I haven’t written one of these analysis pieces for about a year. Instead, I’ve been exploring Nobson Newtown, Tile Hill, DJCAD, Hospitalfield and Aston Clinton, rather than Peterswood. High time I got back to Enid’s utopian village streets and smelt the roses that bloom there all the year round.

How do I start off these illustrated essays again? Oh yes, with the scan of a cover. Here is how the
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince, one of my favourite Mysteries because of its rollocking good humour, first appeared in November, 1951.

620wide+3362036

Enid’s daughter Gillian would have been 20 by then, so I doubt if she was keeping up with the series. True, the copy that was part of her personal collection auctioned in 2010 was a first edition with a dust jacket as above. However, it doesn’t show the typical signs of having been part of Enid Blyton Ltd’s library (which was what happened to the books at Green Hedges after Enid’s death, including ones from Gillian’s childhood). From the £30 that is neatly written in pencil at the top of the front endpage, It looks like this copy was one of the several books that Gillian sourced well into adult life, when, with the help of a book dealer, she retrospectively completed her collection of Mysteries. Perhaps by then she felt, as I do today, that she had been away from Peterswood for too long.

The first paperback edition, published in 1965 has a similar cover to the 1951 offering, (life in general and jacket design in particular changed slowly in these days) showing the triumphal passage of the Princess Bongawee from Pip’s house to the river, under the shelter of a State Umbrella, held reverently by Ern Goon. This leads to some of the richest humour in the book so it’s worth sticking with the image.

the-mystery-of-the-vanished-prince-1

The book starts at the house of Pip and Bets Hilton, with those two lamenting the absence of their chums. Will the summer holidays pass by without a mystery? They mention the Burning Cottage, the Disappearing Cat and the Hidden House, being the first, second and sixth Mysteries, a tantalising way to preface the ninth.

In the local paper they read that the weather has been kind to the School Camps that are between Peterswood and Marlow. One visitor to the camps is Prince Bongawah of Tetarua State who has amused everyone by bringing a State Umbrella with him. Bets asks Pip where Tetarua State is. Pip replies that he neither knows nor cares, such has been the debilitating affect on him of five solid weeks of sunshine. (Don’t expect to read an Enid Blyton book and learn any world geography.)

Larry and Daisy arrive the next day. Then Fatty turns up at the house of the Hiltons, though in disguise as a gypsy offering heather. But it’s when the Find-Outers all get together in Fatty’s shed the next day that things begin to get going. The children are messing about with some brightly-coloured clothes of Fatty’s when Bets has the idea that they could dress up as relatives of Prince Bongawah. Shortly after, Ern and his twin brothers, Perce and Sid, turn up at the shed. Fatty introduces Bets to them as the Princess Bongawee and the fun starts. Soon they are walking towards the river, Ern holding up what is really just a golf umbrella so that the Princess is spared the direct sun on her royal skin. As shown, yet again, by the first German edition of the book, published in 1957.

520high+7575754

Chapter 5 is called ‘Mr Goon Gets a Surprise’ and it’s one of the funniest in the whole series. Bets ‘talks foreign’, Fatty translates, Ern coos a lot, and Goon is impressed by the obvious pedigree of the princess if a little disconcerted that her remarks, as translated by Fatty, border on the insulting. I quote more of the humour in
Looking For Enid, but here is a sample:

*****
‘Ikky-oola-potty-wickle-tock, she said
‘What’s she say?’ asked Goon with interest.
‘She wants to know if you’re a real policeman,’ said Fatty promptly. ‘What shall I tell her?’
Mr Goon glared at him.
Bets interrupted again. ‘Ribbly-rookatee, paddly pool,’ she said.
‘What does that mean?’ asked Mr. Goon. Fatty put on an embarrassed look.
‘I don’t like to tell you, Mr Goon.’
‘Why? What’s it matter?’ said the policeman, curious.
‘Well, it’s rather a personal remark,’ said Fatty. ‘No - I don’t really think I can tell you, Mr Goon.’
‘Go on - you tell me,’ said Goon, getting angry.
‘Yes - you tell him,’ said Ern, delighted at the idea of the Princess saying something rude about his uncle.
*****

When all the hilarity has finished, Goon cycles off, humiliated, and the young Goons take the ferry to the other side of the river where the campsite is. I’ll provide a map of that later. (Because there is a geography of sorts available from the Mysteries: Enid’s own mental map of the world, centred on Bourne End where she lived for ten years from 1929 to 1938.)

