Enid Blyton - ridiculous

(182 Posts)
JumpRope Mon 10-Feb-14 20:17:52

Dick and Fannie from The Magic Faraway Tree have been renamed Rick and Frannie.

I'm a bit pissed off. How ridiculous!

curlew Mon 10-Feb-14 20:21:36

Absolutely. Utterly ridiculous. All her ghastly, badly written, sexist, racist, classist, mean spirited books ought to be pulped.

Elderberri Mon 10-Feb-14 20:21:40


bodygoingsouth Mon 10-Feb-14 20:21:46

ha ha, like to see what they do with a book I have of hers called g...y w...y and n....r. loved it as a child.

I would burn it but it seems wrong.

Only1scoop Mon 10-Feb-14 20:22:24

Bloody ridiculous confused

Fathertedfan Mon 10-Feb-14 20:24:07

How very odd. What would Moonface think?

nkf Mon 10-Feb-14 20:24:20

Kids should be allowed to snigger at Dick and Fanny. They'll be changing that line in The Lady of Shalott about the curse next.

Bowlersarm Mon 10-Feb-14 20:24:42


I loved Enid Blyton.

I have some very old editions, and still read them very occasionally. It's interesting reading from an adult perspective.

Pigeonhouse Mon 10-Feb-14 20:37:41

Those changes were made a long time ago - why the outrage now? Personally I'm in favour of not re-editing, but adding a preface to re-editions explaining for today's children the class/racial/gender attitudes of Blyton's times.

I adored them as a child, but with a few exceptions (The Valley of Adventure being on that comes to mind - in fact, most of the 'Adventure' series was better than other series by her, like the anaemic Secret Seven and the 'R Mystery' books) they now strike me as appallingly trite and simplistic.

And not one single character who isn't white, English and middle-class gets away without being caricatured - Welsh people are all small and dark and say 'Look you' all the time, black people roll their eyes all the time and are credulous and superstitious, working-class people say 'Coo' all the time and are either villainous or salt-of-the-earth and 'umble.

Will 'Swallows and Amazons' "Titty" be renamed "Kitty" to prevent school child sniggering?

piratecat Mon 10-Feb-14 20:40:57

have they renamed Fatty?

AmysTiara Mon 10-Feb-14 20:41:31

In the Famous Five they still say Dick and Fanny so I'm not sure why they changed names in other books.

frugalfuzzpig Mon 10-Feb-14 20:42:30

Titty is one of the most awesome characters EVER. I love her!

I'd heard that the characters had been renamed in Famous Five (my most beloved books - I am actually reading book 1 to DD at the moment, something I've dreamed of doing since before she was even born!) but I have looked recently in whsmiths and I definitely saw the proper names. Maybe it depends what edition it is - there are usually a few different ones available.

Elsiequadrille Mon 10-Feb-14 20:42:45

Didn't they rename Bessie as Beth? More in keeping with current name trends or such like. Funny thing is that I'd say the name Bessie would fit that criteria now more than Beth.

We used our old books. With Dame Slap rather than Dame Snap.

TheLostPelvicFloorOfPoosh Mon 10-Feb-14 20:42:48

Happily, The Famous Five books are all still full of Dick and Fanny.

I'm not sure why it's unacceptable in the Faraway Tree books, but ok for the Famous Five.

You'd think they'd have done something about Chinky in the Wishing Chair books if they're going to start pissing around with stuff.

I spotted Rick on opening the book.
Hadn't spotted Fanny / Frannie tho.

They may have changed ages ago, but I last read them aprox 20 yrs ago - when I grew out of them, and am now starting to read them to the kids. I wouldn't have noticed any changes in the mean time.

pinkdelight Mon 10-Feb-14 20:43:10

It's Dame Snap too, not Dame Slap. She just shouts. It's not at all the same. But I found an old copy of the Book of Brownies where Hop Skip and Jump still get a good spanking every day in the Land of Clever People. DS was not traumatised.

pigeonhouse our copy of Kippling's just so stories has a preface just like that.

Ooh, Pigeon, I loved the Adventure series. I think I was 8 when I read the books and staying at my gran and grandad's as my brother was ill. It was the first time I had stayed away from home for a whole week. Of course EB reads dreadfully now but I so loved her books when I was little. The Faraway Tree series was also one of my favourites smile

frugalfuzzpig Mon 10-Feb-14 20:48:04

We also coincidentally watched the swallows and amazons film last week (another thing I'd been looking forward to introducing to my DCs).

My DD is 6 and has absolutely no idea that 'dick' can be considered a rude word or what it represents. Same with 'titty'.

NoLikeyNoLighty Mon 10-Feb-14 20:48:17

YANBU, bloody ridiculous that they've felt the need to change the books.
I've got some old Enid Blyton books -free from ridiculous amendments-- with the original Dick and Fanny in.
Tried to get my 10 year old to read some of the adventure ones when he was looking for something new to read but he didn't get past the first page because he was too busy rolling around the floor in hysterics at Dick and Fanny. hmm grin
They've changed the Magic Faraway Tree too, you know. The scary school teacher in one of the faraway lands was called Dame Slap and used to chase the children threatening to slap them.
The politically correct version nowadays have her called Dame Snap who can sometimes speak to the children crossly and snappily. hmm
WHY?! Wish they'd leave the books alone. Yes, it's all not acceptable nowadays, but that's the way it WAS back then.
Should we be airbrushing history? No leave it alone and just have sensible discussions about them instead!

NoLikeyNoLighty Mon 10-Feb-14 20:49:30

It's Dame Snap too, not Dame Slap. She just shouts.

Just seen someone beat me to that point blush

frugalfuzzpig Mon 10-Feb-14 20:53:34

I have both the 70s and the 90s series of famous five on DVD, and the adventure series from New Zealand

I may be something of a Blyton nerd...

I also gave my 'manuscript' (ie about 30 pages in 10 or so chapters) to her daughter Gillian after she did a talk in our library, when I was about 10. She gave me her address so I could send it, and then sent me a lovely letter about it.

That has nothing to do with thread sorry am just waffling grin but it's a very happy memory.

Penguin0fMadagascar Mon 10-Feb-14 20:55:04

Spooky - I just read that chapter to DS2 before bed, and DH was saying that Dame Slap had been renamed Dame Snap. Then he had to explain to DS1 why that might be!

wandymum Mon 10-Feb-14 20:57:02

You are completely AIBU.

DS1 who is 5 had an old copy of the first book he loved. Got him a new copy of the subsequent one and he was totally baffled as to why they all had different names and very hard to explain without getting into a conversation about the alternative meanings of Dick and Fanny which is not ideal with someone so young.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 10-Feb-14 20:57:36

My dd loves Enid Blyton and has worked out for herself the difference between now and then.
It has sparked many discussions and she has learned a lot about how intolerant we were to differences in the past.

frugalfuzzpig Mon 10-Feb-14 20:57:42

Should we be airbrushing history?

It's weird how some things are censored and others aren't. I'm nowhere near well-read enough to have an informed opinion on it though blush

I read the unabridged Peter Pan and Wendy to DD last year, I was surprised at some of the violence and racist remarks (about the pirates)

fairylightsatchristmas Mon 10-Feb-14 20:58:41

irritates me intensely that they change them. It was all out of date and anachronistic in the 80s when I read them but it didn't stop me understanding or enjoying them, nor did they embue me with any awful racist, sexist, homophobic attitudes (even the one where the golliwogs mug Noddy and nick his car) - that's now been altered so its goblins I think. I coped with pounds, shillings and pence, lashings of ginger beer and four pre-teens going away for the whole summer unsupervised with two horses and caravans (and a dog of course). It was fine.

frugalfuzzpig Mon 10-Feb-14 20:59:23

We've had the discussion since reading famous five (and secret seven) about it being silly that back then they thought girls couldn't be as brave as boys etc

frugalfuzzpig Mon 10-Feb-14 20:59:35

*while, not since

Showy Mon 10-Feb-14 20:59:39

What's Chinky from The Wishing Chair called now?

I was reading Naughty Amelia Jane to the dc tonight and picked up my copy instead of dd's updated version and did some quick editing in my head when NAJ was threatening to cut off the golliwog's hair and turn him into a 'black faced Chinaman'.

spiderlight Mon 10-Feb-14 21:00:48

Chinky is still Chinky. I'm reaading that to DS at the moment. (I asked him where he'd go if he had his very own Wishing Chair and he replied 'Richard Hammond's house' grin)

curlew Mon 10-Feb-14 21:06:37

Oh, the professionally unoffended do make me laugh!

brooncoo Mon 10-Feb-14 21:06:47

Fatty is still in the book we are reading at the moment. Don't think they should rewrite old books - even if they seem un PC now - surely partly what makes classics good to read is that it's a snap shot to how folk thought and spoke in another time.

