Dangerous Wishes?

What if you really could have All You’ve Ever Wanted‘?

Of course in Joan Aiken’s wild imagination this is the sort of  wish that could go wildly wrong – in fact she had such fun with the idea that it led to a whole collection of stories giving a new twist to fairy tale themes, and they became her first story collection, published nearly seventy years ago.

In the title story, All You’ve Ever Wanted our heroine, the ill-starred Matilda, an orphan of course,  is brought up by six unlikely Aunts – but every year on her birthday  the seventh and absentee Aunt, sends a delightful Greetings Card with Best Birthday Wishes which has the unfortunate habit of coming true –  to the letter! 

One year Matilda is promised that she will be greeted every day by a ‘Rosy Morn’ but:

  “as you know, a red sky in the morning is the shepherd’s warning, and the fatal result of Aunt Gertie’s well meaning verse was that it rained every day for the entire year.”

Worse still was the verse on another  card which promised that her life would  hold  ‘Many Happy Hours’ and all her way ‘Be Strewn with Flowers’ –   the effect of which was to send her rushing out of her now embarrassingly blossom-filled office at the Ministry of Alarm and Despondency, where in fact she had previously spent many happy hours, to send desperate pleas for help  to Aunt Gertie  via The Times and The International Sorcerers’ Bulletin – because of course Aunt Gertie is a witch…


Two more well meant wishes offer the joys of constant companionship from ever faithful friends –  and perhaps those of us dealing with the twenty-four hour demands of social networking, know what this can actually be like…!    

The first of these read:


For a story first published in 1953, this was remarkably prescient – who would have imagined that these days it would be perfectly possible to have  three hundred and sixty-five friends  appearing ‘cheery and frolicsome and gay’ on your doorstep every morning, or at least on your phone screen! Would this be ‘All You’ve Ever Wanted’, or would it make you yearn to erase your Twitter account and Facebook page at once and escape to a desert island…..?

*  *  *  *  *

Read more of Matilda’s story here

Visit the website to read more about  ALL YOU’VE EVER WANTED Joan’s first book, published in 1953 and all her other story collections

Look out for new collection of favourite Aiken stories  now out from

Virago Children’s Classics



Read a wonderful letter from Joan Aiken which introduces this collection


5 thoughts on “Dangerous Wishes?

  1. Have ‘All But a Few’ on my shelves, which I haven’t read since the 70s, but I do remember this delightful premise — the opposite of the dilemma that the very young Sleeping Beauty faced but no less disastrous!


  2. The blog is very entertaining. I also love how you intertwined today’s technology into this. The small bits of the story made me want to read more of it. Matilda’s problem is very funny, but couldn’t she have ignored the mail that was sent to her? Or maybe find another witch to undo everything? How do you think ‘Aunt Gertie’ chose the people to follow Matilda? These are a few of the questions the story made me ask, and I can’t wait to read the rest.


    • Hi Brooke! I like your lateral thinking – perhaps if she didn’t open the envelopes the wishes wouldn’t start working? Each one comes in a pink and silver envelope so she would be warned…!
      Some of your questions are answered by the story – if you’d like to read it, and more by Joan Aiken you can find it in a collection called ‘Smoke from Cromwell’s Time’.


  3. I’d like to say Hi to the whole class at Iowa High School who wrote such thoughtful messages about this story – I enjoyed all the different points of view, about whether it would be good to have six Aunts bring you up and teach you different things, or whether it was really a good idea to have someone able to control your life in a more dangerous way – by wishing all sorts of things things for you without considering how they might change your life for good or ill…

    I’m delighted that this story my mother wrote over fifty years ago still seems to speak to you about how you have been brought up yourselves, and how very important it is to feel you have control over your own lives!

    Maybe now is the time to write your own stories? Good luck to you all!


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