Tag Archives: Hunting

The Goose Girl (1977)

 

Sample Images

Goose Girl 1

Goose Girl 2

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Goose Girl 3

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Publication: 20/8/77-5/11/77

Artist: Keith Robson

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Plot

Ever since she can remember, Glenda Noble and her mother have been fighting over birds. Glenda just loves birds and is a born naturalist. But for some reason Glenda’s mother has a pathological hatred of birds and tries to crush Glenda’s love for them wherever she sees it. She keeps pushing Glenda into fashion design, which Glenda hates and rebels against. The war between them is further compounded by the fact that they are opposites: Mum lives for fashion, the high life, social climbing and the city, while Glenda is clearly the country girl who loves the great outdoors.

When Glenda is fifteen, she and her mother have to move out of their posh Edinburgh flat and into a country lodge left by Mr Noble in Solway Firth. This suits Glenda, who has always hated city life, and she takes to her new home immediately. But Mum hates the move as she is a city person, and it seems to strike a raw nerve with her too.

Glenda is horrified to find it is goose-hunting season. She finds an injured goose, which she names Brodie. She tries to nurse Brodie back to health, but the bird-hating mother means Glenda has to keep Brodie hidden. This causes a lot of difficulties. And when Mum finds out, she tries to stop Glenda seeing Brodie by taking Glenda out of school and giving her private lessons in order to keep her at home. It’s also part of Mum’s design to have Glenda give up her ornithology and push her into fashion design. Her ambition is to open a fashion boutique with the money Glenda inherits when she turns eighteen (but that is in three years!). She even locks Brodie in the shed to turn him over to one Colonel Graham to be disposed of. This is all part of her social climbing as well – getting in with the gentry and the high life. But Glenda finds the key and saves Brodie, so Mum faces nothing but embarrassment at the hands of the angry Colonel.

Mum reveals that the reason she hates birds (and why Glenda loves them) is because her husband, a naturalist, was shot while defending the geese against the goose hunters. And it is these same goose hunters that Mum is now supporting against Brodie and the other geese!

Glenda starts campaigning against the hunt, but meets with little success and popularity. The locals say they want the hunt because it is good for trade when the nobility comes for the shoot. She also makes an enemy out of Chrissie Milne, who is only too happy to sneak on Brodie to Mrs Noble, which she does several times. However, it’s not long before Glenda has a whole flock of wild geese following her around! And she soon has dreams of opening a nature reserve in Solway Firth for them. But her goose demo not only meets more hostility from the locals but gets Mum into more trouble with the Colonel she is trying to get in with. After this, Mum watches Glenda like a hawk and even shams illness to keep Glenda close to her.

Mum is now trying to set up a clothes shop back in Edinburgh and also move back there to get away from the “backwater” she hates. Of course she has done this without consulting Glenda and does not care for Glenda’s feelings, which are the complete opposite. Also, Glenda has her doubts about the sincerity of the couple who are putting them up. She is soon proved right – the couple soon tire of them when Mum can’t find a job in fashion selling because she is too old and they think the Nobles are presuming on their kindness. To make things more complicated, Brodie has tagged along. When he flies into the flat, the couple reach their limit and Glenda has another bust-up with her mother. Glenda and Brodie head off back to the lodge – in a snowstorm!

Mum returns (the couple have thrown her out) and tracks them down. She says she has fixed Glenda up with an interview at Edinburg Art College for fashion design. Glenda uses it as a pretext to get to Edinburgh because she has spotted a job going for a year’s contract on an African nature reserve. But the interviewer for the art college meets her off the train, thus preventing her from skipping off to her own interview. Glenda makes sure she fails the art college interview but arrives too late for her own. She leaves in tears, not realising she has dropped the photographs she took of Brodie that show the progress of his recovery and her aptitude for the job.

The interviewer, Mr Donald, sees the photographs at reception. He is far more impressed with them than with anyone he had interviewed that day. He also happens to be an old friend of Glenda’s father. Glenda’s address was written on the back of the photos, so Mr Donald tracks her down and offers her the job. But the possessive, bird-hating Mrs Noble refuses to let Glenda go. However, Mum changes her mind when Mr Donald gives them a tape recording made by Dad, which reveals that he had wanted to open a nature reserve in Solway Firth – the same dream Glenda has! Glenda is off to Africa, but first they use the money Dad left in trust to open the Solway Firth reserve. So the now-recovered Brodie and the other geese are now safe from the hunters.

