Literature / Chalet School
A series of books by British novellist Elinor Brent-Dyer. Set in a boarding school
for girls in Austria, Guernsey, Wales and finally Switzerland, as the Nazis spread across Europe.
Features a cast of thousands
by virtue of having over sixty books and spanning almost three generations of the family.
Madge Bettany and her ill girl
sister, Joey, are faced with poverty when their brother Dick takes a new job in India. Madge decides that a finishing school for girls, in Austria, will be the best cure for their money woes and for Joey's health. Starting with a small number of students in the eponymous Chalet, the school teaches in English, French and German. Could very well be a trope codifier
for the boarding school
A character sheet is currently in progress.
This series provides examples of:
- A House Divided: The Feud in the Chalet School, in which girls and staff from another local school, St Hilda's, are forced to temporarily move in with the Chalet School after their school is destroyed by a fire. Although the older girls and most of the staff try to make the best of a bad situation, the younger girls are at odds with each other. The Chalet contingent, led by Jack Lambert, resent having to share their space with the St Hilda's girls, while the St Hilda's contingent, led by Gillie Garstin, are equally unhappy and find some of the Chalet School practices, such as the language days, annoying or weird. It's not helped by the arrogant attitude of Miriam Ashley, one of the St Hilda's teachers, who doesn't agree with the way the Chalet School does things, and is desperate to move out. The girls later bond over rescuing the school cat and painting walls with golden syrup. It Makes Sense in Context.
- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: The prefects have their moments. On top of their schoolwork, they are also expected to supervise the younger girls in prep sessions, clubs and games practices. They are also able to dole out punishments and often take matters into their own hands when younger girls are behaving badly or fighting amongst themselves.
- Abusive Parents: Rikki Fry's dad beats her hands with a cane for touching one of his prized vases.
- Several characters are also victims of emotional abuse, including Grizel Cochrane (who is also on the receiving end of financial abuse from her parents) and Theodora / Ted Grantley, who has a very strained relationship with her mother. And Juliet Carrick's parents just plain dump her on Madge (see Parental Abandonment below).
- Adult Fear: Both Jem and Madge and Joey have to deal with their young children going missing at certain points. In the former case, Sybil is kidnapped by the Mystic M in The New Chalet School, while in The Chalet School Triplets, Joey's daughter Cecil is kidnapped by a mentally ill woman. Luckily, no harm comes to either child. And Joey is a constant source of this for Madge in the Tyrol years.
- Aerith and Bob: On the one hand, there are girls with pretty conventional names, such as Gillian Culver, Beth Chester, Margaret Twiss, Mary Woodley and Amy Stevens. On the other, there's the likes of Verity-Ann Carey, Yseult Pertwee, Loveday Perowne, Viola Lucy, Josette Russell, Zephyr Burthill, Evadne Lannis, and many other girls with equally weird names.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: When Miss Browne informs Vera that she is to be expelled in Rivals, Vera throws herself down on the floor and begs the headmistress not to expel her. Miss Browne isn't interested and tells her she must 'never kneel to another human being'.
- Zephyr Burthill tries the same trick in Jo to the Rescue with Simone de Bersac, kneeling down and begging her to give her Phoebe's cello. Simone isn't having any of it.
- Alpha Bitch: Betty Wynne-Davies becomes one by the time of Highland Twins at the Chalet School, due to breaking away from former best friend Elizabeth Arnett and taking a level in bitchiness as a result.
- In the Switzerland part of the series, there's Jack Lambert, particularly in Jane and the Chalet School.
- A milder example is Lysbet Alsen in Two Sams at the Chalet School, who takes an instant dislike to Samaris Davies due to her actually wanting to pull her finger out and do well, rather than slacking off like the rest of the form. Similarly, there's Eilunedd Vaughan in Peggy of the Chalet School, who is not pleased about Peggy being Head Girl and makes trouble for her.
- Alpha Couple: Madge and Jem in the Tyrol years, and Joey and Jack from Exile onwards.
- Ambition Is Evil: Or misguided, anyway. Which is the reaction Miss Slater gets from Miss Dene and younger mistresses when she announces in Changes that she won't be joining the school in Switzerland as she's got a job in another high school as Head of Maths, and she's had enough of being a junior mistress and wants to advance up the career ladder. Miss O'Brien, Miss Derwent and Miss Burnett all make fun of her and accuse her of thinking she's better than them.
- Beta Bitch: Florence 'Floppy Bill' Williams is this to Betty Wynne-Davies in 'Highland Twins', though even she and fellow Beta Bitch Hilda are disgusted by Betty talking to a Nazi spy about the Chart of Erisay.
- Bitch Alert: If a character is evil or just generally unpleasant, EBD lets the reader know straight away. They often have harsh voices, dislike and/or get into an argument with the heroine of the book, Joey or one of her relatives, and are either ugly, plain, 'sharp-featured' (such as Emerence Hope) or pretty in a 'cheap' or 'showy' way (such as Zephyr Burthill).
