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Flip-back: ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’

I don’t often read the same book twice. In order to achieve my yearly Goodreads goal of working through 60 books, I feel an obligation to always be focusing on a new book. While I am a now proud bookworm, I think it is important to remember where my love for reading began. There is nothing wrong with looking back into our history and exploring how an appreciation for words and language first developed. Partially, my reasons for doing this are because I wasn’t a natural reader. My relationship with English, words and enjoying books was strained in my early years of primary education. 

It is because of this that I can emphasise with individuals who struggle to wholly embrace the wonders of the literary world. However, I eventually managed to find a book that perfectly appealed to me. It ensured that, whatever direction my life took, it would always be spent with a book in hand. As a young child, Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree series did just that. First read when I was around seven or eight, it quite literally took me to another world. That was the perfect path into fictional stories and appreciating fantasy adventures for all to enjoy. 

My love for the books came from the level of variety stemming from this simple idea of climbing a tree

The tales written by Enid Blyton relating to that most iconic of trees were so brilliant because of their simplicity: a group of children climbed up a tree and explored a different world. That instinct of rebellion and exploration appeals to the most basic of human instincts, with anyone wishing to explore nature beyond the naked eye. Children in particular are always curious, looking just beyond our immediate vision to explore what was hidden out of sight. 

The four books in the series follow Jo, Fanny and Bessie’s explorations of the faraway tree. I always enjoyed celebrating the different, wild, iconic characters hidden within the tree who accompanied the children when they had escaped from reality. Trees are an intrinsic part of our surroundings and can appeal to anyone, young and old. The growth of a grand plant as wood climbs to most tallest of heights is quite remarkable. Blyton, then, is simply exploiting our human desire for imagination and adventure, allowing children to believe what they want. With those characters in the tree came revolving worlds of exploration and different lands – Birthdays, Goodies, and, of course, the awful Land of Dame Slap. 

My love for the books came from the level of variety stemming from this simple idea of climbing a tree. I had no idea whatsoever how the books would branch and develop from one chapter to the next. There was an intrinsic freedom in weaving the adventures together with such varied descriptions of the lands and people. While there was always some tension over whether the children manage to depart each land before a new one arrived, I had a positive realisation that Blyton would never let any real harm come to the characters we so cherished. 

By sparking my interest in reading, the books ultimately changed my life

Future novels containing new characters and children to enjoy The Faraway Tree allowed me to enjoy the opportunity the new experiences of other individuals in their wild exploration. For children reading, it was both a form of leisure and hidden education, as I subconsciously understood how to explain events to others and make people treasure a new environment. Each and every tale from decades ago created iconic ideas I won’t forget. By sparking my interest in reading, the books ultimately changed my life. 

Of course, Enid Blyton the person was quite different to her writing. She is regarded as a racist and xenophobe, whose company was no doubt devoid of pleasure. But it should be possible to separate the flawed and dislikable author from her truly wonderful works. From the magic Faraway Tree came a subsequent devotion of mine towards the Famous Five and Secret Seven. Those novels of adventure and wonderful, even when a similar formula is repeated, have left a lasting impression on me. However, it is only thanks to the brilliance of that quite magic Faraway Tree that my eternal love for reading, fiction and the words and ideas of others was first created. 


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