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Literature / The Muddle-Headed Wombat

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The Muddle-Headed Wombat is a series of Australian children's stories by Ruth Park. The first stories were written for the Children's Hour on ABC Radio in the 1950s, continuing until the programme was discontinued in 1972. They were adapted into a series of picture books illustrated by Noela Young, with the first published in 1962.

The stories revolve around the amiable and child-like Wombat, and his friends, the more mature Mouse and the neurotic Tabby.

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These stories include examples of:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal:
    • Mouse wears tiny glasses which is sometimes hardly noticable.
    • Tabby is the only one who doesn't regularly wear clothes, but sometimes accessorises with a hat or a scarf when the situation calls for it.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: All of the main characters have their moments, including Mouse, since she often gets disrespected due to her size and plain appearance.
  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end of each chapter, including the last one.
  • Buffoonish Tomcat: Tabby is vain and neurotic and frequently the butt of slapstick disasters inadvertantly brought about by Wombat.
  • Butt-Monkey: Tabby, but, in fairness, all three friends have their own moments. Mouse ended up being stuck under the pillow the other two were sleeping on, just because she tried to check up on Tabby during the night.
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  • Cats Are Mean: Tabby can act like a real jerk, but then again, he was on his own for a very long time and had to possibly develop a self-centered view of himself to survive. Now he has two friends to keep him in check.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Wombat is very prone to doing this, which is part of the reason why he's characterized as "muddleheaded".
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The main characters are a wombat named Wombat, a long-tailed bush mouse named Long-Tailed Bush Mouse ("Mouse" to her friends), and a tabby cat named Tabby.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Wombat's default outfit is a battered old straw hat and an overcoat and no trousers.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tabby, and sometimes Wombat as well.
  • Malaproper: One of the signs of the muddle-headed wombat's muddle-headedness, such as reporting that his favorite fairy tale is "Cindergorilla".
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  • Ominous Owl: There is one in the 4th chapter, antagonizing the trio for setting a tree house in its home tree. It decides not to bother the trio anymore when the treehouse ends up underneath the tree instead.
  • Only Sane Woman: Mouse, but she also has her own moments, like when she chose to take a break from taming the Circus Beetles, by hiding them in a package and going to take a rest in a hiding spot. The already displeased ringmaster didn't approve of this. However, she just wanted to make sure the beetles get their rest too.
  • Predator-Prey Friendship: Tabby and Mouse have a genuine friendship, though sometimes Tabby acts arrogant to her and she mocks him in return. Tabby is actually scared of wild rats, due to their apparently savage behavior.
  • Species Surname: Both Mouse and Wombat have this, although Mouse's name is actually the Long-Tailed Bush-Mouse.
  • Spiritual Successor: Ruth Park's first series of stories for ABC Radio was "The Wide-Awake Bunyip", which ran for most of the 1940s until it ended when the lead actor died. "The Muddle-Headed Wombat" series was basically the same set-up with a new lead character and two best friends instead of one; Mouse is the same character as the Bunyip's best friend, more or less unaltered.
  • Spoonerism: Wombat does this a lot; one of his catchphrases is the assurance that he "treely ruly" means what he's saying.
  • Squashed Flat: This is the go-to threat of Wombat to those who offend them and in that case you better wish you are at least middle-sized and elastic (like Tabby). Sometimes Wombat also does this to other characters, if they seem overly stressed out.
    • And in one case, a huge dog, expectedly, does this to Wombat himself (though chooses not to maul him). Wombat considers himself to be greatly humiliated (since he thinks only wombats do that).
  • Team Mom: Most certainly, Mouse is this. Often, but not always, Tabby plays the Team Dad. Wombat tends to sometimes be the The Baby of the Bunch but his appearance and behavior more resembles the overweight, rather dumb and sometimes rebellious yet well-meaning teenage son of the other two.
  • True Companions: Ultimately, the trio, since, with all their faults and shortcomings, they couldn't ask for better friends than each other.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: While Wombat and the Mouse have a friendship based on them being a duo of nice fun-loving people. Tabby and Mouse form the intelligent, responsible duo who takes care of Wombat. But Wombat and Tabby has the most vitriolic friendship since they are both golden-hearted jerks who tend to cause Amusing Injuries or Kick the Dog moments to each other. But, eventually, they form a bumbling, comedic duo on their own. Which, in turn, ends up accidentally causing problems for Mouse.
  • Women Are Wiser: The female Mouse is the most consistently sensible character of the main trio, compared to the muddle-headed Wombat and the neurotic Tabby, both male.
  • Your Size May Vary: Mouse, most often when she decided to travel on top of Wombat's old scarecrow hat. When she's on the ground, she grows to about 1/3 the size of Tabby.

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