The Herbs and The Adventures of Parsley Classic BBC kid's animation by Michael Bond
On this page ..... All appeared in The Herbs,& most in the sequel. ( NOTE- the differences between the 2 series are detailed here )
PASHANA BEDHI Conspiracy theory No.1,231,764..........Pashana Bedhi is quite possibly the reason The Herbs will never appear again on the BBC. Discuss.
Whilst it's obviously true that all the human characters are accentuated charicatures,the race issue seems to put Pashana into a different ballpark.
A human version of Sir Basil would probably find his boozey,airhead counterpart quite amusing.But I'm not so sure Pashana would evoke the same response,with his obligatory "goodness gracious me" comedy accent,bed of nails,and a penchant for snake charming and a good curry.
And it's hard to see what else is preventing the Beeb from showing re-runs,because the show's characters and setting are timeless.As are Michael Bond's scripts -the quality of which would also put most modern kids' shows to shame.
But,with Pashana in it,maybe that's a bit like trying to sell someone a bucket with "only one hole"
Yes,they were shown on C4 as recently as the late 90's.(Even though you could probably get away with anything at 7am on a Sunday morning.) And,yes,they may well pop up on satellite or cable stations (same proviso) But I can't help feeling they're in a dusty box at Broadcasting House marked "too sensitive".Probably rubbing shoulders with the likes of "It Ain't Half Hot Mum",and Spike Milligan's "Q8" amongst others.
So.........theory No.1,231,764 may well be a load of old tosh.But I doubt too many people would be surprised if it wasn't.
1) "I am Peshana Bedhi,very good at snake charming. Snakes that have by me been charmed,will not anyone be harming."
2) "I am Peshana Bedhi,very good at cooking nicely. All that has by me been cooked,surely will be hot and spicey"
PARSLEY In "The Herbs",he's a friendly,but timid lion,who doesn't speak and can't even really be described as the main character.But in the sequel he's given a voice and is totally transformed into an intelligent,thoughtful and laidback counterbalance to Dill's "act now,think later" shenanigans.And,unlike The Herbs,they completely take centre stage.
In the sequel,he's a watcher rather than a "do-er" and he's given a nice sardonic turn of phrase and plenty of acerbic lines. And the Tony Hancock-style delivery has striking similarities with Dougal,of Magic Roundabout fame.
But whilst Eric Thompson also voiced Dougal to sound like Hancock too,Parsley is given a more upper class voice,which is actually very reminiscent of another laconic and famous man of the time,Patrick Cargill,of "Father, Dear Father" tv fame.
It's no surprise that someone so urbane can also read and write (with pen in mouth).And he's often seen consulting "my book" (pic 2) -an encyclopedia that magically appears to the accompaniment of a flash of light and a "ting" sound when he raises and lowers a paw - and a very handy and well-used narrative device it is too.
Here's his main song,plus a slight variation that was also used. (Note - character songs were dropped for the sequel. And all the differences between the 2 series are detailed on this page )
1) "I'm a very friendly lion called Parsley,I am always very glad to see you wave.
But please don't shout or speak to me too harshly, because I'm not particularly brave."
2) "I'm a very friendly lion called Parsley,with a tail for doing jobs of every kind.
But I mustn't treat it roughly or too harshly,for it's such a useful thing to have behind."
DILL Merely a friend to Parsley in "The Herbs",he morphs into a full-blown sidekick and confidante in the sequel.
In both series he provides a real burst of childlike energy and enthusiasm that many of those watching can relate to.And his sheer zest for life means he invariably throws himself into things without thinking them through.Something that's used to good comedic effect of course.
But it's the sequel where he really comes into his own,when he's given a voice to replace the yapping and panting heard in The Herbs.He provides much of the narrative impetus,and is the main source of Parsley's observational dry humour.
He's far more than an Ernie Wise though,and gets plenty of good lines himself.And whilst he may be impetuous he's certainly not stupid and is more than capable of holding his own in a verbal joust.
Moments of quiet reflection and insight also act as a nice counterweight to all his scurrying about.And he's given a gentle child-like voice and is animated in a very sympathetic and playful way.So he actually comes across as extremely disarming rather than annoying.
The Herb Garden's very own naughty-but-nice child.
1) "I'm Dill the dog,I'm a dog called Dill. Though my tail I'd love to get,I've never caught it yet !"
2) "I'm Dill the dog,I'm a dog called Dill. I'm rather small and furry,and often in a hurry."
3) "I'm Dill the dog,I'm a dog called Dill. On bones I love to chew,I can eat up quite a few."
