The Enid Blyton Society
The Little Button-Elves
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Book Details...

First edition: 1935
Publisher: W. & A.K. Johnston
Illustrator: Uncredited
Category: Old Thatch Series
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Short Story Series Books

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Reprint Covers
List of Contents
Review by Terry Gustafson

  1. The Little Button-Elves
    Story: Sunny Stories for Little Folks No.102 Sep 1930
  2. The Wizard's Needle
    Story: Sunny Stories for Little Folks No.101 Sep 1930
  3. Hoo-Hoo's Party
    Story: Sunny Stories for Little Folks No.101 Sep 1930
  4. The Rabbit That Wanted Adventures
    Story: Sunny Stories for Little Folks No.101 Sep 1930
  5. The Naughty Teddy Bear
    Story: Sunny Stories for Little Folks No.97 Jul 1930
There are five elves called 'One-Button' to 'Five-Button' and like the twenty-two brownies ('A Book Of Magic'), they are indistinguishable - hence the names according to the number of buttons on their tunics.

Bumblebee Common is where they head one day to enjoy a picnic. They take with them a kettle, bread, butter, cakes, apples, and crockery but an unfortunate accident occurs as they cross a bridge. Three-button drops their cakes into the stream ... an act that could be classed as a tragedy when one is going on a picnic. Bread and butter is all right I suppose, but cakes make the day. Three-Button expresses deep sorrow of course, and as he's the instigator of the deed it's decided he should fetch the water for their kettle.

That's a reasonable request, so once the elves have found a suitable place to settle down Three-Button nips off to the nearest cottage and an old dame who answers his knock allows him to use her tap. Three-Button thinks she might be a witch but the woman has a kindly look about her so he proceeds to fill his kettle whilst, at the same time, eyeing something.

The 'something' is a large plate filled with delicious looking newly-baked cakes.

Surely ... surely, the dame wouldn't miss a mere five from the pile. Just five. An instant decision is made and Three-Button seizes the required amount, grabs his kettle and flees out of the cottage back to his brothers who are very pleased to see they'll have more than just bread and butter with apples for their picnic. Three-Button doesn't let on how he'd obtained the cakes - perhaps he just says they were given to him, but anyway the elves eat them and the confections are described as 'simply delicious.'

Unfortunately a problem springs up. The elves begin feeling uncomfortable and in the next few minutes an extraordinary thing happens - their tunics and shoes become tighter and tighter due to physical changes. They've all become 'fat,' or in this day and age, maybe it's more efficacious to describe them as 'portly.' Buttons fly off clothing and the elves crying bitterly, race off home with passers-by staring at them in curiosity.

Once home the elves take out several books of magic and peruse them for an answer to the state they're in. One is found. The elves learn that pimpernel cakes eaten when they're new-made will cause people to grow fat/portly in a hurry. After Three-Button has confessed to his misdemeanour, One-Button hits on something ... he finds the recipe for a brew that if drunk in front of a roaring fire will cancel the calamity that has befallen them. Salt and sugar drunk from a thimble is the key and in no time at all the elves are back to their normal sizes causing them to dance around in glee but wait -

Thinking back we can remember that 'buttons fly off their clothing,' and as the number each of them had was their only means of identification, none of the elves can remember who's who. The little village folk rally around when they hear of the calamity and a solution is eventually figured out.

What the elves will have to do could be viewed as unpalatable, but unfortunately it's the only answer that can be looked upon as sensible.

The Wizard's Needle

So-So is a wizard and he owns a magic needle. Just as Pip's covertly acquired pencil worked by itself, so does the wizard's needle begin sewing on demand. If So-So instructs the needle to make him a bag it will do so, and if he wants a coat, the needle will start making him one out of any old rag.

One day a pixie called Curly-toes needs a few sacks to put his potatoes in but as he can't afford to buy any he decides to make some out of a few old pieces of carpet. He manages to sew one together and then gives up because he's tired, and anyway he hates sewing. This is about where we begin visualising the plot that our author has in mind, and sure enough Curly-toes thinks of Wizard So-So's magic needle.

"Needle, make me a sack!"

That's all Curly-toes would need to say before becoming the owner of as many sacks as he wants, so he decides to ask So-So for a loan of his magic needle. Unfortunately when he does that, the wizard tells Curly-toes that he never lends his needle out because it's far to valuable and he then follows that statement by slamming his door in Curly-toes' face.

So much for that ... but all is not lost however because as Curly-toes sets off he spies the magic needle on a table just inside So-So's kitchen window. An impulsive grab secures temporary ownership of the prized possession and the naughty pixie scuttles off back home to place all his pieces of carpet in a row on the floor. Then he commands the needle to start working.

