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Meet The Characters

 

Moll: I’m Moll and I get into trouble a lot, especially with Mooshie. Normally it’s just skiving off chores to hang out with Sid in our tree fort but recently me and Gryff have been doing a bit of trespassing – and that hasn’t gone down very well with the rest of the camp. Trouble is, most of the other children are good and happy just mucking around in the clearing but when someone like Skull gets me all tempered up, there’s no knowing what me, my catapult and Gryff might get up to.

 

Gryff: I’m large, even for a wildcat, and my razor sharp claws and yellow-green eyes mark me out as wild. My night vision is seven times better than yours, my hearing is active 24 hours a day, even when I’m sleeping, I can smell meat 200 metres away and in sprints I can reach up to 30 miles per hour. I’m Gryff and I’m the only animal that can’t be tamed, but I came down from the northern wilderness to protect Moll from Skull’s dark magic. Most of the time I hang back from the clatter of the camp, sleeping inside hollowed trees and beneath fallen branches, but whenever Moll needs me I find her. Somehow she’s different from everyone else, and although she’s reckless, headstrong and impatient, I’d do anything to make sure she’s safe.

 

If you’re interested in helping protect the critically endangered Scottish wildcat, check out the school workshops and assemblies Wild Intrigue offers: www.wildintrigue.co.uk/wildcat-warriors

 

Siddy: I’m Sid, Moll’s best pal, and as co-founder of The Tribe, I’m worth listening to, even if I do have a habit of forgetting stuff, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and generally annoying my ma. As well as breaking rules, avoiding chores and telling lies on Tuesdays and Thursdays, The Tribe (that’s me, Moll and Gryff), can fend for ourselves in the forest better than any of the children back in camp. We’ve built a tree fort, rescued trapped otters and catapulted pigeons – but recently Moll has gone and got herself involved in Skull’s dark magic so we’re quite busy trying to fix all that.

 

Oak: My name is Oak, I’m the closest thing Moll has to a father and as head of the camp, I wear a ring set with black obsidian. I taught Moll to climb in the tallest elms, tickle trout from the river and carve wooden animals from hazel with her penknife – and I made the wheels on her wagon extra thick so that it wouldn’t topple over no matter how much crashing around she does inside it. But times are changing – Moll’s nightmares are growing stronger – and it’s only a matter of time before Moll discovers just who is waiting for her in the Deepwood

 

Mooshie: I’m Mooshie, Oak’s wife, and when I’m not weaving baskets out of hawthorn to sell up in the village, I’m looking after Moll: tending to the bruises she gets from tumbling out of trees with herbal cures, walloping her with my tea towel when she goes off trespassing and generally trying to prevent her from turning into a savage. I taught her all about the trees, how they lend us their spirits if we listen hard. Moll was fine with silver birch helping protect against evil beings but when I mentioned holly berries as a fertility charm she burped in my face and ran off. If I didn’t love Moll as much as I do, I’d count her as a lost cause.

 

Hard Times Bob: Hard-Times Bob, at your service. I may be in my eighties and as shriveled as a tortoise (Moll’s words), but I can dislocate every limb in my body and fit through the rungs of a ladder. The only side effect is my hiccups. I’ve had them for thirty years now but they’re always worse after a dislocation. Mooshie’s been banging on at me to cross my boots before bed to prevent them but it never works. I suppose the snakeskin binding she gave me for my hand does actually help my arthritis but the hedgehog paw Mooshie insists I carry to stave off toothache does absolutely nothing. Still, if I wear it I’m not hassled and I can sit by the fire playing my accordion for as long as I like.

 

Cinderella Bull: I’m known to the rest of the camp as Cinderella Bull and I’m a fortune teller. For the past few years I haven’t had to use that many protection charms – and I’ve only ever brought my crystal ball out at feasts – but Skull’s dark magic has grown stronger and I’ll do everything I can now to keep the camp safe. I’ve ensured each member of our camp has hung a protection charm from their wagon, everything from lemon peel, fragments of mirror, rabbit paws, tortoise shell, salt, iron, thorns, acorns, hedgehog bristles, fox teeth and blue jay feathers and if I’m called upon, and if the moon is full, you may well catch me calling on the tree spirits to breathe magic into my spells.

