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Literature / The Wind on the Moon

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"When there is wind on the moon, you must be very careful how you behave. Because if it is an ill wind, and you behave badly, it will blow straight into your heart, and then you will behave badly for a long time to come."

The Wind on the Moon is a 1944 Carnegie-winning children's novel by British author Eric Linklater. It tells of Dinah and Dorinda, the young daughters of a British officer who live in the town of Midmeddlecum. When their father leaves for war, he warns his daughters to behave with the above quote, thereby unintentionally giving them what they feel is the perfect excuse to misbehave as much as they want.


Over the course of the year he is gone, the two sisters get into several increasingly surreal misadventures, such as overeating so much they turn into balloon-shaped blobs, then crying so much at the bullying the other children subject them to that they grow thin again, whereupon they are mistaken for match-sticks by a confused old lady. As revenge against the bullying children, they use a magic potion (given to Dinah by an old witch) to turn into kangaroos so they can kick everyone around. However, they get stuck in kangaroo form and are caught and brought to a zoo. Here they have several small misadventures, befriend other animals, help solve a mystery, and eventually stage an escape. After returning to their normal human selves, they use the skills and knowledge they aquired as kangaroos (such as being able to talk to the animals) to free their beloved dance teacher from jail, and in the last, grandest adventure, travel to the far-off country of Bombardy, where their father has been imprisoned by the tyrannical Duke Hulagu Bloot.


The Wind on the Moon is mostly a comedy with heavy overtones of fantasy, but the later part of the book contains several darker themes and at least one very powerful Tear Jerker.

This book provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Dinah and Dorinda.
  • Agent Scully: Mr Parker. He's a human who's been turned into a giraffe, so you think he'd be open to the idea of magic and witches — but he utterly refuses to believe in either, claiming that he probably just turned into a giraffe because he foolishly wished to be taller when he was human.
  • Animal Talk: All animals can understand one another instinctively, though they don't understand humans.
  • Animorphism: Dinah and Dorinda, on-screen, thanks to Mrs. Grimble's magic potion. Part of Mr. Parker's backstory, though we never get a clear answer (beyond some speculation) as to just why he turned into a giraffe.
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  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Dorinda sometimes has traces of this, getting jealous when the older Dinah tells her she is "too young" for something (most notably getting to actually meet Mrs. Grimble). For the most part averted, though, as the sisters are very much a double act for the majority of the story.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Dinah and Dorinda rescue their father and return home to England, leaving the country of Bombardy minus one tyrannical Duke, but the Golden Puma is dead, the Silver Falcon and Mrs Grimble both leave, and it's heavily hinted that the magical and wondrous part of the girls' lives is at an end.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Discussed in-universe. The Golden Puma and Silver Falcon are predators, and despite being treated as sympathetic characters, they still talk and act like predators. Dinah and Dorinda are conflicted on this, feeling bad for the prey but realizing that the animals need to eat.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The first two-thirds of the book are mostly devoted to Dinah and Dorinda's comical misbehaving, and the bizarre situatons they get in as a result. The last third begins to show some more serious consequences to their previous misadventures, and takes a takes a turn for the darker for their journey to Bombardy — the comedy never really vanishes, but it gets increasingly obvious that it's no longer a fun game. In the end, though they get their father back, the magic and adventure seems to be vanishing from their lives: the Golden Puma is dead, the Silver Falcon has returned to Greenland, and even Mrs Grimble vanishes, the magical cuckoo clock she left behind for the girls malfunctioning and proves impossible to repair properly.
  • Children Are Cruel: Invoked a number of times with both major and minor child characters.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Mr Corvo, the dance teacher. Maybe not so much a moron, but he's a mild-mannered man who teacher music and dance, and it comes as a genuine shock when he proves to be a warrior and swordsman. He even carries a cane that conceals a rapier!
  • Evil Feels Good: Mild version, since Dinah and Dorinda are never actually evil, just naughty. However, an early segment in the story describes the thrill and glee they feel at the thought of being bad for an entire year. Later on subverted and discussed when the girls, after suffering the consequences of their misbehaving, find that the entire thing hasn't been nearly as much fun as they thought it would be. (Not that this actually stops them from misbehaving, they just decide to be smarter about it.)
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The animal characters, in their conversations, waiver back and forth between this and Humans Are Special.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Silver Falcon. He's arrogant and callous, but an affectionate friend to the Golden Puma, and later on to Dinah and Dorinda.
    • Dinah and Dorinda also have traces of this; they misbehave for fun, but they are ultimately kind and helpful. They also suffer so much for their bad deeds that it's hard not to feel sorry for them.
  • Magic Pants: Averted when Dinah and Dorinda turn into kangaroos — the witch's notes for magic potion they drink explicitly tells the drinker to undress before drinking the potion, so the transformation will not ruin the clothes. When the girls are ready to become human again, they are concerned that they won't find their clothes again and have to walk around naked, but luckily the Silver Falcon finds the clothes easily.
  • Motor Mouth: Miss Serendip, the governess, who can't say a single sentence without inserting all kinds of trivia.
    "Will you pass me the pepper, Dorinda? Pepper, as I daresay you know, is a spice. There is black pepper, white pepper, and red pepper. Pepper used to be a monopoly of the King of Portugal. Much of it is now grown in Penang. Penang means the Island of Areca Nuts. At one time it was a penal settlement, or prison. The word prison is derived from the word prehensio. Our prisons used to be very badly conducted, but gradually reform was introduced. Newgate was a famous old prison, Sing Sing is a well-known modern prison. Thank you, dear. Put the pepper back in its proper place."
  • Parental Neglect: Dinah and Dorinda's mother, who has been shown as a kindly, if long-suffering, parent, shows surprising traits of this when the girls are gone for weeks, and she barely notices. This is explained by her having received a message that her husband has been taken prisoner by an evil dictator, but still... the girls were gone for weeks, and she didn't notice.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Dinah and Dorinda's entire reason for turning into kangaroos in the first place. Mild version, since they're not trying to seriously hurt anyone, just kick them around for a bit.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Though Dinah is two years older than Dorinda, they act like this for large parts of the book.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Mr Parker claims to have been one of the greatest detectives in the world before turning into a giraffe, but his skills at solving mysteries leave a lot to be desired. Dorinda speculates that he must be out of practice.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Dinah and Dorinda, after their time as kangaroos, still remember how to talk to the animals.
  • The Unseen: Mrs. Grimble, the witch. Though her magic drives much of the plot, she never actually appears on-page. Our only real exposure to her is through Dinah's descriptions and stories of her, as well as the letter she writes to the sisters in the last part of the book.


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