The movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks starred Angela Lansbury. It was one of my favorites growing up and being able to get it on DVD was a highlight of my life. I love it! Then and now. I love the darkness and mystery and, of course, the magic. The search for the last spell so Miss Price can save England from the Nazis, the travel into the children’s story by riding a bed…there’s just something comforting, maybe a reminder of simpler times, about it. Granted, some of the songs are a little hokey, and, by today’s standards the effects are horrible. Still…
I finally got around to getting and reading the book, and I have to say that I love it, too, though it is almost nothing like the movie.
The book, written by Mary Norton, is actually two stories, The Magic Bedknob and Bonfires and Broomsticks.
In the first book, Carey, Charles, and Paul are staying with their Aunt Beatrice for summer vacation while their mother works. They meet Miss Price, who’s studying to become a wicked witch, and failing, and she gives them the bedknob. From there, they travel to a London police station and an island full of cannibals. At the end of the story, they return home for the school year.
The second book picks up two years later. Aunt Beatrice has died, and the mother is looking for someone to watch them for the summer. Miss Price has put an advertisement in the paper for children to watch, so they are reunited with their friend. Miss Price has given up magic, but the children convince her to use the bedknob anyway. They travel back in time where they meet Mr. Jones. He is a failed magician who returns to the present with them. After a few weeks, Mr. Jones returns home where he is almost burned at the stake.
In the movie, the story takes place during WWII, and the children are orphans who are evacuated and placed with Miss Price against any of their wills. They are somewhat rude children and not averse to blackmailing Miss Price to keep her secret. In the book, Carey, Charles, and Paul are simply being babysat for the summer, and they are much nicer all around. There is no mention of a war or a need to protect the children.
Their adventures are also much different. In the movie, they travel to London to locate Professor Emelius Brown, a charlatan who has a ‘college’ of witchcraft, to find the final piece of a spell Miss Price needs to protect England. From there, they go to a fictional island inhabited by animals then back to England to save their town from invasion. The only rescuing being done in the book is of Mr. Jones. After all, they can’t leave him to burn.
It’s hard to say which one is better. In many ways, it’s difficult to see the book and the movie as the same story. The bedknob is important, of course, and most of the characters are the same, but that’s where the similarity ends. It’s really easy to see them as completely distinct from each other. I think this is a good thing in a lot of ways, for it prevents the disappointment that comes from one being better than the other or key points being changed. (I’m sure we all have a list of movies a mile long to complain about.)
What do you think? Have you experienced both?