"Needle, make me some sacks!"

It works! The amazing needle sets to with a vengeance and in no time at all it has sewn the first piece of carpet into a fine sack. A long thread continuously emanates from the needle's eye and in a matter of minutes it has used up all the carpet pieces and created in their place six strong sacks. Curly-toes then waits for it to sit quietly on the floor so that he can return the needle later on.

Unfortunately ...

... and that's about as far as one can dare go without completely spilling the oft-repeated plot to those infidels out there. Enid Blyton Followers will know the result, more or less.

Hoo-Hoo's Party

Enid Blyton stories have 'Hoes' and 'Ho-Hoes' and even a 'Hoodle Bird' has found it's way into her writings, so now it's time for 'Hoo-Hoo' (who's) an owl, of course. An owl who perhaps demonstrates more cheek than any other Enid Blyton creature has ever attempted ... he forwards some invitations that are worded thus:

"Hoo-hoo the Owl invites (and then the recipient's name is entered) to a party on the next full moon night in the Hollow Tree."

At first glance, these invitations reek of good taste and friendliness so where's the catch? Well, the cheekiness is illustrated by the fact that those cards are addressed to Whiskers, Tailer, Soft Ears, Singer, Mowdie, and Frisky.

Still don't get it?

Well, the above names are all owned by small edible creatures - namely a mouse, rat, rabbit, nightingale, mole, and squirrel.

Now, is that cheek, or is it not?

The cards are dispatched and Singer's reaction is that she's probably been invited because of her lovely voice ... that should make any party go with a swing. Whiskers and Tailer are delighted to think of attending the proposed feast, and Mowdie accepts the invitation after finding his rather full appointment book has a vacancy on the particular date in question. Frisky the squirrel is a tad wiser though and weighs the facts up. He's sure that Hoo-hoo doesn't like him, so why the invite?

Despite any misgivings, everyone's ready on party night although Frisky has advised the others to start off before the moon is up.


Meanwhile at his home in the hollow tree, Hoo-hoo and three of his associates await their guests!

The Rabbit That Wanted Adventures

Brer Rabbit is one of those characters who lead an adventurous life and Winks who is likewise a bunny has read about him and longs to have a few adventures of his own. Deciding to venture forth, as many have before him, he sets off one day through the woods where almost at once something boils up. A goblin rushes to him, grabs the scarf from his neck, and runs off after crying out -

"Quick! The Princess must escape before the wizard returns!"

Well, this looks like a tailor-made adventure so Winks follows the goblin between tall trees and bushes until he spies a funny little tower with a locked door at its base and from an upper window he spies a golden-haired Princess looking desperate. This is a scene not hard to visualise because of our conditioning over the years by the brothers Grimm amongst other nursery story writers - the beautiful Princess shut up in a tower awaiting her rescue.

The idea is that Wink's scarf will be tied to a couple of bed sheets hanging from the tower window thus making the line lengthy enough for the Royal Personage to climb down. Winks watches as his scarf is incorporated and the Princess is able to lower herself to the ground.

Unfortunately all is not what it seems because the gnome's rescue operation turns out to be for his own ulterior purpose. He wants to hold the Princess captive in his own cave and when Winks realises this and attempts to rescue the unfortunate maiden, he's pushed away. When he tries to rescue her again, a hard kick from the goblin sends him rolling down the hill. However, Wink's attitude to this impediment is philosophical:

"This is what adventures are all about!"

He gets up to race after the goblin who's tied the Princess tightly to a nearby post so that he can run to find the key to his door. Taking the opportunity, Winks runs up to the Princess and tells her he's a friend who can be trusted.

What a turnabout!

The Princess hits Winks and berates him for lending his scarf to the goblin.

"You're a horrid little rabbit!" she cries.

Complications are settling in because when the goblin returns he kicks Winks into a bramble bush. Thinking about what's happened so far, the unassuming rabbit has attempted to help an evil goblin and been booted around for his troubles then, when he had tried to assist the Princess, instead of being grateful she hit out at him so, all-in-all, Winks is now beginning to think this is not a very nice adventure at all. Instead of being the 'Hero,' he's so far experienced nothing but pain and misery.

Things go from bad to worse unfortunately because when Winks returns to fetch his scarf the wizard appears and naturally thinks he helped the Princess to escape, which he had of course ... but with good intention. It's no good however because the angry wizard smacks him very hard indeed and then, when the sobbing rabbit tells him about the goblin's part in all this, the wizard demands that he be taken to the instigator.

Winks obliges.

