The Enid Blyton Society
The Yellow Fairy Book (The Queer Adventure)
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Book Details...

First edition: 1936
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: H. R. Millar
Category: One-off Novels
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations

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Frontis from the 1st edition, illustrated by H.R. Millar
This is another book that is one long story and in overall content it's not unlike The Enid Blyton Book of Brownies which came out about a decade before because it also deals with the search for a Princess who has disappeared. There's also a journey filled with adventures and once again the main characters are seen as responsible although in this particular story Peter and Mary aren't really the culprits — they just happened to be with the Princess Fenella at the time she was kidnapped.
In this meld of real people and fairy folk the twins Peter and Mary live with their parents just outside the gates of Fairyland. Their father hasn't got very much money and he looks after sheep to keep his family supplied with the basic necessities of life. The children have become friends of the little Princess Fenella, daughter of Lady Rozabel who lives in Fairyland, and they often visit to play and join her in lessons — but tragedy occurs. One day Peter and Mary are with Fenella in the grounds of her Fairyland home when she loses a ball. Whilst searching for it they spot a gnome nearby whose name is Sly-One and he tells Fenella she could wish the ball back by using the wishing well. Now the children have been warned by Lady Rozabel never to go near the wishing well because if they do something dreadful will happen but as Fenella really wants her ball back they accompany the gnome to the forbidden area. Peter and Mary first make a wish — just to test it out, and then before Fenella can have a go the gnome grabs her and they both disappear together with the well. Fenella's father — Lord Rolland, who had once turned the horrible Sly-One out of Fairyland, knows that his precious daughter will be in great danger because her captor will want revenge so he and Lady Rozabel are very angry and they order Peter and Mary to depart and never return! When the kids get home they find their mother ill in bed because she's quite frail and prone to various ailments — in fact when Peter was at the wishing well he had wished that his mother would never be ill again. It hasn't worked. Fenella had wished that their shepherd father would one day be rich and have a fine house but there he is — still in the same place with his poor sick wife.

What has to happen now if there’s going to be any excitement is that the princess Fenella needs to be rescued and the children's parents are reasonably clued up to the extent that they can reveal her probable whereabouts. She must be with Sly-One and they know that when he left Fairyland he went to The Land of Story-Tellers so that's where the hunt must be conducted. Someone will have to go and the task naturally falls to the two children so they bid farewell to their mother who gives them a tiny box containing some purple powder which she got from her old granny who is half-fairy. She tells them to use it only when they feel they must and, with that vague instruction, the kids set off together with their papa who takes them over the fields to a big hill and down the other side, through valleys and past many villages where they eventually arrive at the Enchanted Wood. The Enchanted Wood? Yes! Many people who are familiar with Enid Blyton tales will have heard of this unique forest in the middle of which grows an enormous tree — it's been the subject of a few books. When the children with their father walk to the centre of the wood and arrive at the foot of the great tree with its spreading branches they start climbing. Up they go passing little windows and doors on the way because fairy folk actually live in the trunk itself. No Angry Pixie is mentioned or Dame Washalot (you can read the relevant books to find out who they are) but near the top of the tree is the house of yet another familiar character — dear old Moonface, the little man with an enormous moon-like head.. As has already been mentioned there is a good mixture of fairy and human blood amongst the characters so here's something to dwell on — Peter and Mary's father is a cousin to Moonface! The children don't look as if they come from the strain that produced the man with the bulbous cranium but facts are facts ... Moonface is related! Papa has told the children where they must go to find Sly-One — first to the Land of Stupids which is due at the top of the Faraway Tree and from there they must find their way to the Land of Giants and the Land of Storytellers. The Faraway Tree stretches up far into the sky and, quite incredibly, different Fairy lands pass by and rest on the topmost branches for a spell. These places can be visited if you are brave enough to climb right up to the top and ascend a ladder which takes you through a cloud into whatever land happens to be there. Peter and Mary inspect Moonface's interesting little house and they marvel at the big hole in the centre of the room which is of course the 'Slippery Slip' although they don't have time to try it out, and after a good supper they are put up for the night. The next day their journey commences. Yes, they're going by themselves which seems rather strange because the kids are only about ten but maybe it's not so odd because they obviously have a little fairy-blood coursing through their veins and fairies are different from us. Anyway, daddy can't go because (to quote him),

"Somebody has to look after your mother and the sheep!"
The children climb the yellow ladder that theoretically Jo, Bessie and Fanny have yet to discover seeing this book came out a few years before The Enchanted Wood premiered in Sunny Stories, and they find themselves in the Land of Stupids. A Stupid is round and fat with a big head and staring blue eyes and he, or she, is stupid! Coats on back to front, shoe on one foot and a boot on the other, houses with chimneys coming out of the side and ladders to reach a door that might be up near the roof ... they're all stupid so it's no use asking them the way to Giantland because they answer stupidly.

