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Literature / The Whingdingdilly

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The Whingdingdilly is a 1970 children's storybook by Bill Peet.

A dog named Scamp, jealous of a local prize horse, encounters the witch Zilly while moping in the woods and agrees to let her turn him into something more spectacular than an ordinary dog. However, when she transforms him into an unheard-of creature called a Whingdingdilly, Scamp finds out that being extraordinary carries its own problems.

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This book contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Scamp wants to be something more impressive than a dog. His transformed self certainly catches the eye, but his family doesn't recognize him and he winds up a sideshow exhibit. By the time Zilly finally unwishes the transformation, he's very happy to return to his old self.
  • Chekhov's Gun: After transforming Scamp, Zilly tells him not to trample her flowers on his way out. When he tries to find her so she can undo the transformation, he flattens some of them. This causes the furious witch to undo the transformation as punishment, freeing Scamp from the sideshow.
  • The Freakshow: After he scares the local farmers, Scamp's story spreads all over, attracting the attention of a freak show master, who pays the farmers to capture the strange beast. Scamp winds up as the prize exhibit, where many people pay to stare and poke at the weird creature. Once the transformation is undone, they complain about being fleeced. His new owner no longer wants him and throws him out.
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  • I Just Want to Be Special: A local prize horse earns lots of attention from people. Orvie teases the jealous Scamp when he tries to imitate his championship strut. Soon thereafter, Scamp allows Zilly to transform him so he can be special, too. Unfortunately, his "specialness" catches the attention of the wrong kind of people.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: A Whingdingdilly mixes parts from many different animals — the hump and back legs of a camel (the latter being striped like a zebra's), the front legs and ears of an elephant, the neck of a giraffe, the snout of a rhino, and the antlers of a caribou.
  • Tropey, Come Home: Orvie, despite teasing Scamp, loves him very much and misses him when he "disappears" after his transformation. When his father offers to buy him one of the neighbor's colts to help him get over it, he says that Scamp was better and smarter than any horse.
  • Unishment: Scamp accidentally tramples Zilly's flowerbed while trying to find her again. When Zilly sees it, she's furious. Using her magic to see what's going on with Scamp, she undoes the transformation so he won't be special anymore. Luckily, she doesn't realize that that's exactly what Scamp wants at the moment.
  • Words Do Not Make The Magic: Inverted; Zilly doesn't need a magic wand; a plain stick picked up from the forest floor will do just as well as long as she says the right words.
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