The Wombles

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Elisabeth Beresford
Scientific classification
Domain Wimbledon Common
Kingdom Animal
Phylum Chordate
Class Mammal
Order Wombles
Family Wombles
Tribe Wombles
Genus Womblus Wombli
Species Womble
Binomial name
Primary armament Bottles
Secondary armament Viciously sharp teeth
Power supply Recycling to the extreme!
Health 41
Mana 20
Strength 400
Intelligence 12
Weight 40 Lb.
Length under your noses
Special attack bottles and tins (recycled)
Conservation status
Wombling free

The Wombles was a television documentary in 1970 directed by British underground reporter Elisabeth Beresford.

The Wombles were radioactively deformed migrant workers, the result of catastrophic accidents in secret diamond mines under London, England. Survivors suffered hideous deformations, the worst cases being little more than pointy-nosed furry creatures. Shunned and considered "nearly invisible" by society, they spent their lives shuffling through underground shanty towns full of scavenged rubbish.

The term 'Womble' originated from a frightful experience Beresford had when encountering a deformed worker lost during daylight on Wimbledon Common, attempting to remain inconspicuous by wearing his tidy bag on his head. When Beresford challenged him, he decided to reply, but the combination of headwear and facial deformity reduced his speech to a mumble of "wom..ble... wom... ble". The name is appropriate, for Wombles are notorious mumblers, and will often try to evade conversation by standing pensively and mumbling at the sky.

In the television documentary, the Wombles' own mumbling voices were considered impossible for most viewers to understand. Subtitles were trialled but were found to be offensive (the programme's Chief of Womble-ese was later judged to have been overenthusiastic in his translation), and it remains a little known fact that the majority of Wombles in the broadcast version of the documentary were, in fact, re-voiced by Bernard Cribbens. Subsequent Blu-ray editions have included the original incomprehensible soundtrack, plus alternate soundtrack voicings by Nigel Planar, Andrew Sachs and Sandi Toksvig. The 2015 Blu-ray includes an audition by Ringo Starr, which is quickly terminated when it becomes apparent that his voices for the different characters all sound like Ringo Starr.

The original documentary was aired daily in short segments over all five weekdays, presenting itself as a soap opera with a jolly theme and opening images of the most presentable survivors shuffling happily through their burrows. But as the series progressed, it revealed the plight of those banished underground after the diamond mines collapsed, venturing up only at night to claim the things everyday folk left behind.

In their scavenging, they were inspired by the earlier Borrower movement of the 1930s, when large numbers of little people had turned to petty theft of everyday items such as thimbles, scissors and thread. The late collapse of the Borrowers movement into outright and shameless kleptomania was a key influence on the Wimbledon Wombles vowing only to scavenge items that were clearly "left behind".

Elisabeth Beresford looked past the deformities of the Wombles and showed their human side to a forgetful public and an even more forgetful government, gaining these poor furry bastards valuable prestige, as well as better air-conditioning and a string of top 40 hits.

edit Species Information

The Wombles can be found underground or overground, wombling free. They are beneath Wimbledon Common. They make good use of the things that they find, usually the type of thing the everyday folk leave behind.

Uncle Bulgaria (see below) can remember the days when he wasn't behind The Times, with his map of the world. They normally spend their day picking up the papers and taking them to Tobermory (see below the other bit).

Wombles are organised, they work as a team. Wombles are tidy and Wombles are clean. Underground, overground, wombling free, the Wombles of Wimbledon Common, they are.

People don't notice them, they never see, under their noses a Womble may be. They can Womble by night and they can Womble by day, looking for litter to trundle away.

They're so incredibly, utterly devious, making the most of everything (even bottles and tins). Picking up the pieces and turning them into something new, that's what they do.

The Wombles can be found underground or overground, wombling free. They are beneath Wimbledon Common. They make good use of the things that they find, usually the type of thing the everyday folk leave behind.

The practice of Womble hunting by using ferrets and netting the Womble burrows was banned along with fox hunting in 1998. The ferrets were often injured by the sport, and a 1997 Royal Commission found Tobermory's Womblesonic Ferret Imploder to be cruel and unusual.

edit Great Uncle Bulgaria McNulty

He is very old and wise, aged 83 he is the oldest of the miners. He could often be found reading his newspaper sitting in his rocking chair and just being lazy due to his longstanding opiate addiction, born from the pain of his deformaties. He is good at telling the young Wombles the history of their world, and how they will one day rise up and go above ground during the daylight, perhaps opening market stalls to sell their renovated and recycled "Left Behind" chic. On the whole the young Wombles are respectful of old Bulgaria, though there have been incidents of drag-racing him through the burrows while still asleep in his bath chair. His greatest triumph was his revival of the minuet - Bulgaria had been a great minueter and wit in his youth before the mining accident, once widely quoted for his remark that" Forgetting to be minueting is letting the other minueters down." But the revival lasted only as long as Minuetto Allegretto remained in the top 40, after which most of the young Wombles returned to the Womble Shuffle.

