Cover by Treyer Evans. 1951, Methuen edition.


To kick off an analysis of
The Mystery of the Vanishing Prince, let's celebrate Treyer Evans's first cover of the Mystery series. He'd drawn the internal illustrations to the previous book, Invisible Thief. But this was the title whereby he was allowed to top his restrained drawings with a gorgeous painting. Here it is as the wraparound for Methuen's first edition.

Dustwrapper by Treyer Evans. 1951, Methuen edition.

This image is full of significance. In book three of the series, Secret Room, Fatty begins to disguise himself. In the next Mystery, Spiteful Letters, he adopts several disguises, including telegram boy and butcher's boy. He first tries adult disguises (a balloon lady, an old man, Napoleon) in Missing Necklace, book five in the series. It's not until book eight, Invisible Thief, that Goon decides he'll have a go at disguising himself. First as a fisherman, then as a… now what was Goon disguised as when he went into the shoe shop on the hunt for a very large pair of boots? Citizen Goon? I suppose he just didn't want to be recognised as Goon the local bobby.

What happens in book nine,
Vanished Prince, is that, under Fatty's guidance, all the other Find-Outers don disguises in a bid to bamboozle Goon yet again. I'll go into this in the chapter-by-chapter summary, here I'm just trying to sketch the evolving scenario as the series progresses. But here again, below, is the scene as recorded for the first paperback edition of the Mystery in 1963, the cover by Charles Stewart. Ern Goon holding the State Umbrella over the distinguished head of Princess Bongawee, aka Bets Hilton!

Cover by Charles Stewart. 1965, Armada edition.

What also needs to be said up front, is that Enid has changed her policy re the recording of time in her series. The Mysteries up to then had been set in the following holidays, in this order: 1) Easter, 2) summer, 3) winter; 1) Easter, 2) summer, 3) winter; 1) Easter, 2) summer, 3) summer. In other words, she'd gone through two yearly cycles, then stopped in the third year when she realised that if she went on in the same way, the children would be too old for her purposes. The Find-Outers are said to be ages 13 (Larry), 12, 12, 12 and 8 (Bets) in book 2. At the start of book 3, Bets has turned 9 (her birthday must be between summer and December) and Fatty is about to turn 13 (before the start of January). After two full yearly cycles, the Find-Outers must be 15, 14, 14, 14 and 10. And Enid clearly decided to leave it there.

The fact that time suddenly stands still is emphasised by the use of summer in both the eighth and the ninth books. So when I start the chapter-by-chapter summary, I'll be comparing the opening chapters in these two high-summer books.



Pip and Bets are alone in their hot garden impatiently waiting for the others to get home for the summer hols. The postman brings them cards from Larry and Daisy and from Fatty, which get them even more excited. Pip recalls three Mysteries from the past:
Burning Cottage, Disappearing Cat and Hidden House. But what can they hope for next?

In the local paper they read that the weather has been kind to the School Camps 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 effect on him of five solid weeks of sunshine. (Don’t expect to read an Enid Blyton book and learn any world geography.) Next day, Larry and Daisy arrive and Fatty phones to say he's coming round too. The children expect him to arrive in disguise.

OK, let's step back to that parallel summer.
The Mystery of the Invisible Thief begins in a similar way, but there are differences. All five Find-Outers (and Buster) are lying in the garden of Pip and Bets, extremely hot, drinking iced lemonade in late morning. Again they mention the excitement of three past Mysteries: Missing Necklace, Hidden House and Secret Room. They decide that in the afternoon they will walk together to Petter's Field where there is a gymkhana.

Difficult to say, then, whether Enid was thinking of the
same summer (she may have written the two books one after the other in short order), or whether she meant consecutive summers, as she had been meaning consecutive seasons in the series to date. Something I'll be bearing in mind as I carry on with this analysis.


An old woman arrives with white heather for sale. Bets thinks it's Fatty but is dissuaded from this notion by the gypsy's rough and rude response.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1951.