- Blackmail: Used by Margot against Ted Grantley in Theodora. Margot finds out that Ted has been expelled from various schools, and threatens to make it public if she doesn't stay away from Len.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Sybil Russell is one at first, but grows out of it. And if you're a Middle or Junior, you will probably be one at some point.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Mr Denny. He speaks in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, has long hair and eccentric dress sense and waxes lyrical about Greek myth (hence his nickname of 'Plato'), but he's a fantastic teacher and a talented musician who clearly loves his subject and is popular among the students.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Any girl who tries to run away from school, misbehaves on an expedition or has a midnight feast will end up ill or injured. Joyce Linton even gets a severe attack of food poisoning in The Chalet School and the Lintons after eating Thekla von Stift's uncooked bacon.
- Characterization Marches On: Verity-Ann Carey is on the receiving end of this. She starts off as an old-fashioned and rather pig-headed little girl in Three Go to the Chalet School, who refuses to join in with the other girls' 'hoydenish' games or sing in German. In the Swiss series, she becomes increasingly dependent on Mary-Lou to the point of helplessness, and is later described by Joey as a 'broken reed' or a 'clinging vine' who's holding Mary-Lou back (until she conveniently gets married off), characteristics that were not at all evident in the war / Island years.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Simone Lecoutier gets very jealous when Joey makes other friends besides her. Joey calls her on it when Simone cuts her hair to get Joey's attention.
- Mélanie Lucas begins to act this way in A Future Chalet School Girl after Ruey Richardson arrives and, from Mélanie's viewpoint, hogs the Maynards' time. Of course, she doesn't know about Ruey's Disappeared Dad and the Maynards subsequently taking her and her brothers under their wing, until Ruey puts her straight during an argument. And she isn't the first one Ruey's had to deal with, either - one major plot point of Ruey Richardson, Chaletian is Francie Wilford's dislike towards Ruey because she sees her as getting in the way of a potential friendship with Margot (who isn't remotely interested in Francie anyway).
- Cloudcuckoolander: Con Maynard is the poster girl for this trope. Verity-Ann Carey becomes one in the later books and is often described as 'moony'.
- Completely Missing the Point: In Changes, the Dawbarn twins, Primrose Trevoase, Peggy Harper and Carol Soames have a clandestine picnic in the orchard. Their 'tuck' is stashed in a cupboard, and Priscilla Dawbarn manages to open it by squeezing her arm through a gap and unlocking it. Carol suggests they take some sweets from the sweet cupboard, which is unlocked, but Priscilla refuses, stating that Matron trusts them not to steal from an unlocked cupboard. The irony of this is pointed out to them later.
- Contrived Coincidence: Loads throughout the series. One particular glaring example is Two Sams, in which Samaris Davies and Samantha van der Byl discover at the end of the book that they're long-lost cousins. Other new girls, such as Adrienne Desmoines and Melanie Lucas, turn out to be related to Old Girls (the Robin and Jeanne le Cadoulec respectively). The Wrong Chalet School is full of them. As one fan said:
The coincidences required for the plot are a bit much - two Chalet Schools with similarly described uniforms leaving from the same train station at the same time, two heads named Miss Wilson, the death of a mistress at the other Chalet school (if I remember correctly) so they couldn't get the information from them, a flood at the real CS which destroyed all correspondence to Mary Katherine, both fathers being Dr Gordons who worked abroad in missionary work, both trunks being sent late, and the fact that Mary-Katherine's people didn't seem to notify the school that their daughter wasn't going to be at the pickup point, and Miss Gordon being unreachable for an extended period of time!
- Cool Big Sis: Dickie Christy is a literal example, helping raise her younger sister Cherry and becoming a well-liked figure during her time at the Chalet School. Likewise, there's Len Maynard, who acts as the leader of the other Maynard kids, being the most responsible triplet. And Joey acts as one to the Robin, who in turn becomes a Cool Big Sis to Daisy Venables during the Armishire era. Bear in mind, this being the Chalet School, none of these girls are particularly jaded or cynical.
- Cool Old Lady: Matron, more commonly known as 'Matey' (generally held to be Matron Lloyd), one of the longest-serving members of staff, and Rebecca Learoyd, the grandmother who Jacynth and Gay encounter in Gay from China at the Chalet School.
- Creepy Doll: Baby Voodoo, which a group of junior Middles make in New House in order to frighten Cornelia by dangling it in front of our bedroom window. Unfortunately, it doesn't work as Cornelia is a heavy sleeper, and Joey catches them at it and dumps Baby Voodoo on a piano - and when a superstitious maid finds it, all hell breaks loose.
- Darker and Edgier: The World War II stories are darker in tone than the other books, the most notable example being The Chalet School In Exile. Starts off with the school being forced to leave the Tirol due to the Anschluss, and losing German and Austrian pupils, who are recalled to their own countries. Joey, Robin, Cornelia, Miss Wilson and a load of others wind up having to escape from the Nazis after Joey gets into an argument with some men who are attacking an old Jewish man, during which Miss Wilson's hair turns white. Mlle Lepattre, one of the original heads of the school and Cornelia's guardian, dies after a long illness, while Maria Marani's father is killed in a concentration camp, and Frieda's husband has a narrow escape from one. A Nazi spy infiltrates the school, although luckily, she has a Heel–Face Turn. Finally, Maria and Cornelia are seriously injured after trying to save a man from being burned to death.