The next day everyone reads in the local paper that Prince Bongawah has been kidnapped. When the Inspector phones Goon, Goon tells him that he’s spoken to the sister. The Inspector is not convinced that such a person exists and soon Goon makes his way to the Find-Outers houses on the trail of Fatty and the Princess. He bicycles from Daykins’ home, via the Trottevilles’ and the Hiltons’, but doesn’t catch Fatty. What he does do is run into his nephew Ern, who too has heard about the disappearance of the Prince and wants to speak to Fatty about it as he has some insider info from the campsite.

Having survived the encounter with his uncle, Ern meets up with the Find-Outers in Fatty’s shed. This is a feel good meeting if ever there was one, culminating in Fatty spontaneously delivering a poem and Ern responding to it in a remarkable way. Their exchange reminds me of the dialogue between Enid (representing Fatty, as it were) and the Professor of Psychology, Peter McKellar, (who held Enid in the same sort of esteem as Ern did Fatty) in 1953, a couple of years after she’d written
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince.

*****
The little Princess Bongawee
Was very small and sweet.
A princess from her pretty head
Down to her tiny feet.
She had a servant, Ern by name
A very stout young fella
Who simply loved to shield her with
A dazzling.
..”

“STATE UMBRELLA!” yelled everyone, except Ern. There were more yells and laughs. Ern didn’t join in. He simply couldn’t understand how Fatty could be so clever. Fatty gave him a thump.
“Ern wake up. You look daft sitting there without a smile on your face. What’s up?”
“You’re a genius, Fatty, that’s what’s up,” said Ern. “The others don’t know it, because they don’t know how difficult it is to write portry. But I do. And you stand there and - and...”
“Spout it out,” said Fatty. “It’s easy that kind of stuff. I’m not a genius, Ern. Any one can do that sort of thing, if they think about it.”
“But that’s just it,” said Ern. “You don’t even think about it. It’s like turning on a tap. Out it comes. Coo, lovaduck! If I could do portry like that I’d think meself cleverer than the King of England.”
“Then you’d be wrong,” said Fatty. “Cheer up, Ern. One of these days your portry will come gushing out and then you’ll be miserable because you won’t be able to write it down fast enough.”
“I’d get a shock if it did,” said Ern, putting away his dirty little notebook with a sigh. “I’m proud to know you, Fatty. If the others don’t know a genius when they see one, I do. I’m not a very clever fellow, but I know good brains when I come across them. I tell you, you’re a genius.”
*****

Enid is almost having a conversation with herself, trying to assess the quality of her gift, in advance of discussing it with Peter McKellar when she used such phrases as ‘like turning on a tap’ about her own ability to extemporise.

Enid reprises the scene of Fatty reading poetry to Ern and the other Find-Outers in his shed in
The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage. This fine illustration by Treyer Evans from Tally-Ho wouldn’t be out of place in Vanished Prince.

560high+2449765

Now on with the story...

Fatty reckons a visit to the campsite is in order. He says that they won’t use the ferry (symbolised by the sailing boat in the satellite view of Bourne End below). That if they go round by the bridge it won’t take long on their bikes. Now there is no plot reason for Enid to mention ferries or bridges, she could simply have stuck with what she’d first said about the campsite being in the hills between Marlow and Peterswood. She’s only expressed it this way to take into account the real geography of Bourne End and Marlow, as can be seen by the following map. Marlow is on the left. Bourne End, effectively Peterswood, is on the right. The red line marks the triumphal march of Princess Bongawee and entourage towards the river and a major humiliation of Goon. The dark blue line is the way that the Find-Outers had to cycle to the campsite which was ‘in a very large field, sloping down to the river on one side’. There is another bridge that they bypass, that’s the railway bridge which did not facilitate pedestrians or cyclists crossing in Enid’s day. Or Fatty’s.

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 18.09.08

The boys (Fatty, Larry and Pip) bump into Pip’s cousin at the campsite, a cousin who has heard all about Fatty and wants to talk to him. Bored with this, Pip and Larry find out which tent Prince Bongawah slept in. They discover that the boys who shared the tent with the prince didn’t think much of the princely one who was want to complain about things and burst into tears. Invited to try out his luxurious sleeping bag, Pip finds a blue button with a gold edge that must have been from the Prince’s pyjamas.

