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A Rubovian Legend/Rubovia

1 9 5 5 – 1 9 5 6 (UK)
3 x 20 minute episodes
1 9 5 8 – 1 9 6 5 (UK)
26 x 20 minute episodes
1 9 7 6 (UK)
6 x 14 minute episodes

Created by Gordon Murray (who worked in the BBC Children’s Department in the early 1950s) A Rubovian Legend began as a series of original black and white plays for children performed by The BBC Puppet Theatre.

The first three plays – ‘The Queen’s Dragon’, ‘Clocks and Blocks’ and ‘The Dragon’s Hiccups’ – were transmitted live to air.

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Murray then re-built his marionettes, redesigned the sets and costumes and chose new voice actors to record 26 episodes (including remakes of the ‘Clocks and Blocks’ and ‘Dragon’s Hiccups episodes) which were transmitted – and regularly repeated – both in the UK and to many British Commonwealth countries.

The magical kingdom of Rubovia was ruled by King Rufus XIV (voiced by Derek Nimmo) and Queen Caroline, who had a pet Chinese dragon called Pongo (who turned into a cabbage whenever he hiccupped).

King Rufus was frequently up to no good, usually in the company of his Lord Chamberlain.

Multi-talented Mr Albert Weatherspoon played an important role in the running of Rubovia. His official titles included Royal Gardener, Court Historian, Court Photographer, Royal Plumber, Master of the King’s Horse, Master of the Rolls, Decorator-in-Chief, and Postmaster General.

Mr Weatherspoon (Rubovia’s equivalent to King Arthur’s wizard Merlin) was also a prolific inventor – he created the speaking tube – and the founder of civil engineering company, Weatherspoon and Cat Ltd.

He often played the Royal Rococo organ, assisted by his cat, Rubina, who pressed the air pump (“pressure up puss!”).

King Boris (friend and cousin to Rufus) ruled the neighbouring kingdom of Borsovia. Queen Caroline’s best friend and cousin was the Grand Duchess Arabella of the neighbouring small kingdom of Humperstein.

Although the setting looked very medieval, Murray pointed out that the series was set in modern times: “The time is the present. It’s just that Rubovians are out of touch. Everything in their blissful country stopped at gas and steam. They love clockwork, and spring-driven gramophones, and things worked with bellows and bits of string. They’ve no telephones either. You see, they’ve never heard of electricity. That’s why they’re so happy.”

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Six of the plays were remade in colour in 1976 as Rubovia, with newly designed puppets and sets.

The colour episodes utilised stop-motion animation (for which Gordon Murray had become renowned with his Trumptonshire series’) rather than marionettes.

Other characters included Farmer Bottle and MacGregor, a turban-wearing Indian with a Scottish name and a Chinese accent (“Velly good. Me vellee solly!”) who would often give hints to Mr Weatherspoon from over the garden wall from the top of a ladder. MacGregor was changed to a “red” Indian (native American) for the 1970s colour episodes – thus replacing one racial stereotype (albeit a complex one) with another – simpler – one.

King Rufus
Raymond Rollett (1)
Derek Nimmo (2)
Queen Caroline

Violet Lamb
Lord Chamberlain
Philip Latham (1)
Peter Hawkins (2)
Roy Skelton (3)
Albert Weatherspoon
Peter Hawkins (1)
James Beattie (2)
King Boris
Roy Skelton
Grand Duchess Arabella of Humperstein
Pamela Binns

Episodes

The Queen’s Dragon | Clocks and Blocks | The Dragon’s Hiccups // Clocks and Blocks | The Dragon’s Hiccups | Mystery of Rubovia Castle | The Wonky Wand | Zaza Knows All | Spray Fever | Chickweed Wine | Knight for a Day | Crafty Art | Fit and Well | Something in the Air | The Bell | Gala Performance | Bees and Bellows | The Enchanted Duck | The Trap | A Cranky Banquet | The Clue | The Secret River | Stop Press | Fire, Fire, Fire | Calling All Trunks | The Troublesome Double | Bewitched Boots | A Sinister Visitor | The Giddy Ghost // The Unreliable Wand | Dragon Doctor | The Magic Scent Bottle | The Magic Duck | The Enchanted Clock | Tunnel Trouble

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