmy, who has come to help Mrs Arnold for the holidays.

En route they have lunch at Bolingbrow and the waitress adds to their expectancy with tales of odd noises at the castle and books leaping from the shelves in the castle library. Predictably when they arrive and settle in at Moon Castle such events do occur. Books do leap from their shelves, old instruments appear to make noises by themselves and furniture and belongings inexplicably move around. The door to the castle tower is mysteriously locked, yet at night the windows are lit up.

Next to the castle is a deserted mining village that the children explore. Enid gives a thumbnail sketch of it.
"Every house was empty, the windows were broken, the roofs had gaps in them where tiles had fallen off. A few houses had been thatched, and there were great holes in the straw roofs."
Exploring further they discovered the tin mine shafts and the description here is very reminiscent of The Island of Adventure. They explore a little into the mine and glimpse odd happenings and later on experience a strange pins and needles feeling. Later that night a weird 'shimmering' is seen over the village. So once again Enid has introduced all the elements into place to spur her characters into investigation.

The Secret of Moon Castle is a rather late addition to the Secret Series and just about maintains the standards of earlier books. It is mysterious and intriguing, but somehow predictable too. It is also not helped by the work of Dorothy Hall, many of whose pictures do not convey action. The book appeared at a time when in general terms Enid's holiday adventure stories were losing something of the confrontational and dangerous element to them and were gradually becoming more of holiday mystery stories. The next book she wrote in this genre was Five Go to Mystery Moor in July 1954, which still had confrontational adventure, but after that only The River of Adventure (August 1955) and Five Get Into a Fix (July 1958) provided the same frisson for endangered characters.

When Enid Blyton's achievements are considered, the Secret Series is often overlooked and forgotten, which is unjust as it deserves far greater appreciation. Overall they remain a touchstone for her work and a cornerstone for what was to come, particularly in the case of the Adventure Series. Indeed they can be considered the blueprint of her finest moments in this genre. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.