Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Enid Blyton - Aged 13

Mrs PND brought some newspapers back from the UK yesterday and this story in The Telegraph caught my eye:

Blyton was recently voted Britain's best-loved author and prided herself on writing about the "jolly, happy things in life", but since her death in 1968 a picture has emerged of a cold, occasionally malevolent figure.

Mrs Smallwood, 73, said that witnessing a particularly upsetting argument between her mother and drunken father, shortly after which he moved in with another woman, could have contributed to Blyton's troubled personality.

"Barbara Stoney, [Blyton's 1974 biographer], suggested the trauma she suffered around about her 13th birthday was so huge that a lot of her emotional development just froze there and I think this is a very good way of looking at her," Mrs Smallwood told the BBC in a new Radio 4 documentary, A Fine Defence of Enid Blyton.

Most of Blyton's stories were written in a different time but continue to be repackaged in new covers and formats. The FT notes there have been some required changes:

Some names have been changed to avoid sniggers or racist overtones - the characters originally named Fanny, Dick and Bessie in The Faraway Tree stories have become Frannie, Rick and Beth. In the Famous Five books, the boys now have to do household chores with the girls. And there's not much left that's "queer" or "gay".

But dig about a bit and it's clear that reports of wholesale PC changes have been exaggerated. Hachette, publisher of the very popular Famous Five, Secret Seven and Naughtiest Girl series, points out that it has changed none of its characters' names. And it says claims that the important Blyton staple food of biscuits had been changed to American cookies were also inaccurate.

It's also wrong to suggest that Blyton's stories are full of entrenched sexist attitudes.

1 comment:

Lorcan Dempsey said...


See the timeline. Interest remains strong.