Publication: 4 October 1980 to 3 January 1981
Artist: José Casanovas
Reprint: Girl Picture Library #18 and #19 as “Spellbound!” and “Bewitched!”
Sue Barker has just moved to the village of Hillcroft. Things do not go off to a good start because she is shy and finds it difficult to make friends, and her efforts to help always seem to go wrong. However, Sue finds out the cottage she is living in once belonged to Granny Hayden, a witch who was revered in the community for her “Daily Dozen”, which worked magic in helping people. Sue finds the Daily Dozen (book, spoon and cauldron) hidden in the chimney. The opening pages of the book bear the inscription: “The wondrous DAILY DOZEN within these pages, seek inside, and trace the secrets that I hide for things may not be what they seem, but help I give to all who dream”.
Sue has been challenged to produce an entry for the school cookery contest. She had not been confident about it, but now selects a recipe, “totties treats”, from the Daily Dozen book, and is surprised to see her cooking go off without a hitch. She is even more surprised to find the headmistress and severe cookery teacher, who are judging the contest, suddenly playing like toddlers after eating the totties treats! Sue wins the contest of course, and suddenly feels more confident about making friends now she has found the Daily Dozen.
Nonetheless, Sue is still a bit wary about the Daily Dozen (it is, after all, associated with witchcraft, which does not have a good press). But every recipe the family uses from the book seems to work miracles. Just one dab of the home-made cleaner from the book on the brickwork on the house, and every speck of dirt just melts off the wall, leaving it sparkling. Moreover, the cleanup reveals drawings of the Daily Dozen book, complete with black cats and broomsticks. Sue even acquires a “familiar” – albeit a Siamese cat named Ling-Su instead of the traditional black cat, after she treats him with a tonic from the Daily Dozen. Then a broomstick, cape and witch’s hat drop down from the chimney. Sue is a bit wary about wearing them in public while pedalling the wares of the Daily Dozen, though everyone else is pleased at the revival of Granny Hayden and more remedies, including one that cures a sick man. At one point, the Daily Dozen has to flex its muscles quite severely at Sue for still doubting it, although its remedies do nothing but good, even if they do look like…magic. Eventually Sue fully accepts the Daily Dozen when it helps her to foil two criminals – who very unwisely tried to steal the Daily Dozen.
George Smith the blacksmith is due to marry Anne the florist, and the vicar tells Sue that the Daily Dozen is part of an old custom that must be performed. Sue has no idea what this means, and nothing in the book sheds light on it. But after the attempted theft, the Daily Dozen gives out some clues. First, a note appears to say:
“Forge and anvil – tools of trade
Fair and flowery must be made
And when church bells are gladly rung
The Daily Dozen’s work is done.”
Then the Daily Dozen shows Sue visions. First are visions of the things the Daily Dozen and Sue have accomplished together, followed by a vision of George and Anne happily married. Then there is a vision around the weather vane of an anvil decorated with flowers – which then appears for real in Anne’s flower shop. The cauldron is there too, with more flowers spilling out of it. There is no explanation, except that it must be the work of the Daily Dozen.
Meanwhile, Sue’s friend Alison has been doing research on old blacksmith customs. She learns that in olden times, blacksmiths were so important that they had to be protected from evil spirits with rituals such as firing up the anvil to produce a bang, and the ringing of church bells. The pieces are now coming together, but there is one piece still to discover, which Sue does when she sees the cauldron wobbling. She looks underneath and sees there is a piece that fits perfectly into the anvil.
So on the wedding day, church bells are rung and the Daily Dozen cauldron is placed on the flower-festooned anvil, which is then fired up to produce the bang. Suddenly, the cauldron shoots up, along with the spoon and book that go with it. They all arrive back at the cottage, and their work is now done. So now they disintegrate into soot and fall down the chimney into the fireplace. But their legacy lives on, in a much happier community and Sue finding confidence and friends.
“Sue’s Daily Dozen” was the last story José Casanovas drew for Jinty. And as Casanovas stories go, this is unconventional for two reasons. First, it is unusual for Casanovas to draw a supernatural-themed story, because his style is more suited for animal stories (“Dora Dogsbody”) or science fiction (“Tomorrow Town” from Tammy), so you are more likely to see him in stories with those themes. But here he is drawing a story with a supernatural theme. He was probably chosen because he brings off humour and the bizarre so well, and would therefore fit “Sue’s Daily Dozen”, which is a lightweight supernatural story. Even so, it is a surprise (for me) to see him bringing the supernatural to life here. The only other Casanovas story I have seen with a fantasy theme is “Sophie’s Secret Squeezy” from Lindy. There must be more Casanovas supernatural stories, but I wonder how frequently they appeared.
Second, Casanovas’ heroines are usually gutsy and proactive, and some are even unsavoury (such as the spiteful “Two-Faced Teesha” in Tammy). But here the Casanovas heroine starts off quiet and shy, and tending to stick her foot in it when she tries to help. Of course we know Sue is going to change into a more confident girl during the course of the story.
This story is also unconventional, for its portrayal of witches. It depicts witches more closely to what they really were – wise women who helped people in the community with herbal remedies – though it is unlikely they would have the powers of the Daily Dozen. Moreover, the villagers understand this completely, and appreciate and adore Granny Hayden for this, instead of lashing out at it in fear, ignorance, or at all the things they see that defy all explanation. In a village like Kettleby (“Mark of the Witch!”), Granny Hayden or Sue would be more likely to become targets of persecution, just like Emma Fielding. But here the locals are not frightened of it at all and see it as miraculous and helpful. Even the vicar accepts it, instead of labelling it Satanic, unchristian, or rubbish. It is only Sue who is worried about the Daily Dozen possibly having an evil side.
This portrayal of witchcraft (or Wicca) being a business run by wise women, not agents of the Devil, was touched on once before in Jinty, in Shadow on the Fen. But in Fen it was a dark and grim picture, with practitioners falling victim to witch hunters and superstitious, ignorant folk. But here it is such a relief to see the practitioner is not only understood but also embraced and loved instead of being hated and persecuted. And the Casanovas artwork is perfect, for not only bringing it all to life but also adding humour that enhances the message the story is wants to convey about witches – for no persecution would ever be allowed in a story drawn by Casanovas.