 

Skull: They call me Skull because of the mask I wear, but if they could see my face, see what terrible darkness lurks behind my mask, they’d call me worse things. Oak’s known for a while now that I’m The Dreamsnatcher but it’s not him I’m after. I can brew curses darker than night itself and it’s only a matter of time before the beast and child are mine. I’ve already stolen their dreams; and now I want their lives.

 

Gobbler: I’m Gobbler, second-in-command in Skull’s gang. I’ll do anything he says – kidnap, murder, torture – if it means bringing the beast and the child in. Some say our clearing in the Deepwood isn’t welcoming but I’ve grown fond of the decaying trees, rotted fungus and holding chambers for visitors

 

Alfie: I’m Alfie – twelve years old and a member of Skull’s gang. I’m not in on his dark magic but there are things – dark things – that went on when I was younger and I can’t leave. But I’ve got my stallion cob, Raven, here and I wear a knot of his hair in a leather pouch around my neck. It’s my talisman and it wards off evil. Only trouble is, it’s hard to escape evil when you’re mixed up in a gang that’s steeped in it...

 

Gypsy Recipes

(and what they say about each character)

THE AUTHOR – ABI ELPHINSTONE:

Doci Baci Balls

Chop up 6 rashers of streaky bacon

Shallow fry the rashers in butter

Twice boil a handful of Dock leaves (lightly salt water,

boil for two minutes in each pan)

Tip rashers into the washed and dried Dock leaves

Sprinkle with vinegar

Wrap Dock leaf edges up to form small parcels

Hold in place with cocktail sticks

 

Character Notes: short recipes mean a person is impatient and probably headstrong – they don’t like cooking but the eating is all good. The shallow-fry in butter means this character has a cheeky side and the use of a wild plant like elderflower suggests an unpredictable nature.

Sound like anyone from THE DREAMSNATCHER?!

GRYFF:

Duck from the, um, river…

Lie hidden in an alder branch overhanging the river

Wait, crouch low and size up prey, hopefully a duck

Leap from the branches, splay claws then

dig fangs into duck’s neck

Drag prey to the banks and consume it

 

Character Notes: the way the wildcat waits silently for its prey indicates a stealthy, secretive nature and its violent attack suggests a wild personality

SIDDY:

Joey Grey soup

Add oil or lard to the pot and melt

Add six sausages and cook until brown

Remove the sausages and chop them up into chunks

Place the sausages back into the pot with six rashers

of chopped bacon

Cook until brown

Add 3 chopped onions and 1 garlic clove

Once brown add water and 4 potatoes

Cook potatoes until soft

Add 4 large tomatoes and stock then cook

until tomatoes soften

Serve with bread and butter

 

Character Notes: six sausages imply the person may be slightly greedy but the tradition at the heart of this Romany soup dictates a loyal character

ALFIE:

Poacher’s Stew

Mix ½ a cup of flour with 1 teaspoon of salt

and ¼ teaspoon of pepper

Coat 2lbs of venison in the flour

Melt butter or lard in a heavy cast iron Dutch oven pot

Brown the meat then add 6 cups of water and

heat until boiling

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours

Stir in 3 potatoes, 1 turnip, 4 carrots, 1 bell pepper,

4 stalks of celery, 1 onion, 1lb white button mushrooms

(all of the above should be peeled and cubed)

Add 1 bay leaf

Simmer for 30-45 minutes until vegetables are tender

Heat to boiling and boil for 2 minutes, stirring continuously

Best served with fresh bread

 

Character Notes: the name of the recipe shows this person is tough and can survive in the wild, but the fact that the venison is poached might mean this character is

keeping a secret…

MOLL:

Elderflower in Batter

Make a batter with flour and milk,

some sugar and a beaten egg

Take an elderflower head (cut short at the stalk)

Dip it into the batter and shallow-fry in butter

 

Character Notes: short recipes mean a person is impatient and probably headstrong – they don’t like cooking but the eating is all good. The shallow-fry in butter means this character has a cheeky side and the use of a wild plant like elderflower suggests an unpredictable nature

OAK:

Pot of Shackles

Half fill a large cooking pot with water

Add pheasant meat, onions, split peas &

lentils (soaked overnight)

Cook until the meat is cooked through

Add chopped swede, carrots, parsnips, turnips and

potatoes and cook

Add stock and stir

Mix flour and fat with a little water and make

into dumplings using floured hands

Float dumplings on top of meal and continue

cooking for 15-20 minutes

 

Character Notes: this hearty, filling meal is for a person

who is active throughout the day, and its warming nature suggests a kindness at this character’s heart.

Dumplings imply strength 

MOOSHIE:

Cake in the Pan

Put 8 tablespoons of self-raising flour into a bowl

and add a big blob of lard

Mix together with your fingertips

Add a load of redcurrants and blackcurrants

(picked under a full moon)

Add a pinch of salt and sugar, and mix well

Whisk up an egg and add together with water (or milk),

and mix to a stiff dough

Press out on to a floured tray or board into a

round shape about ¾ inch thick

Get the swing-pan hot and throw in some lard

When the lard is melted and hot, place the cake in

When golden brown, turn over and cook the other side

 

Character Notes: A baking recipe implies a kind, warm nature though the use of the swing pan suggests a fiery temper. Berries picked under a full moon mean this person is a strong believer in the magical properties of plants

CINDERELLA BULL:

Bacon-or-Rasher Pudding

Put 8 tablespoons of self-raising flour into a bowl

Add 4 tablespoons of shredded suet (raw beef or mutton – the hard fat found around the lions and kidneys – if you have Atora beef suet that will do)

Mix ingredients together

Pour in some cold water and mix to a stiff dough, Flour a big tray or board and roll out to about, 16 inches x 11 inches

Place a few rashers of bacon, sliced onions and tomatoes on top, Sprinkle with dried mixed herbs, salt and pepper

Roll up (like a Swiss roll),Wet edges to stick together

Flour a muslin cloth (or cotton tea cloth) and

roll pudding in it loosely, Tie end with string, wrap loosely and tie other end, Place in big pot of boiling water and let it

bubble gently for 2 hours

Best served with boiled spuds and cabbage

 

Character Notes: The slightly strange, contradictory nature of the title of this recipe suggests a person with a mystical mind. The dried mixed herbs imply a close connection with natural spirits and the precise nature of the recipe indicates this person adopts rituals when carrying out activities

HARD-TIMES BOB:

Hotchi Witchi

Encase a hedgehog in clay and bake on a campfire

until the clay is glowing red

Break open the clay and you will find the spines

of the animal stuck to the inside

Roast the meat over the fire on a spit

Keep turning until the meat is cooked through

Serve with spuds or raspberry jam

 

Character Notes: though not to everyone’s taste, this recipe shows the person has a cheeky sense of humour, verging on the absurd. The spuds show a fondness for tradition but the raspberry jam indicates the underlying randomness at the heart of this person

SKULL:

Stewed Rat

Skin and gut the rat then split it lengthwise

Fry in butter until brown

Cover with water then add tomatoes, peppers and salt

Simmer the rat until tender and serve with rice

 

Character Notes: The rat is an unlucky symbol for gypsies and so surrounding this person is a sense of darkness. The violent language used in the recipe implies a sinister side to this character. Watch out…

GOBBLER:

Jellied Crows’ Eyes

After killing 3 crows, cut out their eyes

Sprinkle them with salt then swallow them whole

 

Character Notes: This repulsive recipe suggests a grotesque and even inhumane character. And the slimy texture of the eyeballs indicates a disgusting physical quality to the person’s appearance