… Enid Blyton
I seem to be going back to my childhood with my ABC Wednesday posts, but I make no apologies for writing about Enid Blyton, whose books gave me so much pleasure as a child going right back to her Noddy and the Magic Faraway Tree books. I also had a few of the little magazines she wrote called Sunny Stories. I could never decide which of her books I liked the most:
- The Naughtiest Girl series
- The Famous Five
- The Secret Seven
- Malory Towers
- The St Clares books
- The Five Find-Outers
- The Adventure series
I thought they were all marvellous.
Later when I worked in a library I discovered that not everyone thought like me and that some libraries banned her books – not the one I worked in though! The Wikipedia article on Enid Blyton also relates how her work was also banned by the BBC, criticising her work as being ‘stilted and longwinded’. I have to say at the time I was reading them I certainly didn’t find them so. Other criticisms are that the books are formulaic, xenophobic and ‘reflected negative stereotypes regarding gender, race, and class.’ Her books are very much of their time – she was born in 1897, died in 1968, her books dating from the 1920s, most of the series dating from the 1940s, when lives and attitudes were very different from those of today. I never noticed any class, racial or sexist prejudices when I read her books. I haven’t read her books for many years but I dare say I could very well do so now.
She wrote about children whose lives were very different from mine and that was one reason I liked them. I loved the fact that her books took me to magical places, places of adventure where children could solve mysteries, thwart criminals, be independent of adults and have great fun, a world of mysterious castles and islands, exploring secret passages and hidden chambers and finding buried treasure.
There are a number of websites with information about Enid Blyton – the Enid Blyton Society and Enid Blyton.net to name but two. By all accounts her life was not always a happy one – as the 2009 TV film about her portrayed. Enid with Helena Bonham Carter as Enid, shows her as a mother who ignored her own daughters, an arrogant, selfish and insecure woman. Sometimes it’s not a good thing to know too much about an author’s personal life. I’d rather just enjoy her books.
I don’t have a photo of the real Green Hedges in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire the house where Enid Blyton lived for many years, but the Bekonscot Model Village in Beaconsfield includes a model of the house complete with Noddy in his little car parked at the front.
14 thoughts on “ABC Wednesday – E is for …”
Reading the St Clare’s and Mallory Towers series was about the only girly thing I ever did as a child. I loved them and when I leafed through my complete edition of Mallory Towers this Christmas, I found out that I still knew it by heart. I don’t think I would enjoy reading them today as much, but I have them (Famous Five mostly) at my school library and I would fight for them if I had to. I’m confident that the children can survive reading the occasional sexist or racial stereotype in such books (there are some, I did notice that) without lasting damage, just as I’m confident they can read To Kill a Mockingbird on Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
I think maybe Malory Towers are my favourite Blyton books and I think you’re right that children can survive reading the occasional sexist or racial stereotype in such books.
Enid Blyton is, in some ways, responsible for my PhD. It was her Malory Towers characters that taught me that a girl could have a career and reach for the skies academically. In my back street slum home, that wasn’t on our horizons at all. Everyone of my classmates left school at fifteen because it was what you did. I didn’t because of the vision Blyton had given me.
That is fantastic, Annie. I can’t say that her books affected me as much as that but they certainly gave me a love of books and reading. I wish they had because I didn’t go to university after school and it was only much later that I got my degree with the Open University.
I took my children to Beckenscot many times when they were young, but I had not realised that one of the houses is Enid Blyton’s. Obviously I did not read the guide book! Thanks for the info, if ever I go back there I will look at it with new perspective.
the issue of racism and xenophobia show up in modern discussions of older literature – Mark Twain, e.g. Historic context should be taken into account.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team
Margaret – What a great tribute to Enid Blyton. It’s interesting that you would mention modern criticism of her work on the grounds of several “-isms.” As you and Roger mention, she was a product of her time. Those books need to be taken in context. And over the years, I’ve encountered so many people who begin their reading lives with Blyton’s book. To me, any author who gets children to love reading deserves commendation.
Noddy was my introduction to reading and although I did read other things I was in love with Enid Blyton’s books all though my childhood. Absolutely smitten with the Adventure series and the ‘Barney’ series (all titles begin with ‘R’). I’ve read a few over the past couple of years and still enjoyed them. One… I think it was The Sea of Adventure… was delightful in its portrayal of the islands off the Scottish coast. Better than many adult books set there! And I thought The Rat-a-tat Mystery genuinely creepy! My daughters also adored her books although they had teachers who weren’t quite so keen. One said that children who read her books sometimes ended up writing like her. I wondered why it was so awful to write correct English.
What a nice post ! I loved Enid Blayton books and have devored all of the famous five and probably the others too. They were translated into German so that I could read them as soon as I started reading books with 10. I think they are still not outdated !
I have not read any Enid Blayton books in a while, reading this put me in the mood to start reading one!
Not being a great reader as a child my Enid Blyton books were few, however my youngest daughter love ‘St Clare’s’ and her favourite of all time (which she states till this day at 24 yrs.)is The Magic Faraway Tree.
I love a controversy! I will have to check these books out. Sound like Malory Towers are the ones to read.
I’ve never read Enid Blyton before but she’s on my list of books I need to read. Love the model village! I would love to see something like that in person.
As a child growing up on a remote farm in Ireland, Enid Blyton became my other and better life, and her characters became my alter-egos. I credit her books with my lifelong love of reading, and for my own career as an author. Thanks for this tribute to her. I don’t read much contemporary children’s books, but I cannot imagine them having the same power to capture a child’s imagination as E.B.’s works.
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