The Martin Pippin books by Eleanor Farjeon
Coincidence is a funny thing. I moved a pile of my old children’s paperbacks, and at the top of the stack I left was this book. Martin Pippin in the Daisy-Field by Eleanor Farjeon. It sort of looked familiar, and when I opened it up and saw the coloured in pictures (I always added to the illustrations when I was a child!), it got a bit less vague. Then I read a little, and it took me back…
Martin Pippin is a wondering minstrel, and one day he encounters six young girls who beg him to tell them stories…
Two were standing, two were stooping, two were sitting at their chain-making; and as they strung the daisy heads, they sang scraps and snatches of songs, no longer than a daisy-stalk…
Overhead the sky was going green, and the stars were making pin-pricks where the green was deepest, and the moon a yellow hole where it was palest, along the shoulder of Rackham Hill, and the dome of Amberley Mount. It was high time that the six little girls were in bed.
Martin thought so. And though he was afraid of nothing so much in the world as girls big and little, he made two strides across the boundless river, and stood in the daisy-field.
SALLY: It’s him!
SYLVIA: What’s he come for?
SUE: To send us to bed, you know.
STELLA: I shan’t go.
SALLY: Let’s shut our eyes tight, so he’ll think we can’t hear him.
SOPHIE: I shall put my fingers in my ears.
STELLA: I shan’t. I just won’t go.
SELINA: I wonder why it’s so horrid going to bed, when it’s so nice being there.
SOPHIE: Oh it isn’t, S’lina. There’s nothing to do in bed, except go to sleep. …
They bicker some more until they realise Martin has come amongst them, whereupon they ‘shut their eyes tight, and put their fingers in their ears‘. They chat and Martin agrees to tell Sophie a story… He tells each girl a story in turn – from the tale of Elsie Piddock who Skips in her Sleep, to the Mermaid of Rye who was born in a winkle.
Between each story is an interlude where he and the girls talk – sometimes in normal prose, sometimes as a script – just like above. The book is set in Sussex in and around the Long Man of Wilmington chalk hillside figure, who makes an appearance in one of them. It is utterly charming – how could I have forgotten about this book? which I got or was given in 1969 - (I know that, I put the date on the inside cover, along with my full address – the one with the solar system etc.). I shall have to make time to read the stories once again.
Martin Pippin in the Daisy-Field was first published in 1937, some 26 years after Farjeon’s first book featuring the story-telling minstrel – Martin Pippin in the Apple-Orchard. The first book of stories was not written for children, but a young soldier who had been a friend of Edward Thomas, like Farjeon herself.
The coincidence came when I looked up the books on Amazon to see if they are still available – and lo and behold, a new paperback edition is due out next week! Better news still, Martin Pippin in the Apple-Orchard is available for download on Project Gutenberg (no illustrations though).
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To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Martin Pippin in the Daisy-Fieldby Eleanor Farjeon, re-pub 31st March by Red Fox books, paperback
Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchardby Eleanor Farjeon, re-pub 31st March by Red Fox books, paperback