The Stream That Stood Still

The Stream That Stood Still (1945) is the second volume of a trilogy by Beverley Nichols, the other books being The Tree That Sat Down and The Mountain That Moved. I remember at least one of these being on the shelves of my Grade 5 classroom, and I know that I enjoyed it, but I can't remember anything else about it clearly, except for the feeling of incredulity when I figured out that Beverley was actually a bloke (it was the forties, so... yeah...). I found this Lions reprint in a second hand book shop in Maldon.

This is, not surprisingly, an old-fashioned fantasy. Little brother (who happens to be a prince) is turned into a fish by a wicked witch; brave older sister (a princess) rescues him, with the help of wise old granny who makes her a magic mask so she can breathe underwater. The illustrations are lovely.

But the thing that struck me most forcefully was the opening chapter:

... you may have been taught that witches spend their lives moaning in ruined castles or lonely forests; you may even have been told that there are no such things as witches at all. Which only goes to show how much you are never taught at school.

There are, of course, as many witches in the world today as there ever were... In fact, for all you know, the lady next door may be a witch. You may think that her dustbin is filled with ordinary things, like old tins and tea-leaves and egg-shells, but if you were only to peep inside, you would see that it contained her favourite toads...

Well, Miss Smith was one of these new modern witches... As for being pretty, almost everything about her was false. Her teeth were false, her nose was false, and her hair was a wig...

Does that remind you of anything? I have to say it reminded me pretty powerfully of the start of Roald Dahl's The Witches! Which goes to show that everyone does it, even the masters.

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