- The Chalet Girls Grow Up by Merryn Williams, a sequel to the original series, was much Darker and Edgier than any of the original Chalet School stories. Among many other things Len suffers domestic violence, is raped and then abandoned by her husband, who cheats on her. Her young daughter dies of meningitis and another daughter goes through a Teen Pregnancy. Con has several affairs with men who don't love her, suffers a miscarriage, and has setbacks in her writing career. Margot becomes a peace protester who is banned from South Africa and eventually finds she has left it too late to have a child. Jo develops Alzheimer's Disease, Jack is Driven to Suicide, Madge has a fatal stroke, Mary-Lou is a man-eating temptress, and the Chalet School closes (and is eventually bulldozed) when it runs into financial trouble. What a cheery little tale!
- Darkest Hour: In Rivals, when Joey is seriously ill after falling into an icy lake, and Jem is worried that she might not survive the afternoon. Both staff and girls, St Scholastika's pupils included, fear for Joey's life. She gets better.
- Dead Guy Junior: Many, many times. Joey's daughter Margot, for example, was named after her brother-in-law's dead sister, and Gisela Mensch names her daughter Natalie after her grandmother's dead baby daughter.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Some new girls go through this, such as Prunella Davidson in The Chalet School Does It Again and Edna Purdom in The Chalet School in the Oberland. Though they get off to a bad start and their jerkiness alienates and annoys other girls, they soon make friends and/or encounter Joey, and gradually start to thaw out and fit in.
- Dewey Defeats Truman: In The Chalet School in Exile, one of the wartime books, the school relocates to Guernsey. As this article points out, Brent-Dyer had no way of knowing that, just after the book was published, the Nazis would invade Guernsey.
- Didn't Think This Through: Miss Browne in Rivals should have had more of a clue about starting a school in the Tiernsee area. Firstly, the area is mountainous, with heavy snow in winter and a risk of floods, but the St Scholastika's girls are not equipped properly for the area (for instance, they don't have nailed boots like the Chalet School girls). Secondly, they're up against a more established school with strong ties to the local community. Unlike Madge in The School at the Chalet, Miss Browne makes no efforts to integrate into the local community and get to know people beforehand - a tactic which enables Madge to get pupils from local families - or learn about local customs. Thirdly, she's so xenophobic (with her comments about Mlle Lepattre being French and 'we know what their ideas of education are', and foreigners being dishonourable) that you wonder why she came to a foreign country in the first place. And badmouthing the Chalet School to Dick, Jem, Joey and Captain Humphries after learning Joey was a pupil there? Epic Fail. Small wonder St Scholastika's later merges with the Chalet School in The New Chalet School.
- Carola Johnstone, generally. Her motto is 'I didn't think!' See Leeroy Jenkins below.
- Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery: Looking at you, Naomi Elton.
- Disproportionate Retribution: OK, so Betty Wynne-Davies had a bit of a grudge against Robin, Daisy and the McDonald twins, but was Potentially selling the isle of Erisay out to the Nazis really necessary?
- In Three Go to the Chalet School, when Verity-Ann Carey refuses to sing in German, a couple of girls splutter involuntarily and Miss Burnett goes overboard in her punishment. Not only are they told off, but they're also made to apologise to Mr. Denny, have conduct marks deducted and spend their evening hemming dusters.
- More generally, one way to guarantee getting punished in the Chalet School, usually by fines and a heavy ticking off, is...talking slang. Yeah. For some of the mistresses, it's a huge Berserk Button.
- Dumb Blonde: The Ozanne twins and Yseult Pertwee definitely qualify. Played with with Marie von Eschenau - she's the least academic of the Quartette and is more known for her looks than her academics, but she certainly isn't thick. And Daisy Venables, Stacie Benson and Frieda Mensch are all major aversions.
- Even Evil Has Standards: A rather odd example in Redheads, where a criminal gang plan to kidnap policeman's stepdaughter Flavia Ansell/Letton (one of the titular redheads) and drug her by giving her milk spiked with sedatives. When they discover they've got the wrong girl, Val Pertwee, they put her on a train...and make sure she has the correct ticket. So kidnapping and drugging teenage girls is OK, but travelling with the wrong ticket isn't?
- Everyone Calls Her Matron: Very rarely is Matey addressed by her first name (it's Gwynneth, and that isn't revealed until later in the series).
- Everything Trying to Kill You: The Austrian and Swiss books verge on this, what with girls continually getting caught in floods, getting trapped on mountains, having skiing or tobogganing accidents, nearly drowning in icy rivers, being kidnapped by madmen, or caught in fires.
- Eye Scream: Poor Rikki Fry gets ammonia sprayed in her eyes by a horrible American child in The Chalet School and Richenda. She doesn't go blind, but does have to wear glasses for several years.
- Fainting: Happens to a lot of characters, particularly Joey and the more delicate girls. It's usually the emotional or exhaustion kind (for instance, when Joey is so overwhelmed by the Passion Play in Jo of the Chalet School that she faints).
