First of all – I have had a guest post published on the Emerald City Book Review ( I urge you all to visit – I am very excited about it). This means that I technically have two Top Ten Tuesdays published today. That being said, I decided to steer clear of the Broke and Bookish’s topic for this week as it relates to sequels I can’t wait for and while I was able to come up with some, it seemed like a re-run of recent to-be-read lists. Given that my letter to Father Christmas Top Ten will be coming up in a few weeks, (and in the interests of variety,) I have taken a different route. I decided to think about all of the objects within fiction that I have ever coveted – I don’t mean a physical change of being, although I did really want a daemon, but rather objects that I have come across in my nigh-on three decade reading career (if we count the pre-literate years when I was a passive listener), those fictional creations that have made me stop and think, ‘You know what, that would be so handy.’
Babelfish, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Having struggled and clawed my way to a distinctly middling fluency in French, the Babelfish is a creature that I have longed for more than somewhat. Described as ‘small, yellow, leech-like and probably the oddest thing in the universe’, simply placing one in your ear grants the owner the ability to understand and speak any language imaginable. Small, portable and requiring no special up-keep, the Babelfish is the ideal no-fuss pet – just so long as you’re ok with putting wet and flappy things in your ear.
The Alethiometer, His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
(c) Gunsmoke Orphan
The alethiometer is like the thinking person’s Magic 8 Ball. Ask it a question, it gives you an answer. Well – it doesn’t tell you what to do, and it doesn’t predict the future which are two things that the Magic 8 ball can do but it will give you information on what is headed your way. Lyra Silvertongue is able to read it by grace and at the end of the book will have to re-learn it by skill but Lyra’s alethiometer tells her the truth at every turn, something we have all sought at dark moments. A very useful object to have around.
Hand of Glory, Mythology
This one is by far my ickiest pick. It crops up in various places in fiction and mythology as the severed hand of a felon taken just after he has been hanged. It’s a bit gross. The reason why I think it would be useful though is that it ‘offers light solely to the holder’ – you put a candle in the hand and you see the light, but nobody else does. Basically – it’s an amazing reading light. As a child, I was told off repeatedly for reading after light’s out. In my first year at university, my roommate had a tendency to go to bed early and I ended up sitting on the radiator outside our room feeling slightly self-conscious. My own Hand of Glory would have solved all this. So I wondered if there was some kind of ethically-sourced alternative? To conclude, I want a Quorn Hand of Glory.
The Queen’s Nose, The Queen’s Nose, Dick King-Smith
I read The Queen’s Nose for my Brownie Book-Lover Badge and then spent the next few years examining all the fifty pences that came my way (a fair few as that was the rate of my weekly pocket money). Whenever I found one that had the hand design on the back, I would optimistically rub the side in the hope of it granting my wishes but alas, I never did find Harmony’s coin. While wishes can back-fire, as Harmony discovers to her cost, the Queen’s Nose is not like the Monkey’s Paw, its intentions are benign, making it my wish-granting object of preference.
Invisibility Cloak/Pensieve, Harry Potter saga, J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter universe is filled with objects designed to fill the reader with covetousness, from the extensive descriptions of the food onwards. If I were to pick one spell that I would find useful, it would be the Summoning Charm Accio, since I have a tendency to lose things in large piles of other things so being able to magic my keys/hairbrush/wallet/phone directly into the bag would be a real time-saver. Having a Marauder’s Map would also appeal. As a naturally forgetful person, a Rememberall does have attractions but I have a feeling that its constant red glow would stress me out before long. Similarly, I think the Sneakoscope sounds a bit unsettling to have around. Ultimately however, I found it impossible to pick between the Pensieve and the Invisibility Cloak. The cloak would be useful for a) undisturbed reading time and b) sneaking in to events I want to see but that I didn’t manage to get a ticket for. I really like getting a cup of tea solo and having a read in a nice cafe, but don’t like it when strange people feel they have the right to come up and start talking to me (I’m not unfriendly but sometimes it can be intimidating), so an Invisibility Cloak would sort that right out. The Pensieve has more of a practical purpose – firstly, I think it is one of the most intriguing objects within the series but secondly I entirely know what Dumbledore meant about that feeling of having ‘too many thoughts’ so I would imagine that the chance to take a breath and sort through things slowly would be very therapeutic.
Healing Cordial, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
I am accident-prone. I have dyspraxia, which used to be called ‘Clumsy Child Syndrome’ (can’t think why they decided to change that name). I am rarely without bruises and get through an impressive amount of plasters. I appreciate that it would be a total waste of healing cordial to use it for every single knock but there have been times when this would have made life a little bit easier and rather less sore!
Mary Poppins’ Carpet Bag, Mary Poppins, P L Travers
I don’t pack lightly. It’s not my gift. Packing quickly can be, as I have it in my mind that this should only take twenty minutes. This is doable if you go with the ‘stuff everything in’ approach. Lady Catherine De Bourgh would not approve. I generally end up taking around two of everything I might need on the basis that ‘you never know.’ For times like this, a Mary Poppins bag would make this rather less embarrassing since relatives and family friends do tend to raise their eyebrows and smirk when I turn up with a suitcase for a two-night visit. Considering, perhaps Hermione’s bag from Harry Potter could serve a similar purpose, but for this entry I’m going to stick with Ms Poppins. Not that she’d let me have her bag of course. Not even if I said please nicely.
The Carpet, The Phoenix and the Carpet, E Nesbit
This is another wishing object but it is an incredibly elegant one at that. I always liked the way that it got the children out of a tight spot when they had run out of wishes by flying off to visit the Psammead. Equally, I always liked how requests to the carpet had to be placed face down. I like the idea of an object that grants wishes and then functions as an awesome floor covering. I very, very nearly considered picking the bed knob from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but although I adore the film, I have forgotten the book other than that it was very different.
The Persuading Stick, The Persuading Stick, John Rowe Townsend
As an anxious little girl, I really wanted one of these. It’s a largely forgotten book to be honest, but it left a powerful impression on me. Sarah is the third wheel in her clique of friends, stuck calling ‘Wait, wait!’ as they start walking home without her and generally never being listened to by any of the adults in her life. Then she finds a stick, an ordinary stick except for the fact that when she holds it, people do as she asks them. Although the general point is that Sarah finds her voice and is able to be more assertive, as a youngster I spent many playtimes looking round the edge of the playground for a similar piece of wood. Sadly, assertiveness is not so easily won.
Bernard’s Watch, Bernard’s Watch, Andrew Norriss
Most children of the 1990s will remember the classic children’s television serial which depicted the adventures of Bernard and his magical watch which had the ability to freeze time. Fewer people will remember the book. T’was ever thus. I had to read Norriss’ other novel Matt’s Million as part of the requirements to be on the Lancashire schools Library Quiz team. As a book, the latter is better but I would rather have the watch than the £1,227,309.87 (a figure burned in my brain twenty-odd years on). The watch would solve so many things. Read too late? Freeze time and get a lie in. Running late to meet a friend? Freeze time and catch up to them. Run into a problem with one’s knitting? Freeze time, knitting will be suspended in the air and will not untangle until you have had a chance to solve it. The watch would have so many practical applications in life. More so than Hermione’s Time Turner, more than any of the other objects on this list, Bernard’s Watch is something I would love to call my own.