Enid Blyton, Uncategorized
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The Controversial Enid Blyton.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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31 Comments

  1. This is an absolutely fascinating post! I’ve just started reading From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner and it looks in depth into the stories and meaning behind fairy tales and their storytellers. Enid Blyton isn’t specifically mentioned, but a lot of the classical storytellers are such as the Grimm brothers are.

    • Thankyou! Oh that sounds like an amazing book, I might have to try and get my hands on it! Let me know how it is 🙂

  2. A comprehensive summary of the issues around EB. I had heard much of it before but I can’t honestly say it changes my past enjoyment of her books. I don’t actually recall The Enchanted Wood but I devoured all the Famous Five books (including Timmy the dog of course), The Secret Seven, The Mystery Series and loads of others. I liked Noddy & Big Ears of course and was, at the age of 4, the proud owner of a Noddy tricycle. Dick & Fanny? Well I doubt if even the children of today would make such a leap. Unless prompted of course by some warped adult. I am sure Frederick Algernon Trotteville, known as Fatty, also has a new nickname on the grounds of weight-ism and the risk of his self-esteem (of which there was plenty) being impaired. But heaven forbid that Billy Bunter should be slimmed down. And what about Biggles? Would Ginger survive? Alas I can only think of the Monty Python sketch when Biggles, Ginger and Algy crop up these days. W E Johns must be spinning in his grave. Biggles Dictates a a Letter. What a hoot.

    • I agree Andrew, discovering this in no way takes away from her brilliance. I completely forgot about Fatty, but I’m certain he would have undergone a dramatic name change! You’re so right, children don’t make these associations, it is the adults who make the words uncomfortable and taboo. I haven’t seen that Monty Python sketch, I might have to pop over to YouTube for a look!

    • Thankyou! I just re-read one of the Secret Seven books the other day, just for a laugh. Always worth a revisit!

  3. All that censorship is silly. With that logic, we shouldn’t have anything even slightly depressing in books. A kid picked a flower? Oh no! Now all the kids will have nightmares of dying gardens and death.

  4. Fascinating post Jayde. I have to confess that the name changes were probably conceived for the likes of me (I’ve never been able to read Swallows and Amazons and even now I’m duty bound to comment on the odd name choice whenever I see the film, I mean, come on, Titty, really? ;-)). I’m so immature! From the Beast to the Blonde is a damn good read and Enid is well worth a watch.

    • Haha, that’s hilarious! 🙂 I’ll be looking for a copy of the Beast to the Blonde, and I might even pop over to the video store today to see if I can find ‘Enid’.

  5. I’ve watched a tv show that has noddy and big ears with my kids never knowing about Enid. What a fascinating and strange woman.

    • She certainly is. But then I suppose most authors are, aren’t they? I just never associated a children’s author with so much controversy!

    • I know, it was a shock for me too. But as an adult it makes her all the more intriguing, doesn’t it? It’s hard to fathom that a woman who bought so much joy to so many children could have had such misery and sadness surrounding her.

  6. Very interesting blog. Writers can be strange creatures. (grin) As for the censorship, pretty dumb. Dick and Jane were the mainstay of elementary school readers for years. –Curt

    • They certainly can Curt 🙂 I know, the name Dick was such a common name that I don’t remember blinking an eye. Yet now we have turned it into something so ‘naughty’!

  7. Thank you for writing this post Jayde and now you know what I was referring to. You have expressed her life brilliantly and whilst I agree with you that her skill as an author is not in doubt, I do find it unbearably sad that her children had to live such a difficult life. I was shocked when I first found out too – I always thought that someone who wrote such wonderful, happy books, must be writing their reality, but it just goes to show how wrong we are. How assumptions that we make are more often than not, incorrect. And the whole PC thing – utter nonsense! 🙂

    • No problem Jade, thanks again for the inspiration! I agree, it is extremely sad that her daughters, and her husband, had to live with a woman who obviously cared solely about her writing. It was eye-opening to investigate it, to say the very least!

  8. I knew nothing of EB’s biography before reading this post, it was sadly enlightening. I can’t believe they changed the names of the characters in Faraway Tree! Like you I grew up with ‘Dick and Fanny’ – the nerve of publishers. Your caption of ‘Noddy and Big-Ears – inappropriately happy’ made me snort with laughter (not attractive, I know, but fun all the same). I agree that in ‘bastardising’ children’s stories we run the risk of losing the truth of them, the magic all together. Changing the race, sex, names, actions of characters in classic books is just WRONG!

  9. Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. As soon as I saw the picture of Noddy and Big-Ears that caption popped into my head…poor guys, just wanting to have fun! I wish there was a way of preventing this crazy censorship, but sadly I can’t see the world banding together to boycott new editions of such popular books. It makes me sad to think that the future generations will never know the true magic of Blyton!

  10. Awesome post, Ill have to keep an eye out for the documentary… I had no idea what she was like as a person. I have a number of (original) Enid Blyton books which I loved as a child. When we read Noddy and Big Ears books to my kids now we snort all the time (they have no idea why)! We dont censor them (or dwell on dodgy bits) that’s just life, you dont want to change it because then they lose the beauty of that era, it isnt now, and it wasnt the same then. Oh well, move on. I was especially attached to the famous five as a pre teen, and I am wondering if they will have the same allure for my children in years to come.

    • Thank you so much! That’s a great philosophy – don’t censor, don’t dwell! I love it. I’m glad a few of us still have the non-censored versions 🙂

  11. Hailing from the old honest generation I will hate reading Blyton’s works today thanks to the dishonest politically correct morons.

    • So true. That’s why I cherish my originals so much! There are a lot of originals still gracing the shelves of second hand stores, so if you see one, grab it!

  12. Pingback: The Paperbook Blog Needs You!! | The Paperbook Blog.

  13. Every child should have some Enid Blyton on their bookshelf, easy reading with magical plots that transport a child to a different land. I watched the bio pic of her life and although it is unbearably sad that she was such an awful mother she was an exceptional children’s author

  14. Pingback: Reblog: The Controversial Enid Blyton by Jayde-Ashe | World of Blyton

  15. Enid must have been a terrible mother and wife ..i just got to read about her and am really shocked to hear such things but i will still love her work and encourage kids to read her books..i guess i read all her books as a child and have encouraged my kids too read them too. Will encourage my grand children to read as many as they can too. Would want nothing than the original with Enid..Long live Enid….

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