Wabbitty Mon 10-Feb-14 21:07:13

In the Adventurous Four, Jill and Mary (perfectly fine, timeless names) have been changed to Pippa and Zoe....

WanderingAway Mon 10-Feb-14 21:14:33

I found this out last year or the year before when my dd read the books.

The faraway tree takes me back to my childhood. It used to take my mum about 3 hours to read one chapter because my siblings and i would giggle every time she said dick or fanny.

landrover Mon 10-Feb-14 21:15:21

Remember Anne bought her tutor cigarettes for his birthday, because she knew the type he smoked!!!!!! (she was 10 I think at the time!!!) Just love those books!

Iwannalaylikethisforever Mon 10-Feb-14 21:22:30

This PC crap makes me laugh.
The fat controller from Thomas is "sir Topham Hatt"
There was a council run catering department a few years back that changed the name of spotted dick because staff complained of the sniggers when it was ordered.

RustyBear Mon 10-Feb-14 21:31:00

Actually, the BBC series of Swallows and Amazons did change Titty to Kitty (played by Susan George in almost her first role) That was in 1963, so hardly 'modern'.

I remember watching it and wondering why they had changed it - I was 7 at the time and obviously very sheltered - to me tits were just a type of small bird...

Ledaire Mon 10-Feb-14 21:42:22

I adored Mr Pink Whistle Interferes

He took under-privileged little girls into shops and bought them underwear and pretty hair ribbons grin

frugalfuzzpig Mon 10-Feb-14 21:42:43

It's weird that the TV series (which I hadn't seen) changed titty to kitty and yet the film, which was later, didn't.

curlew Mon 10-Feb-14 22:17:02

I'm always amused and boggled at the amazing vociferousness(is that a word?) of people demanding the right to give their children really badly written formulaic books about deeply unpleasant mean spirited two dimensional characters full of racism, sexism and classism, and which condone snobbery, bullying and downright meanness.

TamerB Mon 10-Feb-14 22:34:15

I loved them as a child.

tattybogle Mon 10-Feb-14 22:40:15

They were enjoyable as a child; all the food references perhaps. I found Roald Dahl mean in parts.

landrover Mon 10-Feb-14 22:46:33

But I still LOVE the famous five, its a little part of history!

PortofinoRevisited Mon 10-Feb-14 22:48:06

I loved them all as a child, yet despite trying to foist them upon dd, she still preferred Horrid Henry/Harry Potter and poor Enid didn't get a look in. Apart from the Naughtiest Girl in the School.

TamerB Mon 10-Feb-14 22:50:17

As a child they were a good relaxation, an easy read and exciting. I have a different opinion as an adult. My children never got into them. If my mother had taken curlews attitude they would have been instantly desirable!

manicinsomniac Mon 10-Feb-14 22:55:20

curlew - definitely guilty here! My children have all my old copies of EB books, no modern ones and they love/d them. I find all the racism, sexism and classism hilarious - it's just so blatant and jaw dropping. If it was a current attitude it would be appalling but it isn't, it's a 1940s-70s attitude. And they're only badly written from an adult perspective. For 5-10 year olds (give or take a year or so depending on reading ability obviously) they are great.

tattybogle Mon 10-Feb-14 22:59:02

Tamer I know a little girl who chooses to read Rainbow Fairies and then gloats that her mum doesn't like her reading them!

Predictability can be a great comfort in books.

TheLostPelvicFloorOfPoosh Mon 10-Feb-14 22:59:48

There are lands where everything is edible. When someone was mean, they got put in prison. The prison was made of chocolate cake, so they ate their way out. He was frightfully poorly, and jolly well learnt his lesson.

What's not to love?

tattybogle Mon 10-Feb-14 23:00:56

Yes, it's the food that draws me back!

bodygoingsouth Mon 10-Feb-14 23:01:55

Ledaire yes Mr pink whistle was an invisible man who loved and befriended children. he sat on park benches and watched them play and then often took their hands and walked off with them..

I have her series with golly, woggy and n....r, sorry silly to do that really but can't bring myself to write the word.

my dd took some in for GCSE sociology discussion.

off topic she also took in Mandy annual 1976 and in it were jobs for 'girls' they were alphabetical and 'Y' was young wife!!! hilarious.

piratecat Tue 11-Feb-14 01:19:28

i bought dd the original st Claires books and she thinks they are hilarious.
she often likes to say
'my lacross wants mending'

piratecat Tue 11-Feb-14 01:20:06

lacross stick grin i meant

ScarlettMantleplume Tue 11-Feb-14 01:27:41

I know they were remaking The Dambusters a year or two back. Did they change the name of the dog in the end?

WallyBantersJunkBox Tue 11-Feb-14 01:34:12

Mr Pink Whistle.... shock I never put it all together....

I bought "Are you there god, it's me Margaret?" on holiday last year, I read it when I was 8 and remember being fascinated by the trip to buy a sanitary belt in a choice of pastel colours and looped towels.

Felt quite flat and deflated to find they had unceremoniously updated it to a modern pack of stick on pads....

Crowler Tue 11-Feb-14 05:25:15

"are you there god, it's me margaret" - what an excellent book. I'm going to leave it in the past though, I think a re-read may leave me likewise deflated.

manicinsomniac Tue 11-Feb-14 07:48:52

What's funny about needing to mend a lacrosse stick confused
Have I missed an innuendo or something blush

Slight wilful misinterpretation of Mr Pinkwhistle I think!

piratecat Tue 11-Feb-14 07:52:42

not an innuendo just a sentence most girls aren't going to have to say.smile

TamerB Tue 11-Feb-14 07:58:25

That is the joy of books, tattybogle, children enjoy being subversive- part of Roald Dahl's appeal. Of course you know that if your mother is going to roll her eyes at Rainbow Fairies it is going to make them more enjoyable!

People persist in thinking children have no minds of their own and can't be discerning and critical on their own- mother has to cross the t's and dot the i's for them because they are just empty vessels!
When I was young I read through all my aunt's set of school stories set in 1920s/1930s and they were incredibly dated and hilarious because of it. I still enjoyed the stories.
I agree with manicinsomniac, they are not today's attitudes and it is quite jaw droppingly terrible by today's thinking, but nothing wrong is seeing attitudes from the past. That is why I don't think they should change the names, they are from a set period in history.
I think that my son's attitude was healthy. If I started prosing on about a book he would just look at me in amazement and cut me off with , 'it's just a story mum, you don't have to take it seriously'!

I also think that it is sad that adults look at children's books through an adult perspective. Librarians banned Enid Blyton for a long time and she survived. She survived because she wrote a good story for a child, which gets me back to my original point that if you ban a book, or treat them with the distain curlew showed, they become instantly desirable!

It surprises me on here that parents think they will ban their child from reading a book and the child will say 'yes mummy' and obey. I would have said 'yes mummy' and borrowed a copy to read in secret and find out what the fuss was about!

TamerB Tue 11-Feb-14 08:04:49

I also didn't like the same books as my mother, we don't like the same books now. We both read a lot, I am over 60, she is over 90 and she comes to my house and can't find anything to read! She is a huge Jeffrey Archer fan. I don't tell her what I think. Reading is a personal thing- it is when a child, and not something to impose on others. Suggestion is fine- but nothing more.

frugalfuzzpig Tue 11-Feb-14 08:24:09

I've not banned any books. The only issue I guess will be if she picks up something that is too old like in the teen library (in ours, the books are divided into 'teen' for 11-14ish and 'teen plus' for older teens if there's more sex or drugs adult content)

DD always picks up rainbow fairies and similar from the school library, and is always very excited about them, but she's never actually enjoyed any enough to finish one. Whereas stuff like Dahl and Blyton have her totally hooked.

curlew Tue 11-Feb-14 09:34:47

"It surprises me on here that parents think they will ban their child from reading a book and the child will say 'yes mummy' and obey"
Has anyone actually said that?

Crowler Tue 11-Feb-14 09:40:11

I had no idea Enid Blyton was controversial.

For those who do object to her books, why?

Crowler Tue 11-Feb-14 09:41:09

What is the problem with mending a lacrosse stick? That one has me really confused.

Pigeonhouse Tue 11-Feb-14 09:50:34

DH and I are wordperfect in large chunks of EB from our own childhoods (he had older sisters, and a rather dubious crush on Darrell Rivers from Malory Towers at a tender age!) and still have lots of old editions lying around the house.

