lessons from the Faraway Tree

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

"Going back to a simpler life is not a step backwards."
Yvon Chouinard

For me simplicity is personified in the almost-nightly routine my daughter and I have of climbing up into her bunk and getting lost in a story book. I'm often exhausted by this time and craving some time to myself, but as long as its not too late I'll make sure we read together. We have a deal: I read her two chapters of the current book, and together we slip away on an adventure. 

We are currently [re]discovering the Magic Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton, which was recently re-released as a series of beautiful [and politically correct!] keepsake books .

As a child, I distinctly recall submerging myself in the enchanting stories of the Magic Faraway Tree. And now, like my own mum before me - and her mum before that - I see my child fall under the same spell: my daughter's eyes light up, her imagination fires away, and our story time always concludes with a plea for 'just one more chapter, one more!'.

As an adult, reliving Blyton's books through older eyes, what I also really appreciate is her classic story telling in the context of modern living. Her framing of play, adventure and discovery in nature is so refreshing to me living in a fast-paced, time poor world where we hold so many fears of kids roaming free. She writes: 

The [three children] set off. There was a small gate at the bottom of their back garden that led into the overgrown lane running into the wood. They unlatched the gate and stood in the lane. They could see the trees in the wood and hear them talking their strange tree-talk: 'Wisha-wisha-wisha-wisha!"

'I feel as if there are adventures about,' said Joe. 'Come on! Over the ditch we go - and into the Enchanted Wood!'

One by one the children jumped over the narrow ditch. They stood beneath the trees and peered about. Small freckles of sunshine lay here and there on the ground, but not very many, for the trees were so thick. It was dim and green there, and a small bird nearby sang an odd little song over and over again.

'It really is magic!' said Frannie* suddenly. 'I can feel magic about somewhere, can't you, Beth? Can't you, Joe?"

'Yes,' said the others, and their eyes shone with excitement. 'Come on!' 

They went down a green path that looked as if it had been made for rabbits it was so small and narrow... 'I can see some wild strawberries!' cried Beth, and she knelt down and pressed back some pretty leaves, showing the others deep red strawberries below... they picked hard and soon had enough to make a fine meal... Soon they were munching away happily, listening to the dark green leaves overhead saying 'Wisha-wisha' all the time.
Reading the Magic Faraway Tree books today I can't help but want to inject some of that spirit of wonder and adventure back into modern day life - and by just slowing down and making the time to read with my daughter I'm noticing it is actually doing just that. 

Blyton's stories have us walking to school wondering how much taller the Magic Faraway Tree would be than the enormous Eucalypt we pass. It has my daughter race inside to tell me she's found a patch of mushrooms sprouting in a corner of the lawn. It has us pulling the dried cap off of a newly emerging leek flower in the vegie patch, wondering if it's a fairy's hat or perhaps a parachute? And it's influencing her to take any opportunity she can to climb high into the tree at home.

I think the next step in applying lessons from the Faraway Tree is going to be to heading up to one of the forests when the weather here cools to do a little roaming. Perhaps we'll pack a picnic and be fortunate enough to hear the trees whispering their 'wisha-wisha'...

Until next time,

* today's politically correct version of Fannie!


  1. Beautiful Claire. Bringing peace, awareness and engagement to your little one, yourself and now us, one story at a time. Love your writing style and the message threaded effortlessly through it.

  2. Aw thanks Mykel! I'm really glad you enjoyed it - thanks so much for your lovely words :) Hope all is well with you :)

  3. What a great Mum! Great stuff Claire! My favorite Enid Blyton stories by far.
    My 6 year old likes Amelia Jane the naughty doll....I wonder why;)
    x Ben M

  4. Hi Ben! Thanks so much - and I try lol. Ha ha re Amelia Jane the naughty doll, by the title I'm sure my daughter would like that one too - I'll have to check it out. Thanks :)