- Feud Episode: Not just between girls, but between entire schools. First, there's Rivals of the Chalet School, in which a rivalry flares up between the Chalet School pupils and the girls from the nearby St Scholastika's (which eventually merges with the Chalet School a few books later), which only takes British girls. Much later on, there's The Feud in the Chalet School (see A House Divided above).
- Fiery Redhead: Margot and Sybil both have red hair - though Margot's is described more as 'red-gold' - and the temper to go with it.
- Food Porn: Don't read the Tyrol and Swiss books when you're hungry. EBD goes into great detail regarding the delicious food in the CS world. There's Anna's heavenly bread twists, featherbeds of whipped cream, potato balls that are crunchy on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside, goats' milk with a slight taste of onions, milky coffee for breakfast…the list goes on. Less so in the wartime books, because of the rationing that was going on at the time.
- For Want of a Nail: The beginning of Feud:
If Miss Holroyd had never decided to move her school; if some careless idiot had not tossed a smouldering cigarette-end onto the grass that was dry as tinder; if Miriam Ashley had been a person of humbler mind and less obstinacy; if above all, the Middles hadn't been like most Middles, young demons when roused; if, in fact, most things had been different, this story would not have been written.
- Four-Girl Ensemble: The Quartette in the early books. Joey is the tomboy and the leader, Simone is the temperamental Clingy Jealous Girl, Frieda is the Team Mom and the best-behaved, and Marie is the pretty one.
- Funetik Aksent: Flora, Fiona and Shiena all speak in one in Highland Twins, to emphasise their Funny Foreigner status. This was edited out of the paperback version. Working-class characters with strong accents also tend to speak this way.
- Gender-Blender Name: EBD seemed to be fond of masculine-sounding shortened forms of names. Notable examples throughout the series include Dickie (Christy, short for Delicia), Phil (Craven, short for Phyllida) and Tom (Gay, though it's not short for Thomasina) in the St Briavels period; Ted (Grantley, short for Theodora), Rikki (Fry, short for Richenda) and Jack (Lambert, short for Jacynth) in the Swiss period; and let's not forget Joey's daughters, Len and Phil (short for Helena and Philippa). All of them are, unsurprisingly, tomboys, except Rikki, Len and the two Phils.
- A couple of mistresses also have masculine nicknames: 'Bill' for Miss Wilson, and 'Charlie' for Miss Stewart (after Bonny Prince Charlie).
- Happily Adopted: Several characters throughout the series are adopted by either the Maynard and Russell families - such as the Richardsons in Joey & Co in Tyrol, Juliet Carrick in The School at the Chalet, and Erica Standish and Marie-Claire de Mabillon in Summer Term at the Chalet School - or other families.
- Heel–Face Turn: Gertrude Beck, aka Gertrud Becker. Most characters who start off 'bad' will also go through one - see Took a Level in Kindness below.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Joey has a major one in The Highland Twins at the Chalet School when she gets a telegram saying Jack has drowned. It's so out of character that it unnerves Madge, who can't understand why Joey isn't crying. Joey eventually breaks down and has to be given sleeping drugs. Luckily, as she finds out via Fiona McDonald, Jack is alive after all.
- Maria Marani goes through a major one in Exile through the stress of worrying about her father's disappearance, combined with being badly burned after rescuing a pilot from a burning plane. Herr Marani later turns out to have been killed in a concentration camp.
- Hot-Blooded: Although a good few of the girls qualify, such as Simone Lecoutier, Jack Lambert and Betty Wynne-Davies, Joey is the most prominent example and can be pretty temperamental, though she (for the most part) calms down as she gets older. Margot takes after her in that respect, although her temper is even worse, and she refers to it as 'my demon'. Joey attributes this to her and Jack having spoiled Margot as a child. Margot does try to control it, but it gets her into trouble on several occasions.
- I Ate WHAT?!: The school's reaction in Carola Storms, when it's revealed that Carola and her fellow classmates accidentally fried the doughnuts which have been served for the school tea in cod liver oil.
- Ill Girl: Joey Bettany, often. The Robin is one - EBD likes to describe her as 'delicate' - and Stacie Benson becomes one after a nasty accident on an excursion, although she gets better. As the Chalet School has close links with the sanatorium, several of its Ill Girl pupils are sent there.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Played for laughs with Margaret Twiss, in A Leader in the Chalet School:
“B-but it was me!-hurp-hurp!-it was!" Margaret wept loudly, her words so mixed up with her sobs that none of the girls could make head or tail of what she was saying and even the Head, with all her experience, could gather only a little here and there. “I-I s-saw Miss A-andrews-hurp!-p-put the snake-hurp-hurp!-snake into the d-drawer and I never-hurp!-said anything-hurp-hurp!-even when the rest b-blamed Jack-hurp!-for it!-hurp-hurp-hurp! Wah-hah-hah!”
- Important Haircut: Or rather, important hairdo. You know a girl has officially reached adulthood when she starts putting her hair up. Madge bemoans in Exploits how her former students are getting older when she sees Vanna di Ricci and Frieda Mensch wearing their hair up.
