Winter Holiday is the fourth novel of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series of children's books. It was published in 1933 and set in 12 January - 11 February 1931. In this story, the third set of major characters in the series, the Ds — Dick Callum and Dorothea Callum — are introduced. The series' usual emphasis on boats and sailing is largely absent, as the story is set in the winter. Instead, the children's activities focus on ice skating, signalling with semaphore and Morse code and sledging.
For his inspiration, Ransome draws on his schoolday memories of the Great Frost of 1895 when Windermere froze completely (Life, page 19). In 1929, there was another severe winter with Windermere freezing over for several weeks, this was just before Ransome wrote Swallows and Amazons. Another major influence is Fridtjof Nansen's books about his Arctic expedition from 1893–1896 in the Fram and on sledges.
- the Ds: Dorothea, Dick Callum
- Swallows: John, Susan, Titty, Roger Walker
- Amazons: Nancy [Ruth], Peggy Blackett
- Captain Flint [Jim Turner]
- minor characters (those in parentheses are "offstage"):
- Mr & Mrs Dixon,
- the Dixons' farmhand, Silas and dog Roy,
- Mrs Molly Blackett,
- (the postman),
- the Beckfoot cook, M Braithwaite,
- Sammy Lewthwaite the policeman,
- the doctor,
- Mr & Mrs Jackson,
- (Fanny) the girl (domestic) who helps Mrs Jackson,
- (Bill Bowness...went too far on ice & fell in),
- the smith,
- Jacksons' dog Ringman,
- (the people who own North Pole),
- (Mrs Lewthwaite, Sammy's mother)
- (old Bob, porter at station at the foot of the lake
- (Mr Jenkyns; was staying at the Callums, and Dick dropped his sulphuretted hydrogen apparatus into the spare bedroom; WH21)
Brother and sister Dick and Dorothea Callum meet the Swallows and Amazons during a winter holiday with their mother's former nanny who is a farmer's wife beside the Lake. Whilst observing the stars in a disused barn, Dick and Dorothea start signalling to a group of children they had previously seen rowing on the lake. The next day they meet the other children and shortly become firm friends when the Swallows and Amazons discover that the Ds are excellent skaters. They become part of the group and join in the North Polar Expedition. The holiday is extended when the Amazon's leader Nancy Blackett catches mumps and the group is quarantined and cannot return to their boarding schools. Initially, while waiting for snow to fall, they embark on a series of adventures ranging from rebuilding an igloo to building an ice sled.
There is a heavy snowfall followed by a prolonged period of freezing weather and, unusually, the lake freezes over, providing an excellent opportunity for an expedition to the North Pole across the ice. They train by pulling the sled across High Greenland and skating on the lake. They also use Captain Flint's houseboat which has been frozen into the ice. Eventually Nancy recovers enough for the expedition to begin. However, plans go awry when the Ds set out earlier than expected due to a misunderstanding over a signal flag. When a blizzard blows up and the Ds are missing, a rescue party is organized and the North Pole is well and truly discovered.
(Dates in 1931, names are chapter titles)
- 12 January: Strangers • Signalling to Mars
- 13 January: Strangers No More • The Igloo
- 14 January: Skating and the Alphabet
- 15 January: Snow
- 16 January: Arctic Voyage • Lost Leader • Quarantine
- 17 January: Doing Without Nancy
- 18 January: Doing Without Nancy
- 19 January: Doing Without Nancy
- 20 January: Doing Without Nancy
- 21 January: Cragfast Sheep • Ambulance Work
- 22 January: To Spitzbergen By Ice
- 23 January: To Spitzbergen By Ice
- 24 January:
- 25 January:
- 26 January: Nancy Takes a Hand
- 27 January: Days in the Fram
- 28 January: Days in the Fram
- 29 January: Sailing Sledge
- 30 January: Sailing Sledge
- 31 January: Sailing Sledge
- 1 February: Nancy Sends a Picture • The Fram at Night
- 2 February: The D.'s Take Charge • Captain Nancy Gets Two Bits of News • Captain Flint Comes Home
- 3 February: Next Morning • The Uses of an Uncle
- 4 February: The Uses of an Uncle
- 5 February: The Uses of an Uncle
- 6 February: The Uses of an Uncle
- 7 February: The Uses of an Uncle
- 8 February: The Uses of an Uncle
- 9 February: The Uses of an Uncle
- 10 February: Flag at Beckfoot • Council in the Fram • The North Pole • To the Rescue • Arctic Night
- 11 February: And Afterwards
- Mrs Dixon had been Mrs Callum's nurse when she was little (does this mean that Mrs Callum grew up in the Lake District, or did Mrs Dixon move there when she married?)
- The Ds arrived at the Dixons' the night before the action in the book starts (that is, on 11 January). Mrs Dixon made the train journey to the Lake with them (WH1), presumably having travelled south to pick them up.
- The timeline in this book is a bit harder to pin down. A comment by Dot in Chapter 19 that "3 weeks ago" they watched the boat being rowed to the Island (which is Day 1) overcomes the "and for many days" line in Chapter 15 (the action actually continues right on); Nancy gets out "1 week" from Day 23, which if it is strictly accurate, puts the action of the trip to the North Pole on Day 30, which we also know is 10 February. By this reckoning, the children have 2 days after the finish of the book before their quarantine ends and they return to school.
- The Ds came to the Dixons' for the last week of the winter holidays while their parents were in Egypt to dig up remains.
- The Walkers were at Holly Howe since Christmas, and Mrs Walker and Bridget left for Malta (on Day 1 of the story; 12 January) where Daddy's ship is stationed for a time.
- The Ds had spent every day of the holidays at an indoor skating rink near the University buildings at home
- Titty and Roger were skating for the first time, John and Susan had some at school the winter before
- The Walkers lived "mostly in the south."
- Mrs Callum's birthday is March 7th.
- Nook Farm is up the valley from Beckfoot between the fells.
- Day 7 of the story, 18 January, was supposed to be the last day before going back to school for the children.
- The Swainsons live at Low End.
- Bob is the name of the porter and guard at the Rio railway station; he's been there for 30 years.
- Mr Dixon's sheep mark is a red patch on the left shoulder.
- Uncle Jim was supposed to be abroad for the winter, but returned to experience the big freeze of the Lake
- Gibber the monkey and Polly the parrot are both at the Zoo.
- Books found in the houseboat include: The Riddle of the Sands, Nansen's Farthest North, the First Crossing of Greenland, and Peary's North Pole.
- The Ds don't have any uncles.
- Dorothea has a tiny notebook to write Frost and Snow: A Romance, but so-far has only written Chapter I on the second page (WH10).
- Roger has matches in his pocket during the relief expedition, and is proud to be properly prepared. Perhaps the "family rule" is not to light candles in the bedroom, though when John is putting up the nails for the leading lights and Roger says he can't reach the lantern John says You won't have to and Susan adds Not until you are allowed to use matches ... and by then you'll be tall enough (SA12).
|Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series|
Swallows and Amazons | 'Their Own Story' | Swallowdale | Peter Duck | Winter Holiday | Coot Club | Pigeon Post | We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea | The Big Six | Secret Water | Missee Lee | The Picts and the Martyrs | 'Coots in the North' | Great Northern?