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The Magic Bon Bons

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"The Magic Bon Bons" is a short story by L. Frank Baum, one of his American Fairy Tales first published in 1901.

Summary

A Boston woman named Claribel Sudds consults Dr. Daws, a wise old chemist who dabbles in magic. Claribel wants to go on the stage, but has no talent. For a hefty fee, Daws prepares a small selection of magic candies that will endow the eater with specific talents:

  • a lavender confection, which enables light and graceful dancing
  • a pink one, for singing "like a nightingale"
  • a white one, for supreme elocution
  • a chocolate one, for virtuoso performance at the piano
  • and a lemon-yellow one, for high kicking.

Claribel takes possession of her treasure in a little box — but foolishly forgets it on the counter of a dry goods store. The box is inadvertently swept up among other purchases, by a twelve-year-old girl named Bessie Bostwick.

Reaching home, Bessie finds the box, eats the chocolate candy, and places the others in a serving dish on the hall table. Soon, she gets a strong urge to play the piano. She only knows two pieces; at the keyboard, though, she suddenly launches into a superb performance of Beethoven's seventh piano sonata. She plays on and on, in a rapture.

Her mother hears the music, and nearly faints when she realizes that Bessie is the player. Mr. Bostwick arrives home with two dinner guests, a Yale professor and a senator. Mrs. Bostwick meets them in the hall; and as they listen to the music, they each take a bon bon and eat it — except for the senator, who places the lavender candy in his vest pocket.

The dinner that follows is an exercise in chaos. Mr. Bostwick breaks out singing "in a shrill, tremolo soprano voice." His wife recites poetry, and the professor kicks his soup dish to the ceiling. As Bessie plays the overture to The Flying Dutchman, her father sings "O Promise Me" and her mother delivers "The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck."

The senator retreats from this scene of madness. He is scheduled to make a major speech at Faneuil Hall the next day, but is so upset by the dinner at the Bostwicks' that he has trouble preparing. As he sits on the stage the following afternoon, he finds the candy in his pocket, and eats it to soothe his throat. He rises to speak — but instead he dances like a ballerina.

Claribel Sudds is in the audience, and leaps up to accuse the senator of stealing her bon bons. She is rushed out by the ushers; the senator's friends similarly escort him into seclusion, though he dances all the way.

It takes months for the senator to recover his reputation and his dignity. The Bostwick family and the professor return to normalcy more quickly. Meanwhile, Claribel launches a successful stage career; it seems safe to assume that she has acquired a new supply of magic bon bons.

Background

"The Magic Bon Bons" is one of the eight stories in the collection illustrated by Ike Morgan.

Judging by the frequency with which it was reprinted, it was the most popular of the dozen tales in the collection. It was also adapted into a short movie, one of the quartet of films called Violet's Dreams.

Given the setting in Boston, it is somewhat surprising that Baum includes a Yale professor among his characters. Perhaps this was a slip of the pen, where Harvard was intended.

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