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:When 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:
Very 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:
The 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:
Even 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!
I hope you (and Joan Aiken!) will forgive me for this bit of festive nonsense!
Find out about the real Wolves sequels here