Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard



Book: Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard

Author: Eleanor Farjeon

Publisher: Forgotten Books, republished in 2012


Related website: (publisher)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 12 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Farjeon, Eleanor.  Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard (originally published in 1922 by Frederick A. Stokes Company Publisher, New York City, NY; republished in 2012 by Forgotten Books).  Martin Pippin is a wandering English minstrel.  One April morning while walking in the meadows near Adversane in Sussex, he sees a young fellow named Robin Rue who is sowing oats and crying buckets of tears.  When Martin asks Robin what the problem is, Robin says that his love, Gillian, has been imprisoned by her father, farmer Gillman, in an apple orchard with a high wall in a well-house locked with six keys and guarded by six young milkmaids sworn to keep her from coming to him.  Martin agrees to help, so over a period of time he tells the maidens, named Joan, Jane, Jessica, Joyce, Jennifer, and Joscelyn, six love stories in an attempt to convince them to give him the keys so that he can unlock the well-house and let Gillian out.

Author Eleanor Farjeon is probably best remembered for her hymn “Morning Has Broken,” written in 1931 to an old Gaelic tune associated with the Scottish village of Bunessan, but she was a noted English author of children’s stories, plays, poetry, biography, history, and satire.  Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard (1921) actually had its origins in stories from France when Farjeon was inspired to write about a troubadour, but she transposed their setting to England and included descriptions of real villages and features there.  Can Martin get the keys from the six girls?  Will Gillian ever be reunited with her lover?   And what will become of Martin? There are a few references to smoking a pipe and drinking various alcoholic beverages, and the euphemistic “drat” is found.  Otherwise, nothing objectionable occurs.

Ostensibly Apple Orchard is a children’s book.  The six love stories have much the form of Perrault’s fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella.  However, they have a depth which is adult in sentiment, and include themes such as the apparent loss of a loved one, betrayal, and the yearning of a woman for whom it appears that love will never come. In fact, they were written not for a child but for a young soldier, Victor Haslam.  As a result, younger children may not fully understand and appreciate them.  The volume is not an easy read, but those who like slow, intricate, well-developed tales of romance with a touch of fantasy should enjoy it.  The sequel, Martin Pippin in the Daisy Field (1937), in which six little girls are entertained by Martin who tells them six stories while they are making daisy chain necklaces, was written for children.

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