They also think Fatty's the butcher boy, before realising that he couldn't be, because of his small face. When Fatty does turn up, as himself, he insists he was round earlier, and reveals he was indeed the gypsy woman. The rest of the Find-Outers are astonished.

Dylan Roberts illustration, 1965…………………………………Jenny Chapple illustration, 1968

Interesting to see these very different drawings side by side. The artists were Dylan Roberts, from1963, the only Enid Blyton book I think he illustrated, and Jenny Chapple, from 1966, who also illustrated the Malory Towers series, and whose low-key illustrations begin to grow on me.


Later that morning they meet at Fatty's shed, and Fatty dresses the others in clothes he's picked up from his recent cruise. The fact that the children are all tanned from the British summer, means that when they put on the robes and turbans they look Middle Eastern. Indeed they might be from Tetarua State, like little Prince Bongawah. Ern Goon (Goon's nephew) turns up at the shed, with his young twin brothers Sid and Perce, and Fatty has time to prime the others that they should pretend to be foreign royalty visiting Fatty.


Ern Goon, who the reader was introduced to in Hidden House, is big-hearted and in awe of Fatty. Sid can't speak because of the toffee he's eating, so Perce speaks for him. Ern in particular is impressed by Fatty's visitors and is persuaded to hold the 'State Umbrella' (Fatty's mother's golf umbrella) above Princess Bongawee (Bets) as they walk down towards the river. Bets indulges in some nonsense talk which Fatty readily translates in a witty and mocking way.

So here is the royal entourage, as shown by the first German edition of the book, published in 1957.

German edition published by Erika Klopp Verlag in 1957, illustrated by Walter Born with the title Mystery of the Vanished Prince

Below is another rendering of the scene by Treyer Evans, used as the frontispiece to the first edition. What do we have here? Four Find-Outers in disguise. Three members of the Goon family being duped. And Fatty and Enid, the fictional genius and the actual creative director, respectively, at the back, watching the scene unfold.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1951.

It's a pity that Goon isn't included in the foreground, just to round things off. After all, he is - as far as the reader is concerned - head of the Goon family. But Goon meets the royal party in no uncertain fashion shortly after.


This is, in my opinion, one of the funniest chapters 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, as we've seen, 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 from School Camps. When the Inspector phones Goon, Goon tells him that he’s spoken to Prince's 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. Scowling, he cycles away from Pip and Bets' house, Mrs Hilton remarking on the policeman's ever-worsening manners.


Goon spots his nephew Ern, who he chases until Ern falls off his bike. The following illustrations are from Treyer Evans (1951), Dylan Roberts (1963), and Jenny Chapple (1966). In this case, the former artist's drawing is superior in just about every respect, it seems to me. I don't quite see how Jenny Chapple's plodding, weary Goon could have run Ern to ground in the way he did.

Top left. Treyer Evans illustration, 1951. Top right. Jenny Chapple illustration, 1968. Immediately above. Dylan Roberts illustration, 1965.

Ern 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. The Find-Outers tell Ern that Prince Bongawah's sister doesn't exist. That she was only ever Bets in disguise. Ern is astonished.


Fatty has to phone the inspector and tell him about the unfortunate coincidence of the Prince disappearing so shortly after the fictional Princess was introduced to Goon as a joke. Fatty then tells Goon about the deception. To begin with, Goon simply doesn't believe Fatty. Then Fatty shows him how easy it is for him to 'talk foreign', leaving Goon dumbstruck.

Jenny Chapple illustration, 1968

Fatty tries to make up for the deception and offers to work with Goon, but Goon turns down the offer. Goon finishes the chapter by declaiming pompously: 'I'm in charge, see, and I'll solve this mystery or my name's not Theophilus Goon.'


Fatty and the Find-Outers, plus Ern, are in Fatty's shed. This becomes a feel-good meeting if ever there was one, culminating in Fatty spontaneously delivering a poem and Ern responding to it in a stunned way.

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.”

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. Indeed, 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.


