Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Beresford, Elisabeth

(1926-2010) UK writer, daughter of J D Beresford (1873-1947) and creator of The Wombles; although she has written adult romances, most of her books are for children. Early work for tv led to her first book, The Television Mystery (1957), followed by The Flying Doctor Mystery (1958), a rather unconventional novel which included all manner of Australian effects, including an Aboriginal Ghost. For a while her children's stories were conventional mysteries and adventures, until Awkward Magic (1964; vt The Magic World 1965 US), in which a child befriends a griffin in search of its lost treasure, introduced her to Children's Fantasy. Written in the vein of E Nesbit, this triggered an occasional series of books in which children encounter Plot Coupons in the form of magical creatures or artifacts. The best of the series is Dangerous Magic (1972), involving cosmic pyrotechnics in the style of Susan Cooper. Other titles are Travelling Magic (1965; vt The Vanishing Garden 1967 US), Sea-Green Magic (1968), Vanishing Magic (1970), Invisible Magic (1974), Secret Magic (1978), Curious Magic (1980) and Strange Magic (1986). Less interesting are several books she has written involving friendly Ghosts, including The Happy Ghost (1979), The Ghosts of Lupus Street School (1986) and Emily and the Haunted Castle (1987).

All these books were popular, but they have been overshadowed by the success of The Wombles. EB's Wainscot society of eco-friendly quasi-human creatures, who resemble eccentric teddy-bears, live Underground and at night collect rubbish with the aim of transforming it into something useful, first appeared in The Wombles (1968). Their popularity resulted in a long series of books, a tv series, records and other paraphernalia. The Wombles stories demonstrate, if nothing else, the ability of fantasy animals to deliver a simple message effectively to children. [MA]

The Wombles series: The Wandering Wombles (1970); The Invisible Womble and Other Stories (coll 1973); The Wombles in Danger (1973); The Wombles at Work (1973); The Wombles Go to the Seaside (1974); The Snow Womble (1975); Tomsk and the Tired Tree (1975); Wellington and the Blue Balloon (1975); Orinoco Runs Away (1975); The Wombles Make a Clean Sweep (1975); The Wombles to the Rescue (1975); The MacWombles Pipe Band (1976); Madame Cholet's Picnic Party (1976); Bungo Knows Best (1976); Tobermory's Big Surprise (1976); The Wombles Go Round the World (1976); The World of the Wombles (1976) and Wombling Free (1978); plus The Wombles Annual 1975-1978 (1974-1977 4 vols) and The Wombles Gift Book (coll 1975).

Other work: Jack and the Magic Stove (1982), Folktale adaptation.

Elisabeth Beresford


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.