Once upon a time, there was a lady who wrote enchanting fairy tales which fired the imagination of children all over the world. Her name was Enid Blyton.
My first taste of Blyton was The Faraway Tree and I became hooked. The anticipation of reading her stories made going to school more bearable as escapism was only ever a few hours away. Hurrah!
All too soon, puberty arrived and I considered myself too old for Blyton. I gave away my books. I deeply regret doing that now because they were originals not the bastardised ones that have been trawled out since the PC brigade got it’s claws in.
I feel that adapting her work in general to fit into 21st century is wrong. Enid’s writing is reflective of the time that she lived in. Isn’t it insulting to children to presume that they won’t be able to appreciate that fact?
Some aspects are undoubtedly racist and while I’m sympathetic to those changes I don’t think it’s fair to judge a woman who lived in a very different society by today’s standards.
Should we edit all the nasty stuff out of the history books? And what of the other authors of Enid’s time. Why does their work remain untouched while hers is changed so dramatically?
One such example being The Faraway Tree.
The characters Fanny and Dick have been changed to Frannie and Rick because of their “unfortunate connotations.” with genitalia.
I’d rename them Nokia and Chezney. Chav em up a bit. Make em more street.
Dame Slap was also given a makeover because, well, she liked thrashing kids. With thrashing rights revoked, Dame Snap now gives naughty kids a darn good telling off while they flick her the V’s, threaten her with Esther Rantzen and smoke her fags. Ha!
I don’t condone smacking children but when this book was written, corporal punishment was accepted. Her stories reflect that. It’s part of our history. It’s certainly part of mine.
Malory Tower’s act has also been cleaned up with no more spankings. Instead children are scolded. That’s a bollocking to you, kids.
Now then, Mr Pink-Whistle..
As a child, I had a soft spot for this half-man, half-brownie. To the 44 year old me, he looks decidedly iffy, appearing in children’s bedrooms, bribing them with cats and his never ending bag of peppermints. Oh dear, Mr Pink-Whistle!
Noddy didn’t escape either. The PC brigade considered his and Big Ear’s ‘improper relationship’ too much for children. No more “gay times in the woods” for those two and separate beds if you please!
What about the woman behind the typewriter?
Enid wasn’t the warm loving, maternal person I’d expected her to be. She had a string of affairs including a lesbian encounter. I SAY, ENID!!
Her husband, Major Hugh Pollock, (I keep seeing Huge Pillock) wasn’t without his failings either. As a married man, he started a relationship with a young writer by the name of Ida Crowe. He found out about Enid’s affair with Darrell Waters and threatened to divorce her but according to Crowe’s memoir, Pollock agreed that Blyton would present the petition and in return he would be granted access to their daughters. Enid broke her promise and made it increasingly difficult for him to see his children.
Well that’s just not cricket, Enid old girl.
When her daughter, Imogen, wrote A Childhood at Green Hedges in 1989, she totally shattered the illusion that her mother’s idyllic stories in any way reflected their home life. She states, “The truth is, Enid Blyton was arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct”. Her sister, Gillian, painted a more favourable picture of their mother.
Enid herself had a difficult childhood. She and her mother didn’t get on. She adored her father and was heartbroken when he shacked up with another woman shortly after her 13th birthday. Enid’s relationship with him broke down and later she all but ceased contact with both parents. She didn’t go to their funerals. You know you’ve properly pissed your kids off when they don’t come to your funeral!
Enid initially had trouble getting pregnant and was told by a gynecologist that she had a uterus, “like that of 12-13 year old girl”. It’s as if her emotional development froze the day her father walked out. It excuses nothing but explains a lot.
It’s fair to say that Enid has her critics but love or loathe her, she was a genius and part of that was in the simplicity of her writing and the ability to think as a child. She wrote more than 600 books for children. At her peak, writing 10,000 words a day. She was the JK Rowling of her time. Similarly, JK hasn’t been without her critics having been accused of promoting witchcraft. I wish! I still can’t do the Expelliarmus spell on my other half to get him to let go of the TV remote!
I have re-bought nine Blyton books so far, all original text. I’m not interested in the edits. I want spankings, Fanny and Dick. Oh, and lashings of ginger beer – not that she never wrote that. Just testing.
Yes, the originals are flawed by today’s standards but they were books of their time. It’s important to remember that.
Enid might not have been a great mother or a particularly nice person but nobody is perfect and it doesn’t alter the fact that she wrote great stories. I owe my love of reading to her and can’t imagine a childhood without some Blyton make-believe in it.
“I don’t believe in things like that – fairies or brownies or magic or anything. It’s old-fashioned.’
‘Well, we must be jolly old-fashioned then,’ said Bessie. ‘Because we not only believe in the Faraway Tree and love our funny friends there, but we go to see them too – and we visit the lands at the top of the Tree as well!” The Folk From The Faraway Tree ~ Enid Blyton