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 or Fatty's day.

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 18.09.08

The boys (Fatty, Larry and Pip) bump into Pip’s cousin at the campsite, a boarding school boy who has heard all about Fatty and wants to talk to him.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1951.

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 was a cry-baby. 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.

Jason Ford cover, 2003.

The button gets prominent place in Jason Ford's fine cover, above. It's not blue with a gold edge though. The artist has instead used colours that pop up elsewhere in his own picture, so as to maintain its aesthetic integrity.


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, though it's true that Enid is poking fun at working class values. Of which more later). Fatty and the girls also come through the hedge. Pip shows them the button and the Find-Outers discuss whether the kidnap really could have taken place at night when the Prince was dressed in his PJs.


Ern brings Sid to Fatty's shed. At first, Fatty puts him off by being disguised as a deaf old man, but on releasing that Sid has a clue, Fatty reveals himself.

Dylan Roberts illustration, 1965

Sid, who likes babies as well as toffee, had been disturbed by the crying of twin babies in a pram belonging to the caravan beside the Goons' tent in the field. On investigation, Sid glimpsed another child hiding in the pram, and he'd thought it was the Prince. Later that day, Sid noticed that the caravan was empty. So the Prince was not kidnapped. He hid in the pram and in due course the pram was pushed out of the field! 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.

Hiding in pram beneath two babies? I wonder what they thought of that.


Not sure if I've pitched that dialogue right. These twins are Goons not Trottevilles, I should remember.


Ern and Sid take their news to Goon, on Fatty's orders. They find him trying to let his tongue go free while looking in the mirror. "Abbledy, abbledy, abbledy" is all he can come up with to his intense frustration. Full of suspicion about other people's motives, he won't believe a word of Ern's story.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1951.

Meanwhile, Fatty has been researching prams. Could a boy hide in a double pram? He phones the rest of the Find-Outers to arrange a meeting for early the next morning, and creates great excitement in the process.


Next day, the Find-Outers have another meeting in Fatty’s shed. He’s discovered that in Tetarua 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. They need to find out who the woman was who rented the caravan.

Jenny Chapple illustration, 1968

Accordingly, they ride off to the camp and interview Sid who can only answer yes or no questions by nodding or shaking his head, as toffee has rendered him speechless. But Sid doesn't know the name of the woman in the caravan and doesn't know where she went. All he knows are the baby's names. Marge and Burt. The interview ends with Fatty and the rest mocking Ern's habit of using condensed words, like 'Spity' (it's a pity), 'Smarvellous' and 'Smazing'!


Th Find-Outers ride off to Marlow (see left edge of below map) to find the agent who lets caravans.


Fatty gets the better of a cheeky young man, establishing that the booking was made by a Mrs Storm of 24 Harris Road, Maidenbridge . That’s supposed to be 2 miles away. In the real world it’s 4 miles from Marlow south to Maidenhead, 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. If they can find the right babies, that might be another way to the Prince!


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.

Ern is to come with the Find-Outers, who are to set off from Larry's place, where there is a spare bike for Ern. Unfortunately, on the way to the rendezvous, Ern is quizzed by Goon who finds out about the twins clue. 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’. So Flackwell Heath would seem to be about right.


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.


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 babies, 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)

OK, back in the room. There are four sets of twins, and Daisy and Bets rely on Ern to spot the right babies. But Ern, being a boy, can't tell any of them apart.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1951.


Goon prods the babies and sets them off crying. 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 rather than a double. Fatty amuses himself by setting up Goon to have long ride he doesn't bargain for on the roundabout.

Dylan Roberts illustration, 1965


Fatty leads the Find-Outers away from the show. A scene illustrated by Jenny Chapple, although it has no significance for the plot. Indeed this illustrator prefers to draw non-events, as it were. Those moments of transition between scenes. Which has a timeless charm of its own.

Jenny Chapple illustration, 1968

However, immediately after, the Find-Outers are cycling away when Pip somehow spots gold-rimmed 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 cycles back to Tiplington on his own. Fatty ingratiates himself with the first Fair person he encounters, and is told who owns the caravan.


