Where is the Land of Green Ginger?

Nowhere, of course, because it doesn’t exist.

Except in the mind of Beatrix Potter.

In the land of Green Ginger there is a town called Marmalade, which is exclusively inhabited by guinea-pigs.

They are of all colours and of two sorts–the common ordinary smooth-haired guinea-pigs who run errands and keep green grocers shops–and the kind that call themselves Abyssinian Cavies–who wear ringlets and walk upon their toes.

And the short-haired guinea-pigs admire and envy the curls of the long-haired guinea-pigs.

Both kinds of the guinea-pigs go to the Barber especially on Saturdays.

Beatrix Potter

Hucksterism in the Land of Green Ginger in Beatrix Potter’s The Fairy Caravan
(Cotsen 21522)

Beatrix Potter

The barber and his victim in Potter’s The Tale of Tuppenny illustrated by Marie Angel (Cotsen 11853)

If you want to find out about what happened when the bald guinea pig Tuppenny tried three treatments of Quintessence of Abyssinian Artichokes, the hair wash invented (and untruthfully promoted) by the barber, you’ll have to find a copy of The Tale of Tuppenny (1971) with illustrations by Marie Angel or  The Fairy Caravan (1929), where Potter first published it.

The Land of the Green Ginger

The djinn. Noel Langley, The Land of the Green Ginger illustrated by Edward Ardizzone (author’s copy).

I don’t know if  Noel Langley (1911-1980) learned about the Land of Green Ginger from Beatrix Potter’s Fairy Caravan.   Perhaps not, because there are no guinea-pigs, just a djinn of the lamp, three suitors competing for the hand of lovely princess Silverbud, a feisty mouse, Omar Khayyam the tent maker, a flying carpet, and a dragon with a heliotrope tongue who likes his donkey with lettuce salad, tomatoes sliced thin.  Everything necessary for a sequel to the story of Aladdin.

And who was Noel Langley?  Born and educated in Durban, South Africa, he wrote and illustrated for children The Tale of the Land of Green Ginger (1937), which helped get him a seven-year contract with MGM.  His Hollywood writing credits include The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1939), Scrooge (1951), Ivanhoe (1952), and Snow White and The Three Stooges (1961).

Poster for The Wizard of Oz

Poster for the Wizard of Oz screenplay with Langley’s name at the head of the list of writers.

Langley also turned out plays, short stories and novels, but what he is remembered for besides the screenplay for The Wizard of Oz is his over-the-top pseudo-Oriental fantasy, The Land of Green Ginger, which he rewrote in 1966 and 1975, both accompanied by the illustrations of Edward Ardizzone.

The hero of The Land of Green Ginger, Prince Abu Ali, is not the likeliest of lads.

He was too amiable; too good-natured; too kindly; too honest, and too-fair-minded.

He was far too considerate of other people’s feelings.

He laughed too easily, and he was much too sympathetic.

He was deeply fond of both of his parents.

He was never lazy, impudent, or ill-mannered.

He could never raise his voice in foolish rage, or be a tattle-tale behind your back.

He was, in fact, quite hopeless.

Any sensible person would put their money on the other two suitors, Wicked Prince Tintac Ping Foo or Wicked Prince Rubdub Ben Thud of Arabia.  Of the two, tall, skinny, mercenary Prince Tintac Ping Foo has the edge because of his way with words.  Here is a conversation with his father, the Shah of Persia, in which it is revealed that Rubdub Ben Thud has stolen a march on Tintac Ping Foo.

“What?  Rubdub Ben Thud?” shrilled the Wicked Prince in fiercest ire.  “That balloon-faced butterball?  Do you dare to tell me he has the silly sauce to pit himself against a paragon of loveable manly virtues like me?”

“I’m afraid so.  Yes,” said the Shah of Persia.

“Oh har! Oh har! Oh, har!” scoffed Tintac Ping Foo scornfully.  “I’d like to be there when they throw him out on his ear; but it’s far too far beneath my delicate dignity!”

“I quite agree,” agreed his father insincerely, “and I’d laugh as loudly as you my son; except that my spies inform me that Sulkpot Ben Nagnag looks with favor on his suit, and has invited him to lunch.”

The Wicked Prince Tintac Ping Foo went as purple in the face as a stick of jealous rhubarb, and shook his fists toward the sky.

“Then woe betide Rubdub Ben Thud!” he vowed vindictively. “He’ll rue the day he crossed my path! Ho there, Slaves! My camels! My retinue! My magic sword! My jellybeans! I leave at once for Samarkand.”

And what is more, gentle reader, he meant it and he did.

Tale of the Land of the Green Ginger (Cotsen 10198)

The author’s illustration of the wicked prince. Langley, The Tale of the Land of the Green Ginger (1937) (Cotsen 10198)

Land of Green Ginger: Ardizzone ill.

Prince Abu Ali and Silverbud united at last as illustrated by Ardizzone. The Land of Green Ginger (author’s copy)

But The Land of Green Ginger is a fractured fairy tale, so virtue will out, no matter which of the three versions you read.  If you crave more of the rhodomontade quoted above, pass by  the first edition and run, do not walk, to the 1975 version which is available in a handsome paperback from David R. Godine.   Sometimes it is just too humid and hot to tackle the volumes like War and Peace, Infinite Jest, or 1Q84 on a summer reading list, whereas something light and frivolous like The Land of Green Ginger goes down like a scoop of coconut sorbet.

