Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Travers, P L

Pseudonym of Australian actress and writer Helen Lyndon Goff (1899-1996), resident in the UK from 1924, and who worked as PLT from her first appearance on the stage. She began publishing journalism in Sydney and continued her journalistic career in the UK until she began the Mary Poppins series of Children's Fantasies, for which she remains best-known: Mary Poppins (1934; rev 1981 US) and Mary Poppins Comes Back (1935), assembled as Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Comes Back (omni 1937 US), plus Mary Poppins Opens the Door (1943 US), Mary Poppins in the Park (1952), Mr Wiggs' Birthday Party, a Story from Mary Poppins (1952 chap US), The Magic Compass, a Story from Mary Poppins (1953 chap US), Mary Poppins from A to Z (1962 US), Mary Poppins in the Kitchen: A Cookery Book with a Story * (1975 US) with Maurice Moore-Betty, Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane (1982) and Mary Poppins and the House Next Door (1989 US). The Disney movie Mary Poppins (1964) is based primarily on the first novel. Ostensibly nothing "more" than a nanny with Talents – abilities she uses to instruct and entertain her charges – Mary Poppins slips, at times, into a more profound guise. She could be described as a kind of psychopomp for English children in a period of historical transformation; while affirming certain values of an England that retained its Edwardian pomp and glow (the movie clearly sets its sentimentalized version of the tale before WWI), she also leads her children through a Rite of Passage into a more problematic world.

In The Fox at the Manger (1962 chap US) PLT created a sharp Christian Fantasy whose animal protagonist – the fox – gives the Baby Christ the gift of cunning. Friend Monkey (1971 US) subjects a human family to the dubious assistance of Hanuman, the Trickster monkey god, on his 1897 visit to England. About the Sleeping Beauty (coll/anth 1975 US), illustrated by Charles Keeping, contains an uplifting Revisionist-Fantasy version of the Fairytale along with traditional renderings and an essay. [JC]

other works: Happy Ever After (1940 chap US), a fable; I Go by Sea, I Go by Land (1941), associational; In Search of the Hero: The Continuing Relevance of Myth and Fairy Tale (1970 chap US), a lecture; Two Pairs of Shoes: Folk Tales (coll 1980 US), retold folktales; What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol and Story (coll 1989 US), essays.

Helen Lyndon Goff


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.