The Magic Walking Stick & Arabian Nights by John Buchan and Frances Jenkins Olcott

The Magic Walking Stick
The Magic Walking Stick

I received this wonderful book “The Magic Walking Stick and Stories from the Arabian Nights” as a present last week and what a gem! This edition was published by Associated Newspapers Ltd, London, and made and printed by Purnell and Sons in Paulton (Somerset) and London in 1932.

There are some beautiful notes inside, written in a child’s hand, “Read most of it” and “The Magic Walking Stick by John Buchan” and “This is Mark’s book”

There is also a personal message that says, “David John Russel Kitiwake, given to him by his father November 3rd 1934”

The illustrations are gorgeous and amazing alone and the chapters have intriguing titles such as, “The Adventure of the Ivory Valley”, “The kidnapping of the Kidnapper”, “The Restoration of Prince Anatole”, “The Crowning Adventure”, “The Adventure of the Royal Larder” and “The Going of the Staff”.

The story really kicks off on page 39 (just making the 40 page rule) where it is revealed that the protagonist (Bill) has come into the possession of one of two magic walking sticks. His father happens upon a book in his library with a passage that reads, “Et assumpsi mihi duas virgas, unam vocavi Decorem, et alteram vocavi Funiculum; et pavi gregam” in latin.

His father reads from a Bible;

“Look up the seventh verse of the eleventh chapter of Zechariah and read.”
Bill read: “And I took unto me two staves, the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.”
“You understand that?” his father said. “The prophet had two staves, one called Decor and the other Funiculus; that is Beauty and Bands. One was for comfort and the other for discipline – you might say one was a walking-stick and the other a schoolmaster’s cane. Now the book I have been reading – it is a volume of Acta Sanctorum, the ‘Doings of the Saints’, and it was written in Germany in the twelfth century – syas that these staves were real sticks and that they had magical power. They lay in the treasury in the Temple of Jerusalem until the Emperor Titus sacked it and carried them off.  After that they seem to have roamed for centuries about Europe, Charlemagne – you have heard of Charlemagne? – had one, and the Emperor Justinian had one; but they disappeared as soon as they were misused. The point about them was that they were magic sticks and would carry their possessor anywhere in the world he wanted to go to. But the trouble was that you could not be certain what was their particular magic. They were as alike as tow peas, but one was Decor and the other Funiculus, and if you treated Decor like Funiculus it took the huff and disappeared. If it was Decor it would take you gallivanting about the Earth for your amusement and never complain. But if you used it ofr some big serious job, it was apt to leave you in the lurch. Funiculus was just the opposite. It was all right in things like battles and rescues and escapes, but if you took it on a pleasure trip it would let you down.”
Bill listened with breathless interest. “What happened to the sticks?” he asked.
“My books says that in its time, that is the twelfth century, Funiculus had gone over the horizon, but Decor was believed to be in the possession of the Emperor Frederick….It’s a good story, isn’t it? I daresay it is the origin of all the old witches’ broomsticks with wills of their own. Hullo! Hullo! it’s six o’clock, I must see Thomas about tomorrow’s covert shoot.”
When his father had left, Bill sat for a long time in meditation. Clearly he had got one of the two staves which had come down from the old prophet in the Bible and had drifted for two thousand years through the hands of Popes and Kings. The question was, which one? Was it Beauty or Bands?

Then the adventures start and it’s great! The ending (spoiler alert!!) is this:

“Let every boy and girl keep a sharp eye on shops where sticks are sold. The magic staff is not quite four feet long and about one and a quarter inches thick. It is made of a heavy dark red wood, rather like the West Indian purpleheart. Its handle is in the shape of a crescent with the horns uppermost, made of some white substance which is neither bone nor ivory. If anyone sees such a stick, then Bill will give all his worldly wealth for news of it.”

The other half of the book is a compilation of stories from The Arabian Nights including; “Story of the Fisherman and the Genie”, “Story of the Magic Horse” and “Story of the Seven Voyages of Sinbad of the Sea”. All exciting stories with the same wonderful pictures.

This enchanting book is next in line after I finish reading the Famous Five books to my two sons.