On Enid Blyton and The Sanitising of Her Books (Or How to Not Condescend Children)

Enid Blyton once stated she was not interested in criticism from anyone over the age of twelve. How very Enid of her. I’m quite sure she would be somewhat baffled at the barrage of criticism thrown at her books since her death. Enid Blyton always thought as a child, clearly as a child of her era, but a child nonetheless.

I was looking through my Blyton bookcase the other day for some Rosemary Manning paperbacks I had tucked in there. It has not moved house with us yet, and I am in the process of covering all the fragile jackets in mylar, so it is somewhat of a mess at the moment. I came across my collection of various printings of The Three Golliwogs and took one out to have a peek.

Now I have never objected to the editing of the Three Golliwogs names. Even changing the title to “Gollies” later doesn’t really irk me. I wholeheartedly agree with the removal of the “N” and “W” names. It’s the removal of Golliwogs from the Noddy books that baffles me.  Perhaps Viv Endecott said it best

“My customers aren’t members of the BNP or the National Front. They don’t cuddle golliwogs and turn into racist bigots, who we all detest.”

Poor Mr. Golliwog. The attempted squash of his legacy was sparked by the appearance of the “Bad Golliwogs” in Here Comes Noddy Again, who attack Noddy in the Dark Dark Wood. Now prior to this Mr. Golliwog had been a fine upstanding citizen of Toyland who owned the local garage and fixed Noddy’s taxi for him when he had problems. But  the use of the four bad Golliwogs in Here Comes Noddy Again sparked an outcry that went on so long the publishers felt it had to be removed.

I feel sorry for the Goblins really. The baddies in Noddy were almost always in the form of a naughty Goblin. Where is the Society for the Protection of Goblin Welfare? Miss Granger?

Enid Blyton:”Teddy Bears are also toys but if there happens to be a naughty one in my books for younger children, this does not mean that I hate bears.”

Indeed. Although I am quite sure that children don’t have the same mind-set as adults do when it comes to these matters.  The main books that have suffered the fate of politically-correct-cleansing are the Noddy books and the Magic Faraway Tree series. Both series are written for younger readers, so you can read them with your children. Here are some things you can tell them when you’re reading together lest she be a bad influence.

On Little Noddy:

“Noddy is not a middle-class snob. He is a taxi-driver. As a taxi-driver he actually makes less money than Mr. Golliwog the mechanic”

“Noddy and Big-Ears are sharing a bed because they want to go to sleep. They are not homosexual. Also there is nothing wrong with being homosexual.  But this is a book about toys. There is no sex. Clearly I am a filthy-minded dolt for even pointing that out”

“Tessie Bear is not a poor female role-model. She’s actually a teddy bear. And quite feisty”

On the names of the children in The Faraway Tree series

“Fanny is short for Frances”

“Dick is short for Richard”

“No dear I don’t know why grown-ups giggled too much at these names and decided to change them”

“Jo is short for Joseph, not Josephine. I know dear, telling Jo he spells his name like a girl is mean”

“Bessie is short for Elizabeth. There are no African-American slavery connotations. What’s that sweetheart? What’s a conn-o-tations?”

“I am sure the girls didn’t grow up resenting their Mother because they had to make the beds while Jo mowed the lawn. They wanted to go and see Moonface and eat a toffee-shock, they weren’t thinking of the sexist delegation of the chores”

And afterthoughts:

“Yes dear, I am sure the publishers of the new Enid Blyton books are lining their pockets healthily in lieu of making these books safe for children to read”

4 thoughts on “On Enid Blyton and The Sanitising of Her Books (Or How to Not Condescend Children)”

  1. I would argue that parents should make a shout out of Enid Blyton for being a very early promoter of equal love and gay marriage. She paved the way for Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street to live together openly..
    If only more authors and tv shows, including adult ones were as open.

  2. It’s really very odd, but as a child reading and loving Enid Blyton’s books, none of the implied ideas even crossed my mind! It was only when an adult points them out, and even then, I think some of the associations are stretching a little!

    1. It doesn’t make much sense to me either Marg, kids just don’t think about those things (I imagine anyway) They lose so much of their charm when they butcher them.
      Here’s another good article on the modern illustrations in Noddy Books
      Noddy The Last Hurrah

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