Thoughts

Jinty was known for her environmental stories and we can see the environmental theme underlying this one too. In this case it is the issue of hunting and both sides of it: people who care more for profit and consumerism than nature, and the naturalists who want to protect the environment and the animals and birds who live in it. But naturalists often have a hard time being heard against hard-line attitudes towards environmentalism, as Glenda discovers when her campaign to protect the geese meets animosity and even threats of mob violence.

The environmental themes in this story are given a brilliant atmosphere with the artwork. Keith Robson’s artwork is ideal to the ruggedness of the Scottish countryside and the wildness of nature. His depiction of the grotesque looks on Mrs Noble’s face when she gets on her high horse about Glenda almost seem a well-deserved caricature of her and her unhealthy, possessive attitudes.

When we find out why Mrs Noble has such a bad attitude towards birds, we are even more outraged by it because she is doing things that would have her husband spinning in his grave: hating birds, helping bird hunters, denying injured birds care, handing birds over to be destroyed, and not respecting the things that he loved and lived his life for. As Glenda herself points out to her mother, she should hate the hunters. After all, they are the ones who fired the fatal shots and are the ones responsible for his death, not the birds. We might (grudgingly) understand Mrs Noble’s hatred of birds if, say, a bird caused her husband to fall off the roof and break his neck. But, really – Mrs Noble hating birds because her husband was shot while defending them makes about as much sense as hating victims of mugging because someone you love was killed while defending a mugging victim.

And we have to wonder why the Nobles ever got married in the first place because they were clearly polar opposites. She loves everything the city has to offer and the high life while he was a naturalist who loved the country and its isolation; we can see this in Glenda, who is obviously her father’s daughter. He loved living in the lodge while she hated it because country life was not for her. Perhaps it was a case of opposites attracting. But if he had lived, we wonder if the marriage would be similar to the stormy relationship Glenda has with her mother. Still, at least Glenda would have had her father on her side and encouraging her love of birds, and a much happier home life.

When we see the war between Glenda and her mother, we admire Glenda for being the rebel who refuses to bend to her possessive mother who keeps trying to crush her love of birds and push her into undesirable fashion designing. Glenda flouts her mother wherever possible. This is one girl who is not going to take things in silent resentment and we like a heroine who does not take things lying down. But Glenda doesn’t always win, such as when Mum tears up her sketches of birds in the first episode. And the odds stack up against her even when she moves to the lodge because the locals are hostile to her ideas about birds and endorse the goose hunting because it is good for business. It must have been the same for her father all those years ago. It is ironic that in the end it is Mrs Noble who saves the birds by agreeing to open a nature reserve for them with the trust money once she learns it was her husband’s wish. In so doing, she not only redeems herself but also adopts a much healthier attitude towards nature. She tells Glenda that she has finally learned to let go. This includes letting go her pathological hatred of birds, and letting Glenda go instead of being so possessive about her and forcing her into her mould.

Badgered Belinda (1981)

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Publication: 10 October 1981 – 21 November 1981

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown

Summary

Orphan Belinda Gibson is a trust-paid pupil at Brockhill Boarding School. She is badgered (bullied) by the other girls, especially Frances and Katie. We get the impression Belinda is a target of bullying because she is shy and has no pedigree or friends. The bullying makes Belinda so miserable that one night she decides to run away.

Belinda is making her way up a slope when she comes across a badger, which soon dies. Belinda suspects it was poisoned. Then Belinda finds the badger’s new-born litter. One of them is pure white and she soon calls him Whitey. She lingers to feed them, but unwittingly caves in the tunnel, leaving them vulnerable to predators. So she ends up a surrogate mother to the sett, guarding them all night. This upsets her plans for running away. Eventually she decides to quietly return to the school so she can continue to secretly look after the sett, and voluntarily endure the bullying for the sake of her badgers.