The old gypsy woman of the caravan, comfortable with Fatty the pedlar, soon puts him onto a boy called Rollo, one of eleven children before he was adopted by his mother's sister.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1951.

By quickly summing up Rollo’s psyche, Fatty hits the jackpot. The gypsy boy can’t resist telling him that he took the place of the Prince even before the Prince had ever reached School Camps. All Rollo had had to do was swank about the camp talking gibberish (mock foreign) 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. Who were not amused.


"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 Raylingham Marshes.

Cycling back to Peterswood in triumph (after all the Mystery is well on the way to being solved), Fatty is stopped for riding his bike without lights by Goon, who doesn’t recognise him in 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 Raylingham 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 funny, 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. (I should think so. It was dark when Goon stopped Fatty for riding his bike without lights much earlier.) 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 Raylingham 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.


So how does the railway intersect with the Thames flood valley? Line one 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 branch lines lead further into the hills and away from marshland. A small branch line (line two on the above map) goes along the Thames from Bourne End to Marlow, but it stops there, and as Raylingham Marshes is both in the district and yet not known by either Goon or Fatty, it must certainly be further afield than Marlow. Line three goes 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 Raylingham Marsh. You might start by trying to walk from the station to Loddon Park Farm. Good luck and goodnight.

blyton - Version 2


Fatty also pores 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 the 21st Century. Fatty zeroes in on a different part of the map from Goon, 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 we come!


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.

Lowfield Farm (see it above the word Caversham?), here come Fatty and the Find-Outers! The Find-Outers and Ern are impressed with the marsh when they get there. But 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. A lovely drawing this. It really captures the essence of the Find-Outers, plus Ern.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1951.

The presence of a helicopter adds to the drama of the scene. The men insist on the children turning back and one of them pushes Fatty. Ern’s violent retaliation…

Cover by Bruno Elettori, 1983. Dylan Roberts illustration, 1965

…gets the Find-Outers rounded up and taken to a very large farm-house where they are to be locked up.

Jenny Chapple illustration, 1968


Fatty is able to escape from the room by using a trick he first used in
Secret Room. Then, from under a bed so as not to be overheard by the men downstairs, 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 works out that he is in one wing of the farmhouse and that the Prince may be locked up in the other wing. Taking care not to be seen or heard as he moves, Fatty locates 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.


The Prince is found immediately the thieves turn up at the room, so that wasn't such a good idea of Fatty's. Pity there hadn't been a pram with baby twins around, the Prince could have hid in that. But then that's me confusing resourceful Rollo with the pampered Prince, which I shouldn't do. Luckily, the police arrive at this point to arrest the villains and rescue the Prince.

Dylan Roberts illustration, 1965

The helicopter takes off again, without its intended passenger. The Find-Outers have done it. Largely thanks to Fatty, building on the acute observation of Pip.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1951.

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

The book ends with the Chief looking forward to the next school holidays, at Christmas. And to the next Mystery. Which is a timetable that Enid sticks to.


It strikes me that this is a good example of a book to base a discussion of Enid Blyton's politics. To address some of the criticisms made of Blyton concerning her colonialist views and class prejudice.

Prince Bongawah and Princess Bongawee bring to mind Bongo-Bongo land, an unfortunate phrase that use to be employed by some British people when being dismissive of a foreign country, usually in Africa. And certainly it's true that Enid Blyton did not travel abroad more than two or three times in her life, and had no great knowledge of other cultures. Having said that, she knew enough about them to write evocative poems called 'India', 'Australia', 'Burma', and more, when in her twenties, not long after having met Hugh Pollock and having listened to his stories of serving as a soldier in these places.

Was Enid curious about other cultures, or dismissive of them? Certainly she was centred in middle-class Englishness. But we need to collect more data.