I'm not sure large numbers of today's children are likely to enjoy EB - while I read them with nostalgia and enjoyment (and utter horror at the racist, classist, sexist, xenophobic stereotyping, though I will acknowledge that that was always clear to me as a child, too), it's her inability to write character that strikes me now. Her plots require her to keep putting sets of four children plus pet/pets into adventurous situations, but Julian, Anne, Dick and George (Famous Five) are pretty much indistinguishable from Philip, Lucy-Ann, Dinah and Jack (the 'Adventure' books), or Andy, Tom and the twins (can't remember the titles -the ones where they get marooned on an island in a storm and catch Nazi submarines), or Jack, Mike, Peggy and Nora (the 'Secret' books). The Secret Seven are completely indistinguishable from one another, apart from the naughty cousin Susie, and Jo, Bessie and Fanny in the Faraway Tree books ditto. The O'Sullivan twins are the same girl, as far as I can see.

I can barely remember who the other Find-Outers were apart from Fatty, dopey little Bets, and the comic relief working-class sidekick Ern!

(Though on the 'Fatty' issue, perhaps interesting to have the group effortlessly dominated by the fat child, who is clever, quick-thinking and a natural leader...? I mean, it sort of mitigates a cruel nickname...?)

Pigeonhouse Tue 11-Feb-14 09:53:27

Crowler, I believe she was objected to during her lifetime by parents/teachers/librarians who felt primarily that her books were trite, anaemic, badly-written and formulaic.

Now she's objected to for her (undeniable) sexism, racism, classism and xenophobia as well as all the other stuff.

SomethingkindaOod Tue 11-Feb-14 09:55:40

I grew up on Enid Blyton, Chalet School, Malory Towers and 1920's schoolgirl stories and loved them! My DD has the St Claire's box set and apart from the 3 new stories they don't seem to have changed. She's half way through the second book and is totally hooked. I don't predict she's going to change from a 21st century girl into a prissy sexist, racist fool anytime soon.equally DS for some reason is ploughing through a book by Winston Churchill. I'm pretty certain he isn't going to turn into landed gentry or first lord of the Admiralty!
They're pretty outdated and some of the attitudes make me go shock but they're just stories.
I'll carry on letting them read what they want as long as it's age appropriate. I do wish the publishers wouldn't mess around with old stories though.

Crowler Tue 11-Feb-14 09:57:23

I wasn't raised on EB but I have read a few to my 8 year old in the past year. I just read The Fantastic Four - I would struggle to find something offensive in there. Trite, maybe - but my son is 8, he enjoys trite I suspect!

I also have read a couple of the Magical Faraway Tree and again.... I'm struggling to find anything offensive.

PirateJelly Tue 11-Feb-14 10:10:38

Loving this thread it has really taken me back.

Does anyone remember the Naughtiest girl series with Elizabeth? I loved those books so much, might have to see if I can find a copy grin

Oneglassandpuzzled Tue 11-Feb-14 10:12:28

I love the left's immediate desire to 'pulp' anything they don't approve of.

In our family we discuss books. If there's something racist in an EB book we talk about why that might have been, and the historical and sociological reasons for it.

I tend to think that's a better approach than banning books. Or anachronisitic criticism.

brooncoo Tue 11-Feb-14 10:13:03

Pigeonhouse - I'm reading the first "Find Outer' book now with my 8 yr old. Read them all as a child and seemed to remember Fatty being the natural leader but at the moment he is the outsider which made me wonder if my memory was playing tricks on me.

The other boys are actually being quite mean to poor Fatty.

My kids aren't keen on EB, no matter how often I tried to
Suggest it.

frugalfuzzpig Tue 11-Feb-14 10:13:41

Yes good point on Fatty. He's a great character!

I remember once being on holiday with my family, and I'd been out with mum and dad while my grandparents stayed in the hotel. When we got back I saw my nandad (aka grandad grin) was reading my Five Find-Outers omnibus. My first thought was NOOOOO he's going to see that the character is called Fatty and that's so RUDE! I was mortified blush grin

I think with EB it's the stories that are enjoyed regardless of the somewhat two dimensional characters. For me, the stories of secret passages and treasure hunting just gave me the best escapism and it was the idea of caves and tunnels and hidden doors is what fired my imagination, where for some it might be wizards and fantasy stories, or animals, or superheroes. Heck, even now if I won the lottery I'd be finding (or commissioning!) a huge castle house with secret passages built into it!

DD seems fairly similar so far - she's enjoyed animal stories like Jill Tomlinson and will often play fairies/goblins, but what has really sparked her interest lately is shipwrecks. They did a project on it last term and she is fascinated, so she was extra excited to start reading Five on a Treasure Island. We are going to the Cutty Sark in half term which she is really excited about and I'm hoping to find a decent lighthouse to visit too. She's got homework (their new topic is superheroes) to research a real life hero, and she leapt on the chance to choose Grace Darling who I'd never heard of til DH mentioned her smile

She enjoyed the swallows and amazons film (too young to follow the books though I think), and national treasure 1/2, and DH is looking forward to showing her The Goonies!

Sorry am waffling now but I think the stories are still great if you find things like that exciting - and just like any other subject, some do and some don't.

TamerB Tue 11-Feb-14 10:21:43

Not in this thread, curlew, but it is pretty common especially when discussing Jacqueline Wilson or Horrid Henry, as if the child will just not read them because mother banned them. My mother banning a book would have been a sure cert for me reading it- but she would never have known!

TamerB Tue 11-Feb-14 10:24:05

I hate the idea that anyone should just 'pulp' books because they don't approve and become a 'book Tzar'. We can all make up our own minds, children included.

ProfessorSkullyMental Tue 11-Feb-14 10:27:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

newestbridearound Tue 11-Feb-14 10:30:02

My favourite books of all time. In fact this thread has made me want to read them again smile.

Pigeonhouse Tue 11-Feb-14 10:30:36

I can't remember the Fantastic Four, Crowler, and I always hated the Faraway Tree books, so I can't remember too much about them. But you certainly don't have to struggle to find fairly objectionable attitudes in most of her books.

Black people/golliwogs are stupid, credulous and/or criminal. Girls are either timid, domestic and continually set to making meals and bedmaking in caves while the boys get on with the exploring and decision-making, or - like George and Jo in the Famous Five - are presented as pathologically hating their own sex and trying continually to 'be as a good as a boy'. 'Normal' people are white, English and middle-class - any others are either comic relief (like Ern and Goon in the Five Find-Outers, the French teachers in the school stories), rent-a-villains, dishonourable/frivolous and needing to be taught proper behaviour by English people (gypsy-Spanish-circus-girl Carlotta , dishonest French Claudine who cheats, lies and steals, in St Clare's, the filmstar wannabe American Zerelda in Malory Towers) etc etc.

I don't think it's really an issue for children who read widely, but EB wrote so much (800 books or something along those lines?) that it would be worrying to think of an impressionable child living entirely inside a fictional world where those attitudes were all s/he was absorbing...

Elsiequadrille Tue 11-Feb-14 10:36:19

Fatty (aka Frederick Algernon Trottville) was a great character. I remember trying out his invisible ink using lemon juice blush

Pigeonhouse Tue 11-Feb-14 10:37:00

Brooncoo, my vague memory is that Fatty starts off being considered a show-off and ridiculous in the first Find-Outers book, but by the second one or so, he's very much in charge - everyone meets in his shed, he's always the one initiating or paying for things, putting on disguises, solving mysteries, and generally becomes the Alpha Male of the group and Pip and Larry have gone back to being the characterless drones they clearly are!

What's really interesting me about this thread is how many people are really, really fond of the Faraway Tree books, which I always thought were awful, even when I was about eight. I liked some of the lands that came to the top of the tree, and that one plot about some bad types taking over the tree so the good guys have to climb up and attack from inside the Slippery-Slip, but I hated all that comic jiggery-pokery about the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot and the Angry Pixie.

Bowlersarm Tue 11-Feb-14 10:37:03

They were written in a different age, and reflect that, that's all.

Quite interesting re reading them. I used to be insensed and full of rage at the way George was treated by the others. Now I find her incredibly infuriating-very annoying and sulky.

I collect children's books first editions. I love the Famous Five ones the best-the jackets just thrill me when I look at them. So sad, I know.

clam Tue 11-Feb-14 10:39:16

ledaire I saw a version of "Mr Pinkwhistle Interferes" with the illustration on the front cover having him sitting on a little boy's bed!

laregina Tue 11-Feb-14 10:42:09

YANBU - I love the Magic Faraway Tree books actually blush. I read them to my DC and part of the fun was giggling about the names grin

laregina Tue 11-Feb-14 10:43:43

Pidgeonhouse I agree about the Saucepan Man actually - he was a pain the arse grin.

