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!
I can not find the delightful Mrs. McLeod in my US paperback, nor the entertaining Authors Note. It is a Dell paperback , apparently the first paperback printing in October 1973. I will HAVE to get the new UK paperback edition due to be published in conjunction with the UK release of Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Book Depository lists the publication date as 5th April 2018. I certainly hope they will not use the US abridged version.
The US paperback I own has 14 chapters, starting with The Little Black Cat and ending with Home Again, Home Again.
Also, many thanks for the information in other blog posts about the the changes Mary Stewart made over the years. And how delightful to think of her thinking about this story and letting it simmer over decades before it finely saw the light of day. And how she didn’t intend to make “magic” itself evil. I admit, in the US version I received a very unpleasant feeling about magic. I look forward to seeing the differences between the editions come April.
Hi Jerri, thanks for getting back to me and confirming that these parts of The Little Broomstick really didn’t make it to the US version, that is good to know. I believe kindle books in the US have been based on the UK editions – if so, that may be your easiest and cheapest way to obtain it.The book has 14 chapters in the UK version too:
I am not sure how to get a scan into a reply, but I find it interesting that the chapter titles are NOT all the same. US chapter titles:
1. The Little Black Cat
2. Things That Go Bump in the Night
3. One Misty, Moisty Morning
4. Up Above the World So High
5. Rude a Cicjgirse
6. Will You Walk into My Parlor?
7. The Book of Spells
8. One Familiar
9. To Unfaften Locks (spelling is correct)
10 The Master Spell
12. Ride Away, Ride Away
13. The Wild Deer Come Galloping
14. Home Again, Home Again
Currently, The Little Broomstick is not available in Kindle format in the US, unfortunately. When I do get a copy of the UK version, I will report on differences.
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Hi Jerri, I thought you’d be interested to see the UK chapter headings. And thank you for the US ones – they tally with the galley proof I have looked at in the NLS (if ch5 is Ride a Cockhorse and ch8 is The Familiar). On amazon uk, the paperback and kindle are both released on 5 April – hopefully this might happen in the US too…
I’m looking forward to hearing about more differences, and your thoughts on them, once you have the UK edition!
Wonderful review of The Little Broomstick (on which I could not find a comment button). I really like how you integrate Mary Stewart’s style in her adult mysteries with her narrative technique in her children’s novel. I wish I had been as careful in my assessment. Thank you. I just saw the movie this afternoon, and have to say that I was pleased with the number of narrative elements that parallel the book (unlike, say, Miyazaki’s Howl), but no altogether pleased with the movie. Different conversation. It was delightful regardless. that you for linking to my blog: I really look forward (as an avid Mary Stewart fan) to following you!
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Thanks for your lovely comment, Karyn – I don’t have comment buttons on the book ‘pages’, only on the actual blog posts (can’t recall why). I’m intrigued by your thoughts on the film and pleased it follows the book to some extent.
It is lovely to meet another Mary Stewart fan, and I look forward to reading your posts too!
Well, I haven’t managed to see Mary and the Witch’s Flower in a theater, but have pre-ordered it in Blue Ray and DVD format (the combo pack is just a dollar more than just the DVD and I can share with my sister). BUT no release date yet. I wish it had a wider theater release, so I could see it on a big screen, but hope that eventually they will actually release it for home viewing. And I do plan to purchase the UK paperback of The Little Broomstick. 54 days till that release on the 5th of April, according to The Book Depository, one of the easiest ways for us in the US to purchase books that haven’t been published in the US. So, then, sometime in April I should be able to compare the US and UK text in detail.
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Hi Jerri, it is a shame there hasn’t been a cinema release to suit you but at least you now have the DVD as well as the UK version of the book to look forward to – and the date for receiving that is getting closer all the time!
Ive got a question (and this seems like the best place to post it) – does anyone know if any of her other books were changed much for the US editions? I’m looking at a lovely set of her Merlin books, but I don’t want to miss any of her writing.
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Hi Laura, I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to this. I wonder if anyone reading this post has British and American copies of the Merlin books and can let us know?
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