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Psammead. The Psammead was created by E. Nesbit and appeared in a number of stories and three novels and story collections from 1902 to 1906, beginning with “The Psammead; or, The Fatal Gift of Beauty” (The Strand Magazine, Apr 1902).
Five English children, Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and “the Baby,” are vacationing with their mother near Camden Town. Cyril, Anthea, Robert and Jane go digging in a tunnel in the hopes of reaching Australia. They unearth a Psammead, a “sand-fairy.” The Psammead is a grumpy sort and is annoyed that the children do not know who and what it is. After the children flatter and cajole the Psammead it relaxes into a good humor and begins to reminisce about its life several thousand years ago and its ability to grant wishes. Like others of its race the Psammead is bound to grant one wish a day to those who dig it up, regardless of how ill-advised or hasty the wish is.
At first the children are enthralled by this notion and visit the Psammead every day to make wishes. But their wishes never turn out exactly the way the children want them to; if they ask to be “as beautiful as the day,” or for a pit of gold coins, or to be large enough to thrash a local bully, or for wings, or for their home to be made into a castle, they find, after the Psammead grants their wishes, that the wishes only bring them difficulties. The children eventually come to like the Psammead, despite its crabby nature, and at the end of Five Children and It they grant the Psammead its freedom so that it can hibernate in comfortable darkness, away from the water it dreads. In The Story of the Amulet the children free the Psammead from imprisonment, and it accompanies them on a trip through time to find the missing half of an Egyptian amulet.
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