"Please could you tell us the way to Giantland?"

"It's a long way but you can get there if you start!"

"Yes, but which is the way?"

"Well, there's only one way and that's the right way!"

It's a hopeless case but the children persevere and manage to find the Head-Stupid who is vastly impressed with the sheer logic they espouse such as explaining to him that the reason he's always cold can be attributed to the six badly fitting doors he has in the walls of his house. This brilliance has to be used to advantage so within a very short time the children find themselves having to solve the Stupids' problems for them. I think that all of us un-stupid people would be able to offer a problem-solving service to the Stupids because here's one that's typical:

The Facts —

1. A Stupid is complaining of sore feet.

2. His left boot is on his right foot and his right boot is on his left foot.

So, what's the answer?

The children oblige the Stupids with their superior knowledge because the Head-Stupid in turn has said that he'll tell them the way to Giantland however he probably feels that if they disappear then the villagers' will no longer have someone to solve their problems. We of course know that but he, being a Stupid, probably just suspects it! He ends up shoving the pair of them into a jail which may have been constructed with the help of every single ounce of brain-power the Stupids could possibly muster because the place is reasonably secure, but the children use their brains to get free and then find their own way to the next land and what a place to have to visit.
If you think of Hop, Skip and Jump and their experiences in the Land of Giants then you have a fair idea of what Peter and Mary are up against ... and a worm's included. A giant child's paper boat helps them to become mobile for a while when it starts raining and just like Hop, & Co. — they are captured. To be caught by giant children is a life-threatening situation because even a casual poke could break your arm, a squeeze could suffocate you and a smack could kill you and if the giant-child is going to play The Old Woman who lived in the Shoe who had so many Children she didn't know what to Do, and if two of those children are Peter and Mary, then they're in for a frightening time. Locked in the nursery the kids are desperate to get away and they'd better hurry because Grizel (that's the giant girl who 'owns' the two live dolls) is having a party and has invited her friends around so there's sure to be much handling of toys and plenty of pokes and hugs and squeezes. Peter and Mary search for a place to hide.

There's a cuckoo-clock in the nursery and, as it seems to be the most innovative place to conceal themselves, the children manage to climb up and enter when the cuckoo emerges to 'Cuckoo' the hour. What a cosy little home. On seeing the children the cuckoo turns out to be an extremely accommodating bird and she invites them to dinner of tea, toast and sausages which the children make for their genial host. I don't think we need to go anywhere near the logistics connected with brewing tea and frying sausages up in a cuckoo clock except to say that they all have a wonderful meal excepting for brief dashes away from the table by the cuckoo in order to fulfil her bounden duty. Later they play a game of 'Snap' with further interruptions every half hour and I think that young children in general would love the idea of being hosted by a cuckoo in her clock-home where, between the hours and half-hours, she relaxes in her rocking chair wearing her slippers and shawl and knitting placidly. The cuckoo puts Peter and Mary up for the night and the next morning after hot coffee, bacon and eggs, they're off out of Giantland to enter the Land of Story-Tellers.

When I was very young I had a favourite book which I read over and over. It was a story about Green Eyes a little black cat who, like Peter, Mary, Hop, Skip and Jump, also had to set out on a journey to rescue a princess and the initial part of the trip was made with the help of a migratory wild goose. Green Eyes was taken on the back of the cooperative bird and flown up through banks of clouds into the clear blue sky over mountains, plains, rivers, lakes and even the sea until on the Island of Songs the goose rejoined his kinfolk. After this very useful start to his journey Green Eyes was then on his own to continue the quest. So be it for Peter and Mary. They have their Princess to find and they have a friend ... a bird-friend!
The Land of Story-Tellers is an extremely frustrating place to visit, so don't go there. How on earth can you ask for directions if no one will tell you the truth? It's not a land where people entertain you with stories and tales from all quarters ... it's a place where no one speaks the truth so how can they find Sly-One the gnome if they can't receive any sensible answers to their enquiries? However, the children are very fortunate to find a friendly person who is not native to the Land of Story Tellers and his name (Pop-Off) reflects his trade to some extent because he's a pedlar who's always popping-off to different places with his wares — "... ribbons, buttons, cottons, silks, hooksaneyes, tapes, scissors, thimbles!" That's what he shouts as he walks along and he knows where Sly-One's abode is so the children follow him through the town and out into the countryside beyond and eventually they round the foot of a high hill and see a castle high up on the further side. Using a little ingenuity and the help of a sparrow-friend of Pop-Off's, the children manage to scale the wall and place themselves neatly into the clutches of the villainous gnome.

