Uncle is an elephant. He is immensely rich, and he's a B.A. He dresses
well, generally in a purple dressing gown, and often rides about on a
traction engine, which he prefers to a car.
He lives in a castle called Homeward, which is hard to describe, but try
to think of about a hundred skyscrapers all joined together and surrounded
by a moat with a drawbridge over it, and you'll get some idea of it. The
castle is so large that parts of it are unknown to its owner. Many dwarfs
live in the top storeys. They pay rent to Uncle every Saturday. It's only
a pound a week, but it mounts up when there are thousands of dwarfs.
main view from Uncles splendid house is marred by his enemys
dingy fortress - the huge sprawl of Badfort. The Badfort crowd, led by
Beaver Hateman, are Uncles chief critics and adversaries - a constant
thorn in his side.
The Uncle stories tell of his adventures in the remoter parts of Homeword,
his efforts to maintain order and his constant conflicts with the Badfort
from humble jungle origins, Uncle is a self-made elephant, who can be
angered when reminded of his roots, particularly of an unfortunate episode
when, as an undergraduate, he was accused of stealing a bicycle. But,
through sheer dint of his own effort, he has become vastly wealthy, and
acts with a sporadic and impulsive generosity. He thinks nothing of spending
£1000 on a Christmas present for himself, or on treating all his
Followers to high tea. However, at other times he can resent paying sixpence
if he feels he is not getting value for money. Pompous, high-handed and
often hypocritical, Uncle nonetheless has a roguish charm which usually
sees him come out on top.
constantly surrounded by his Followers loyal employees and grateful
retainers who rely on Uncle for their livelihood. Like Lord Reith
at the BBC, Uncle has 'a most excellent and appreciated form of paternalism.'
"Mine is a vast domain," he says in his portentous Johnsonian
way, "and the responsibilities are great".
His life would appear to be an idyllic Eden, but there is a serpent in
every paradise, and in this case it is the Badfort Crowd. Forever attempting
to burst his self-righteous pomoposity by covering him with slime or pricking
him with skewers, their dream is to enslave him and take over Homeward.
Their most effective weapon is abuse: Uncle is incensed at being called
Unc, and they often interrupt solemn occasions with cries of "Arch-bully,
tyrant and boaster", "Old Snorty" and "the old crab
of Humbug Lodge". His most effective retaliation is to "kick
up" his opponents with one swift boot of his mighty foot.
Despite these fights, Uncle and the Badfort Crowd are more sympathetic
to one another than appearances might suggest. Uncle recognises there
is a lot of truth in Beaver Hateman's sneer, "You know jolly well
that you would be bored stiff if we didn't have a dust-up occasionally",
and is forced to acknowledge that there are times when he rather misses
the attacks and criticising of his degenerate neighbours.
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