SAGE Completeing the main trio of animals,Sage is the wonderfully surreal looking owl who always gets out of the nest the wrong side.He puts up with numerous interruptions to his generally sedentary life style.Interruptions he could well do without and which are usually accompanied by some irritated squawks and wing flapping.
Flapping,but never any flying (too time-consuming to animate) Although you get the feeling he really couldn't be bothered to make the effort anyway.Or if he could,he'd probably clear off permanently to somewhere far more peaceful !
As with his fellow animal characters,he's only given a speaking voice in the sequel- a wonderfully idiosyncratic and suitably crotchety one which fits him perfectly (a running theme with all the voices you'll note).
That said,he doesn't actually say a great deal and is a relatively peripheral figure in both series.So it's a testimony to his impact that he's so well-remembered.Cuddly in his own strange way,but with that extra bit of edge and attitude.A sort of ornithological Victor Meldrew and generally not as well recognised in kids' animation history as he should be.
Although that's maybe because his demeanour strikes more of a chord with adults than kids I'd imagine.
1) "I'm a rather fat feathery owl called Sage,let me tell you I've never been set foot in a cage.
To be truthful I've not felt the slightest desire,to be covered in wood held together by wire."
2) "I'm a rather fat feathery owl called Sage,I'm not at all happy,in fact in a rage.
It's bad enough having ones' home all upset,but to make matters worse,all my feathers are wet." (all ended with a disgruntled squawk !)
SIR BASIL & LADY ROSEMARY This husband and wife duo are the owners of the estate in which the garden sits and presumably live in the big house-although we never get to see it.
They're far more prominent in the original series,but do still pop up from time-to-time in the sequel.
Sir Basil is the bumbling Lord of the Manor.Hopelessly dim,but harmless enough when he doesn't have a gun in his hands. In fact,a very likeable fool really and more than happy to let Lady R wear the trousers.Which is appropriate because you get the feeling that by the time he'd figured out which way round they should go,she'd have had a pair specially made in the colonies,shipped over and fitted...and all before breakfast.Or,at least,made damn sure someone else did !
Without her around you'd imagine the whole garden would quickly descend into chaos.And to go with her decision-making and organisational skills,she's also blessed with more grey matter than Basil,Bayleaf and Knapweed put together -which admittedly isn't saying a great deal.
2 classic stereotypes of the British aristocracy.And so acutely well observed in their appearance,that if you only saw a picture of them without hearing them speak,you'd pretty much know what to expect.......and you'd be right.
Their songs are a particularly good appraisal of their characters too.......
1) "I am Sir Basil,King of all the herbs,I like huntin',shootin' & fishin'. But if there's any hard work to be done,you'll notice I'm generally missin'."
2) "I am Sir Basil,King of all the herbs,I'm very often in trouble. I'm not very good at sortin' things out,and often I get in a muddle."
1) "My name is Lady Rosemary,you'll find you cannot fool me. I have eyes both sharp and quick,to help me see through every trick."
2) "My name is Lady Rosemary,I am tall and willowy. Though my manner may seem cold,I really have a heart of gold."
BAYLEAF The resident gardener charged with keeping everything looking good.
Think of an exaggerated version of The Wurzels (as if that were possible !),and substitute a combined harvester for a wheelbarrow and you've got yer man. He's not the brightest bloom in the flower bed and his ramblings are often cut short by an impatient Lady Rosemary.But he's a decent enough sort,and a hard worker who only tolerates the antics of Parsley and Dill because he has to.( "If you ask me, there's some of us would be better employed using their paws helpin' in the garrrrden !") In fact,he's never far away from a moan or a reminisce about the "old days" but remains totally likeable throughout.And,like Constable Knapweed,he's got the dual attraction of being a good straightman and amusing in his own right.Which makes them very valuable members of both series.
"I'm Bayleaf I'm the gardener,I work from early dawn. You find me sweeping up the leaves,and tidying the lawn." (an affirming "arrrr" to end)
CONSTABLE KNAPWEED Very much a by-the-book kind of guy,he's supposedly there to see order is maintained.
But despite his endless note-taking and posturing,an awful lot still goes on regardless.And he's clearly no better at prevention than he is at detection.
Fortunately,like any pompous authority figure he's perfectly set up for providing laughs at his own expense.And the thick Yorkshire accent and Victorian-style whiskers and uniform set it all off beautifully.Like many of the human participants he's a timeless characature classic.And a bonus mark goes to anyone who remembered he was a redhead ?!
"I am Constable Knapweed,and I keep law and order. I watch to see that all is well,along the garden border."
AUNT MINT She spends all her time frantically knitting whilst sitting in a rocking chair that conveniently moves around the garden as and when she's required for a scene.Which usually means when she's required to knit something to order,like a balaclava hat for Sage's birthday present etc.(well,if he can get away with wearing a pithe helmet,why not ?!)