Upon Belinda’s quiet return, Frances and Katie bully her again. But the bullying backfires when one ruins her silk gown and the other her tennis racquet. Later, Belinda uses the items to help the badgers, and has a good feeling at how her wonderful secret is helping her confidence. Back at school she starts swotting up on badgers. Frances and Katie notice Belinda’s apparent early rising for this and get suspicious. But in fact Belinda has been sneaking out at night for the badgers and loss of sleep starts showing in her lessons and getting her into trouble.

Belinda begins to feel that she should inform the headmistress about the sett. But then, Squire Blackmore, who owns the land next to the school, speaks at assembly. The squire announces that he will be lending his stables and horses to the school for riding lessons. He is also a big fan of hunting and endorses it to get rid of vermin. Fearful that badgers will be classed as vermin, Belinda decides to say nothing about the sett.

The girls have a free afternoon. The others use it for the riding lessons while Belinda goes into town to buy supplies for the cubs. But Whitey follows, and the bus with the girls on it is coming. Belinda hides Whitey in her bag, but his scent causes problems with other animals when she arrives in town. Belinda then bumps into Miss Green the biology teacher and discovers that she has been buying poison for vermin traps. Remembering the fate of the mother badger, Belinda gets even more scared. Back at school, she finds the squire has gifted prints of hunting scenes to the school and they are proudly displayed on the wall. Belinda is revolted to see that one print shows badger digging.

The secret tending of the badgers continues. But Belinda still suffers from lack of sleep and this causes problems, including more bullying from Frances and Katie who set out to disrupt Belinda’s attempts to catch up. There are other close shaves that almost expose Belinda’s secret as well, including the bullies poking around. And the squire seems to be going out of his way to become a fixture at the school, with constant visits, his prints and offers of free riding lessons. Belinda is now forced to go on one. She can’t ride, so she is relegated to mucking out. But then a pack of the squire’s hunting dogs gets loose and Belinda fears for her badgers. She manages to draw the dogs off with some aniseed balls until the squire’s hunting horn calls them off. But when she attends to the badgers that night, there is a man about with a spade, and he looks suspiciously like the squire. And there is evidence he was digging for something. Belinda begins to suspect the squire let the dogs loose on purpose and wonders if there is another secret about.

At the squire’s stables the next day, Belinda overhears the squire on the phone. It was indeed him she saw last night, and he knows there was a schoolgirl out there. He then says “I’ll leave the problem to you to deal with.” And when Belinda prepares to leave the dorm that night, someone comes in. She manages to evade the intruder but cannot see who it is. Later, she suspects it was one of the staff and now feels she cannot turn to anybody because there is nobody she can trust.

When Belinda goes to the sett again, she finds the squire and another man digging and frightens them off with her torch. Next day, the squire announces he will be holding a ball the following night to celebrate 200 years of hunting and the school is invited. However, a day history trip has Belinda drawing the conclusion that the squire is digging for buried treasure, which means the badgers must be safe.

Meanwhile, the teachers begin to notice the bullying. Frances and Katie are eventually caught red-handed and are punished with detention instead of going to the ball. Belinda tries to sneak away from the ball with food for the badgers, but gets caught by a teacher, Miss Harper. She is forced to explain everything to Miss Harper and show her the sett.

Miss Harper then tells Belinda something that only she knows about. Many years ago a rich lady took an interest in the sett. When the school fell into debt in 1881, she gave a grant that still keeps the school solvent, but on condition that the sett remains unharmed. And now that Belinda has shown her where the sett is, the squire can get rid of them once and for all. So Miss Harper is the squire’s accomplice! The whole plot has been to find and destroy the sett so the grant will end and the school forced to sell. The squire will then buy the grounds for development. And at this very moment the squire and his men are setting about badger digging on the slope. That badger-digging print had been a clue, but Belinda missed it entirely!

Belinda tries to escape Miss Harper, and is ironically saved by Katie and Frances. They like badgers too and are repulsed at the badger-hunt, and at Miss Harper for calling badgers vermin to be got rid of. They lock Miss Harper in a store room. Once Belinda tells them the story, they set off to rescue the badgers. On the slope, a race begins between the squire and the girls to get to the sett.