Prince Bongawah is from Tetarua. In chapter 14 Fatty clarifies that Tetarua
'isn't a very big country, but it's quite important from the point of view of the British, because there's an airfield there we want to use. So we've been quite friendly with them.' And, Larry adds, 'They've sent their young prince here to be educated,'

It would seem that Enid is thinking of somewhere in the Middle East. Even today, the UK is friendly with Saudi Arabia, despite their terrible human rights record, in part because certain of our large corporations sell them fighter planes and armaments. And indeed there are plenty sons of sheiks running across the playing-fields of Eton these days. And if not Eton then the UK's other top public schools and universities.

OK let's keep that in mind. But the situation in
Vanished Prince is complicated, as Enid's attitudes to foreigners is mixed up with class considerations.

Fatty goes to boarding school. Larry and Daisy go to boarding school as well, but not to the same one as Fatty. Let's face it, all the Find-Outers are comfortably middle class, from the same background as Enid herself.

The Mystery of the Vanished Prince we get to take a closer look at the Goon family. Obviously, Goon is a policeman from working class stock. His three nephews, Ern, Sid and Perce are all characterised, at least initially, as having limited vocabulary and communication problems of one sort or another. Sid can't speak because his mouth is constantly stuck with toffee. I think this is partly metaphorical. How annoying it must have been for the perfectly articulate - and clearly enunciating - Enid to come across little girls and boys that could do little more than grunt at her out of a self-conscious mist. She makes it all so funny in The Mystery of the Vanished Prince, but there is a class critique therein, too.

When Ern first appears in
Mystery of the Hidden House, he amuses our Find Outers with phrases such as 'Spity'. 'Samusing'. Ern is affectionately mocked for this habit of reducing phrases by a couple of syllables. Ern is also described as being uncreative (he would like to be a poet but finds that his brain can't quite come up with the goods), and a coward. Fatty has to teach Ern the value of having principles and sticking to them. Ern learns this lesson when he agrees to stay locked up overnight to give Fatty enough time to arrange for his kidnappers to be caught by the police. Ern overcomes his fear - his cowardice - because he's learned the value of being loyal to Fatty, who he admires immensely.

There is not the same development of character in any of the Goons in
Vanished Prince. Ern is accepted as a friend by the Find-Outers because they know he is good-natured, loyal and they have knocked off his rougher edges. But Sid and Perce are both understood to be beyond the pale, with little or nothing to offer except where they have witnessed something directly relating to the Mystery.

It's tempting to suggest that the following image sums up Enid's class philosophy. The middle class kids (pink) all in disguise, as if playing charades or somesuch parlour game. The working class Goons (green) all baffled as to what's really happening.


This most recent cover illustrates the same thing, though in a more sophisticated way, sumptuous though it is. Really, the Find-Outers should be called the Class-Outers!

Timothy Banks cover of Hodder edition, 2016.

Another class of person that adds to the mix is the gypsy. Rollo, the young boy who was adopted by one gypsy couple because his birth mother had eleven children altogether. Now in a way it is positive that a child from such background can take the place of a prince. And Rollo shows initiative in hiding himself in the pram of his aunt's twins. But then when Rollo's behaviour is described by Pip's friend, the boarding schoolboy called Ronald, it's made clear that the 'prince' was a cry-baby, unable to take the rough and tumble of life in the School Camp.

"He was a frightful, cocky little fellow," he said. "And a real mutt. He yelled at everything like a kid of seven!"

"That's why we called him Wah-wah," said another boy. "He was always wah-wahing about something."

"Did he talk English?" Asked Larry.

"Well, he was supposed to know hardly a word," said Red-Hair. "He just talked rubbish, usually - but he could speak our language all right if he wanted to! Though goodness knows where he picked it up! Talk about Cockney!"

"What school did he go to?" Asked Larry.

"None. He had a tutor," said Red-Hair. "He was a regular little urchin, for all he was a prince! All his clothes of the Very, Very, Best, even his pyjamas - but did he wash? Not he! And if you said you'd pop him into the river he'd run a mile, wah-wahing!"

