The Rumbletum Trilogy
In this sequence of stories the first is about Rumbletum the Giant, Vera the Witch,and Ferocious the Puppy-Dragon. The second, Rumbletum’s Birthday Boots is about Rumbletum and problems with transport and magic; the third, Vera Alone, is about dealing with loss.
Original cover design, not used for technical reasons
The book was originally written & illustrated for my daughter Elleny, known as Bo, so it was called Bo’s Book. She writes “having been obsessed by witches from as long as I can remember, I used to have conversations with them from my bottom bunk at night, I was convinced I was one.
Richard Mabey kindly showed it to Kaye Webb, which was how it got published, as aaccidental bye-product of The Hornsey Affair (Penguin 1969)
Ferocious the Puppy-Dragon
ISBN 0 14 050.049 9
published by Penguin as a Picture Puffin Original 1971
out of print
In Children’s Books of the Year 1971 (National Book League/British Council), Elaine Moss wrote:
….a longish, very funny text with humorous pictures in colour and black and white. Ferocious is the pet of Giant Rumbletum and Vera the Witch. His favourite game is sucking fire up the villagers’ chimneys -but when the villagers hire a knight to come and slay Ferocious, Rumbletum scares off the knight and Vera casts a mumps spell on him for good measure.
Times Literary Supplement, Dec 3 1971:
To the Witch Vera and her husband, the Giant Rumbletum, Ferocious, though sometimes a nuisance, is a much-loved pet. To the neighbouring villagers, however, he is an unmitigated curse, owing to his greedy habit of sucking the fires up their chimneys to satisfy his “hot tooth”. Impartially compassionate towards the points of view of both sides, the author makes a very funny and inventive story of the battle that is entered when the villagers decide that Ferocious must be taught a lesson.
“The witch’s name was Vera. As a matter of fact she was Mrs Giant, but she had such knobbly, knuckly fingers that she couldn’t get a wedding ring on even though she tried like mad with bits of soap and bicycle oil.
The Giant’s name was Rumbletum, but he expected to be called Mr Rumbletum. He was very big. The puppy-dragon was supposed to guard the door of their cave. His name was Ferocious.
The first thing the people in the village knew about the witch’s revenge was on Monday morning when the dairymaids found that the cows weren’t giving milk; they were giving cough mixture instead, which tastes awful on cornflakes, and you can’t make butter, or cheese, or blancmange out of it. People were annoyed ( so were the cows), but as the mayor said “If you upset a witch something is bound to happen: it could have been a great deal worse. He didn’t know the witch was pnly warming up.
Rumbletum’s Birthday Boots
Giant Rumbletum tries out his birthday present, a pair of seven-league boots. Unfortunately he gets the controls wrong and nearly shoots backwards off the end of Cornwall. There he finds some Cornish giants playing the game of Bob-Buttons with huge rocks. Rumbletum tries to join in, but accidentally hits the glass castle of the enormous giant Macweeny in Ireland. When the enraged Macweeny appears,
Rumbletum manages, by a cunning trick, to maroon him on the Moon. Deciding that feet are more reliable than magic boots, he sets out on the long walk home.
“Rumbletum the Giant was trying out his new birthday present. If you had seen him passing by you would have said he was taking a high-sped walk. And so he was – in his smart new pair of button-up mammoth-skin seven-league boots. They had been given to him by Vera the Witch, who had not only designed and sewn them (apart from the frogging, which had been done by the most highly skilled frogs in England), but had also fitted them with all the advantages of modern magic.
Rumbletum was excited by the countryside rushing past, and by the wind in his face. Everything went fine, as far as Bristol. Then he had some trouble with the gears, got into reverse, and found himself backing through Devon and Cornwall. If you are a plump giant, walking backwards, at sixty miles an hour, it can be difficult to reach the top button of your right boot. That was the gear button. Anyhow, he got it at last. Only just in time though. One more step and he would have been right over Land’s End, kersplosh into the sea.”