Next, Ern calls Pip and Larry to his tent (that he shares with his brothers, Sid and Perce) on the other side of a hedge. The simple tent is in contrast to the Prince’s, but it’s homely (and funny). Attention is drawn to the neighbouring caravan where there are two babies in a pram that a woman is looking after. Significant? Well, yes. Because in the next chapter Ern brings Sid around to Fatty’s shed. Sid, also being a twin, was fond of the twin babies and used to watch them. That morning they had been crying a lot and when Sid approached the pram he got the impression that there was someone else in there. Later in the day the caravan was empty. So Fatty’s provisional theory is that the Prince made his way from tent to caravan in the middle of the night, sleeping there. Then he transferred to the pram so that he could be removed from the campsite without anyone noticing.

Meanwhile, Fatty has been researching Tetarua. He’s discovered there’s a dispute between the King and his cousin, who feels he ought to be the king. If the Prince disappears then the cousin will be nearer to the throne. “And old plot”, as Larry says. And Enid isn’t interested in elaborating it, so she gets on with her own story ASAP.

Next day, the Find-Outers have another meeting in Fatty’s shed. They need to find out who the woman was who rented the caravan. Accordingly, they ride off to Marlow (see left edge of above map) to try and get the info from the letting agent. Fatty tricks a sullen boy employee into giving the address of Mrs Storm, Maidenbridge. That’s supposed to be 2 miles away. In the real world it’s 4 miles from Marlow south to Mauden
head, but let’s not quibble. In Maidenbridge they find the address, but no Storm has ever lived there. They look up Storm in the directory and find three, but only one would seem to be a possibility. It’s Daisy who makes the enquiry and draws a blank - the Mrs Storm is in her eighties and so could not be the mother of infant twins. So it seems the woman in the caravan gave a false name to the agent. The Find-Outers are sitting in a shop, drowning their sorrows with double ice-creams when they spot a poster advertising a baby-show at Tiplington Fair. ‘Special prizes for Twins’ it says, to their delight.

Fatty says that Tiplington is ‘the other side of Peterswood’. Presumably he means from where they’re sitting in Maidenhead/Maidenbridge. I wouldn’t be surprised if Enid didn’t mean Flackwell Heath, which is the other side of Bourne End by a good mile and a half. Is that the right distance away? Well, on the way to Tiplington, the Find Outers pass Goon, scaring him with their raucous greeting, when they’re about a mile out of the village. At that point Goon thinks Tiplington ‘wasn’t really very far away now’.

In the middle of the Mystery, the Find-Outers have certainly been getting around on their bikes, as the map below shows. From Bourne End to Maidenhead and back to Bourne End one day. From Bourne End to Flackwell Heath and back the next. I haven’t marked the routes, as I don’t know them, just the real and/or implied destinations.

Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 19.04.35

There used to be a Cherry Fair held twice a year at Flackwell Heath. First, in April to celebrate the cherry blossom. Then in July as a cherry harvest thanksgiving. Enid specifically dates the Tiplington Fair to September 4, so that doesn’t exactly match. But I suspect Enid wanted to pay her respects once again to this part of the Chilterns, where she had given birth to children, raised Gillian and Imogen, and written about children with all sorts of names. What better way to pay tribute than with a baby-show!

Actually, there is a poem written by Pat Townsend in a book called
Flackwell Heath, then and now, written by Reg Wilks, which is worthy of Fatty, and ends:

‘So we still have a harvest at Flackwell
At Flackwell Heath on the Hill.
Our harvest's not cherries but children
A better harvest still.’


Tiplington aka Flackwell Heath, then. Enid tells us that the Fair was not much of a show. It was in a small field. In one big tent was a flower-show a fruit-show, a jam-show and a baby-show. Plus there were the usual side-shows - a roundabout (on which Goon would come a cropper), swings and a hoopla stall.

Below is a picture of the 2012 Cherry Fayre at Flackwell Heath. Is that Ern leading the way playing the State Tuba? And is that Princess Bongawee strutting her stuff under its musical protection? The modern fair features junior football, dance displays, Punch and Judy shows, a tug of war, a fully licensed bar, a BBQ and a pig roast. Fantastic! - but it’s a traditional baby-show I’m primarily interested in.

WY68079- p18Cherry Fayre(arm)

So back to 1951. Ern is with the Find-Outers but is not much good at telling babies apart. In the end, the pair of twins that have names (Marjory and Robert) that might have corresponded with the twins being looked for (Marge and Bert) are in fact Madge and Robbie and, the clincher, came in single prams not a double.