- Mary-Lou has to have her hair chopped off after the accident in Mary-Lou, and it grows back curly. Note that this is around the same time when she becomes a senior, a responsible figure, and a mentor to the triplets.
- Instant Illness: Any exposure to chills, rain, drafts, mud or cold water is fairly certain to leave the victim in the grip of a life-threatening disease if they're not immediately put into a hot bath and then into bed with two hot water bottles. In one book, Jo spends three days unconscious and is bedridden for over a week after standing for literally a few minutes by an open door on a snowy day.
- Jerkass: Even in the Chalet School, there are bullies, the worst being Thekla von Stift, Betty Wynne-Davies and Jack Lambert. The first two are the only girls to be expelled, although Jack does get better later on in the series.
- Kick the Dog: Don't ever be mean to the Robin. A sign that Betty Wynne-Davies was probably one of the nastiest characters in the Chalet School series is the fact that she was prepared to hurt the twins to get at Robin and Daisy. And earlier in the series, St Scholastika's Head Girl Elaine Gilling incurs the wrath of Joey in Rivals when Robin tries to pacify her during an argument about church collections, and Elaine rudely brushes her off.
- Killed Off for Real: Mademoiselle Lepattre and Herr Laubach both die after a long period of illness, while Luigia di Ferrara and Florian Marani, Maria and Gisela's dad, both die in concentration camps, and according to Word of God, Thekla von Stift 'vanished' during the war. It's also implied in one of the Swiss books that Miss Bubb is terminally ill.
- Knitting Pregnancy Announcement: Joey does this in Mary-Lou, in order to explain to Mary-Lou why she can't deal with Jessica Wayne herself. She shows Mary-Lou some baby clothes she's been knitting. (A few books later, she gives birth to her ninth child, Cecil.)
- Leeroy Jenkins: Joey has her moments, but special mention must go to Carola Johnstone for running away to school in her eponymous book. Not only that, but she jumps into a pond to rescue a younger girl and gets her hands burned when she goes to Len's rescue after Grizel accidentally sets Len on fire.
- Lemony Narrator: EBD has her lemony moments, often commenting disapprovingly on the actions of some characters (especially those naughty Middles) or Lampshade Hanging about the school story genre and tropes used in Victorian novels, sometimes via the characters (such as Joey mocking Carla's suggestion of training Biddy as a helper to the Robin in The Chalet School and Jo).
- Lethal Chef: Played for laughs in some of the cookery classes. As well as the fishy doughnuts mentioned above, there's a bit in The Chalet School and the Lintons where Cornelia Flower uses garlic cloves as flavouring for apple pies rather than normal cloves, and Lavender and her friends make some borderline inedible waffles and fruit cake in Lavender Laughs. Luckily, Anna is smart enough to guess how the attempts at baking will turn out, and bakes some buns.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Over the years, there are many characters added to the alumni, including the children of the main characters in the first books.
- Long-Runners: Sixty books over forty-odd years.
- Make-Up Is Evil: At least, if you're a junior, middle or fifth former. Joan Baker (in Problem) and Betty Wynne-Davies and her group (in The Chalet School Goes To It) are looked down on and castigated by teachers and other girls for being 'cheap' and wearing too much make-up, tarty clothes and, in Betty's case, getting a perm. However, curiously, girls at the finishing branch at St Mildred's are expected to wear make-up (albeit not too much) - in The Chalet School in the Oberland, one girl, Edna, is told to wear more make-up, and there's a common belief throughout the books that if one does not look one's best, one is insulting other people by forcing them to look at one's ugly face.
- Mama Bear: While escaping the Nazis through Innsbruck, the teachers defend their students admirably.
- Joey becomes one later in the books, and is also very protective of the Robin.
- Manipulative Bitch: Vera Smithers in Rivals tries to bring the Chalet School into disrepute by sending anonymous letters to Princess Elisaveta of Belsornia and her dad, the King, claiming that the Chalet girls were being disrespectful by not calling her 'Princess Elisaveta'. Unfortunately, the plan backfires, not only because the Chalet girls all swear they're innocent, and incriminating papers are found in Vera's desk, but because Elisaveta - as she points out in a letter to Jo - doesn't actually care whether people at the school call her 'Princess' or not.
- Margot Maynard, of all people, in Theodora, when she finds out that Ted Grantley has been expelled from three school, and blackmails her by threatening to tell everyone about Ted's past.
- Betty Wynne-Davies in Highland Twins. See Disproportionate Retribution above.
- Meaningful Rename: Two examples stand out in the series, courtesy of Joey. Firstly, Eustacia Benson becomes known as 'Stacie' in Eustacia after getting injured on a mountain and subsequently taking a level in kindness. Secondly, in Theodora, Jo gives troubled teen Theodora Grantley the nickname of 'Ted' to represent her wiping the slate clean by starting a new life at the Chalet School and putting her Dark and Troubled Past behind her.
- Mood Whiplash: In Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School, Frieda Mensch's sister Bernhilda gets married, and Frieda, Joey, Simone and many others are invited and have a wonderful time. During the wedding party, Frieda discovers via Joey and a servant girl that her grandmother is dying.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Several times. For example, Deira in Head Girl chucks a stone at Grizel's head (mostly accidentally - mostly) and suffers violent remorse.