"Lots of foreigners are like that," said the third boy, munching away. "We've got two at our school. One never cleans his teeth and the other howls if he gets a kick at football."

That dialogue reveals the class prejudice of an elite English middle-class. Did Enid share such views or was she having a dig at them? Perhaps the long scene between Fatty and Rollo tells us the answer. Before their conversation, Fatty has been engaging with the grandmother:

Fatty helped the old woman into the caravan. She seemed surprised at his help. "Well, it 'isn't often my son, Old Man Tallery has friends like you!" She said. "First time I've known one of them help me up the steps!"

Strike one for middle-class manners!

She disappeared into the smelly, dirty caravan. The boy sulkily sloshed water over the windows, and made them so wet and smeary that Fatty thought they were worse than ever!

Dirtiness and smelliness is one thing, but NOT being able to so much as SEE your immediate environment was the pits. As far as Enid was concerned.

Fatty begins his interview of Rollo, and soon winds him up so that he tells Fatty exactly what he wants to know.

"I'm going to tell you something, Mister" he said too Fatty. "I can act anything, I can. I can be a boy leading a blind fellow - that's one way Old Man Tallery and me get money - and I can be a nice kid shopping with my aunt, and slipping things up my sleeve when Aunt's talking to the shop-girl - and I can even be a Prince!

In other words, the gypsy lifestyle is represented as being based on deceit. Eventually Rollo describes his modus operandum in respect to the pram:

"My aunt took the bottom boards out of the twins' double-pram, and I curled myself up in the space there," said Rollo, grinning "And she sat the twins down on top of me. They didn't half yell!"

The gypsy doesn't even care about the welfare of his or her children, according to Enid. What matters is to obtain money by deception. That's the bottom line.

But even if it was true that Enid Blyton was resolutely middle-class, believing in middle-class morals and middle-class manners. What exhilarating use she made of her values and her depth of observation! Such is her skill with words that she has woven a highly complex yet easily comprehendible tale, using her knowledge of local geography and her experience of human interaction, into a page-turner, a blockbuster and a classic! Middle class kids and their inferiors. Home-grown talent and outsiders in the form of rich foreigners and poor gypsies. What more could anyone want?

Am I finished here? Not yet.


I want to go back to that chapter which I said was hilarious, one of the finest in Enid Blyton's oeuvre: 'MR. GOON GETS A SURPRISE'.

Towards the end of it, the Princess Bongawee interacts with Goon as follows:

Bets went off in a peal of laughter. Then she hurriedly spoke a few more words "Wonge-bonga-smelly-fiddly-tok."

"There she goes again," said poor Goon. "You tell me what she said then, Master Frederick."

"I can't possibly," persisted Fatty, making Goon feel so curious that he could hardly contain himself. His face began to grow purple, and his eyes bulged a little. He stared at the little Princess, who giggled again.

"I only say - why he got FROG face!" Said Bets, in a very foreign voice. Every one immediately exploded, with the exception of poor Sid who couldn't get his mouth open.

The problem with that scene is that it undermines Bets, who is usually so sensitive and kind. Her usual role is to feel afraid of Goon. Or to dislike him for his unkind treatment of Ern or Buster. Does her disguise really enable her to say something so out of character?

What happens when you kiss a prince? He vanishes and you find yourself face to face with something completely different.


While living in Bourne End, middle-class Enid was let down by her middle-class husband. Enid discovered that the prince she'd married was a complete toad and she used her formidable talents to make that manifest throughout the Mystery series in scene after scene of Fatty running rings round Goon.


But then at the end of
Vanished Prince, Fatty rises above the hate game and feels sorry for poor Goon. I feel like the Chief Inspector when he says such nice things about Fatty in the final chapter. Only I'm saying them about End Blyton:

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

There, I've said it. Now for bed. My pyjama jacket is short of one button, but I can live with that. I mean, I can sleep with it.



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.

This essay was written in 2013, but a few adjustments were made and images added in 2019.