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The Phoenix and the Carpet (Annotated)

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The Phoenix and the Carpet is a fantasy novel for children, written in 1904 by E. Nesbit. It is the second in a trilogy of novels that began with Five Children and It (1902), and follows the adventures of the same five protagonists – Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and the Lamb. Their mother buys the children a new carpet to replace the one from the nursery that was destroyed in an accidental fire. The children find an egg in the carpet which hatches into a talking Phoenix. The Phoenix explains that the carpet is a magical one that will grant them three wishes per day. The five children go on many adventures which eventually wears out their magical carpet. The adventures of the children are continued and conclude in the third book of the trilogy, The Story of the Amulet (1906).
This middle volume of the trilogy that began with Five Children and It and concludes with The Story of the Amulet deviates somewhat from the other two because the Psammead gets only a brief mention, and because in this volume the children live with both of their parents and their younger brother—the Lamb—in their home in London. Consequently, there is less loneliness and sense of loss in this volume than in the other two. In both of the other volumes, circumstances have forced the children to spend a protracted period away from their familiar London home and their father; in Amulet, their mother and the Lamb are absent as well.
A continuing theme throughout The Phoenix and the Carpet is, appropriately enough, the ancient element of fire. The story begins shortly before November 5, celebrated in England as Guy Fawkes Night. Traditionally, children light bonfires and set off fireworks on this night. The four children have accumulated a small hoard of fireworks but are too impatient to wait until November 5 to light them, so they set off a few samples in the nursery. This results in a fire that destroys the carpet.
Their parents purchase a second-hand carpet which, upon arrival, is found to contain an egg that emits a weird phosphorescent glow. The children accidentally knock this egg into the fire: it hatches, revealing a golden Phoenix who speaks perfect English.
It develops that this is a magical carpet, which can transport the children to anywhere they wish in the present time, although it is only capable of three wishes per day. Accompanied by the Phoenix, the children have exotic adventures in various climes. There is one moment of terror for the children when their youngest brother, the Lamb, crawls onto the carpet, babbles some incoherent baby talk, and vanishes. Fortunately, the Lamb only desired to be with his mother.
At a few points in the novel, the children find themselves in predicaments from which the Phoenix is unable to rescue them by himself; he goes to find the Psammead and has a wish granted for the children's sake. In addition, in the end, the carpet is sent to ask the Psammead to grant the Phoenix's wish. These offstage incidents are the only contribution made by the Psammead to this story.


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