edit Tobermory McNulty

Tobermory is the lead miner and handyman womble. His assistant is often Wellington Robyn Womble. Tobermory is respected as a hardworking and inventive leader, but a darker side has long been acknowledged, and the documentary makers happened upon some particularly unpleasant incidents, one requiring an operation to remove his nose from an automaton. Beresford insisted these scenes could not be used in the documentary, against the views of her director, and the broadcast version retained the sound of one Tobermory outburst while the viewers see only young Wellington's round glasses slowly steaming up. It is one of the documentary's most moving moments.

edit Orinoco Robyn

Orinoco is an overweight Womble whose easygoing attitude masks a position of real power. It was Orinoco's love of Food that led to a key role overseeing a thriving black market for food items that could rarely be classified as "things that the everyday folks leave behind" He founded an underground movement, the Underground Overground Underground Movement (UOU), which started out raiding 7-Elevens for slushies, disguising their Womble-ness by dressing in hoodies. When they escaped without apprehension (despite CCTV cameras capturing their long snouts poking out of the hoodies), Orinoco moved on to direct extortion of local human restauranteurs, demanding gourmet takeaway meals in return for getting off their doorstep (Wombles smell very bad).

It was for these restaurant raids that giant Womble suits were first created, the famously unconvincing six and seven-foot costumes inside which the rather hideous and far smaller Wombles could mix with wider humanity, or appear on Top of the Pops, or ride speedboats at Radio 1 Roadshows. The only half-convincing costume ever produced was the big Mike Batt suit, a half-Womble half-clown suit in which Mike Batt Womble was able to launch his attack on the top 40 music charts, and later lead an almost normal human life as Leo Sayer.

Orinoco's elicit dining did not bring him happiness. His comfort eating, Beresford reasons, could easily bring a premature end to his already short life expectancy, potentially damaging her royalties on the franchise. But the few available Womble experts are unanimous in saying he should be left alone, if only so they can attend his famous annual 'Bribery Banquet' for local officials. His bribery is legendary - Orinoco's ongoing largesse to Wimbledon's police department, mainly in a constant stream of small luxury food items, is known among officers as the Orinoco Flow. (The Enya song of the same name is unconnected, referring rather to a particularly bad nose bleed after an injury received upon leaving Clannad.)

edit Wellington Robyn

Scientifically-inclined from his early days, Wellington Womble studied under Tobermory, witnessing many of his degradations and gaining financially through subsequent tell-all deals with newspapers. He has been linked with the Secret Service, named in Ian Fleming's 'From Wimbledon With Love', and using his trainspotting activities as a front for his information gathering trips to womble groups in other countries. Despite his name, this womble usually wears sensible footwear.

edit Madame Cholet

Madame Cholet is the main Womble cook, specialising in fine French cuisine and crystal meth. Her particular specialty of the latter is a pure blue crystal known in burrowspeak as 'Cordon Bleu', which is exclusively distributed through Orinoco's underground network (the Underground Overground Underground). Madame CHolet was in the company canteen at the time of the mining disaster and survived by hiding in a large tureen of cauliflower soup. She was badly burned and the incident had a permanent affect on her cuisine - it is a rare Cholet dish that does not have at least a hint of cauliflower flavour.

edit Story Twist

In the end of the documentary it is found out that these entire people are in fact a hoax. After telling a harrowing story that captured the thoughts of a nation and had the government clamouring to give aid, the Womble people showed themselves to be a fraud, using clever mirror techniques and high quality make-ups to portray their world as truthful. The whole thing was orchestrated by TV presenter Ant McPartlin after finding out his girlfriend of three years (Beresford) had cheated on him with his best friend, fellow presenter Declan Donnelly.

Having fully shamed Beresford, she retracted from the limelight eventually taking her own life, scrawling "The Wombles of Wimbledon, coming for me..." on the wall in her own blood, echoing what one Womble told her in her documentary when she asked if he had anyhting to say to the people above ground Wombles of Wimbledon, coming are we!

Ant and Dec put their argument behind them, and to help them forget the incident, traveled into the future where they had successful TV careers, both acting and presenting (plus a short lived pop career also).

edit See also

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