Man, The Original Text (OT) of The Mystery of the Ivory Charm does not hold up well at all. Where do I begin?
“Nancy Drew, you’re talking in absolute riddles. But if you think I’ll take in a brown-skinned boy to raise, you have another thing coming.” Yeah, a whole lot of that throughout the book because The Mystery of the Ivory Charm is about an Indian boy who runs away from the circus because of a cruel master, Rai. Lots of stereotypes in this book.
Coya, the boy, is actually whipped in front of Nancy, Bess and George before Nancy puts a stop to it. For some crazy reason, Rai gives Nancy his good luck charm, an ivory elephant charm that hangs on a necklace. Coya sneaks away on the train to River Heights, and Nancy takes him in.
Later, the chums (it is never “friends” in the OT Nancy Drew, it is always “chums”) encounter a woman named Miss Allison who believes she has psychic powers. “Oh, Nancy, please don’t ask her another question,” Bess pleaded, shivering. “I’ve never heard such dreadful talk before in all my life. It isn’t normal. It frightens me.” “Don’t encourage her to say such strange things,” George added in a pleading whisper. So now we have prejudice along with all the racial stereotypes of Indian culture to add to the book.
Miss Allison owns a house which is actually just a shell of a building hiding a secret passageway underground. How many of these are we going to find in River Heights? There was one in The Hidden Staircase, too. And the passageway has secret compartments that hold Miss Allison’s treasures, which she has to remove after the building burns down. There are tons of jewels that spill out of the box.
Since Coya will be staying with the Drews indefinitely, Hannah (for some inexplicable reason, she’s repeatedly referred to as Mrs. Gruen by Nancy throughout half the volume, then called Hannah later) puts Coya to work around the house. Carson Drew also thinks the boy could use a tutor because his English isn’t that good. It just so happens that good ole Ned Nickerson is in town and knows of a retired professor who has travelled to India many times and speaks several languages who would be willing to tutor the boy for a nominal cost.
Details emerge that Miss Allison and Rai are in cahoots together, and it has to do with Coya. See, it turns out he is really the long lost Rajah of a smaller Indian province who, it was told, was eaten by a tiger so a puppet Rajah could be enthroned. The payment was all those jewels which Miss Allison kept for herself, because it is clear Rai hasn’t got any wealth (being Indian, of course).
Somehow, even though Nancy knows Rai is looking for the boy, does nothing to safeguard him and he is kidnapped. No sooner is he returned than he is kidnapped again. Nancy, her dad, Ned, Bess and George spend weeks travelling to nearby towns where there are carnivals and circuses, looking for Rai and Coya.
Finally, Carson Drew has had enough. He contacts his friend, Mr. George of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. since this lost Rajah business is an international affair, and the next thing you know, Nancy and her dad are flying to Washington. While in Washington, Nancy receives a summons from the president’s wife to attend a luncheon the next day. (That would be President of the United States, and Eleanor Roosevelt for those of you who don’t know 1930’s history) “The distinguished first lady told Nancy that Mr. George had spoken of her work as an amateur detective, and she asked many questions about the girl’s famous cases.”
The Drews return to River Heights while the man hunt continues for both Rai and Miss Allison. Nancy is getting discouraged and decides to walk along a path with a footbridge, and who should she happen to see but Miss Allison, standing on the rail of the bridge in a diaphanous dress and chanting. Nancy steals away and calls police, then returns to spy on Miss Allison. When the police arrive, Miss Allison jumps down below into the river and Nancy dives after her. After a bit of a struggle, and an assist from the police in a rowboat, Miss Allison is taken into police custody.
It is only a matter of time before Nancy and the crew find Rai and Coya hiding out. Coya is near death, but magically, Nancy knows that there’s a life-saving liquid inside the ivory charm and gives it to the boy, which revives him. Coya is now safe and can return to his homeland, with the help of the British Embassy, according to Carson Drew.
The Revised Text of The Mystery of the Ivory Charm is almost identical to the OT, with a few exceptions. Coya’s name is changed to Rishi, and a wealthy Indian who specializes in imported goods and makes his home base in River Heights, Mr. Tilak, are added. Instead of housing Rishi above the garage as in the original, he’s ensconced on the third floor of the drew house in an extra guest room. Who in their right mind lives in a house with three floors? A successful widower, his teenage daughter, and a housekeeper, that’s who. I always knew Nancy Drew was well off, but I must have read that as a child and thought Nancy was super-rich.
The plot holes, racism and prejudice that Mildred Wirt wrote in the 1930’s were kind of fixed 40 years later by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams. Indian religions and cultures are explained in more detail than the original, as are several different languages spoken in India. There is more respect given to the other culture, but not by much.
The side trip to Washington and visiting the White House were taken out, rightfully so, because it made no sense in the original. But the Drews do involve the authorities right away when Rishi is kidnapped, instead of trying to find him on their own like in the original. Carson does call up the FBI towards the end of the mystery for further assistance.
Mrs. Allison (no longer a Miss) chants from her bejeweled book just as in the original, but in the RT, the name of the book, Sanskrit, is mentioned. There is more explanation about how a maharajah heir could be spirited away and a puppet ruler put on the throne. It seems Mrs. Allison and Rai led a revolution in the wealthy Indian province, and Rishi’s father fled the country. And no surprise to an adult reading The Mystery of the Ivory Charm, the man that fled his country made his home in River Heights. That’s right, Mr. Tilak is really Rishi’s dad.
The revisions made The Mystery of the Ivory Charm make more sense, but it is still not one of the best Nancy Drew volumes out there.
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