Thursday, 27 June 2013

Pongwiffy: A Social and Political Study

by Nathaniel Charles

Published in 1988, Pongwiffy: A Witch of Dirty Habits details a witch (Pongwiffy) and her familiar, Hugo the hamster (hailing from Amsterdam), and her misadventures with a variety of creatures. Although a children’s book, when looked into it is a relevant and cutting social narrative, dealing with ‘youths’, friendships and workplace scenarios.

Surprisingly for a children’s book Pongwiffy deals with adult themes such as promotion and trying to understand teenagers while Pongwiffy’s search for Hugo the hamster is reminiscent of American law firms and their associate system.

In the book, the goblins represent teenagers in the most stereotypical (and unfortunately accurate) way possible; they listen to loud music, rebel against authority and their penchant for impractical clothing is taken to the extreme. When Pongwiffy first meets them, both are unwilling to back down and a loud argument quickly ensues over their slovenly housekeeping and appalling noise, ending with Pongwiffy threatening to banish the goblins to another cave. This is strongly similar to my own experiences, at times, with my parents; unfortunately, Kaye Umansky can’t seem to find a peaceful or reasonable solution either….

It is Umansky’s portrayal of people in workplace scenarios that gives the most entertaining passages in the book; in the bid for the title of Grandwitch, friendships are tested and there are despicable displays of sycophancy. During the incumbent Grandwitch Sourmuddle’s party, everybody throws down the gauntlet (and their friendships) in attempts to be named Sourmuddle’s successor. Although the antics of the witches are exaggerated to make a more entertaining story, the search for the perfect cake is spot on and the time honoured ‘laugh at the boss’ jokes’ are taken to the extreme during the party.

An alternative interpretation of the book is from a political perspective, however; it was written while Margaret Thatcher was in power and the constant arguing between the dynamic and bossy witches and the old wizards (grey bearded and deeply conservative) harks back firmly to the issues besetting Thatcher in her own party.

Pongwiffy is a witty and entertaining read containing many revelations throughout. I would thoroughly recommend it to all, from 5 year olds to English A-level students.

Here is a link should you wish to purchase it.

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