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The Wombles - Wombling Song

The Wombles are pointy-nosed, furry creatures that live in burrows, where they aim to help the environment by collecting and recycling rubbish in creative ways. Wombles supposedly live in every country in the world.

The Womble motto is "Make Good Use of Bad Rubbish."

Physical Characteristics[]

Wombles are essentially burrowing animals. They have retractable claws (like cats), but as they mostly live in long-established burrows, they rarely use these even for digging. Their size and physical appearance is bear-like and between 4 and 5 feet (about 1.5 metres) in height, making them about knee-high to humans, with pointy snouts like those of raccoons. They are described as "short, fat, and furry", roughly between three or four feet (about 1 metre) in height.

Wombles are herbivores and are very fond of mushrooms. They eat a variety of plants, fungi, and tree products that Human Beings cannot (or will not) eat, so daisy buns, acorn juice, fir-cone soufflé, elm bark casserole and grassbread sandwiches are part of the Womble menu - augmented by any food left behind on the Common by Human Beings. All Wombles are strong swimmers and can survive for long periods even in ice-cold water. Several sub-species of Womble are revealed: the Loch Ness Monster is actually a clan of water Wombles and the yeti of the Himalayas are giant snow-white Wombles. Wombles have a sixth sense which allows them to sense green spaces and wildlife; developed to a keen long range telepathic sense.

Wombles are extremely long-lived. For example, Uncle Bulgaria recalls being "a young Womble" at the time of Queen Victoria's coronation in 1837 suggesting that he is somewhat - but not very much - older than 140. However the song Minuetto Allegretto begins with the words "Back in 1780 when Bulgaria was a Lad", indicating that he is at least 200. Other sources indicate the life expectancy of a Womble is over 200 years, with some reaching 300 - which would make them the longest-lived of all animal species [citation needed]!

The Womble mode of reproduction is never explained. Wombles of both sexes exist (the males being apparently more numerous than the females) but there is never any mention of conjugal union. Though all the Wimbledon Wombles are often described as being "a family", the family relationships between them are never specified. (There are a few possible exceptions such as "Cousin" Yellowstone and "Great Uncle" Bulgaria, though these titles might be honorific; Cousin Yellowstone refers to Bulgaria as "Uncle Bulgaria" before Bungo informs him that he is now "Great Uncle Bulgaria". Also Ness refers to the other water Wombles as her "sons".)

Culture and Society[]

Wombles care for and educate their young at a communal level. Like human children, immature Wombles are taught reading, writing and athletic skills, which they learn by playing a game called "Wombles and Ladders". (Some older Wombles play this game too, though most regard it as childish.) Below a certain (unspecified) age all Wombles are nameless; upon coming of age, a Womble chooses his or her name by looking through Great Uncle Bulgaria's large atlas until they find a name that suits them. Some (Bungo for example) "merely shut their eyes tight and point and hope for the best."[6] They then leave Miss Adelaide's "Womblegarten" and join in the communal work of the burrow, which is mostly clearing up and recycling human refuse.

Wombles are very careful to keep their existence secret from Human Beings. Wombles seek to get Human Beings to listen to their "make good use of bad rubbish" pleas. Otherwise secrecy is the rule, though there have been a few exceptions, such as Mr. Smith, a lonely senior citizen who is invited inside the Wombles burrow on Christmas Eve.[7]

Wombles generally have a low opinion of other animal species, though they are never unkind to them. They have a poor opinion of Human Beings in general, though there are exceptions; royalty for example, especially the Queen. They also have a respect for human literature; the Wimbledon Wombles maintain a large library of books left by humans on the Common, and Great Uncle Bulgaria is fond of reading The Times.

Wombles are extremely honest creatures. On the rare occasions they are forced to take things from humans without permission, they always leave money to cover the cost. They dislike lies and deception, though on occasion they are known to stretch the truth or to omit important details.

Known Wombles[]

L-R Great Uncle Bulgaria, Bungo and Stepney (plus unknown in picture on wall), in one of the rooms in the burrow. Photo taken at National Media Museum, Bradford, UK.

  • Great Uncle Bulgaria – the oldest and wisest of the Wimbledon Wombles and their leader. He terrifies the younger Wombles with his stern manner (and particularly his habit of glaring at them through two pairs of spectacles) but is actually very kind.
  • Tobermory – an engineer, based on Beresford's brother, a skilled inventor, and named after the capital of the Isle of Mull, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides islands. He has a gruff and surly manner but like Bulgaria (with whom he has been friends for many years) he has a very kindly heart.
  • Orinoco – a shirker who loved sleep and food. Though slothful by nature, Orinoco is capable of some surprising acts of moral and physical courage.
  • Bungo – over-enthusiastic and bossy, named after Bungo Province in Japan. He is Orinoco's best friend.
  • Tomsk – an athletic Womble with a rather low IQ, named after Tomsk in Russia. He is extremely keen on golf.
  • Wellington – scientifically inclined, but very insecure and absent-minded. Named after Wellington School, Somerset.
  • Madame Cholet – a cook named after the town of Cholet in France .
  • Miss Adelaide – schoolmistress, named after the city of Adelaide in Australia.
  • Alderney – Madame Cholet's assistant, named after Alderney in the Channel Islands.
  • Cousin Cairngorm McWomble the Terrible – named after the Cairngorms, a mountain range in Scotland. Highland Womble clan chief.
  • Shansi – often paired with Alderney, as Bungo was with Orinoco, named after a Shanxi province in China.
  • Stepney – East Ender with dreadlocks, who got his name from the Stepney area in London's East End where he came from.
  • Obidos – named after Óbidos, Pará in Brazil.
  • Snodgrass - the acting accountant of the wombles, known for her foul smell and habit of wagging her tail when she is lying.