I'm not sure she ever really hit the mark actually and perhaps could have been used to better effect as a more cuddly confidante to all and sundry.As opposed to the rather angular looking and detached character we actually get.
These days,I'm struck by her resemblance to Postman Pat ! And no coincidence that Ivor Woods was responsible for both.
1) "My name is Auntie Mint.If you should see me sitting don't think I'm doing nothing,for I'm busy with my knitting.
2) "My name is Aunt Mint,I'm always very busy, I often have so much to knit,it makes me feel quite dizzy."
MR. & MRS. ONION and THE CHIVES The Onions are the Chives' parents and Mr.Onion takes it upon himself to be their school teacher as well -an open air classroom in the garden,with a suitably old-fashioned mix of wooden desks, blackboard on an easel,and satchels on their backs.
His wife spends most of her time as an onlooker and usually in tears-just to cement the onion analogy.But fear not, because it's explained that "the happier she is,the more she cries" -which is handy.
The 12 chives don't have mouths and consequently never speak.Although we do hear collective off screen cheers and background noise from them when the need arises.They're also identical as near as damn it.And whilst that saved the animators a lot of time worrying about continuity issues it didn't help to make them particularly memorable.
So,the undeniable star of this little grouping is Mr.O,as he appears the most and has a memorable authoritarian drill-sargeant delivery -as witnessed by this lovely bit of dialogue from the Birthday Party episode :-"a good time will be 'ad by all.No stuffing yourselves with cakes iced,buns currant or trifles cream!"
Notice the silent "h" ,as in "'orrible" and you should be able to put a voice to 'im without the need for the hearing thereof (although don't be tempted to lapse into cockney)
But it's actually only the chives who get a song,athough they're clearly in most need of a bit of lyrical clarification.And they're actually done no favours by being modelled closest to the plants they're supposed to represent.
But with the onset of GM crops,perhaps all our onions will end up looking like that.
"Because there are so many herbs,all looking like each other. It makes it even hard to tell,a sister from a brother." (animator's in-joke)
Mrs Onion is the least aesthetically pleasing of all the models and with the least personality.So it's little wonder she's always crying.
The chives may be upside down botanically speaking,but the roots provide a funky hairstyle.Although the whole family would clearly benefit from getting some sun!
TARRAGON THE DRAGON In the original series,Bayleaf accidentally tips a pile of plant food onto a tarragon seed and it grows into a beanstalk with a giant egg on top.And in the absence of Jack,this is duely recovered by Parsley (lion's are good climbers),hatched by Sage (fair enough) and the resultant young dragon then finds a home with Sir Basil and Lady Rosemary (slightly less explainable).
Being a dragon,he does have that rather unfortunate habit of torching things at random.Although we only ever see white smoke coming out of his nostrils as flames are notoriously difficult to represent using stop-motion animation. But,fortunately,kids of a nervous disposition are regularly reminded that he's only a small,young dragon.And he's also given a softly spoken voice complete with a very disarming lisp to make him even more palatable.And he makes a couple of appearances in the sequel as well.
Trivia- he predates The Clangers Soup Dragon (below,right) by a year and isn't totally dissimilar in appearance- coincidence ?
"I'm Tarragon the dragon,I'd better make it clear,that nothing's safe when I'm about,things seem to disappear."
BELLADONNA THE WITCH Unlike Tarragon,Michael Bond went for it big time with Belladonna-the full scarey witch bit -stooping gait,maniacal cackle.beady eyes,huge grotesque nose and "deary"-type old lady voice.Her "magic changes" are accompanied by a thunderclap and flashes of light and darkness,and her aim is garden domination.Why ? Because she's "the deadly nightshade flower" In short,a truely nasty piece of work,but sadly a bit too much for the Beeb who quickly requested she was dropped.So she never saw the end of The Herbs series nevermind the follow-up.
Fortunately,in the episode she does appear,she mistakenly flies off on Bayleaf's broom and crashes,leaving her own magic broomstick behind.And very useful it is too,because each twig represents one magic power.Something which Michael Bond makes full use of whenever there's a plot difficulty.And one he's only too happy to acknowledge with this line .......
"Of course ! Bayleaf's magic broom.I don't know what they'd do without it sometimes !" -er,quite Michael.And just as well it was a nice bushy one,because it turns up in the sequel as well.
"Belladonna is my name,I'm the deadly nightshade flower. I shall never be content,'till all the herbs are in my power."
"She's done one of her magic changes.Even her best friend wouldn't recognise her.If she had a best friend -which I doubt."