- Noodle Incident: In The Chalet School Goes To It, it's mentioned Jack Maynard's nephew Rolf was killed as a result of disobeying his parents, but it's never revealed exactly what he did. And we never find out just why Marilyn Evans was such a bad Head Girl in the Armishire years, other than prioritising schoolwork over prefect duties.
- Nouveau Riche: Joan Baker in Problem, whose family are able to afford to send her to the school after her father wins the pools, and Diana Skelton in Bride Leads. Both are seen as vulgar and classless by the other girls, though Joan does get better eventually.
- Nuns N' Rosaries: Several prominent characters, such as the Maynards (after Joey converts in order to marry Jack), Frieda, Marie and Miss Wilson, are Catholics, and Luigia di Ferrara, the Robin and Margot all become nuns. Jack's rosary is what enables Fiona to discover that he is alive in Highland Twins. Truth in Television as the Tyrol was a very Catholic area at the time of writing. See Real Life Writes the Plot too.
- Nun Too Holy: Margot in The Chalet Girls Grow Up, to the point where the order basically kick her out because her outspokenness and political activism make her a risk.
- Oireland: Irish characters tend to speak in a very stereotypical way, using phrases like 'tis yourself, acushla!' and 'to be sure'. Biddy O'Ryan is particularly bad for this - barely a mention of her goes by without EBD bringing up how Irish she is, and she speaks in a 'thick Kerry brogue' that's nigh-on incomprehensible at times. And yes, she is Genre Savvy about fairy tales and gets punished by Miss Wilson after she tells a story about a banshee that gives another girl nightmares.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. There are ten billion Margarets (with varying nicknames) floating round, not to mention three different Mateys (not including other matrons who don't last very long).
- Only Known by Their Nickname: The Robin's real name is Cecilia Marya Humphries, but she's generally referred to by her childhood nickname. There's also Polly Heriot (real name Hildegard), Jack Lambert (real name Jacynth) and Tom Gay (real name Lucinda Muriel, and given that Tom is a huge tomboy, it's unsurprising she hates her name).
- Parental Abandonment: Juliet Carrick is on the receiving end of this. Her useless parents basically dump her on the Chalet School and expect Madge to take her in while they go travelling around Europe. They both die later in a car crash, but Captain Carrick's bad reputation lives on and this causes some major problems for Juliet in Jo of the Chalet School, when her boyfriend's snobby sister finds out and drops her like a hot potato.
- The Patriarch: Jack and Jem. Particularly Jem and his insistence on training the kids to instant obedience.
- Phrase Catcher: Joey and Mary-Lou both get this a lot. In the former's case, it's "Joey always does things wholesale!" (especially referring to her army of children) and "that is so like Joey". For the latter, there's "it isn't cheek, it's just Mary-Lou."
- The Pollyanna: Joey and Robin. Despite the countless horrible things that happen to them - war, being forced to flee from Nazis, illness, parental death - they both manage to remain cheerful and optimistic throughout.
- Plucky Girl: Again, there are loads of them, Joey being a notable example.
- Promotion to Parent: Several examples, most notably Madge and her twin brother Dick, who are responsible for Joey after their parents die, and Gillian Linton, who takes care of her Bratty Half-Pint sister Joyce while their mother is ill.
- Proper Lady: Many of the German, French and Tyrolean girls, particularly in the Tyrol years. And Lavender Leigh would like to think she is one.
- Put on a Bus: With so many characters, it's bound to happen. Some characters are prominent for a couple of books and then disappear. One of the more notable examples is the Robin, who is a major character in the Tirol / Armishire eras, but is almost never heard from after becoming a nun and moving to Canada. Madge and Jem's role in the series is also greatly reduced once they stay in England while the School moves to Switzerland, despite Madge being the founder of the School - probably because EBD could not see any more use for them once Jack became head of the Swiss Sanatorium and he and Joey effectively filled Madge and Jem's original role.
- Quitting to Get Married: Happens to several mistresses, including Hilary Burn, Mollie Maynard, Biddy O'Ryan, Simone Lecoutier (though she does return to teach during the war) and, of course, Madge. Miss Annersley and Miss Wilson are notable exceptions. Julie Lucy also has to give up her future career as a barrister when she gets engaged as, according to Joey, 'she won't have time as the wife of a housemaster'. Bear in mind that married women giving up their jobs happened a lot during the period the books were written.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Non-villainous example. Miss Annersley gives a lot of these to misbehaving or careless students, often resulting in them feeling mentally reduced to fragments.
- Joey delivers a particularly scathing one to Kitty Burnett:
"I'm too disgusted with your behaviour. You make me feel sick! Please go away, and don't let us see anything more of you this week as can be helped. You are a disgrace to the School, and the sooner you realise it the better for you. Now go!"
"Joyce, you seem to be somewhat above yourself, and the only thing I can suggest is that you should try to realise that you are only a Middle — and a very new Middle at that. It's rather too early for you to have assimilated our ideals, I suppose, though your sister doesn't seem to have had such trouble. Just get it into your head that all such things as passing notes are despised here, and the people who do them are considered despicable. And remember that you are really a very insignificant person, as well."
