What lengths can one go to win the heart of the beloved? Many a poet and writer have addressed this question in their work and most, if not all, have penned endearing and often, heartbreaking narratives of the lover and the beloved.
Esio Trot has all the ingredients which make it a perfect love story. A lonely man harbours love for his neighbour, a widow. When she faces a problem with a wild creature he comes to her rescue. There is no knight in shining armour routine though for the wild creature isn’t a fire breathing dragon but a mere tortoise and our knight’s weapon is just a metal tube fitted with claws. No fancy armour or sword for Mr. Hoppy.
Mr. Hoppy is a shy, retired man who lives in the same apartment building as the love of his life, Mrs. Silver. In fact, her flat is just below his. Everyday both of them exchange pleasantries but Mr. Hoppy lacks the courage to express his feelings. Mrs. Silver, a widow, owns a tortoise called Alfie who is the apple of her eye. She dotes on him incessantly. So much so that Mr. Hoppy wishes many a times to exchange places with Alfie.
The great worry in Mrs. Silver’s life is Alfie’s slow growth. She wants the little tortoise to gain weight and become big but no matter how many juicy cabbage leaves she feeds it, Alfie weighs the same as it did when she got him, eleven years ago. She is willing to try anything to make Alfie grow. Her distress over Alfie provides Mr. Hoppy with the perfect opportunity for winning her heart and he puts together a masterly plan that actually makes the tortoise grow!
Dahl, yet again, provides us with two very interesting characters in this book. But unlike his other books for children (James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, George's Marvellous Medicine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory etc.) there is no villain or child in this story. There are no evil aunts or grandmothers and no magical fruit, or factories. There is, of course, a little bit of creativity and innovation involved but then we can’t expect a Dahl protagonist to be just an ‘ordinary’ person.
Following is an excerpt from Donald Sturrock’s book, Storyteller –The Life of Roald Dahl, on Esio Trot.
‘Quentin Blake described it succinctly as a “love story set in two rooms”. Blake felt the narrative was built largely around Roald’s feelings for Liccy*, and that there was a great deal of his creator to be detected in Mr. Hoppy’s penchant for ingenious and imaginative problem solving”.
ESIO TROT, ESIO TROT, TEG REGGIB REGGIB! EMOC NO, ESIO TROT, WORG PU, FFUP PU, TOOHS PU! GNIRPS PU, WOLB PU, LLEWS PU! EGROG! ELZZUG! FFUTS! PLUG! TUP NO TAF, ESIO TROT, TUP NO TAF! TEG NO, TEG NO! ELBBOG DOOF!
And if you want to win over the woman of your dreams, above is a magic spell that can help, provided she owns a tortoise!
*Liccy was Roald Dahl’s second wife.