I didn't like the Famous Five much but I loved the Secret Seven - they seemed way more dodgy smile

JakeBullet Tue 11-Feb-14 10:44:48

I seem to recall the Enid Blyton forums and people writing uo what became of Fatty, Larry, Daisy and Pip. Larry's was the funniest...something to do with being a bank manager. embezzlement and a dodgy time in the showers at Wormwood Scrubs contributing to his dodgy gait now he is out on parole.

SomethingkindaOod Tue 11-Feb-14 10:47:11
JakeBullet Tue 11-Feb-14 10:47:45

Was the Left responsible for pulping books they did not approve of then? confused

Someone posted that further back.

I'm currently reading the Faraway Tree series to my 4 year old. She loves them.

What does it matter if a character is called Frannie or Fanny? My 4 year old does not know what she used to be called, all she knows is that the character is called Frannie. It really does not matter to her in the least, this is only an issue for the parents, and a really unimportant one at that.

She likes the stories because they are just thrilling enough for her age group without being too frightening, because they appeal to her sense of fantasy, and because the characters are easy to understand and like.

They are simple stories, happily I have not encountered any racism, classism etc yet, if those things were in the orginal I am glad they have been removed. It's entirely appropriate for an older child to be made aware of those sort of historical issues, but the faraway tree books are for very small children and I want to read her a story, not give her a social history lesson.

LaTrucha Tue 11-Feb-14 10:51:25

We have just read the Enchanted Wood. I had no idea the names had changed as I didn't read them as a child. I suppose my parents didn't like them.

I don't know about her other books, but I found the sexism fairly anodyne compared to what they are bombarded with on TV and at school at the moment.

My DCs are 6 and 3 and they have loved the book to the point of tears when it finished. I thought Blyton did a great job at having cliffhanger chapters and I am grateful that the book seems to have eased the transition between picture books and chapter books for them.

I am partially deaf, and pretty sensitive to insensitive comments about deafness made in every day life, which I think are numerous and commonplace. It hadn't ocurred to me to be offended by the jokes made about the Saucepanman's deafness until I read this thread. My kids find him hilarious. I think I don't find it offensive because the jokes are like a lot of ones for little children based on confusion of words. For this reason, I don't think I do mind him.

To be honest, I am quite glad they have changed the names. DD has adopted Frannie as her imaginary friend and I would not have liked her to be teased by older children for saying 'Fanny' at school without her knowing what it now means at all.

frugalfuzzpig Tue 11-Feb-14 10:58:45

They were written in a different age, and reflect that, that's all.

I agree with that. Just like, as I mentioned earlier, the original Peter Pan. And I dare say a load of other children's classics that we haven't got to yet.

I have to say, I went through years of reading pretty much nothing but Blyton (I was a very early reader, but with comprehension issues that weren't picked up on - so I'd be pushed to read much harder books, and didn't really understand them despite being able to read the words - so I'd escape back to my comfort books) and I am fairly convinced that I'm not racist, sexist, xenophobic... grin

It's just like most things that can have outside influences on our children - TV, toys etc - as long as overall they get a healthy rounded view of life and we as parents are careful to provide a good example, are a few old fashioned stories really going to have much impact?

thecatfromjapan Tue 11-Feb-14 11:11:33

Dd has downloaded an audio version of one of Enid Blyton's books. It's the one where they stay with a rich, black family, whose son is at school with one of the brothers.

It's racist.

I'd be embarrassed to let dd play it on a bus, out loud. Which is telling.

More than that, I think it would cause pain, and then anger, actually, to people listening to it. Which gives me pause for thought.

I genuinely think it's a problem without a simple solution.

Enid Blyton is a wonderful children's author. She wrote amazing adventure stories for children. She didn't write the sort of stories that adults think children should read ("stretching" them intellectually, or morally and educationally improving). I loved the "Adventure" series. I know so many people who went into literary careers and name that series as a first love!!!

But there is no getting away from the political content of some of her books.

I think the issue may lie in the fact that this content is - not yet - purely a historical artefact. Racism, and racial discrimination (especially structural discrimination) continues. There are people alive right now whose lives are made worse - actually worse - by racism. And that is why the racism (for example) of Blyton's books cannot be "safely" corralled into the display cabinet of "historical attitudes".

Likewise, I think if you are on the receiving end of sexist discrimination, and class/socio-economic discrimination, it is less easy to read this stuff.

It's not easy.

Simply dismissing people who say these things as "po-faced" adn "joyless lefties" is, I think, a little weak of brain. Using your intelligence to explore these questions almost certainly won't cause your head to melt, or give you wrinkles. You can do it safely, and even build up to it with small patches (starting with a couple of minutes, maybe) at convenient moments of the day. Maybe when you're in the bath, or on the loo, or something.

thecatfromjapan Tue 11-Feb-14 11:23:33

Having said all that, I think I'd like to add that one of the things about Blyton's sexism is that it is not simple. I would say that she presents a complicated view of this particular issue in her books. I'm quite sure that one of the reasons she remains so popular with children is that she is so much on "their" side - and I think she holds open an active, powerful subject-role for children of both genders.

HEr idea of femininity/correct behaviour for females is surprisingly wide - I'm sure that's why she endures in popularity with girls. The borders of acceptable female behaviour/identity are patrolled in quite an annoying way, but also undermined with great regularity.

I remember attending a feminist conference, where a lesbian comic did a long spiel about George and Alicia and all the girl-friendships and power jostling at the schools.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Enid Blyton. And I'm less keen of Philip Pullman. I think she's actually less didactic as a writer, and permits her readers more imaginative freedom, and more freedom to position themselves against her overt point of view/to take issue with her.

But the racism still makes me cringe. And a lot of the class stuff. I don;t apporve of much censorship. I like the idea of explanatory prefaces. But I don;t think I do object to a little snipping of the racism, and class nastiness - maybe it can be re-inserted when racism really is a thing of the long distant past.

persimmon Tue 11-Feb-14 11:28:56

I disagree Psammead, I think it is important that things are being softened and 'cleaned up' and changed from the originals. Makes me angry, actually. I adored Blyton books as a child and amazingly am neither sexist nor racist as an adult. It's patronising, misguided claptrap.

persimmon Tue 11-Feb-14 11:29:55

..and I would like to be credited with sufficient intelligence by publishers to make my own decisions about whether reading material is 'suitable'.

brooncoo Tue 11-Feb-14 11:40:51

I don't want a book changed or censored as some of the ideas or characters are now out of date or considered more unacceptable these days.

Either Blytons books will disappear or they will be an interesting reference to the past.

Catfromjapan - think you are being a bit patronising if you think others can't see the issues for themselves. Might go and have a bubble bath to see if I can expand and tax my little brain.

Bowlersarm Tue 11-Feb-14 11:45:33

I think you are looking into it too deeply, thecat. They are old children's books. I make no apology for still enjoying them, for what they are.

Ledaire Tue 11-Feb-14 11:45:37

clam shock grin

Absolutely innocent use of "interferes". My Dad used to obliquely warn me as a child about stranger danger by using that word. I didn't twig what interfering might have consisted of until I was much older and had indeed experienced it hmm

thecatfromjapan Tue 11-Feb-14 11:46:36

It's not patronising: it's prompted by furious rage. I hate it when people put something in a word-box in order to permit themselves to stop thinking about it.

Bowlersarm Tue 11-Feb-14 11:50:01

Well, don't read them then thecat.

DeWe Tue 11-Feb-14 11:53:30

I find Enid Blyton quite fascinating. Because although people accuse her of sexism-when she wrote them she was actually the other way.
To have George doing what the boys did-and better that them was really not done at the time, probably caused a few raised eyebrows. Not having the girls staying at home keeping out of danger was probably considered by some people that the boys had failed to keep them safe.

And I loved Anne when I read it, the descriptions of her "housekeeping" the cave in Five Run Away Together had me so jealous. I wanted a cave to do that to! Anne is actually written as a very brave character. She doesn't enjoy the adventures like the others, but she's not going to be left out and does her bit too.
I would definitely have been Anne. Dick to me has the least character.
But interestingly, if you read Russell Davis (?) account of filming the FF in the 70s, he wanted to be Dick from the start.

Her characters have similarities-as do, I think pretty much all authors who write a lot. Noel Streatfield, for example, tended to have a small rather pretty, slightly spoilt one, often good at dance (Louise, Lydia, Posy, Holly ...), a not-considered-pretty rather awkward one (Vicky, Gemma, Petrova, Jane,the boy in curtain up...), and a responsible (but talented) older one (Isabelle, Anne, Pauline, Sorrel...).