The whereabouts of Princess Fenella is still a mystery because she's not in Sly-One's castle after all but as the children and Pop-Off are doomed to be prisoners for many years to come according to the villain of the piece, they're told that she's imprisoned in a deep cave under the Shining Hill and guarded by the Goblin Dog who never sleeps and can smell people five miles away! Some help is accorded here by the purple powder which every one of us had forgotten (except for the odd bod with a brilliant memory — and there are a few of those around who contribute to the Forum on this site). The powder, which was given to them by the children's mother of course, plays a big part in helping them to escape but of necessity they venture deeper and deeper into the mire because they are determined to rescue Princess Fenella no matter what the odds. This is one of those Blyton stories where incidents pop up every step of the way right up to the end. There's the fearsome Goblin-Dog to overcome and then they have to get away from the Shining Hill but Sly-One is against that proposition so there's a pursuit. To make matters worse, a Green Wizard plus a giant winged cat join forces with the enemy when Pop-Off and his doughty mates take flight (literally) only to encounter archers from Fairyland who fire off hundreds of arrows at them. When one would think that it was all over, it's not — because Peter and Mary are still in disgrace in the eyes of those who wield power and there is a sad period for a loyal friend, so some misconceptions have to be cleared up before the reader can sit back and enquire as to whether there's another Enid Blyton book around with so much that happens in such a small space of time.
Fenella is labelled as a Princess although she's the daughter of Lord Rolland and Lady Rozabel.

In the first chapter there's a description of the grounds around Fenella's parents' house: There was a little river where they sailed boats, and paddled and bathed. There was a tiny house just big enough for the children to get inside and play housekeeping. There was a very high tree from which, if they climbed to the top, they could actually see the towers of Giantland, very far away. That tree is obviously not the Faraway Tree judging by the journey it took them to arrive at the Enchanted Wood but it does give an impression.

The 'Slippery Slip' that was mentioned (in Moonface's house) is a hole in the lounge floor that goes down and twists around the tree-trunk. You can sit on a cushion and launch yourself down using it as a slide and it would be an enormous one because the Faraway Tree is enormous. Down you go and at the bottom a little door in the base of the tree springs open and you end up sitting on a cushion of moss if I recall correctly.

Jo, Bessie and Fanny were three children who starred in the 'Faraway Tree' books. 'Moonface' was spelled Moon-Face in those adventures.

Sunny Stories For Little Folks was an Enid Blyton magazine that appeared during the Twenties and the Thirties.

Green Eyes — A Faraway Tale is by Anne Daly.

One incident in the story is reminiscent of at least two others in the EB collection — it happens when the children and Pop-Off encounter a well-shaft and find there's a hole in the side of it whereby if you stick your head out of it you can look up and see the sky or at least you can see a way to freedom if only you could climb up. I remember that scene connected with a mine-shaft in The Island of Adventure and there was also something like that in Five have a Mystery to Solve where Dick discovered a small iron door in the side of a well.

The proposition (Who's Who in Children's Literature) that many of the vague characters in Enid Blyton books are deliberately portrayed that way so that children can identify with them more easily might be true with the younger set. As in many of the author's similar works, The Yellow Fairy Book has no really dominant or quirky characters so kids can step-into-the-shoes as it were and take part in the thrilling adventures as one of the players whereas older readers might like to have a few individuals who stand out a little more. In the Landmark books there are dominant characters of course — Trotteville, Buster, Goon. There's also Diana and George — note that EB often created characters who stand out a little by endowing them with fiery tempers and that probably applies to the latter three. There are plenty more EB characters of course but in books such as this one the accent is more on the action side.

It was pointed out by Tony that The Yellow Fairy Book has, so far, been published under four different titles — which is probably unique for a Blyton book. Some EB titles don't seem to reflect the story-content all that much and this seems to be one of them although there's a bit of yellow on the cover but not nearly as much as there is on The Yellow Story Book so — what's a Yellow Fairy? The story itself is not so much about fairies as it is about the odd gnome, or wizard, or Pop-Off who seems to be a pixie but I guess they all come within the realm of Fairies. Perhaps the publishers changed the name a number of times to reflect more of the contents. To view all the titles you can look at the various reprints above this review. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.