A lovely bit of writing.But you'd imagine it'd take a bit more than a change of clothing with a hooter like that.
And you've got to respect Signor Solidgo if he can play the joanna with fingers like that.
But why risk any disrespect when he looks like he might know some people who could slip a horse's head under your duvet.
MISS JESSOP As a character who comes to stay with Sir B and Lady R.,we're told that .......
"She's very nice really,but she does like things to be neat and tidy.Not just ordinary tidy,but clean and tidy.
She won't like the Herb garden if it looks untidy like this one." And indeed she doesn't ! A neatly dressed
spinster,with a touch of the Edwardian governess. An O.C.D sufferer before it was even invented,she dusts
plants with a pink feather duster and upsets everyone by being hyper-critical.
And Bayleaf decides she needs a husband to sort her out (very 'new age' our Bayleaf !)
So he takes matters into his own hands and ..........
"I'm a very neat herb and my name is Miss Jessop,I like everything tidy and shining and clean.
But all of the other herbs make such a mess-up,that sometimes the garden's not fit to be seen."
...........and GOOD KING HENRY is the result,as Bayleaf grows him from seed in his greenhouse.
But he's too big to get out & they have to use the magic broom to turn the greenhouse into a carriage fit for a king so he doesn't have to.And whilst he may be minus a greenhouse,at least Bayleaf gets his cross-pollination right because Miss J and the King do indeed marry.And,apart from cameos in the Birthday Party episode,they ride off into tv oblivion.
All in all,a little bit of a strange diversion really,and with Lady Rosemary so firmly in charge there was only ever going to be one winner and 2 losers.
And it's no coincidence that I've put these 2 at the bottom of the cast list to round off procedings.
"Good King Henry stands before you,such a royal and regal figure.
If from this greenhouse I do move,it's plain the doorway must be bigger."
SIGNOR SOLIDAGO An Italian music teacher with a leaning towards the operatic.He has his base in the Herb garden conservatory,complete with white grand piano & what look suspiciously like the cherubs from the opening sequence.
Resplendant in white suit and spats he's the sort of "mama,mia" Italian cliche that you half expect to burst into
".....geeev eeet to meee" at any moment. Not that Cornetto's were around in 1968.
And because of his appearance I've always struggled to take Dirk Bogarde seriously in "Death in Venice" !
He's used very sparingly though,and his main appearance is a foolhardy attempt to try and teach Sage to sing sweetly. Something he singularly fails to do after much shattering of glass and cotton wool all round.
He's given a nice song himself though,which amply demonstrates that narrator Gordon Rollings had a more than acceptable singing range to go with his verbal dexterity.
"My name let me say is Signor Solidago,sometimes I sing high and sometimes I sing lo_ow.
If I am happy,I sing a libretto,sometimes I sing both in bass and falsett_o."
So that's all the Herbs .........sliced and diced !
If you haven't done so already,check out "The Making of Pt.2" to hear what Michael Bond has to say about them all and how he initially tried to tie-in the character's traits with their plant characteristics.
Some are more tenuous than others,but then again this is a kids' tv show and not an RHS exhibit,so we'll let him off.
A lot of his time is spent scurrying about but he's also perfectly capable of some moments of quiet reflection.The bone fixation was a theme in both series,but he swapped his old kennel in The Herbs for a very desirable residence in the sequel -as befitting his elevated star status ......and useful for the odd plot line too.
It's no coincidence that all these screenshots are taken from the sequel. And they don't need the hats to confirm they were transformed into a vaudeville variety act.
Sage was mostly to be seen in his nest-invariably with his sleep being disturbed.Owls are nocturnal don't forget.But he did make forays to ground level,usually against his better judgement.And when practically coerced in to hatching Tarragon,he arrives suitably prepared for his 24 hour,all-weather vigil with a medicine bag, brolly, sunglasses,candle and pithe helmet. (as you would) .But pic 3 is the nearest we ever get to see him fly.
The pearls and specs are a nice touch for her ladyship.And if the 2nd pic had a caption it might well read "I love him dearly,but it's a pity he's quite so thick ".But that's exactly why we all warm to him of course.Most happy with either a gun or fishing rod in hand (pic 4),his equally apparent love of a tipple or 3 never gets a mention.-unlike fellow Watch With Mother stalwart Windy Miller,who's fondness for cider was openly discussed !
Bayleaf could usually be found with his trusty broom or barrow Constable "I'll 'ave 'im" Knapweed....but he rarely did of course.
Not much to say about Aunt Mint.But Pashana's a classic kitchen sink charicature from an era when "pc" only meant "police constable".
From "just hatched" to a job in the sequel. There should always be room for a dragon in kid's telly. And particularly when they ham it up as much as these 2.