But I don't think all her groups are clones.
Famous Five: Leader (Julian), Tomboy (George) Second (Dick), Younger sister content in who she is(Anne)
Five find outers: Leader, show off and arogant (Fatty) Second (Larry), Pip (irritating big brother) Daisy (responsible, slightly mothering) Bets (youngest, trying to keep up with the older ones)
Adventure series: Neither Philip or Jack totally take the lead. Philip is the animal lover somewhat impetuous and inclined to a temper, and Jack is calmer, and a bird lover. Dinah, not a tomboy, but determined not to be left out. Lucy Anne, nervous, happy to follow Jack anywhere, even into danger, but not wanting adventures for the sake of it.
Adventurous 4: Andy is the leader, having left school to be a fisherman like his dad. Tom, not too disimilar to Dick as in second in command, but never jostling for leadership, tends to carelessness. Mary and Jill are identical twins, but Jill is definitely the leader and more inclined to have ideas etc.

I think if EB had written a story with a mix of these characters in, but not saying which they were, then you'd probably have been able to pick out which one they were. You can see similarities, but there not identical. And the form in which they're written means that similarities are inevitable. Just thinking about it Julian and Dick are in a lot of ways younger versions of the Hardy Boys with Julian as Frank and Dick as Jo.

Speaking of the faraway tree books in particular, I think it's absolutely fine that they are cleaned up.

I read the first one in the series to my child when she was three. She's just turned four and we're on the second book.

I see absolutely no reason or need for a child that young to be made aware that racism etc is something that even exists. I don't think it's a concept that would ever occur to a child of that age and I'd rather shield her from it until she encounters it herself which I know she will at some point.

When she does, old fashioned books are a good jumping off point in discussing that sort of issue, in looking at history in a way a child can relate to. Until then I am happy for the basic idea that someone is less worthy due to their sex, race, job etc to not even enter her head via a story she adores.

Not being a racist is not something one should feel proud of, any more than one feels proud of breathing air, or having a nose. It is a state of normality. Preserving that state for a child as young as 3 or 4 is neither mishuided nor claptrap, it is just normal. There is plenty of time in life to learn about how horrifying humans can be towards each other. A few years of innocence is not, I think, patronising.

thecatfromjapan Tue 11-Feb-14 12:01:52


I think the presence of politically uncomfortable content in books (and other bits of culture) is an interesting question. And interesting topic for discussion.

It doesn't stop with just Enid Blyton, you know. It's a major issue in higher education, and is a fairly hot topic in the arena of Literature (the capitalisation of L is intentional) in American universities. People are writing dissertations and articles about it.

While I don't expect everyone on mn to be a cornell West or Toni Morrison, or even a Susan Sontag or Raymond Williams in terms of insight and intellectual fleibility, a shambling and grunted: "Well, just don't read it then" is ... particularly disappointing.

I imagine a circle of prehistoric beings, gathered around a fish. One of them grunts something like: "This is a bit crap. Do you think we could do something with it? Add a few herbs maybe? stick it on the fire, or something? Anything, really, because it really sucks eating it just like this."

A chorus of: "Well don't eat it then," ensues (in prehistoric grunts, or whatever). Thank goodness that some of those grunters decided to just go ahead and do some kicking ideas-beyond-the-immediately-to-hand around.

Wouldn't life be tedious otherwise? Now, thankfully, we live in a world where chocolate bars contain exploding space dust. Whoever would have guessed we'd be here if they'd been eavesdropping on that bunch.

And, of course, there is is still room in this world for raw fish.

thecatfromjapan Tue 11-Feb-14 12:07:55

I agree, DeWe. The other think I like about Enid Blyton is that she didn't fall into the trap of devaluing skills such as keeping an environment clean, and being good with people. And she was right not to. And the fact that there is both George and Anne stops the books from sliding into just one possibility or another.

Uncle Quentin's a total Red Flag. A lot of the parents are crap. Some are properly negligent. I think that's fascinating.

But, anyway, I think I've been a bad-tempered fink in an earlier post, so I'm going to just lurk now. I don;t like it when I'm mean.

curlew Tue 11-Feb-14 12:11:32

"I find Enid Blyton quite fascinating. Because although people accuse her of sexism-when she wrote them she was actually the other way.
To have George doing what the boys did-and better that them was really not done at the time, probably caused a few raised eyebrows. Not having the girls staying at home keeping out of danger was probably considered by some people that the boys had failed to keep them safe."

grin at the characterization of George as a proto feminist.There is no suggestion that George is anything but a complete oddball for wanting to do "boy's stuff". The boys occasionally are forced into grudging admiration,nut it doesn't last, and is very quickly replaced by the usual mocking contempt.

Oh, and somebody said that if they weren't popular, they would have quitetly disappeared. The reason they don't disappear is that nostalgic adults buy them. I would put money on there being loads or unread sets on our children's bookshelves!

Bowlersarm Tue 11-Feb-14 12:13:12

<sigh> right back at you, the cat

And you think you're not being patronising?

Do you know the meaning of the word? Perhaps you need to go to another thread to find the insightful and intellectually flexible MNers you are trying to find.

Fucking rude.

madhairday Tue 11-Feb-14 12:20:09

My DD has loved Enid Blyton (wish she still consumed Malory Towers now like she did at 8-11, now it's all bloody Twilight clones and other related crap at 13) and we've always discussed together what we think about certain things in the books. She thinks they are dreadfully sexist, and loves to say how Anne is such a wuss, but recognises that they were of the time, and often how people thought way back when. It's been educational for her to find out about changing attitudes and how feminism and enlightenment changed thinking. She could still enjoy the books as stories - they are great stories, after all, if a tad formulaic.

DS is not interested really (he's 10) - it's still all Harry Potter and Wimpy Kid and minecraft manuals for him, and that's fine. I occasionally suggest he might like to try a Famous Five story for a bit of a change, and he looks at me like hmm OK.

As for changing names - I told my dc what the original names were when we read the Faraway Tree, they were still quite little so didn't really blink but now they snigger about it, but again I think it's part of it, part of children learning about times in history. YANBU.

Agree with the OP that it's rediculous to change the names. My ds is currently reading his way through the 'of adventure' series and absolutely loves them. The sexism and non PC aspect is no more real to him than the fantasy lands in the Beast Quest books he read before these. I think they provide a great snapshot of a time where views on many things were very different to how they are now.

Bowlersarm Tue 11-Feb-14 12:31:49

I would put money on there being loads or unread sets on our children's bookshelves

Curlew, I think you are probably right about that with the books aimed at older children, such as The Secret Seven, Famous Five, the Adventure books-they are clearly dated and of a particular time that modern children would probably be unable to relate to. But maybe it would be less true of the books aimed at younger children like Noddy, The Faraway Tree, and the Wishing Chair as they are based on make believe and not reality?

I don't know-my DSes weren't interested in reading Enid Blyton - although actually not interested in reading full stop, much to my dismay.

Pigeonhouse Tue 11-Feb-14 12:32:47

I tend towards the 'put in a well-written preface and leave well alone' school of thought, but I think we should also think about it from the point of view of non-white children today encountering crude racial stereotypes in the work of a big-name children's author. Some posters seem to be falling into Blyton's own trap, assuming that all her readers are white.

(While we're on EB's racial politics, am I right in remembering that in The Secret Mountain there is an African tribe who dye their skin white and their hair red while sacrificing passing strangers to the sun god?)

Thanks to whoever remembered the 'Adventurous Four' title. What I remember about that one is not that they eventually escape and heroically nab the Nazis, but the way that EB managed, even with her characters marooned on a remote, uninhabited island, to shoehorn in a lot of piggish feasting on tinned sausages and peaches!

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 11-Feb-14 12:36:06

I'm sure George ultimately admits that she's just a poor pretence at a boy, and needs to accept her girlishness, in the end.

tobiasfunke Tue 11-Feb-14 12:41:50

I loved Enid Blyton. I read the books again and again. I don't remember them being racist or sexist but that's not to say they weren't. I enjoyed them for the stories.
However if they are racist then they should be cleaned up or not reprinted. It's not acceptable to let your kids knowingly read racist literature just because it was written in the olden days.
The stories will still be the same without the bile.

It might have been socially acceptable to be a raging racist middleclass English snob back in the day but it doesn't mean it was right.

frugalfuzzpig Tue 11-Feb-14 12:53:29

It's the one where they stay with a rich, black family, whose son is at school with one of the brothers.

