“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ....Oscar Wilde

Monday 5 December 2011

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

How fascinating are the powers of the imagination?

Can you imagine walking along and looking at young Eucalyptus (gum tree) nuts ~ pictured below ~ only to then create a complete fantasy world. This is exactly what Australian author May Gibbs did. She created a make believe world that would have generations of Australian children fascinated by her imagination. It is a world filled with fears and excitement and adventures both extraordinary and everyday, a world peopled with small creatures, the real mixed tantalisingly with the imaginary. Best of all, it is a world so unmistakably Australian that all who read it know that magic exists in the land, as close as the bush is to their back yard.  

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie is a series of books written by Australian author May Gibbs. They chronicle the adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. The central story concerns Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and their adventures along with troubles with the villians of the story, the “Banksia Men”. The first book of the series, Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Their Wonderful Adventures was published in 1918.
The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie is one of Australia's best-loved children's book.

Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie was combined with its two sequels, Little Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia in 1940 and since then has never been out of print.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the gumnut babies, are the main characters of the story and are modelled on the appearance of young Eucalyptus (gum tree) nuts. The female gumnut babies, however, have their hair, hats and skirts modelled on Eucalyptus flowers.
May Gibbs based some of the characters and scenery on the plants found in the bushland of Bunbury, Western Australia, where she played as a child.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
The "big bad" Banksia Men are the villians of the story and are modelled on the appearance of aged Banksia "cones", with follicles for eyes and other facial features.
I have to admit this Banksia cone does catch my imagination as to a possible villian with all those eyes ~ or could they be mouths?

Banksia grandisBull Banksia
Photo: Martin Pritchard BDEC

May Gibbs...."we came to a grove of Banksia trees and sitting on almost every branch were these ugly, wicked little men that I discovered and that's how the Banksia Men were thought of."

About the Author....
In 1881, her parents Herbert William and Cecillia May Gibbs emigrated to Australia settling first in South Australia prior to moving and settling in Perth, Western Australia six years later. Both her parents were amateur artists and encouraged May to draw and paint from a young age. They were not disappointed. At the young age of 12, her illustrations were published by the West Australian Bulletin.
She studied in London where she obtained experience as a contributor to newspapers, magazines and books. She returned to Australia in 1913 and settled in Sydney where her adult career as an illustrator & cartoonist grew strongly.
Aside from being an artist, she was also an entrepreneur. She produced handmade calendars for sale by a number of retail outlets. She cut out her designs from sheets of printed paper and created calendars of all shapes and sizes. It was during World War I that May Gibbs produced her unique Australian flavoured postcards to boost the morale of Australian troops overseas.
May and her husband , J. Ossoli Kelly, moved into their waterfront cottage, Nutcote, designed by a renowned Sydney architect, B.J. Waterhouse. She lived in this house until her death, with her lovely gardens, were she drew much inspiration from.
The art of May Gibbs is full of charm and diversity, ranging from cartoons and portrait sketches to her Australian bush babies. She drew her inspiration from her environment including that of Nutcote, her home for over 40 years in trendy Neutral Bay on the north Shore of Sydney waterfront.

Illustrated Children’s Books of May Gibbs
Her enchanting stories of bushland adventures has continued to entertain children of all ages from the first edition of Gumnut Babies published by Angus and Robertson in 1916. What followed was a cavalcade of tale from Boronia Babies (1917), Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1918), Little Ragged Blossom (1920) and Mr. and Mrs. Bear (1943).
Apart from her books, she also drew a regular cartoon strip known as Bib and Bub and several children’s colouring-in books for playtime. Considered to be an early environmentalist, her first major adventure of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie appeared with the message: "Humans, please be kind to all bush creatures and don’t pull flowers up by the roots."
Many of the designs by May Gibbs have been incorporated into retail merchandise, from postcards, journal diaries and calendars, to curtains and wrapping papers.

I think you'll agree she was an incredible woman. When I see the gumnuts whilst out on my walks, I am immediately reminded of her cute drawings. I haven't as yet had the opportunity to look through one of her books but I intend to soon.

I hope you have a marvelous Monday... ; D


  1. Maybe you'll find one of her books in that 2nd-hand bookshop you found...

  2. What a charming book! The illustration you showed is delightful, and the story sounds as sweet as can be.

  3. amazing, what treasures your country holds, this is just beautiful.The authors as well,

  4. I was thinking exactly the same thing Mark ;D

  5. Hi Beth,
    The illustrations are very cute and I think reflect the era of when the author created them. Similar to the UK's Beatrix Potter...timeless. :D

  6. I agree Laurie but have to confess {in a hushed voice} this isn't my country...I'm just borrowing it for a time. But loving it I have to say!
    I'm definitely going to hunt out the book on my next book shop tour...it may just have to be a must in my collection. ;)

  7. Good morning Nessie. So nice to hear from you, a fellow ex-pat! :) I can see why you stayed in Australia, we've had rain for days and I could use a little Aussie sun (or at the very least some snow). Warm hugs!

  8. I had never heard of this author/artist! How fascinating. I loved it. I often wonder what road my life may have taken had I been allowed to go to artschool way back when I finished regular school. I like to think I might have had a successful career. One can but dream I suppose! Love and hugs on a very brisk winter's day here in the UK. (It's dry at least! a real bonus!) xxoo

  9. Good Morning Allison,
    Great to hear from you and thanks for popping by...

    I have to admit I do feel privileged to see so much sun. The light is certainly different here which can't help but make you feel good.
    Well most of the time ;D

  10. Hi Marie,
    I'm so happy to hear you liked it. I thought you might.
    In fact I actually thought of you whilst drafting it. The little cute creatures reminded me so much of your paintings.

    Like you I often wonder about the different twists and turns of the road I chose. If I'd made different choices what might I have achieved? But you know, I think I'm happy with the outcome although to be an accomplished artist would be nice ;D
    Stay cosy xoxo


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