Evidently the squire was so confident of victory that he did not linger to see the outcome. He goes back to the ball and brags to his guests that their school is closing and it is their fault for not knowing about their school history (he may have a point there). But the grin is wiped off his face when the girls come into the hall with the badgers. They got to the badgers first!

It is the squire who is forced to sell out while Miss Harper resigns. Belinda is now best friends with Katie and Frances. There is only one type of badgering for her now, and it is out there on the slope. The whole school is now devoted to looking after the badgers.

Thoughts

“Badgered Belinda” was one of the filler stories for the last seven issues of Jinty. It has four page spreads throughout its run rather than the usual three. It is very unusual for a Jinty serial to have four-pagers for the entire duration of its run; usually four-pagers appear when a story is winding down, but there is pressure to finish it quickly. This happened with “Worlds Apart” and “The Human Zoo”. But Belinda was a four pager from start to finish. What could be the reason? Was it to pack as much story as possible into the seven episodes that the story was allowed? Or was it so that Belinda would help fill out the last seven issues more?

In any case, Belinda was the last Jinty story drawn by Phil Gascoine, and it literally bookends Gascoine’s run in Jinty; his artwork appeared in the first issue with “Gail’s Indian Necklace” and in the final issue with Belinda. In between, Gascoine’s artwork has been continuous in Jinty. There were very few instances where his artwork did not appear and several where it appeared in two stories in the same issue.

Story wise, Belinda is not one of Jinty’s classics, but she can be regarded as one of the stronger filler serials to appear in the final issues of Jinty. Belinda may even be the best serial in the line up that Jinty selected for her last seven issues.

Bullying stories are always guaranteed to be popular, and this one takes the twist in which the victim decides to endure the bullying, for the sake of the badgers, rather than trying to free herself from it as most victims in bully stories do (a la “Tears of a Clown”). The bullying is serious; we see Belinda shoved around on the sports field, constantly being pushed out of bed as her wake-up call and being forced under a cold shower among other nasty incidents. It is ironic that Belinda’s secret mission to take care of the badgers and keep them safe from the hunters helps her with confidence that she did not know she had. For example, desperation for the aniseed balls to draw off the hounds has her barrelling her way to the counter to buy them. This takes the girls by surprise as they always considered her “a weed” (although this does not stop them from punishing her with the cold shower).

Animals (especially orphaned animals) are always a hit as well, and Jinty makes a very strong stance against hunting. Girls’ comics have always come out strong against blood sports. But it is unusual to use badgers for this; foxes and deer are more commonly used when girls’ comics commented on the issue. The hunting has a very insidious side to it as well as a cruel one; when the squire has his hunting prints plastered on the school walls, offers the girls free riding lessons and invites them to his ball to celebrate hunting, it’s almost as if he is indoctrinating them into the sport. Belinda alone seems to stand against it. So it is a surprise when it turns out that the bullies take such a strong stance against the badger hunt that they lock the teacher in the store-room and join forces with Belinda. Mind you, how many pupils would really dare to lock up a teacher? That would be an expelling matter, wouldn’t it? Fortunately for them, it was justified. And the bullying problem reaches its final resolution. It goes from punishment, with the bullies being caught out in the penultimate episode, to redemption in the final episode.

Girls love mystery stories too. So as the mystery element creeps its way into the story with the introduction of the squire and his strange generosity, and then the strange goings-on on the slope, it would certainly have jacked up the drama and thrills and kept the readers engaged. It is a bit jarring that it turns out to be Miss Harper, though, because there have been no hints beforehand to suggest it might be her. In fact, she hadn’t even been named until then. Perhaps there was not enough scope in the seven episodes the story was allowed for sufficient clues and red herrings to be dropped for the readers to ponder on in solving the mystery.

Lastly, there is an environmental element in this story too. Jinty had been strong on environmental stories such as “The Forbidden Garden” and “Fran of the Floods”. We see it again in Belinda, with the indiscriminate use of poisons that are meant to kill pests but can also kill innocent wildlife. This is how the mother badger dies. If Belinda had not been there, the cubs would have died too. A whole family of badgers killed through the thoughtless of humanity. But the badgers are saved by a kind girl who not only finds courage and confidence in the face of bullying but ends up saving her school and finding friends at last.