Christmas time is just as much about the food as it is everything else and no Christmas repast is complete until the Christmas Pudding is eaten. So, here is a little story about a pudding.
The Magic Pudding: Being The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and his friends Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff is an Australian classic children’s book written and illustrated by Norman Lindsay. First published in 1918, it is a comic fantasy story which tells of a magic pudding which, no matter how often it is eaten, always reverts back to its full size, in order to be eaten again. Of course, the pudding has a name. It is called ‘Albert’ and is bad-tempered and ill-mannered to boot. Yes, it all seems too good to be true, but as all good narratives go, it has a group of ‘Goodies’ and ‘Baddies’ who fight for the pudding. The ‘Goodies’ are the pudding’s three owners who must defend it against the ‘Pudding Thieves’ who comprise of a wombat and a possum, who want it for themselves. The ‘Goodies’ are Bunyip Bluegum the koala; Bill Barnacle the sailor; and Sam Sawnoff the penguin who form the Noble Society of Pudding Owners. This rollicking yarn rolls on at a great pace and anything more about this story would only end up as a ‘spoiler’ and no-one wants to see a good pudding spoiled, so I will leave the suspense here.
The book is divided into four “slices”not chapters and there are many short songs interspersed throughout the text, varying from stories told in rhyme to descriptions of a character’s mood or behaviour, and verses of an ongoing sea song.
The Magic Pudding’s creator, Norman Lindsay, was a well-known artist, who illustrated the book himself with numerous black and white drawings, as well as designing its front cover. The origin and conception of this story is said to have been written to settle an argument; when one of Lindsay’s friends claimed that children only liked to read about fairies; while Lindsay counter-claimed that they would rather read about food and fighting. Hence, “The Magic Pudding” food fight story began. The original sketches from the book are at the State Library of New South Wales.
There is great news for interested non-Australian audiences. Once considered out-of-print outside of Australia for many years, the book was re-issued by The New York Review Children’s Collection. Once read and appreciated, any Magic Pudding devotee can only declare that:
- The proof of the magic is in the pudding!
“Is It Art?”