The Psammead Trilogy Critical Essays

Edith Nesbit


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

From her teens on, Nesbit was a published author of poems, short stories, novels, articles, and children’s stories, but not until she was nearly forty did she begin to write the humorous and sparkling children’s novels for which she is best remembered. Some of those, such as the Psammead Trilogy, The House of Arden (1908), and The Enchanted Castle (1907), incorporate fantasy; others, for example, The Treasure Seekers (1899), The Wouldbegoods (1901), and The Railway Children (1905), do not. In both types of story, Nesbit was among the first to depict children realistically.

Similar to the boys in Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky and Co. (1899; collects eight stories published 1897-1899), the children in her books are neither unbelievably good nor unbelievably bad, as so many fictional children were in her day. They bicker and make up, and they are frightened and brave by turns. Unlike Kipling, Nesbit depicts both boys and girls and has neither group completely conform to the stereotypes then current. The boys, though brave, on occasion cry. The girls, though usually gentler, hurl stones at a castle-besieging army and take charge of dangerous situations.

The Psammead Trilogy, standing with The Treasure Seekers at the beginning of a burst of creative activity, uses many themes to which Nesbit returned in later books. First and foremost, the trilogy deals with the subject of wish...

(The entire section is 563 words.)