- Rescue Romance: Several, usually involving doctors who either help a female character and end up marrying her, or help one of the students and end up marrying one of the teachers who was present at the time. There's Jem Russell and Madge in Jo of the Chalet School, Frank Peters and Phoebe Wychcote in Jo to the Rescue, Hilary Burn and Phil Graves in Carola Storms the Chalet School, and Biddy O'Ryan and Eugene Courvoisier in The Chalet School Does it Again.
- Rich Bitch: Two particular examples spring to mind:
- Thekla von Stift, Marie von Eschenau's cousin and one of the main characters in Exploits of the Chalet Girls. As a member of the Junker class, she expresses horror at having to be educated alongside 'the daughters of shopkeepers', and looks down on most of the other students, such as Sophie Hamel, whose father is a self-made businessman. Her arrogant and childish behaviour makes her greatly unpopular amongst the other kids, and although she does thaw out a tiny bit - this being the Chalet School - after her petticoat catches fire, she still has a cruel streak and is eventually expelled in A Rebel at the Chalet School.
- In Jo To The Rescue, we meet Zephyr Burthill, a spoiled brat who covets Ill Girl Phoebe Wychcote's cello, since Phoebe can't play it due to illness and Zephyr is a talented musician herself. She's so desperate to get her hands on it, her father sends some thugs to the house where Joey and co are staying to try and steal it. She's used to getting everything she wants and resorts to begging Simone on her knees to get it for her. Joey overhears and tells her where to get off. Of course, after she's introduced to the Robin, she sees the error of her ways and takes a level in kindness.
- Rousing Speech: Emmie Linders gives a particularly memorable one in Highland Twins, after she and her family escape from the Nazis. Miss Annersley also gives a few over the course of the war books, reminding the girls to be brave.
- Ruritania: Belsornia, Princess Elisaveta's homeland.
- Sadist Teacher: Woe betide any pupil who gets on the wrong side of Miss Cochrane or Herr Laubach, the temperamental art master (who's surprisingly popular, despite having made several pupils cry and having thrown art things at Joey after she was messing around in one of his classes). Miss Cochrane does have reasons for being difficult, though - see her entry on the character sheet for why.
- Samaritan Syndrome: Joey and Mary Lou Trelawney have a mild case of it in the Swiss books, with their insistence on 'butting in' whenever a new girl has problems. Justified to an extent as characters such as Phoebe Wychcote genuinely need and appreciate their help.
- Scenery Porn: One of the many features of the Tyrol books which makes them so popular with the fandom. EBD based the Tiern See on the real life Achensee, and if her descriptions of the rivers and mountains and winter landscapes are anything to go by, she clearly loved the place (and it really is beautiful).
- School Play: As it's a school series, this trope is to be expected. Several books feature a Christmas play or pantomime, which often serves as a conclusion (such as in Highland Twins) or a plot device (Adrienne at the Chalet School, where Janet Henderson's dress catches fire during the play and Adrienne saves her, ending the tensions between them).
- She Is All Grown Up: The series follows the lives of Loads and Loads of Characters as they go through the school, some of them returning as teachers, and we get to see them maturing into adults. Some of whom become noticeably attractive.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: As one of the side stories reveals, Mr Denny is a World War I veteran and has PTSD as a result.
- Shout-Out: Joey bears more than a few similarities to Jo March of Little Women fame, what with the dark hair, being a bit tomboyish and a wannabe writer, and not wanting to grow up. She even quotes Jo at one point. There's also a Margaret (Bettany, and several other characters), an Amy (Stevens) who starts off as a blonde-haired Bratty Half-Pint, and later a Beth (Chester).
- Sibling Yin-Yang / Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Several examples. As well as Joey and Madge, and Jack and Anne Lambert, there's also the Linton sisters; Gillian is the older, more responsible sister who is Promoted To Parent and later becomes a mistress at the school, while Joyce, the younger one, is a lazy, selfish Spoiled Brat.
- Spoiled Brat: Several examples throughout the series, such as Lavender Leigh (in Lavender Laughs), who has spent most of her life being spoiled rotten by her ditzy aunt, and Emerence Hope (in Shocks for the Chalet School), whose rich parents let her do whatever she wanted, culminating in her setting fire to the summer house. Most tend to grow out of it, usually with some help from Joey, their peers, and the occasional accident.
- Stern Teacher: Madge tries to be this, and later teachers do well, especially Miss Wilson, Miss Annersley and most of the male teachers.
- Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: Yes, even in the Chalet School these occur, but not very often. Lavender, Emerence, Eustacia and a few other girls are sent to Coventry by their classmates. Some characters also hide other characters' things as a prank, such as the lost property prank in Trials.
- Supreme Chef: Anna, the Maynard family maid, and Karen, the school cook (who also has Chef of Iron tendencies). The school go nuts in A Feud in the Chalet School for Anna's greengage jam (but she's not giving the recipe to anyone), and the narrative waxes lyrical about Karen's 'heavenly' bread twists and cakes.
