Welcome to today’s Mary Stewart quotation, which is from her 1971 children’s novel The Little Broomstick. This is the book that has sparked Studio Ponoc’s animation Mary and the Witch’s Flower, a film that I have been eager to see since I first saw mention of it in December 2016. The film was released in Japan in July 2017 and since then in Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA… you lucky, lucky people. The film will be shown in Germany and France before (FINALLY!) making its way to the UK in May. (You can see the release dates here.)
I have been talking about the film and the book with increasing signs of obsession, and something that has come up recently has been discussion of the differences between the UK and US editions of The Little Broomstick. You can read some of this in the comments under this post. Now, I have never read the US edition but I have read notes and seen a galley proof, among Mary Stewart’s papers at the National Library of Scotland, that suggest that Morrow – her US publisher – pruned the story quite fiercely.
For example, I believe that Mrs McLeod, the Scotswoman employed as a cook for Mary’s Great-Aunt Charlotte, was axed from the US version. Here is a quote so that US readers can meet her:
She [Mary] found Mrs McLeod in the kitchen, making an upside-down cake. She was standing at the big scrubbed table, beating something in a yellow bowl. She hardly seemed to notice Mary’s shy entry; she was talking to herself, apparently in a foreign language. Or it could – thought Mary suddenly, looking from Mrs McLeod’s gaunt face and skinny arms to the pan that simmered on the stove – it could be a spell.
‘Twa oz floor,’muttered Mrs McLeod, beating vigorously, ‘an’ B.P., a wee puckle o’ salt, shoogar – aye, that’s a’.’
I like how this quote hints at magic even before anything magical has taken place. The reader is being prepared for spookiness and witchiness from the beginning.
After the story ends, the UK edition has an Author’s Note that I believe is missing from the US edition. It runs as follows:
It is possible that some readers may not believe in magic broomsticks. I can only quote the letter I received from Messrs Harrods, Ltd, in reply to my queries about prices of the available range.
‘Obviously the demand for this product is limited and, with modern ideas regarding colour, weight, and the use of plastics, quite apart from a desire for comfort, they can only be made to a very special order. During the past few years the HELIBROOM has been found increasingly popular both as a means of transport and, when use is made of the remote control system available at extra charge, for the traditional clearing-up-the-garden-rubbish. May we suggest one made from carbon-fibre reinforced plastic with nylon bristles. This could be obtained in black, brown, or in pastel shades. The two-stroke engine is made of aluminium to save weight, and so are the rotors. Greasing is only needed every 100 years or 1,000,000 miles. Accessories which can be supplied at extra cost are a matching telescope and a coffee percolator.
The work is specialised, and there may be a delay of several years in obtaining the HELIBROOM, so we would appreciate prompt confirmation of any order. The basic cost would be £874.75.’∗
I believe there is now a cheaper German model available, but the report in last month’s Whoosh was unfavourable. The Helibroom remains the best buy.
Of course, this Helibroom is not at all like Mary’s all-natural broomstick, this is one of the modern broomsticks that Endor College broomstick-riding instructor Danny Flanagan shows contempt for in Chapter Five (UK edition only, presumably?). I’m not quite sure whether this Note was removed from the US edition because of a dislike of Mary Stewart’s humour, the belief that American children would not recognise the Harrods brand, or simply a desire to chop the word count of the book.
(∗ £874.75 in 1971 would be £8644.72 in today’s money according to the moneysorter website. Which google tells me is just over $12,000.)
I hope you have enjoyed these quotes. Please get in touch if you have any thoughts you’d like to share on these quotes, the novel or the film. And please do let me know if I am wrong about parts of the original text being cut from the US version! (Could US paperback editions be taken from the original rather than the US text?) – thank you!