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Literature / The Wish Giver

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The Wish Giver: Three Tales Of Coven Tree is a children's novel by Bill Brittain about four children who receive wish-granting cards from a mysterious vendor at the county fair. Three of the children make badly-worded wishes with unfortunate consequences, and Hilarity Ensues:

Polly, a sharp-tongued girl with very few friends, wishes to be popular. After the wish, if she starts to say something insulting, she begins croaks like a bullfrog instead. She becomes "popular", but only because the other schoolchildren are amused by her croaking. She realizes that if she was nicer, she would have more friends.

Rowena has a crush on a traveling salesman, Henry Piper, who she only gets to see for three days at a time. She wishes that he would "set down roots" and never leave the town again, causing him to turn into a tree. During his ordeal, he reveals that he never liked her and only pretended to in order get her family to buy from him.

Adam is from a poor family who cannot afford running water, so they have to get it from a distant creek. He wishes for their farm to have water. Soon after, the farm is flooded, temporarily forcing his family off the land.

The town shopkeeper, "Stew Meat", narrates the story. The book ends with the prudent narrator using his wish to set things back to normal.

Despite the Reset Button Ending, each of the children learns something from his mistake and is left better off.

The book received the Newbery Honor in 1984. The obvious moral of the story is to Be Careful What You Wish For.

This work provides examples of:

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Three children in a small American town (along with the narrator, a man from the general store who answers to the nickname "Stew Meat") get cards that supposedly grant wishes from a mysterious vendor at the county fair, and the three stories in the book deal with the consequences of the kids' ill-thought-out wishes: a sharp-tongued tomboy named Polly wishes people would start being glad to see her, and much to the amusement of her peers she starts to croak like a bullfrog whenever she starts insulting people; a sentimental girl named Rowena wishes the handsome young traveling salesman she has a crush on would "put down roots in Coven Tree and never leave", and he starts turning into a tree; a farm boy named Adam wishes his family's farm had more than enough water, and it ends up flooded. In the epilogue, the trio have learned their lessons, and beg Stew Meat to undo their wishes with his own wish card.
  • Body Horror: Rowena wishes Henry would "set down roots" in her town, and he begins turning into a tree.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Stew Meat, our narrator. His actual interactions with the characters are limited to receiving the wish cards along with the children in the beginning, and using his card at the end to fix everything.
  • Literal Genie: A mysterious man gives the narrator and three children one wish each. The wishes are granted on his own terms, so Polly, who wishes to be the "center of attention", winds up croaking like a frog and attracting stares and laughter whenever she says anything nasty (which is very often). Rowena, who wishes for her love interest, to "put roots down" is treated to the sight of her love interest transformed into a tree in her backyard. Adam, who wishes for "more than enough water" on his family's perpetually dry farm, ends up with the farm completely flooded. It takes the fourth wish to repair all the damage.
  • Magical Profanity Filter: Polly wishes to be popular, but has a habit of gossiping about other children behind their backs. Her wish causes her to start croaking like a frog whenever she says something rude about someone.
  • Wishplosion: The shopkeeper Stew Meat clears up all the bad wishes by basically wishing for the wishes to revert, "with no tricks." Apparently his good-heartedness combined with saying "with no tricks" made it work.