- Textile Work Is Feminine: The Tyrolean and German girls are big on sewing, periods are set aside for mending clothes, and being able to sew and mend is considered an important ability for a potential wife and homemaker. More tomboyish or rebellious girls, such as Cornelia and Joey, hate sewing, and Joey's efforts drive Gisela to distraction in the early books. Several girls in the Hobbies Club do various crafts as their hobbies.
- Took a Level in Badass: Joey in her rescue of Princess Elisaveta in A Princess at the Chalet School, as if her previous attempt to save Grizel from being stuck on the Tiernjoch in Jo of the Chalet School wasn't already a sign that she's pretty damn tough. And Miss Wilson, Joey (again), Robin, Cornelia Flower, Violet Allison and Maria Marani all take several levels in The Chalet School in Exile. Miss Wilson leads a group of girls to safety through a hidden passageway (see Badass Teacher above) after Joey and Cornelia put them all at risk by yelling at a bunch of Nazis who are terrorising an old Jewish man, while Robin rushes to help him. Later on, Cornelia, Violet and Maria rescue a pilot from a burning plane, with Cornelia's eyesight being severely damaged and all three of them ending up in hospital.
- Margot takes several in The Chalet Girls Grow Up, joining the Black Sash, becoming an anti-apartheid activist and getting thrown in prison after protesting at Greenham.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Girls who start off as bitchy, sulky or standoffish will often come to learn the error of their ways and become nicer people after being introduced to the ways of the Chalet School, or getting a good ticking-off from one of the mistresses. And if that doesn't work, there's always a handy accident (see Break the Haughty above for what happens to Eustacia Benson).
- Totally Radical: Or whatever the '20s version is. If you are an American Chalet Girl, especially if your name is Cornelia Flower or Evvy Lannis, you will use ridiculous amounts of slang.
- Tragic Dropout: Elfie Woodward. After her stepmother dies, she drops out of school in order to take care of her brothers and father, who is an emotional wreck and can barely take care of himself. However, she is able to go back after other relatives take over caring for the family.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: The plot of Gay from China at the Chalet School revolves around this trope. When Miss Bubb, the tyrant in question, takes over as temporary headmistress after Miss Wilson, Miss Annersley and others are injured in a car crash, her fixation on exam results and crackdowns on the girls' free time and privileges makes her very unpopular, to the point where Joey writes a letter begging Miss Wilson to come back. Things comes to a head when she forbids Gay Lambert - who has broken rules on more than one occasion - to see her older brother before he is stationed in Asia, which leads to Gay running away and culminates in Miss Bubb having to resign, to everyone's relief.
- Villainous Breakdown / Freak Out: Jennifer Penrose in The Wrong Chalet School has a pretty major one, possibly triggered by Miss Annersley's comments that Blossom Willoughby could have seriously injured herself after smashing a window to get herself out of the art room (thanks to Jennifer locking her in). Jennifer has screaming nightmares about Blossom bleeding to death, and confesses everything when Blossom is brought in to show Jennifer that she got out unscathed.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Joey and Grizel in the Tyrol years. Although they do bicker a lot, they're still very close, even as adults, and Joey still risks her life to save Grizel when Grizel runs off to climb the Tiernjoch.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: Loads of examples for girls who barely see their fathers, and often their mothers as well, due to them working abroad. Carola Johnstone, for instance, has spent so long away from her father (who is working in Africa) that when he meets up with her in Carola, he's shocked to find she's a teenage girl. Both Mary-Lou Trelawney and Verity-Anne Carey have fathers who are away for long periods on expeditions (and Mary-Lou's father is killed on one of them, though Verity-Anne's father survives). The four older Bettany children - Rix, Peggy, Bride and Jackie - live with the Russell family due to their parents being in India, and being unable to get back to Britain because of the war.
- Working Class People Are Morons: Averted by Rosamund Lilley, a girl from a working-class background who wins a scholarship to the Chalet School. She's academic, but is looked down on by some of the other pupils because of her background.
- Also, there's Biddy O'Ryan, a maid's daughter; it's thought that she's going to become a lady's maid herself until a local priest discovers how bright she is, and she ends up going to Oxford and becoming a history teacher at the Chalet School.
- World War II: Interrupts the girls' schooling when the Nazis start sweeping across Europe. Also a major plot point in The Chalet School in Exile, The Chalet School Goes to It (aka The Chalet School at War) and The Highland Twins at the Chalet School.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: When the prefects begin an anti-slang crusade in Jo of the Chalet School, Joey and her classmates troll them by only speaking in Shakespearean English. It confuses the hell out of the foreign girls. Madge eventually cottons on and stops the prank.
- Yodel Land: How Switzerland can come across in the later books, and the Tyrol in the earlier ones: mountains, snow, skiing, delicious food, inclement weather, avalanches, evergreen pastures, herdsmen with goats' milk tasting of onions, etc. However, unlike the Tyrol, EBD had spent very little time in Switzerland, if any, and was mainly relying on tourist guides in order to get more information about the setting. This may probably explain why some of the teachers, when acting as Miss Exposition on class trips, sound like they're reciting passages from a guidebook.