Christmas at Willoughby Chase – a Joan Aiken Happy Ever After?

Willoughby Christmas

Could this be a festive stroll in the park for Sir Willoughby and Lady Green and their adopted niece Sylvia, taking gifts to Aunt Jane in the Dower House? Bonnie must be off shooting wolves with Simon in order to safeguard Lady Green’s new herd of deer (and perhaps bag her another wolf stole?) or maybe she is back home at Willoughby Chase, tyrannising Mrs Shubunkin and the kitchen staff and being adored and spoiled with sugar plums as they prepare the gigantic Christmas turkey and dozens of figgy puddings, with diamonds due to be concealed inside them instead of sixpences…

Many readers hoped to meet the heroines of Willoughby Chase one more time, and have them meet Simon’s new found family, and here Joan Aiken did have a go at a merry sequel, but it was too tongue in cheek, even by her own pretty wild standards to ever see the light of day:Halloween at Willoughby 1aWhen she imagined the famous first volume of the Wolves Chronicles, Joan Aiken was planning to replicate the eye-watering reading of her own early childhood, full of oubliettes and haunted castles, blunderbusses and shipwrecks, as these were the kinds of wild adventure that she had most enjoyed, not some of the more saccharine tales generally recommended for children growing up in the 1920’s. But when she herself became a children’s writer, she was always very concerned for the well-being of her readers, as she wrote in her spirited guide The Way to Write for Children:

Endings Way to WriteVery good, but what about actual happy endings? They are not necessarily believable, because they so rarely last for long in real life; besides, if you have polished off all future adventures for your characters, then where is the next story to come from…?

In this madcap short festive tale that Joan has cooked up, the puddings turn out to have been poisoned by an impostor cook called Mrs Svengali – who is seen off, together with her fiendish highwayman friends by Bonnie and Sylvia who luckily have been practising with crossbows:

Halloween end 1The ever resourceful Bonnie, determined that the Christmas preparations will not be spoiled, turns to the newly arrived Duchess of Battersea (Simon’s Aunt Hettie) who was bringing the pudding diamonds from London, saying:

Halloween end 3Halloween end finalEven for Christmas Joan Aiken can’t quite allow herself a happy ending – let’s hope the ever capable Mrs Shubunkin has some spirits of Rhubarb on hand for poor Aunt Hettie – like many a Happy Christmas Day, this one might end with the need for a dose of salts!

indigestion

>>>>>*<<<<<

I hope you (and Joan Aiken!) will forgive me for this bit of festive nonsense!

Find out about the real Wolves sequels here

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Christmas at Willoughby Chase – a Joan Aiken Happy Ever After?

  1. I always loved The Wolves of Willoughby Chase as a girl. I had it on record and used to listen to it over and over again. Recently on Prime day I got an Audible account and listened to it again for the first time in years. I then learned it was a series. I was so excited so I read all the other books in quick succession.

    The one thing I wished was to see more of Bonnie and Sylvia. This story peaks my interest because it seems like it would have reunited them with Simon. I know at the end Simon wants to marry Dido. Selfishly I always felt Dido was like Jo in Little Women…I never wanted her to marry and I wanted her to be free to go on adventures. I always wondered if Simon might have married Bonnie or Sylvia.

    Anyway, I plan on rereading the series because I enjoyed it so much. I look forward to introducing it to my son in a couple years (he’s only 1 now).

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  2. I don’t think Joan Aiken really wanted Dido to grow up, which was why she began to introduce her younger sisters, Is and Pye into the series. We do get a brief glimpse of Bonnie and Sylvia again in the last of the Wolves Chronicles -The Witch of Clatteringshaws.
    I like to think that they all belonged to one large family, like the Birthday League!
    Lovely to hear you plan to pass her books on – perhaps A Necklace of Raindrops would be a good place to start?
    http://www.joanaiken.com/pages/picture_books_04.html

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