This tale is very good insofar as it keeps on going with still more complications and the poor bunny rabbit ends up being subjected to further abuse. Even a King and his soldiers become involved so a lot happens in this story and one would hope there's some kind of balance at the end of it all.

The Naughty Teddy Bear

By the toys' reckoning, if Timothy finds out that his Teddy Bear smokes cigarettes he'll be sent away from the nursery. You're meant to be over a certain age to indulge, but that doesn't stop the bear from taking out his case of smokes and lighting one up every now and again. The fairy doll thinks he'll become ill and the golliwog reckons he might set fire to something, but that's no deterrence to the naughty bear.

One night when everyone's asleep and Timothy's dreaming in his bed, the Teddy wakes up suddenly and finding he can't get back to sleep, does what's natural, and lights up a cigarette. Leaving the toy cupboard, he walks over to where the dolls'-house stands and wonders if there's anything to eat inside. Opening the door, he hunts around in the kitchen for a morsel but as there's nothing edible to be found, he exits; but unfortunately, whilst inside, he happened to put his cigarette on the window sill and forgot to pick it up on his way out!

Whatever you can imagine after that revelation should be fairly accurate. The lace curtains dissolve first when the smouldering cigarette causes a blaze to start up and the toys wake in horror as a smell of smoke wafts round the nursery. The policeman is called and he blows his whistle to summon the firemen who trundle their engine over to the dolls' house where a stream of water is shot into the inferno, whilst the toys cheer lustily.

Could it get worse?

Unfortunately 'yes' because a tiny doll is seen in the bedroom window surrounded by flames. The story doesn't actually say she's 'surrounded by flames' but our imaginations can be used to visualise the scene. One of the firemen clambers up a ladder and rescues the terrified doll. The flames are finally extinguished whereby the policeman is able to enter and search around for evidence. He's very angry indeed when he finds the Teddy-Bear's cigarette-end on the kitchen window-sill, and the culprit is summoned to account for his action.

The ending to this story is quite interesting because there's a reasonably dramatic period of retribution that involves soldiers, and there's also a question:

Does Timothy find out what happened?

The newly-baked cakes are called 'buns' when Three-Button snatches some for himself and his kin.

The Button Elves must have terrible memories seeing they couldn't remember the number of buttons they'd worn all of their lives.

'Dame,' or 'Mother Pimpernel' is the baker of delicious cakes, and an interesting solution is found to the elves' dilemma ... one that might not be thought of by those of us who aren't too adept at lateral thinking.


The 'Pip' referred to appears somewhere in Enid Blyton's 'A Book Of Magic.'


The name 'Mowdie' was often used when referring to moles in Blyton books. That excellent volume 'Enid Blyton's Animal Lover's Book," contains a story entitled 'Mowdie the Mole,' and in 'The Children of Cherry Tree Farm' Tammylan the 'wild man' refers to a velvet-coated miner as "Mowdie Mole."


Is the Princess beautiful? Well, I suppose one could say she's 'sort of beautiful' in the eyes of Thirties and Forties children. Her rescuer is definitely not a handsome Prince.


Surely, a cigarette butt left on the kitchen window sill would have been the first piece of evidence to disappear. Luckily it didn't though.

The wordsmiths can debate whether or not it should be, "He lighted another cigarette" as in the book, or "He lit another cigarette?" Probably both would apply.

Some of the tales in this booklet seem a little longer than normal. Enid Blyton gauged her lengths fairly accurately and this is well illustrated in works that are labelled - 'Five,' 'Ten,' 'Fifteen,' and 'Twenty Minute Tales.'

In many EB stories the reader might come to a certain point where an educated guess can be made as to the result of the on-going plot. In this one, it could be when Teddy approached the dolls' house.
'The Button Elves,' or 'The Little Button-Elves' looks as if it's been reprinted seven times to 1956, and that's just one little booklet. As can be gleaned from the EBS Cave, it's one of Enid Blyton's 'Little Story Books,' and cost a mere shilling. Actually 1/- (one shilling) was a reasonable sum in 1956 because, as must have been mentioned before today, it could supply the sweet-toothed with four quite large three-penny bars of cocoanut ice.

As always seems to be the case, these tales are reprints from the 'Sunny Stories' legacy.

Enid Blyton Society's Cave is worth visiting in order to acquaint oneself with the varied subjects covered in this series. The un-Enid Blyton character of Hiawatha is there, as is the more English Robin Hood and King Arthur. Religion is encompassed, and so are Aesop's Fables, Greek tales, and of course there are plenty of nature stories. Bobs and Brer Rabbit also have their niches.