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Literature / Worzel Gummidge

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Worzel Gummidge began life as a 1936 children's book called Worzel Gummidge or The Scarecrow of Scatterbrook by British author Barabara Euphan Todd. It tells the story of two kids who are staying at a farm in the country and meet Worzel Gummidge, the farm's scarecrow who can come to life. Nine other books were written by Todd; she later penned a radio show featuring the character and a 4-episode TV show for the BBC in 1953.

The character's biggest success would come several years after Todd's death, in a live-action TV series starring former Doctor and childhood fan of the original books, Jon Pertwee. The show lasted four seasons in the UK and an additional two were made in New Zealand. The Pertwee series had many radical changes from Todd's original stories, such as eliminating his wife, a scarecrow named Earthy Mangold and making another supporting character, Aunt Sally, who was his real Aunt in books, his sort of a girlfriend, and adding the Crow Man, Worzel's creator.


Worzel Gummidge provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Mr Peters calls Aunt Sally "Auntie Annie", then "Auntie Nancy".
  • Adults Are Useless: Downplayed. While the Braithwaites, Harry, Mr Peters and other such adults aren't generally much help, sometimes they can be, and the Crow Man is often very useful.
  • Alliterative Name:
    • Apparently, Mrs Braithwaite's first name is Betty.
    • Worzel once meets a Jolly Jack.
    • Several background scarecrows: Scratty Suedehead, Anna Arrow, etc.
  • Ambiguously Human: The Crow Man. He seems to have magical powers and Worzel claims he's hundreds of years old, but he could easily be a human with powers and Worzel can't count (unless he's wearing his arithmetic head) and often makes things up, so the Crow Man might not be hundreds of years old.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Lots of scarecrows, a wooden doll and two figureheads who can all walk and talk.
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  • Babysitting Episode: In "Worzel's Nephew", Worzel tries to babysit his demanding nephew.
  • Beach Episode: In Saucy Nancy's debut episode, Worzel sneaks aboard a bus on an old folks' outing to the seashore, or "see-saw" as he calls it.
  • Big Eater: Worzel, Aunt Sally, and Worzel's nephew Pickles Bramble all seem to be able to eat huge amounts of food.
  • Birthday Episode: Worzel has a birthday for each body part that changes whenever a body part gets replaced. "Worzel's Birthday" focuses on his main head's birthday and the birth of a scarecrow named Saggy Tatersack.
  • Book Dumb: Applies to both Worzel (unless he's wearing his Thinking Head) and Aunt Sally, who are both very uneducated. Aunt Sally thinks she's educated, but she's not.
  • Bratty Half-Pint:
    • Downplayed for John and Sue, who are a bit snippy but not outright brats.
    • Played straight for Worzel's nephew Pickles Bramble, who is very rude, likes to slingshot people, and even threatens to throw Worzel onto the compost heap.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Sue's go-to insult is telling people they're "horrible". Also, she says, "Poor Worzel" fairly often.
    • Worzel has several made-up exclamations like "Bozzy Macoo!" and "Well I'll be bomswizzled!".
    • Aunt Sally has "Disgusting", "Stupid scarecrow" and "Don't you know anything about anything?!".
  • Catch Your Death of Cold: Sue thinks Worzel will catch pneumonia after he falls into a duck pond...of course, not only can you not catch pneumonia this way, scarecrows can't catch pneumonia at all.
  • Character Title: The main show is Worzel's name, some episodes have characters in their names.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: Sometimes, Aunt Sally ends up upside-down and you can see her bloomers.
  • Cool Old Guy: The Crow Man. He is the one who made Worzel and he is very wise and helpful.
  • Courtroom Episode: Worzel gets put in a scarecrow court in one episode for throwing a potato at the Crow Man (but not on purpose).
  • Eat Dirt, Cheap: Sarah Pigswill eats rocks and dirt and tries to feed them to Worzel.
  • Ending Theme: A tune plays at the end of each episode that's similar, but different, to the main theme.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Worzel's "mother" Sarah Pigswill eats rocks and dirt and believes that all scarecrows do.
  • Genius Ditz: Worzel may be uneducated and naive, but he can think up some pretty cunning schemes.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Worzel doesn't understand why Aunt Sally would be jealous of Dolly Clothes Peg and not love him.
  • Grumpy Old Man:
    • Mr Shepherd is very grumpy, even sometimes threatening to kick people.
    • Downplayed for the Crow Man, who sometimes tells Worzel off, but isn't too grumpy.
  • Haughty Help: Sue defines a butler as "a person who serves drinks on trays and looks down his nose".
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: Of course Worzel completely misses the point about 'Wangling'.
  • I Am Not Weasel:
    • In the fishing episode, Enid mistakes Mrs Bloomsbury-Barton's tropical fish for goldfish.
    • In Saucy Nancy's first episode, Worzel mistakes a parrot for a seagull.
  • Injured Limb Episode: In "Worzel's Nephew", Harry the farm servant sprains his ankle falling off the roof.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: The theme doesn't have words.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Worzel is cheeky and mischievous, but a good sort.
    • John and Sue are a bit mouthy, but friendly.
    • Aunt Sally is quite jerkish and arrogant, but not all bad.
  • Kangaroo Court: Worzel's subjected to one in "The Trial of Worzel Gummidge".
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: In Aunt Sally's debut episode, she puts on Mr Peters's suits and is mistaken for a man.
  • Leitmotif:
    • The crowman seems to have a theme.
    • There's this one jaunty tune that seems to equal "fun party atmosphere" and is also the music for the Scarecrow Hop.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Worzel normally wears the same tatty coat, shoes and pants, and Aunt Sally normally wears the same blue dress and straw bonnet, although their have been exceptions.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: In "Worzel's Nephew", Pickles slingshots Mrs Bloomsbury-Barton in the butt.
  • Literal-Minded:
    • "Seeing a man about a dog" is just a phrase for when a person has been away for a while and doesn't want to specify what they've been doing. In one episode, John wonders where the man is that his dad went in to see about a dog.
    • When Aunt Sally says that she "wouldn't be caught dead" at Worzel's birthday party, he tells her that she shouldn't show up to the party dead.
    • Sue once points out that Worzel is a "scarecrow, not a scarestarling" when Mrs Bloomsbury-Barton wants him to scare starlings. John also once says that pigeons are not afraid of scarecrows, because otherwise they'd be "scarepigeons".
  • Loophole Abuse: In "Worzel's Wager", the Crow Man and then Worzel think that gambling isn't really gambling if you know (or are pretty sure of) the outcome.
  • Lost Voice Plot: Mr Peters apparently gets laryngitis in one episode, but he gets better in time for the choir.
  • Malaproper: Worzel does this a lot.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Worzel's name comes from "mangoldwurzel", which is a type of turnip, and his head is a turnip.
    • Aunt Sally is called that due to the fact that it's the type of doll she is.
  • Messy Hair: All the scarecrows (with the exception of Dolly Clothespeg and Worzel's "handsome" head) have messy hair, and so does the Crow Man.
  • Mistaken for Thief: In "Very Good Worzel", Aunt Sally eats all the mini sausages and claims Worzel did.
  • Mister Strangenoun: A lot of the scarecrows have words in their name: Mildew Sheepdip, Sarah Pigswill, Pickles Bramble...
  • Mondegreen: Dafthead thinks "Old McDonald Had a Farm" goes "Old McDonald is a farm."
  • Nature Tinkling: John meets Worzel while peeing on a bush.
  • Pie in the Face: Throwing food seems to be a hobby for the scarecrows and Aunt Sally, including at other people, so they have gotten many foods in their faces, including pies.
  • Potty Emergency: John has to pee in the first episode, and according to him, it's urgent.
  • Psychic Powers:
    • Apparently, Worzel always knows where the Crow Man is. When asked about it, he says that he "get[s] a sort of tickling in [his] head and this tickling tells [him] where the Crow Man is."
    • In one episode, Worzel asks the Crow Man why he (Worzel) is not allowed to gamble when the Crow Man is. The Crow Man says that he was not gambling because he was betting on the fact that there will be snow on the Town Hall roof on Christmas and he actually knows that. Judging by that, it's possible that he can predict the future.
  • Running Gag:
    • Mr Peters not knowing about agriculture and making mistakes.
    • Worzel, Aunt Sally and others eating and throwing desserts.
      • Aunt Sally sharing them unequally in her favor.
    • Worzel being naive/uneducated.
    • Mr Peters treating gambling like it's important and the kids asking for lemonade and crisps when he gambles.
    • Aunt Sally boasting and having no idea what she's boasting about. She also seems to have a fascination with Egypt, Bulgaria and Romania for some reason and wants to marry their royalty.
    • Worzel wanting to marry Aunt Sally.
    • Worzel thinking other humanlike things are scarecrows (sometimes even humans).
  • Saw a Woman in Half: Gender-inverted when they are thinking of ideas for a play and Aunt Sally wants to saw Worzel in half, but Sue says no because Sally doesn't know how to do the trick and it might hurt Worzel.
  • Scary Scarecrows
    • Many adults who remembered the Pertwee series as children.
    • Not so accidental in the New Zealand seasons with a full-blown supernatural villain and Demonic Possession.
  • Secret Keeper
  • Sibling Rivalry: John and Sue quibble a lot of the time, but they also make a team.
  • Slapstick: Many slapstick gags, including throwing food, falling into ponds, etc.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Aunt Sally and Mrs Bloomsbury-Barton get food in their faces, fall over etc as much as the men.
  • The Strongman: One episode has Aunt Sally develope a crush on a strongman called the Great Orlando.
  • Sweet Tooth: Worzel, Aunt Sally, the kids, and seemingly all the other scarecrows, seem to have extreme appetites for sweet things.
  • Theme Tune: A jaunty little tune plays at the beginning of each episode.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Downplayed for the song that teaches Worzelese: the chorus has a similar, but slightly different, tune to the theme and the verses don't sound like the theme.
  • The Un-Reveal: In the episode with the pullover, the Crow Man has a potion that can cure chickens, fix cars and heal stiff necks. He changes the story of its origin every time and at one point, he says that it was handed down by a person of royal blood. He then says, "In fact, it was no less a person—" and whispers something inaudible. We never find out what he said or where the tonic comes from.
  • Vacation Episode:
    • In two episodes, the Braithwaites and the Peterses go on holiday, so Worzel and Aunt Sally take over Scatterbrook.
    • In "Worzel's Nephew", the Peterses go on holiday to Wattford.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Worzel is afraid of electricity, fire, and compost heaps. He gets scared even if people mention them.
  • You Are Fat: Mrs Bloomsbury-Barton is often called fat. Not usually to her face, but at one point, Mr Peters says, "That's for sure" when she says that she "carries a lot of weight in the county".


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