What book was that, it doesn't ring a bell.

frugalfuzzpig Tue 11-Feb-14 12:55:16

FWIW lots of my friends who have older DCs have said their DCs loved EB books. I work in a library and they are still popular.

brooncoo Tue 11-Feb-14 13:08:34

My older son wouldn't touch them. He's much more into Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl and The Hunger Games. After reading an EB Find Outer book with the youngest recently - I don't blame him.

frugalfuzzpig Tue 11-Feb-14 13:12:18

Artemis Fowl is amazing! DH and I discovered them as adults when his eldest recommended them. Will definitely be waving them under DCs' noses when they're old enough grin

frugalfuzzpig Tue 11-Feb-14 13:23:51

Someone mentioned Dick from the 70s TV show - his name was Gary Russell. He has a tshirt named after him here - made me grin

Oneglassandpuzzled Tue 11-Feb-14 13:46:29

*Maybe when you're in the bath, or on the loo, or something.
. . .
Having said all that, I think I'd like to add that one of the things about Blyton's sexism is that it is not simple*

So having been so condescending you had to admit that it was more complicated than you originally thought?

TamerB Tue 11-Feb-14 14:41:55

Oh, and somebody said that if they weren't popular, they would have quitetly disappeared. The reason they don't disappear is that nostalgic adults buy them. I would put money on there being loads or unread sets on our children's bookshelves!

I don't think that is true at all. My mother got me books that she was nostalgic about, I remember one was 'Anne of Green Gables' which I never managed to finish, I hated it.
I have presented mine with Enid Blyton and they simply never liked it.

They are still with us because many children like them. I am all for children having a library ticket and a free choice. I found my best books that way and still do.

Children learn through their own experiences, they don't appreciate good literature if they never get any bad literature.
Some parents seem terrified of letting their children have a free rein. If it is in the children's library I would deem it suitable to choose.

I don't think that we should cut them off from attitudes of the past, it is important to put things in historical context and learn from it-or at least understand.

squoosh Tue 11-Feb-14 15:37:08

I was a voracious reader of Enid Blyton's books, they were my biblio crack. This was the 1980s so they were just as dated to me then as they would be to a child today. I never read any of her books for younger children as I couldn't bear talking animals or magic or any of that nonsense but absolutely devoured Famous Five/Adventure series/boarding school tales. I don’t remember examples of racism in these books although snobbery and sexism abounded. I remember rolling my eyes at Anne the docile little lamb and Julian the hectoring know it all and having conversations with my mother about this.

I flicked through one of her books recently and unlike some other children’s books they really don't stand up to revisiting as an adult. The writing is repetitive, predictable, simplistic and plodding. Nothing like I remember them. So I conclude that the real magic of reading EB as a nipper is that she sparks the imagination, gives you some badly drawn characters and a plot by numbers and whooooooosh, your own imagination takes over and turns it into some kind of magic.

I think if a child is showing an interest in reading they should be left to read whatever they want. Little I hated more than being pointed in the direction of books that adults thought I should be reading.

TamerB Tue 11-Feb-14 15:55:08

I think if a child is showing an interest in reading they should be left to read whatever they want. Little I hated more than being pointed in the direction of books that adults thought I should be reading.

My feelings.
I don't think EB stands rereading as an adult-they are dire through an adult eyes and you can't get back to how you saw them as a child.
Where as some books are better as an adult-I think Winnie the Pooh was wasted on me as a child.

TamerB Tue 11-Feb-14 16:01:43

I think that everyone who was a prolific reader as a child has real pleasure in that although people might recommend a book they made lots of discoveries for themselves. It is why it is not a good idea to put an age on a children's book. It depends entirely on the child reading it. Some will want to stay with much younger books whereas some 10 year olds will be devouring Dickens. As a child, as an adult, you read for different purposes. I read EB to unwind, they were easy, exciting, didn't need any effort, took you into a different world and could be finished in an few hours. I definitely have my comfort books as an adult but I also like a challenge.
We all like variety.

Wantapony Tue 11-Feb-14 16:04:56

Reading all these comments with interest, as my DS (8) still likes me to read to him at night. We have finished The Faraway Tree and are now on Famous Five. He adores them and says it sparks his imagination, especially if he listens while I read, rather than him reading to himself. I grew up on Enid Blyton and adored everything - St Clare's, Mallory Towers, Enchanted Wood, Famous Five etc. Re-reading as an adult, yes they are dated and somehow not as good as I remember, but for some children, they clearly still have some magic. I will confess to preferring the Rick/Frannie notion, as DS sniggers every time I have to mention Dick in FF! Times have moved on and the fantasy aspect is still great, but I can see how society would view certain aspects of the books to be unacceptable by modern standards. I don't think it does any harm and DS understands how things have changed.

drudgewithagrudge Tue 11-Feb-14 16:29:37

I was a child in the 50's when a lot of Enid Blyton books were written and although I devoured most books, I hated her's. Too middle class for us village children. They were definately toffs kids, the sort of families our mothers cleaned for and our fathers worked for.

TamerB Tue 11-Feb-14 16:34:38

But you made your own mind up, drudge, which is the important thing-your mother didn't make up her mind for you!
You notice a lot more as an adult. One Famous Five has them being dreadful to the cleaner's son. It is appalling. They are 4 confident children who go away to school and know each other well. He is younger, very shy and likes to stay in with jigsaw puzzles and books and they bully him terribly over it!

frugalfuzzpig Tue 11-Feb-14 16:39:18

I have to say, I really am finding the FF as magical as I did back then. But that may be because I am seeing them through DD's eyes! Seeing her gasp with excitement at the same bits I loved is absolutely amazing and something I genuinely looked forward to before DD was even born.

I have a lot of love for nostalgia - maybe beyond a normal amount because my childhood was mostly shit and so books/videos were a huge comfort and secure attachment. But I just absolutely love sharing the things I enjoyed with her now. I'd never pressure her into it - there have been some cartoons for example that have left her underwhelmed. But at the moment she likes me bringing home books for her (a range of 'classics' and modern stuff like Claude, Winnie the witch etc) and asking me about how old I was when I read it and things like that. So I'm making the most of it - some of my colleagues have DCs who refuse on principle anything that they say they like grin

CalamitouslyWrong Tue 11-Feb-14 16:50:46

I loathe Enid Blyton books. A family member gave us a collection of noddy books and they're just unreadable. Badly written, poorly plotted, full of stuff I'm not willing to read to DS2 (we hid the book where the gypsies steal noddy's car, for example, after careful editing as we read), all the characters are awful, the stuff that happens is so often unfair (despite Blyton claiming it is fair). I cannot express how much I dislike them.

We went to the Enid Blyton exhibition in the seven stories in newcastle (only because it was on and we were there for how to train your dragon). Ds2 was not at all interested and refused to even consider us reading the magic faraway tree to him.

Pigeonhouse Tue 11-Feb-14 16:53:34

Frugal, I looked up the actors from the TV series once in a fit of 70s nostalgia. The girl who played Anne is now a teacher, Gary Russell is a script editor on Doctor Who, and the girl who played George was rumoured to have had a difficult life, and is apparently dead now. I think the Julian actor did something suitably bossy. I don't think any of them went on acting.

frugalfuzzpig Tue 11-Feb-14 17:02:59

Ah I knew about Gary working with dr who, didn't know about the rest though.

Not surprised they didn't follow acting as a career, TBF their acting was not great. I much preferred the 90s series.

Sad about George though sad

brooncoo Tue 11-Feb-14 18:25:45

Definitely doesn't carry through for me as an adult. Really predictable and repetitive.

I came from a small terraced council house in an wc mining village. Think I loved the fact that it was a totally
alien and different world.

I used to beg my poor parents to send me to boarding school.

WitchWay Tue 11-Feb-14 18:45:20

The Magic Faraway Tree was the only book of hers I had as a small child. Even at the discerning age of about 6 I thought it was crap.

printmeanicephoto Tue 11-Feb-14 18:58:59

It is madness that the names have been changed!! What a stupid thing to do. The names are the names - end of. What gives them the right to mess with her books in that way!!

I have just bought the original Faraway Tree trilogy from ebay with the original names in protest. As a previous poster has said - it is utterly wrong to airbrush history!!

Changing names is a pile of pants and insulting to EB. PC shite at it's worst.

Bowlersarm Tue 11-Feb-14 19:01:15

I like your style printme

Rhythmisadancer Tue 11-Feb-14 21:55:38

Just been reading a v old copy of the Faraway Tree to my pair. A lot of stuff I find objectionable passes them by and some of the language needs a bit of explaining,blush but we mostly just just roll with it. However, tonight when the two girls had to stay home because there so much IRONING to do, I just started making stuff up! Not sure it was at all satisfactory as the result was Jo was up the tree on his own - mysteriously ....

