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Literature / Baldmoney, Sneezewort, Dodder and Cloudberry

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Baldmoney, Sneezewort, Dodder and Cloudberry, also known as the Little Grey Men, is a 1942 book by Dennis Watkins-Pitchford about the last four gnomes in England. The second part, known as the Little Grey Men Go Down The Bright Stream, was published in 1948, and a prequel known as Forest of Boland Light Railway was published in 1955.

These books provide examples of:

  • After the End: By the 20th century all of the other gnomes in England have died, or migrated to other countries to escape industriaisation.
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  • Adventurer Outfit: As pilot of Wonderbird, Baldmoney wears a white scarf made from a piece of the farmer's shirt.
  • Animal Religion: The gnomes and forest creatures worship the god Pan.
  • Break the Haughty: The gnomes steal the eggs of the Asshole Victim Upper-Class Twit pheasant as payback for his hostility.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The gnomes do not eat meat, but have no problem with carnivores killing for food. However they are horrified to see a human kill animals and nail the carcasses to a tree.
  • Badass Beard: Three of the four gnomes have long grey beards. Dodder's could be considered a Seadog Beard due to his interest in boats and fishing.
  • Creator Cameo: Robin Clobber is BB's real life son who tragically died before the book was published.
  • Cargo Cult: The gnomes initially believe the Jeanie Deans was built and abandoned by other gnomes. When there is no sign of the crew on the island, they conclude that the boat was sent to them by Pan.
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  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The gnomes use strange, archaic names for woodland creatures. A bunny is a bub'm, a fox is a wood dog, a badger is an earth bear, a bluetit is a blue button, and a hedgehog is a hedge pig.
  • Cool Boat: In both books the gnomes have a clockwork paddle steamer named the Jeanie Deans.
  • Cool Plane: In the second book Baldmoney builds a flying machine called Wonderbird after the Jeanie Deans is sunk.
  • Death Trap: Crow Wood is full of snares and traps.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: The gnomes don't need footwear because they have tough, hairy feet similar to Hobbits.
  • Demoted to Dragon: Cloudberry starts out as one of the heroes, but after turning evil he allies with the Worm of Death.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Cloudberry's Face–Heel Turn is caused by his rivalry with Dodder.
  • Eats Babies: The Worm of Death devours nightingale chicks and fluffy owlets.
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  • Egomaniac Hunter: After Giant Grum comes across the gnomes' tracks he becomes obsessed with hunting them.
  • Fantastic Racism: Boomerang Bigot Squirrel dislikes the pheasant for being a foreigner from Asia, but grey squirrels are also an invasive species introduced from America.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The squirrel, badger, owl, hedgehog, heron and kingfisher all help and advise the gnomes.
  • Gaia's Lament: The poem in Down The Bright Stream about the demise of the folly brook.
  • Green Aesop: BB's two novels are a warning to his readers that our existing wildlife could disappear like the gnomes if we do not care for the environment.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Dodder wears a black leather jacket made from bat wings.
  • Hero with a Unique Name: Only the gnomes and a few supporting characters such as Ben the Owl have real names. For the rest of the cast it's a case of A Dog Named "Dog", with a Squirrel named Squirrel, a water rat named Vole, and a kingfisher named the King of Fishers. There are also a few examples of A Lizard Named "Liz", with a goat named Nanny, a Heron named Herne, and a badger named Brockett.
  • Historical Domain Character: The Jeanie Deans has a portrait of King Bertie, his wife the Scottish Cook, and the young princesses Lillibet and Margaret.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Giant Grum is killed by his own gun backfiring after Dodder sabotages it.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: The gnomes fear and avoid contact with people, after many of their race were unwittingly poisoned by pollution or run over by cars.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: In the first book the Big Bad is a gamekeeper called Perkins, but the gnomes know him as Cruel Giant Grum
  • Kick the Dog: Giant Grum shoots Otter for his own amusement, then strings him up from a tree.
  • Magic Versus Science: The cruel giant has a gun, traps and snares. The gnomes are aided by the god Pan.
  • Mouse World: The gnomes' home in the old oak tree presumably contains scavenged and repurposed pieces of human technology.
  • Meaningful Name: Dodder is an appropriate Punny Name for an elderly gnome, and Cloudberry is ideal for a gnome who is happiest flying on the back of a goose. It's a Subverted Punchline with the two younger brothers because it is Sneezewort who is bald, not Baldmoney.
  • Nature Hero: The gnomes wear clothes made from mouse skins, and live off the fish, mushrooms and berries the forest provides.
  • Oireland: After their home is destroyed by flooding the gnomes make a perilous journey across the Irish sea in search of an island free from people.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: They live a simple life in the forest, but quickly adjust to new technology.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The more frequent appearance of thunderbirds in the sky is of course due to the ongoing Battle of Britain.
  • Scavenged Punk: The gnomes' daggers are made from the discarded blades of a human's pocket knife. Presumably they also get the tobacco for their pipes from cigarette ends.
  • Smug Snake: The Worm of Death is a Sadistic adder who knows that death cap mushrooms are poisonous but tells Cloudberry that he is welcome to take as many as he wants.
  • Shown Their Work: BB was a naturalist, conservationist and hunter who did extensive research on British wildlife for his job as an illustrator of a shooting journal.
  • Sissy Villain: The pheasant is an arrogant, obnoxious fop who thinks he owns Crow Wood.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: The Worm of Death preys upon baby chicks, and his Sssssnake Talk terrifies Cloudberry.
  • Threatening Shark: It's only a pike, but to the gnomes it's a monster comparable to Jaws
  • Token Heroic Orc: Robin Clobber spots the gnomes while searching for his toy boat, but doesn't try to capture them. He later wishes them well when he realises they have taken possession of the boat.
  • World Half Full: The other gnomes, fairies, elves, pixies and goblins have long since gone, leaving only Pan.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The pheasants like the cruel giant because he feeds them and shoots their natural predators.
  • Villainous Rescue: In The Little Grey Men Dodder avoids being eaten by a fox because human hunters show up. In Down The Bright Stream, The Dreaded Worm of Death's reign of terror is ended by a hungry fox who bites off his head.

Alternative Title(s): Down The Bright Stream, Little Grey Men, The Little Grey Men


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