560high+8652538

Disappointed, the Find-Outers are cycling away when Pip (somehow!) spots gold-rimmed blue buttons on a garment hanging on a washing line. The Prince’s pyjamas may have been destroyed but the remaining buttons from the jacket have proved too precious to throw away. The clothes line belongs to a green caravan with yellow wheels. Fatty decides that he will try to find out more from the occupants. But first he cycles home with the rest, disguises himself as a pedlar, and goes back to Tiplington on his own.

The old lady of the caravan soon puts him onto a boy called Rollo. By quickly summing up the poor kid’s psyche, Fatty hits the jackpot. Rollo can’t resist telling him that he took the place of the Prince even before the Prince had ever reached the Campsite. All Rollo had had to do was swank about the camp talking gibberish for a few days then steal away to his aunt’s caravan in the neighbouring field one night, then escape from the campsite in the pram underneath the twin babies of his aunt. Where is the real Prince now? asks Fatty. Rollo won’t tell him to begin with, but of course Rollo is putty in Fatty’s hands and he tells him minutes later. The Prince is being held by a gang in Rawlingham Marshes.

On the way back to Peterswood in triumph (after all the Mystery is solved), Fatty is stopped by Goon who doesn’t recognise Fatty in his disguise. Fatty escapes the policeman’s clutches but his bike is left in Goon’s custody. No problem, Fatty just phones Goon when he gets home and reports that his bike has been stolen whereupon Goon boasts about the tussle he had with an insolent, nasty tramp in order to get the bike, which will be waiting for Fatty at the police house.

There, Fatty tells Goon about the Prince and Rawlingham Marshes. Goon doesn’t believe the story, thereby keeping up his 100% record of incompetence for this Mystery. First, Goon believed that Bets
was Princess Bongawee. (So not only is the impersonation shenanigans hilarious, it is serving the plot purpose of getting Goon off on the wrong foot.) When Fatty told Goon about the trick he played re the Princess, Goon was mortified, so when Fatty instructed Ern and Sid to tell Goon about the twin babies in the pram having been used to shield the presence of a third person, presumably the Prince, Goon would have nothing to do with the story. It’s only when Goon gets a call from HQ - telling him that photographs shown of the Prince to boys in the camp have not been recognised, suggesting that he was not the real Prince at all - that he comes to see that he has made another bloomer.

Desperate to get something right, Goon decides to go to Raylingham Marshes on his own. He gets out a police map of the district and discovers there is such a place. But it is just marshland and nothing else. He sees that there is a station within a mile or two of the place. In fact, that very evening he is able to catch the last train, three-quarters of an hour later, and is at his destination by dark. At the quiet station he is told that there are only two houses on the marsh, one a farm and the other a big house belonging to foreigners. Goon sets off over the marsh on the lookout for the big house.

So where did Enid have in mind for Rawlingham Marshes? Let’s have a look at, if not a police map of the district then an Ordnance Survey Map that was updated in 1945. Is it reasonable to use an actual map of Buckinghamshire? Well, it’s worked well enough so far, not just for analysing
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince, but for the whole Mystery series. There are no marshes in the Chilterns, which is high ground made of porous chalk. Any marshland is confined to the flood valley of the River Thames which loops through the district as shown in the map below. Marlow and Maidenhead are more prominent on the map than Bourne End, which was a straggly village at this time. But it is there on the right edge on the north bank of the river.

blyton_0001

So how does the railway intersect with the Thames flood valley? The line goes north from Bourne End, then branches west to High Wycombe and right to Beaconsfield (where Enid was living when she wrote
Vanished Prince, indeed where she was living when she was writing all the Mysteries). Both lines lead further into the hills and away from marshland. A small branch line goes along the Thames from Bourne End to Marlow, but it stops there, and as Rawlingham Marshes is both in the district and yet not known by either Goon or Fatty, it must certainly be further afield than Marlow. South from Bourne End, the railway branches at Maidenhead, the eastern branch sticking to high ground to Slough and beyond. However, the line going west has to get through a large area of low lying land between Twyford and Reading. Twyford is as far as the map above goes, and can be seen in the bottom left corner of it.

So, for the sake of illustration and argument, let’s say Enid was thinking of the isolated station on the branch line to the north of Twyford, as indicated by the red circle close to Borough Marsh in the map below. Out into the night Goon, but be careful not to fall into the bog. The station master thinks you are mad as a hatter walking across the marsh in the dark. But then you are nuts, Goon. You declared on page 58 (of the first edition) that: “I’m in charge, see, and I’ll solve this mystery or my name’s not Theophilus Goon!” Off you go, then, Theophilus Goon. Find the vanished prince of Rawlingham Marsh. You might start by trying to walk from the station to Loddon Park Farm. Good luck and goodnight.

blyton - Version 2

Back to the book. Goon is left walking out of the station at the end of chapter 21. Chapter 22 begins with Fatty poring over the map to find Raylingham Marshes. So I reckon that’s four of us looking at the map to find Raylingham Marshes. First, Enid in 1950; second, Goon; third, Fatty and fourth me in 2013. Fatty zeroes in on a different part of the map from me, see below, giving less emphasis to the isolation and smallness of the station, more to the extent of the marsh that Goon might get lost in! Caversham Marshes here Goon comes!

blyton_0002

Here’s what Fatty says to himself while scrutinising the map:

*****
“I believe I could get into the marshes from this bit of high ground here,’ he thought. ‘There’s a path or something marked there. Two buildings marked as well - one at the end of the marsh, one in the middle. There’s a station too. Well, I shan’t go by train - much too conspicuous.”
*****

It’s only when the Chief phones to tell Fatty that Goon has disappeared, that Fatty decides he really had better get over to Raylingham Marshes straight away. He reckons Goon will have gone by train cos it’s too far to cycle and the buses would have stopped by the time Goon set off the previous evening. Good detective work, Fatty! He announces to the rest of the Find-Outers that they’ll take the bus to the east side of the marshes and then walk. Use of the word ‘east’ again suggests to me that Enid has somewhere specific in mind, though, of course, I could be wrong.

The Find-Outers and Ern are impressed with the marsh when they get there. When Pip wanders off the path and ends up up to his knees in muddy water, he stops looking for Goonflowers! They get into real trouble when they meet some men who tell them that they’re trespassing. Ern’s violent response gets the Find-Outers rounded up and taken to be locked up in a very large farm-house. Fatty is able to escape from the room they get locked up in by using a trick he first used in
The Mystery of the Secret Room. He phones the Chief Inspector (did I get his rank right earlier in this post?) and tells him he’s in the farmhouse in the middle of Raylingham Marshes and that he’s pretty sure the kidnapped Prince is there too.

Fatty finds the Prince and takes him back to the room that the rest of the Find-Outers are locked in. Fatty encourages the Prince to hide in a cupboard as he doesn’t think the gang of kidnappers will look for him there. Alas, they do. Aluck (if that’s not a word, it should be), the police arrive at this point to arrest the villains and rescue the Prince. But where is Goon? A loud banging noise is heard from a shed. Goon is let out, filthy dirty, angry and confused. He tells the Chief that he got lost in the marshes, found himself sinking and had to yell for help. He was pulled out all right, but locked in a stinking cow-shed for the night.

Ern laughs at the dung and straw-strewn state of his uncle. But Fatty steps in:

*****
“Behave yourself, Ern,” said Fatty, severely. He felt sorry for poor Goon. What a hash he had made of everything - and yet, he, Fatty, had given all the information he could!
“It was jolly brainy of Mr Goon to come here, sir, wasn’t it?” he said innocently to the chief. “I mean - he got here even before we did. It was just bad luck he fell in the marsh. He might have cleared the whole job up himself if he hadn’t done that.”
*****

Goon is grateful to Fatty for those words. But the Chief understands them more fully, and says, of Fatty:

*****
“Brains are good, courage is excellent, resourcefulness is rare, but generosity crowns everything. Frederick, one of these days I’ll be proud of you.”
*****

Oh come on, Chief! The day to be proud of Fatty is hard upon you. Poor old Theophilus Goon, though - what can we say about him? I guess ‘O HUGH SPOILT ONE’ fits the bill. And if you don’t know why I say that, then you might read
Hugh=Goon.

It’s taken me two days to write this down. Not up to Enid’s standards of productivity. Or Fatty’s quality of detective work. But better than Goon could do, I like to think.








Acknowledgements: Internal illustrations from the original Methuen edition of
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince are taken from the Cave of Books on the Enid Blyton Society website, which is the work of Tony Summerfield. Thanks to Google for the use of their mapping facilities.

Note: If any copyright holder wishes an image to be removed from this page then they should contact me and I will do as they ask.