“Rumbletum hurried down the valley again. There was one boot where he had stopped. The other wasn’t in sight. He must have kicked it away. Eventually he found it hiding in an oak wood, pulled it out, and rushed back to the other one. He sat down to put them on, but as he lifted his foot the ground started shaking as if someone were hitting it with an enormous hammer. When it stopped he realised that someone was standing just behind him. A sharp pain in his ear confirmed that it was being twisted by a very large hand. A very large head came down through the clouds.
part three of the Rumbletum trilogy
Text to accompany pictures, c.2500 wds
SYNOPSIS: Rumbletum the Giant has gone away, and has not returned, leaving Vera the Witch alone and miserable. An Ogress friend suggest she go on a journey, find Merlin, and ask him to find out what has happened to R (as she calls him). She finds Merlin, but he is no help – he cannot see what has happened. When she returns she breaks down and weeps a whole river of despair – which also means that she loses her powers as a witch. And with that, her eternal youth. Maybe, as Merlin said, R will come back, but maybe he won\t. She sees her new, kind, older face in the mirror: she has become a wise woman, So she puts away her tall hat and broomstick and gets on with life.
1 Vera was alone, and no mistake. No one is ever completely alone: she had her black cat, which stomped into the cave occasionally, but kept silent. Then there were the bats, which chattered maddeningly all night in Chinese, and an owl who spoke very occasionally, and then only in epigrams – Great Tawny Owls have no small talk. And some spiders. That’s how alone she was.
2 Her Giant had not come back. His name was Rumbletum .You may think this is a funny name – but Giant parents don’t seem to care what they call their children (as you can see from all the story-books ). Anyhow, that was what it said on his Giant Birth Certificate (here’s a corner of it: it’s too big to show the whole thing). So she called him R, for short.
3 He had gone off to South America to look at a volcano or two: since then, nothing. He didn’t write- he wasn’t much of a letter-writer at the best of times. There were no messages, no albatross or eagle flew in with a note around its neck; not so much as a sulky messenger-pigeon pacing self-importantly on the table, looking at her out of the corner of its eye. No puffs of smoke either. And her puppy-dragon had gone, the way dragons wander off and you don’t see them or hear from them: only, now and again, a sudden flash of fire in the distance.
21 When she got home the cave was spotless. The silverware sparkled, the linen was crisp from the line, and there was a fire under the cauldron. The Ogress had done her best for a friend in need.
21 But of course that only made it worse. It was so cosy, so warm and nice, and no R to share it with. She sat on her three- legged stool. Something dropped on her knee, and it was wet. She became aware that a tear was rolling down her cheek. Then another, and another.
22 The tears came faster, and she sobbed. They trickled down her dress and across the floor. They began to splash over the doorstep, where a pool formed.
23 From there a line of water seeped through the stones and vegetation; it strengthened as it washed over boulders, and foamed brown between the rocks, all the time gathering speed, until from a stream it became a torrent, gathering up other becks and runlets and weaving them together into a broad, proud waterway. It is called Witch River to this day.
And all the time Vera sat and howled her heart out.
24 At last the crying stopped – as it always does. She dried her eyes, and wiped her pink nose. She looked out of the cave, and it was spring. She walked slowly into the bedroom and sat on the bed. She knew that everything had changed. Because witches can’t cry. Or, if you do cry, you lose the power to be a witch.
This story is planned as 32 sections of terse text (generally 30 – 50 words) facing full-page colour illustrations. These might occasionally also stray onto the text page. It was written at the suggestion of the artist/illustrator Nikos Papatzaneteas.
Synopsis: Dinnerjacket is a cat detective with hyper-sensitive whiskers. Deciding that something is wrong she follows a suspicious looking rat. Her trail takes her by train, down through Europe to Athens, and then by ship to Alexandria. When the dastardly plot is revealed, a team of sea-gulls carry her across the sea, back to Athens, to make the final arrest.