Louise1956 Sun 23-Feb-14 23:53:34

I loved the Malory Towers and St Clair books when I was young, don't remember any racism or sexism in them. Her books were among those published by Armada and Knight - the publishers who produced all those series that were too downmarket for Puffin books - authors like Malcolm Saville and The Pullein Thompson sisters, and the delightful Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge. Books that were just for fun.

VictoriaOKeefe Wed 19-Mar-14 13:22:09

To those who are criticising the left/PC'er in this thread. Of course, the internet is a lot more left-wing then the real world. If you'd listened to the internet, Tony Abbott was never going to become PM of Australia whereas in the real world he won by a landslide.

SamandCat Wed 19-Mar-14 13:34:15

Dd has downloaded an audio version of one of Enid Blyton's books. It's the one where they stay with a rich, black family, whose son is at school with one of the brothers

Is that definitely EB? It doesn't sound like her I would doubt any of her central characters would socialise with black families .

VictoriaOKeefe Wed 19-Mar-14 13:43:01

They are thinking of Five Goes to Smugglers Top. Sooty Lenoir is French but not a black person. He has black hair though.

Burren Wed 19-Mar-14 13:49:50

Dear God, Victoria, I think it's completely inaccurate to say the internet is basically left-wing or politically correct! Maybe the bits you frequent are - the bits I frequent certainly are, as I am politically left-wing and think that using sensitive language as regards minority groups is a good thing - but the internet is also frothing with demented right-wingers, neo-Nazis, racists etc etc.

I agree with SamandCat about the rich black family- I don't think this is an Enid Blyton book. Her infrequent black characters are either superstitious, bad-tempered and evil (JoJo in The Island of Adventure), helpful adorers of her main characters (Mafumu in The Secret Mountain) or evil, self-loathing monsters (the African tribe who dye their hair red and their skin yellow and throw passing English children off mountains as offerings to the sun god - can't remember which book).

I don't think EB would have had a mental place for a wealthy black British family whose son was at school with her main characters.

bochead Wed 19-Mar-14 14:22:55

amblesideonline.org and gutenberg press are good sources of orginal texts, very handy for Kindle owners as most of it is free.

I've found that researching a historical period, and then reading a fiction written in that period really seems to bring history "alive" for DS. The social context of events is important for children to understand. We try and do the same with English translations of foreign authors when learning about other countries.

Their vocabulary is broadened far more if they have access to the original versions of books than the modern, pc edited stuff so their literacy skills improve. Thinking about how language has developed, and words and phrases have changed over time makes story time more interesting and actually promotes diversity in a funny sort of way.

I'm also honest enough to say I LOVE the incredulous look on DS's face at times at some old stereotypes "Mum - he did NOT just say that!", "That's just wrong to talk about someone like that isn't it mum?", "They are idiots, everyone knows girls can play football!" etc, etc.

It's good for kids to think about and articulate why some societal attitudes are wrong, consideration for others isn't a skill you can spoon feed, it needs to become an integral part of their character. A bit of righteous indignation as Anne is put to wash up yet again while the boys do "manly" stuff doesn't do any modern child any harm.

I have a cousin called Titti - and she's so fierce I DARE anyone to snigger at her name to her face!

Nennypops Wed 19-Mar-14 16:51:39

Changing the names of the characters in the books really doesn't bother me; it's not as if they're classics. I used to read some of the Adventure and Magic Faraway Tree books to the dc, and I used to self-censor as I went along as I couldn't bear to read out all that stuff about how it's the girls' job to do the housework whilst the boys get to do practical manly things. So if I censored them, I don't feel in any position to complaint if others do.

Dozer Wed 19-Mar-14 17:39:55

The books are just so dull! Thankfully DD not keen.

Sexist too!

VictoriaOKeefe Sun 13-Apr-14 00:59:41

What pisses me off is progressives who refuse to understand how common certain attitudes were in Blyton's day and point to an extremely tiny minority of modern-ish people from that time and say "well those people were like us, so the whole period should be treated as if it was the modern day". You get similar problems with people who refuse to understand that until the 1950s, virtually all Australians supported the White Australia Policy.

MoominMammasHandbag Sun 13-Apr-14 01:18:53

My favourite group was the Ring o Bells/Ratatat Mystery group. Barney the gypsy boy, with corn coloured hair and wide spaced blue eyes, was definitely my first crush. But I liked Snubby as well.

squoosh Sun 13-Apr-14 04:21:11

Oh I loved the 'R' mysteries, Barney and his pet monkey Miranda.

JerseySpud Sun 13-Apr-14 09:12:33

DD1 is 7 and at the moment isn't interested secret 7 or famous 5.

Mainly because shes too busy reading horsy books and Roald Dahl right now. But im going to get her the Mallory Towers books and the St Clares books.

so i can read them first

One author i do not want to get her books for is Jaqueline Wilson.

DisgraceToTheYChromosome Sun 13-Apr-14 09:42:20

Jacqueline Wilson is bloody good at explaining to kids that it's not their fault their parents are B minus, or in Tracey Beaker's case an F.

I read Enid Blyton once. I must have been about 7 and even then I thought it was bollocks. DM wouldn't have them in the house.

ForalltheSaints Sun 13-Apr-14 10:05:42

I did not have Enid Blyton books as a child, as my aunt (a teacher) made her feelings about EB's books to my mum. I'm glad.

JerseySpud Sun 13-Apr-14 10:41:24

She might be good at explaining stuff to older kids but i dont think my 7 year old needs to be reading about mothers who slit their wrists in the bath!

squoosh Sun 13-Apr-14 12:08:06

I'm thankful certain children's books and authors weren't banned from my house.

I collect old children's books, Enid Blyton among them. And yes, her stuff is pretty sexist / racist - the worst of my collection is probably The Six Bad Boys as I don't have the golliwog ones. The Six Bad Boys are four Irish brothers (who are therefore obvious bad 'uns), one boy whose nagging mother has driven his father away, and another whose mother sends him to the bad by (gasp!) taking a part time job outside the home.

Having said that, it's nowhere NEAR as bad as Billy Bunter, which features one boy who speaks in a comedy India dialect ("It is to tea time we should be going") and lots of evil black villains. One of the good guys is called Johnny Bull.

They're amazing as historical texts. I think the Blyton stories are possibly re-readable for children now, I don't think Bunter has survived so well, which is probably for the best.

squoosh Sun 13-Apr-14 13:05:23

God yes, The Six Bad Boys is an odd one isn't it? Enid Blyton Tackles Social Issues or demonstrates her disdain for the working classes more like.

I used to love Billy Bunter as a kid, but it basically just pokes fun at him for being fat, lazy and unheroic.

Jennings is still great though!

Snatchoo Sun 13-Apr-14 14:30:45

I loved the Faraway Tree and Adventurous Four books when I was a child. I also read the Naughtiest Girl books which I think were EB.

I don't remember racism or classism (but then I didn't read the books for younger children and didn't realise that Gollies were based on black people till I read it on MN blush) but I do remember being perplexed at why the girls couldn't do everything the boys did.

My children genuinely don't 'know' about racism, as in they wouldn't recognise it because who on earth would discriminate against someone because of their skin? Sexism however is still so prevalent however I'd be wary of exposing them to it in literature.

I hope I'm making sense here! I never connected for eg, a gypsy girl is bad therefore gypsies are bad when I was small, the girl was bad because she just was! Whereas there was never any question that the boys would do ironing etc or the girls would play cricket.

Snatchoo Sun 13-Apr-14 14:33:46

That is so poorly written, apologies! I know what I mean I just can't seem to write it.

I have a copy of the Faraway Tree I might re-read and see if I still like it. For me, I loved all the food and magic toys they got which I guess tells you a bit about me as a child blush

bakewelltartandcustard Sun 13-Apr-14 20:39:01

I don't understand all you intelligent literate people loving Enid Blyton. I tried her books and threw them away in disgust when I was about 9. They were just so badly written and unoriginal.

VictoriaOKeefe Sun 20-Apr-14 14:14:09

About the Adventurous Four: I think Mary and Jill will have to be updated to Sydney and Paisley given the latest generation of name fads for girls! And what's with making Andy a schoolboy just because kids can't leave school as early as they did in Enid's time? Maybe instead of fighting the Nazis, the twins and Andy could fight some Moslem terrorists trying to sneak things into the UK?

tulipsaredelicious Sun 20-Apr-14 14:21:08

I feel very sorry for poor cousin Connie in the Faraway Tree. She's obviously an unhappy little girl, whose mother is ill, and yet everyone is just beastly to her - including the narrator. I had to point that out to my dc while we were reading it.

