Friday, 16 January 2009

The enduring magic of Enid Blyton

Back to school, back to blog. The holidays flashed by without a moment to write. I was too busy playing Guess Who with my children. It was great fun; the old games are the best - as are the old books. A good example is The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton, one of my childhood favourites. I remember spending hours reading and loving those books so, before Christmas, I went on line to Amazon to buy new copies. I was horrified to discover, courtesy of the wonderfully scathing Amazon reader reviews, that versions published today have been edited by politically correct idiots. Jo, Bessie and Fannie are now Joe, Beth and Frannie. WHY? Many chapters have been completely removed. Its original innocence has been modified: it’s not considered appropriate for the girls to help Mother with the ironing while Jo digs the garden with Father.

As one Amazon reviewer puts it, it’s pathetic. Enid Blyton is a piece of social history, why do we have to insult our children by hiding the true style of these books from them? Even my five year old can understand they were written years ago when words and lifestyles were different. Rather than being problematic for modern children, I think the characters serve as good role models – Jo, Bessie and Fannie are helpful, respectful, able to entertain themselves and wonderfully grateful – Jo makes terribly appreciative noises when his mother promises them jacket potatoes with butter for supper!

It's very sad that publishers feel they have to tamper with these books. Many modern readers may hanker after this seemingly golden era when children had freedom – Mother doesn’t flinch when three children under 10 creep in at midnight after wandering around in a wood. And in contrast, why should we be ashamed of the “bad” characters who do things no longer socially acceptable? My son can cope with stories about Dame Slap, a rogue teacher who slaps naughty pupils and locks them in cupboards. She’s a character, in a book, why does she have to be edited as if to assuage some shame about the way things were done in the past?

I am loving watching my children enjoying these books. They are completely absorbed and, like I was, wrapped up in the stories, transported, so that they talk about the characters, wonder what might happen, discuss scenarios or what should have been done, pretend to be Saucepan Man and play at visiting different lands.

My copies have pages falling out where I’ve read them so much. In respect to Enid Blyton and her imagination, and in protest of the absurd abuse of these precious books, I will be buying my children second hand copies of original versions on Ebay.

No comments: