Blyton Revisited

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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

~The End~


51 thoughts on “Blyton Revisited

  1. Loved reading this. I totally agree with you-we have the original texts. The new ones are a nonsense quite frankly. And it may be disappointing to discover that a successful author isn’t quite the warm cuddly individual society would like, it doesn’t necessarily diminish the text they wrote.

  2. Love this post!! Had me chuckling a plenty. I was a massive fan of Enids books when I was younger and I don’t remember sniggering over names or being shocked by ‘spankings’ and as for Noddy and Big Ears. Their relationship was just beautifully inoccent. The world has gone mad!!
    Take care honey xxx

  3. Such a good read! I loved Enid Blyton’s books when I was younger and I think I must have read them all. Malory Towers, Famous 5, The Naughtiest Girl in the School, Magic Faraway Tree. Such a shame they’re changing them. I agree, it’s insulting. Shall we make Shakespeare in to modern English next, say make Romeo and Juliet a few years older – we can’t have underage goings on now can we… X #ThePrompt

  4. Like you, Enid Blyton was a huge influence in my young life. I can’t believe I haven’t read about much her background before! Very interesting, a little sad, but it doesn’t change my opinion of her writing, which was just amazing for me. I did discover my childhood copy of The Three Golliwogs recently, and admittedly, I am unsure of whether it would be suitable for children until they are of an age to appreciate historical differences. I will be keeping it though, for myself if no-one else.

    • To me as a child, the Golliwog was simply a doll…

      “Golliwogs are lovable black toys, not Negroes. Teddy bears are also toys, but if there happens to be a naughty one in my books for younger children, this does not mean I hate bears.” (Enid Blyton)

      Works for me but it’s a sensitive area isn’t it..shame really. 😦

  5. I loved Enid Blyton’s books as a child and still have some of them for my children. I remember being completely bemused as a child when Golliwogs stopped being on jars of jam because they were un-PC, like you I just saw it as simply a toy. However, it is probably easier to have that view having not been on the receiving end of racist abuse – perhaps my view would have been very different if I had and as an adult, I can see why some of these books are frowned on. That said though, if we edit all books to make them more acceptable to a modern, PC-way of thinking, there are an awful lot of classics that need rewriting.

  6. I loved the Secret 7 and the Famous 5 as a kid, and had all the “Adventure” series until my uncle set light to his bedroom smoking a fag seruptitiously and burned them all. *weeps* There is a blue plaque on a house not far from where I live which denotes that Enid Blyton lived there. My son loved Noddy as a toddler…but it had been sanitised by then. Did you ever see the programme with Helena Bonham Carter playing her? It was really good.

  7. I need to find the boxes with all my original Enid Blyton books in – there are stacks of them.
    I lost a whole year of school when I lived abroad and the only way they kept me happy was giving me free rein in the school library. I read my way through every EB book they had and found a new world.
    I’ll need to dig the books out now so I can let my kids read them in the original.
    Lovely post 🙂

  8. Absolutely loved reading this, she was such an interesting character, and not at all what you might have imagined – but then, who is?! I loved her books, the Adventure series and Mallory Towers in particular. I still have my original Adventure books, which I have been saving for my children to read. I think at times we give our children very little credit for being able to understand that something is a bit old fashioned and that while the world has moved on, it’s still a great story. We can’t possibly make all books from that time PC, and I do think it’s a real shame to, as you say, alter them in a general sense. There are some slightly more offensive specifics that I can understand the need to change, but poor Noddy and Big Ears! I’m with you on Nokia and Chesney 😉 A great read as always lovely, you had me nodding and smiling! Thanks so much for linking to #ThePrompt, lovely to have you back 🙂

  9. I too read many Enid Blyton books as a child. I read all of the Famous 5 and Secret 7 books and used to make up stories myself about talking teddies and fairies which were obviously influenced by Enid. Such a shame that children today have to be shielded from anything seen as Non-PC; so what if they giggle at a boy called Dick or a girl called Fanny? This was what some children were called – and I remember giggling at Dick but only a few times!

  10. I found this post absolutely fascinating! I remember ‘Are you there god, it’s me Margaret’ but that’s it. Who knew she was such an old battle axe? And yes you have well and truly peed off your kids when they don’t come to your funeral!

    I cannot believe the PC brigade have changed the books. Tragic sign of the crazy world in which we live 😦

    Fab post, a really good read xx #ThePrompt

  11. Fab post. I already knew a couple of these things about Blyton (the fact that she was a bit of a rubbish mum by all accounts and surprisingly) and that she was so prolific – completely nuts to have been able and capable of writing that many published books! I didn’t know about her relationship with her parents or her husband and the fact that she had a lot of affairs either. It does seem a bit ridiculous to PC the books up so much too – harkening back to a time when it was suddenly considered bad form to use the term ‘black board’ at school – ha ha – completely ridiculous! I seem to recall she wrote a few tales about some golliwogs too? Hmm, not really sure what to say about that! X #theprompt

    • She did write about golliwogs but in her childhood they were toys. They feature in her books as villains and heroes. I try not to take things on face value and look at all the evidence and I’m not convinced that she wrote with malice. Golliwogs were originally a boys doll. I grabbed this from Wiki.
      “The noted art historian Sir Kenneth Clark said that the golliwogs of his childhood were, “examples of chivalry, far more persuasive than the unconvincing Knights of the Arthurian legend.”
      Blyton wrote for children, so how many of those children made the connection that Golliwog equaled an ethnic person? I certainly didn’t!
      In one study done by David Rudd, when shown that the Golliwog had been replaced with a white goblin, two Asian boys were apparently outraged. It’s complicated and given what society has come to associate the doll with, it’s better that they are confined to history.

      • I remember having a female golliwog when I was a child. She wore a pretty red dress with white polka dots and I called her ‘Gollarina’. I had absolutely zero idea that there was anything untowards about this and just loved her like any of my other dollies. It was just a culturally accepted norm back in the 70s (and before) I think, so I’m sure that Blyton didn’t deliberately demonise her characters, but reading about them does make most people feel uncomfortable by the cultural norms of the modern day.

  12. Tracy you never cease to amaze me with your knowledge and memory of name, dates etc, you are just the same with your music. This is one of your very special talents! Lying here in bed you had me smiling (that would equate to laughing out loud if I were not in pain) your way with your words on your blogs are BRILLIANT!!! Totally agree with everything you say about the PC brigade, leave our childhood memories alone please, they have made us and the majority of us do not use them in a racist way…….rather insulting to suggest that we would. No more Baa Baa Black Sheep……that’s now fecking WHITE!!! Also just heard that Tom & Jerry is no longer PC. Do they think we are thick??? I can’t remember the title of a book I read last month, let alone years ago. I can remember that I had a drawer on my bedroom floor full of my kiddies books…..and then the bloody cat crapoed on the top of them. Well now, if it was today, those books would of gone in the bin but oh no, mum just gaged, wiped them with a cloth and they were mine to read again. She always was a dirty cow, sorry mum but that’s maybe if you find me you find bleach or antibacterial spray in my hand. I’ve not got OCD, upstairs is a pigsty, couldn’t plug a fan in a night, we would have all chocked to death with dust in our lungs!!! Going off the subject, what me???!!!! How come the PC racist thing works one way…..I was happily watching the MOBO awards one day and merrily sad to the kids, this is funny, they are all black singers that have won….the kids laughed at me and explained …. Well, I ask you, can you imagine the fall out if we had awards for WHITE artists???? *angry face* Anyway, leave our history alone in books, tv programme and nursery rhymes please……I’m sure most different coloured people, are you allowed even to say that, don’t find it offensive, it’s child’s play……it’s bloody white people with nothing better to do than fight a course that doesn’t really do much harm, does it????
    PS, is that a photo of D reading one of your books, it’s lovely.

    • PMSL at the cat crapping on your books!!
      It’s all gone a bit mad with the PC stuff but there are sensitive areas which I’m sympathetic to. Why just can’t we accept each other as we are? Humans…I don’t get them. 😦
      Yes,that’s Damien modelling for me lol
      Thank you lovely lady. You’ve made me laugh, as always. xXx

  13. Brilliant post Sis. I can not wait until E is old enough to enjoy Enid (and she WILL enjoy it!!) and we’ll be reading the originals as well. *goes to see if they are on the Kindle store* 😊 xxxx

  14. Really enjoyed reading this. My faves were the Naughtiest Girl series and Famous five but best of all the Secret 7.
    Not much I can say that hasn’t already been said about the pc brigade. They annoy me considerably.
    Like you, I had all my EB books for years but decided when my children were too old for them that they were surplus to requirements. Oh how I regret giving them to the charity shop. I can only hope that someone somewhere got as much pleasure from them as I did.
    My love of reading originated with EB and whatever her real life you can’t take away from her that she was a brilliant childrens author. If it wasn’t for her books I don’t think I would read as much now as I do. I have a lot to thank her for.

  15. Wow, what a fascinating read! Somehow I have been oblivious to all the PC changes they have made – how silly. I think, as you say, people read a book in the context and time in which it was written and it doesn’t make much sense to judge every book ever written on today’s ‘standards’. I was big fan of her books, probably the Famous 5 most of all. Great post! x

  16. I’m amazed to learn that her books have been altered to make them PC. Most books, plays etc from the past don’t reflect our values and why should they? Changing other writers’ work to correspond to current thinking is arrogance run wild.
    I don’t always like Shakespeare’s attitude to women, does that mean I have the right to rewrite?

    • I feel that Enid has been singled out, for sure. If we were to re-write everything that to make it PC, we’d have to re-write the history books as well.
      It’s a shame that common sense hasn’t prevailed here…

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