So, I had planned to write a post in which I explored the lives of controversial writers. The older I get the more I want to know the person behind the words…because let’s be honest, they’re so damn fascinating!
This idea was given to me by one of my awesome followers, the lovely Jade over at Jade’s Jungle. In response to my post on Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood, Jade made an intriguing comment about how Blyton’s life didn’t reflect her writing.
I had to know more.
I had a post drafted in my head, one in which I looked at the controversial lives of several writers. But this was put to rest by another amazing follower, belllettres, who informed me that Blyton’s work has been severely censored, re-edited and generally bastardised in order to comply with our ridiculously PC society.
I had to know more.
There is so much controversy surrounding this beloved children’s author that there is no room to look at others, they will have to wait for another day.
So, to Enid Blyton. One thing is for sure – no matter how controversial the woman may have been, indeed still continues to be, she is a literary genius. She published over 700 books in her lifetime, of which over 600 million copies have been sold. Let’s take a moment to review that number. 600 000 000. That is well over 8 450 000 books published for each year of her life. Unbelievable. The women continues, even forty-five years after her death, to be an integral part of the lives of million of children all over the world. She is published in over 40 languages.
So why does so much controversy surround this woman?
First, let’s look at the mystery and rumours that darken her home life. In her books, family’s are blissfully contented, always happy, smiling, helpful and loving towards one another. If for some reason a character has a miserable home-life, the focus of the story becomes untangling the reasons behind this, and ultimately leading to an ending in which misunderstandings are made clear and family’s are reunited amongst much smiles and tears.
Blyton’s home life, it appears, was no bed of roses, and certainly did not mirror the lives of the characters she created.
Her first marriage was to publisher Hugh Pollock, a man who was apparently treated terribly by the famous author. She is described as being spiteful and emotionally damaging towards him, both throughout their marriage and following their painful divorce. There is well-founded rumours of her infidelity, including a suspected lesbian liaison. However upon their divorce Blyton coerced Pollock into claiming he was the only adulterer. She threatened him with denying access to their two children, claiming that if he did not admit to infidelity, he would never see them again. Sadly, though he complied with her wishes, she prevented him from seeing his daughters for much of their lives anyway.
Following their divorce she continued to make life a misery for her former husband, using her powerful influence to prevent him from finding publishing work. According to Ida Crowe, Pollock’s second wife, Blyton could never forgive him for finding happiness after the breakdown of their marriage. She succeeded in tainting the remainder of his life, he eventually declared himself bankrupt, sinking into a mire of depression and heavy drinking.
Her children faired no better. The docu-drama Enid, which I have yet to see but which is firmly on my to-watch list, depicts the neglect that Blyton’s daughters suffered at her hands. Likening the author to a child herself, Blyton’s daughter Imogen described her as:
Arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct.
Blyton’s writing was her only concern, her children a very poor second. Ironically, the famous author conducted competitions in which her readers could win a trip to the Blyton estate, having a tea party and discussion with their revered author. During these parties, Blyton’s daughters were locked in the house, forced to watch their mother play convivial hostess to scores of other children. When asked about her mother’s incredible success as a writer, Imogen states:
She wrote as a child with an adult’s writing skills. She saw everything in black and white. She was emotionally immature. She could love the children who were her readers. It was only her own children who failed to capture her love.
The writer at work.
Beyond the controversy surrounding her home life, is that which surrounds her writing. Let us look at claims that this celebrated children’s author is sexist, racist and vastly inappropriate for children.
In my last post on Blyton, I discussed the book The Enchanted Wood. This book, and its sequel The Folk of the Faraway Tree, are arguably the most popular books Blyton has ever written. They centre around the lives of Jo, Bess and Fanny, with cameo appearances by their cousin Dick.
Dick. Fanny. Gasp, splutter, cough cough. How outrageous. These names were obliterated through censorship during the mid-1990’s, changed to the far less obscene ‘Frannie’ and ‘Rick’. What is even weirder is that the other characters suffered an identity crisis as well, Jo becoming Joe and Bess became Beth. Maybe the censors didn’t want them to feel left out? The reason for changing the names was cited by the publisher as the ‘unfortunate connotations’ of Dick and Fanny. What were common names in the 50’s had become vulgar slang in the 90’s, and therefore must be ‘fixed’ to become more politically correct. It’s a children’s book. Has the world gone mad?
Jo, Bess and…Frannie?
When I was a child these names never bothered me, and I’m sure they wouldn’t bother children these days. Unless, of course, some well-meaning adult comes along and says, ‘no children, we can’t say these words, they aren’t actually names at all but rather naughty words that relate to parts of our body that we must never discuss.’ And through this, the whole concept surrounding these inconsequential words is shrouded in mystery and controversy.
Another lovely edit is the changing of Dame Slap to Dame Snap. This nasty woman has now become PC, shouting at children instead of slapping them. Because we all know that’s against the law. And reading about slapping is sure to traumatise young children horrifically, not to mention turn them into sociopaths as they get older.
And what about poor Noddy and Big-Ears? Accused of homosexuality, as though that is some sort of crime. These friends used to share a bed, but luckily for us that horror has disappeared from the books. Because god forbid we should introduce children to the normality of homosexuality at too young an age. Should we tell the children of same-sex parents that it’s not ok for two people of the same gender to share a bed? Where does it end?
Noddy and Big-Ears – inappropriately happy.
I could go on forever, there are so many edits and censors of these famous works. Is it just me, or is all this slightly reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984? There, the Ministry of Truth is responsible for editing and censoring history to make it fit the skewed realities that the Big Brother society wishes to portray. In the process, truth and history are eradicated forever. That is what will happen here. Eventually, Bltyon’s works will become so bastardised that they will bear no resemblance to the marvellous literary creations that she first penned all those years ago.
Talking animals? Promotes drug use. Land’s at the top of a tree? Encourages dangerous climbing. Land of Treats? Too unhealthy. Land of Take What You Want? Promotes stealing.
Perhaps we should edit the history books too, to eradicate any mention of war, oppression, apartheid or segregation. Because it’s all a little bit too politically incorrect.
So there we have it. The controversial life and writings of Enid Blyton. Regardless of her history and her personal failings, there is not one person in the world, including her two daughters, who denies her brilliance as a children’s author. Censoring this brilliance to fit some skewed notion of what we as society deem to be politically correct enrages me. History stands to be lost if we allow this censorship to continue.
I for one will cling on to my politically incorrect versions of these books, and I will read them with relish to my future children. And when they ask me why the characters are called Dick and Fanny? I will explain to them that these are nothing more than old-fashioned names.