Perhaps, patient and forbearing reader, a small sigh has escaped your lips because this magical realm cannot be found on Google Maps.  Actually, if you go to the East Riding of Yorkshire and find the bottom of Whitefriargate in Hull upon Kingston, you can visit the Land of Green Ginger.  Or you can read the books.  Take your pick.

Hull's version of the Land of Green Ginger

The Land of Green Ginger in Hull.

Beatrix Potter Figurines, “Vienna Bronzes”?


The whole family! in process item no. 6935392

Cotsen recently acquired a large collection of 62 bronze Beatrix Potter figurines.  The group was assembled over a period of years by Diana R. Tillson, whose remarkable collection of materials on the history of music education and appreciation are part of the Cotsen Children’s Library. The figures are hand painted and range in size from 1.5 to 7 centimeters in three general size categories (8 large, 32 medium, and 22 small). From Benjamin Bunny to Tom Kitten, these bronzes boast an array of familiar and beloved Beatrix Potter characters.


The “large” figurines; the tallest of which only measures 7 centimeters high.


the middle sized group, each around 3 to 5 centimeters high.


the very small figurines, all around 2 centimeters high.

The whole group again, with a quarter for scale.

The whole group again, with a quarter for scale.

Bronze figurines, Potter-related and otherwise, are often found on Ebay and in auction catalogs, in gift shops and collectibles magazines. In all these various places these collectibles are almost ubiquitously referred to as “Vienna bronzes”, usually “cold painted”: an Art Deco technique in which the metal is first chemically treated then painted and then covered in a fixative. Many larger bronzes are stamped with a maker’s signature. The most familiar in the market is the cartouche of the Viennese manufacturer Franz Bergmann which often appears, unpalindromatically, as NAMGREB (with the last N dropped). But our Potter figurines, and other bronzes of similar size, are too small to bear any maker’s mark. Although these tiny figurines claim a Viennese origin, grasping at associations with those larger and verifiable pieces and with that Austrian city of art and culture, their place of manufacture is not actually noted on the objects themselves.

So while doing research for this blog post I discovered a very strange thing: namely, that the manufacturer and date of these adored collectibles is almost impossible to ascertain!

As has already been mentioned, whenever these objects appear for sale on the web or in trade catalogs, they usually don’t mention a manufacturer. Even in one very famous collection of “Vienna Bronze” Potter figurines, that of Doris Frohnsdorff (featured in the April 16th, 1997 Christie’s auction catalog of her sizable and one-of-a-kind Beatrix Potter collection), the manufacturer is not mentioned. This collection, now in the possession of the rare book dealer David Brass, was reviewed by Greta Schuster, a knowledgeable Potter collector. Of the Frohnsdorff collection (and Vienna Bronzes in general) she said “The Vienna Bronzes are a minefield, from what I can see in your pictures you have a very good selection of old ones (with whiskers), approx. 1913 – 1933… What you have to look out for are ones that were made yesterday and made to look worn and old; yes there are fake Vienna Bronzes.”

To the best of our knowledge and ability we can cautiously conclude that our collection is authentic. Our miniatures are probably contemporaneous with the Frohnsdorff collection, resembling similar quality and condition (our whiskers are intact too!). Although we can claim that our bronzes were probably made in the period between wars, we still don’t know by whom. From what I’ve been able to uncover, this isn’t an problem particular to bronzes. All kinds of collectibles (lead soldiers, pewter figures, porcelain dolls, crystal statuettes, etc.) are listed online, in hobby magazines, and trade catalogs without ever indicating a manufacturer.

Nevertheless, it seems that there are only two companies which could be responsible for the creation of authentic Vienna Bronze Beatrix Potter figurines in the early 20th Century: Franz Bergmann (sold to Karl Fuhrmann & Co. in 1960) and Fritz Bermann; firms with misleadingly similar names that were both started in or around Vienna ca. 1850. On the history page of Bermann’s website, the firm indicates that they fixed a licensing agreement with Warne (the late Potter’s publisher) to produce figurines from Potter’s stories only very recently, in 1984. So we might ostensibly count them out and conclude that only Bergmann could have made our little figurines. Yet both firms have been advertised as the manufacturer of antique Beatrix Potter pieces (though they are, of course, easy to mix up).

It still remains unclear, however, if Potter authorized any Vienna Bronzes during her lifetime. So it is always possible that these miniatures were made by different firms than the ones mentioned but are simply untraceable. We might never get a clear answer regarding the origin of Potter bronzes from this period or our Potter bronzes in particular. If we can conclude that our figurines are not piracies (if indeed they all even came from the same place), then they were most likely made by Bergmann. But given the muddled past and current market, it might be impossible to say for sure.  At the very least, we are pleased to have received a charming collection of Vienna Bronze Beatrix Potter figurines that were carefully cast, painstakingly painted, and lovingly cared for.


Additional links and sources:

The David Brass collection

The history of Bermann Weiner Bronzen