MrsWombat Sun 20-Apr-14 16:01:12

Dd has downloaded an audio version of one of Enid Blyton's books. It's the one where they stay with a rich, black family, whose son is at school with one of the brothers.

This sounds like The Secret Mountain. The Secret Island from the same series is my favourite EB book.

MrsWombat Sun 20-Apr-14 16:02:28

Or it could be River of Adventure but the boy they stay with is from a small Central European country.

ithaka Sun 20-Apr-14 16:26:51

I loved the EB Adventure books as a child. Just to horrify thecat I then went onto to take a degree in Literature (with a capital L, of coursewink) at an ancient. Shouldn't be allowed, really, for EB readers to have a subtle & flexible mind & not grunt unintelligibly at a fish (world's most simplistic and patronising analogy award?)

My children had their EB phase as well. It is a bit like Barbie, they work through it in their own time.

Children are smarter than you give them credit for. Let them read, voraciously and widely, and judge for themselves.

Cliona1972 Sun 20-Apr-14 17:45:17

So we need to revise "Noddy felt a little queer too?!" I don't find any issue with EB books if one explains to the young reader that they were written in different times and how women/foreigners were treated ,whilst not to be applauded, was the thinking of the day and "we know better now!"

fuzzpig Sun 20-Apr-14 18:18:19

It's good for kids to think about and articulate why some societal attitudes are wrong, consideration for others isn't a skill you can spoon feed, it needs to become an integral part of their character. A bit of righteous indignation as Anne is put to wash up yet again while the boys do "manly" stuff doesn't do any modern child any harm.

Agree with this wholeheartedly, particularly with the sexism in FF - DD will encounter sexist attitudes in everyday life as she sees more of the world beyond our little home (where attitudes are presented as FACT, be it a male friend who insists he should never do housework or a music video/advert that portrays women as nothing but objects to be judged by appearance, etc) - reading fiction books that bring up these topics and naturally invite discussion has actually been a brilliant way of bringing up the issues and talking about them together.

It's helped her develop some 'mantras' (not that she would refer to them as such) like "girls can do anything boys can" and that sort of thing. She's become more critical and able to spot sexism (though again, she's not aware that's what it's called yet) in say a Disney movie or a situation at school, and will make suggestions as to how to resolve it.

VictoriaOKeefe Mon 05-May-14 01:09:59

Some of the changes are just bizarre, though. Take the changes to the Adventurous Four - what was so wrong with the names Jill and Mary? Also they changed it so Andy is now a schoolboy because the school leaving age is different now - but that doesn't fit with the WWII setting of the book!

tiredandsadmum Mon 05-May-14 01:32:43

the rewrite that has been annoying me the most as I read them to Ds is the change in the currency to £1 coins. Why? Kids cope with foreign money so why cant they accept that our currency has changed since the books were written!

Thruaglassdarkly Mon 05-May-14 01:58:07

My nine year old reads them and doesn't bat an eye. For her they are just names not sex organs. Not sure why this is a problem for people.

thecatfromjapan Mon 05-May-14 02:03:38

ithaka - I think I said that I enjoyed Enid B. and let my own children read her. In fact I said quite a few positive things, along with pointing out the (obvious) negatives.

I'm sure I also said that both myself and a friend loved the "Adventure" series and both of us went on to study English - he's a Prof of Lit now. You are not alone on that score.

Sorry to be so picky, but I sometimes get a bit fed up with the fact that you aren't allowed to demonstrate nuance or flexibility on mn. If you try it, other people are very happy to distort/simplify what you wrote.

I'm very capable of flexible thinking/entertaining and engaging with a number of viewpoints. As are a lot of other mn-ers.

I know it sounds astonishing but I still come onto mn in the hope of having a conversation, not just listening to people shout past each other. And not just to stick a (one-dimensional) opinion on the www - like a small piece of graffitti in the void of eternity. Not always. Sometimes I do just want to be a bit shouty.

But with this thread, I really was quite interested. She really is an odd mix of someone who writes stories that really engage children (and she really does continue to engage a lot of children) and some really awful content.

And, given a lot of us on this thread would both have been readers of Enid Blyton and have children reading Enid Blyton, i was curious about the strategies developed for reading her books. How people dealt with the content they found distasteful - and if they found it unpleasant, indeed.

I'm also interested in the people who absolutely couldn't bear to read it.

Certainly for me, none of these approaches/experiences are invalid or something to be mocked.

VictoriaOKeefe Mon 05-May-14 14:34:49

You'd think that if kids can cope with sickles and Quidditch they could wrap their heads around people in Ye Olden Days having different money.

puddock Mon 05-May-14 14:40:27

My eagle-eyed DS noticed that the modern edition of The Lighthouse-Keeper's Lunch that we have is different from the one at Nana's house; when the seagulls tease Hamish the cat, the line has been changed from "pretty pussy, like a piece of lobster mornay" to "pretty kitty".

Pandering to an Americanized audience!

Summerbreezing Mon 05-May-14 16:26:38

I was really irritated when I was reading a 'Five Findouters' book with my nephew and the shillings and sixpences had all been changed to decimal currency. It's ridiculous. Kids will ask if they don't understand something in a book, and then you can explain to them about 'old money', so they actually learn something about the past. Also, I presume kids reading books set in America get their heads around dollars and cents so why can''t they be allowed to read about old English money?

GatoradeMeBitch Mon 05-May-14 18:22:42

puddock Yet there are so many 'fanny' references in American shows that come over here - from SpongebobSquarepants (a real pain in the fanny) to Golden Girls (while the sun beats down on your fanny) blush

I wish they would use 'Frannie' instead of 'Fanny' in Jane Austen's novels too.

VictoriaOKeefe Mon 05-May-14 20:58:31

Jane Austen's novels are aimed at adults, that's probably why Fanny still rules the roost there.

tobysmum77 Mon 05-May-14 21:06:35

Bakewell 9 was probably too old. I loved eb books and will encourage my children to read them (while having discussions about the outdated attitudes) but I was more like 7-8.

MiaowTheCat Mon 05-May-14 21:38:31

If there's anything derivative, craply written and formulaic - it's bloody Harry Rip Off Everything In Sight Potter... not as fashionable to sneer on that, despite small issues like the blatant child abuse in the first book (keeping Harry in the cupboard under the stairs).

Blyton's books are a product of the era she was working in - unlike lots of stuff from that era that seems to fly under the radar - it seems fashionable to be morally outraged over her in particular and to get the pitchforks and burning torches at the ready for her. You don't like the writing style - fine... move on to something else... you have issues with the content - like people mentioned, there's a space for prefaces, there's a space for discussion, there's a space for handling it the same way you'd handle anything written in a different era. But with Blyton the two just seem to get merged in a "oh I didn't like her books they're crap.... so I'm going to demand they're banned on the racist AND CRAP grounds." If crap was grounds for banning books can I nominate the Twilight shit please?

And for what it's worth - as a not appearance obsessed tween in the 80s,taking shit from bullies for not having the right shoes, or wanting to spend my days sticking posters from Smash Hits up on my bedroom walls... her books were a haven for me in having some female characters that were out there climbing up trees and doing non stereo typically "girlie" stuff. If my girls want to read them I'd have no objections within the context of a discussion about how they've dated and society has changed... I will never approve of censoring reading.

Summerbreezing Mon 05-May-14 21:41:12

I agree. Blyton has her faults but a lot of far worse stuff being written and promoted nowadays. I think, as part of a wider reading list, they are quite good for kids and give them an idea of what life in England was like in their grandparents' day.

ChampionofWitterers Mon 05-May-14 21:54:51

She's obviously an unhappy little girl, whose mother is ill, and yet everyone is just beastly to her - including the narrator. I had to point that out to my dc while we were reading it.

Therein lies why parents shouldn't be breathing over their children's shoulders with their books and should be letting them read and explore CHILDREN'S books by themselves. Adults should keep their over-analysing brains to themselves when it comes to kids books. Way to ruin the mood. smile
(Sorry, I have commented on this thread previously. I just can't be arsed to go back and see what my name was. grin )

VictoriaOKeefe Mon 05-May-14 23:30:47

It can be justly argued that there is worse stuff from Blyton's era than Blyton... take Billy Bunter and the comedy Indian "dialect", or that Just William story where William decides to lead a bunch of kids and emulate the British Union of Fascists against a Jewish shopkeeper.

TillyTellTale Mon 05-May-14 23:56:15

I charge Blyton with racism and classism.

But for her time, she does pretty decently on gender roles. In the 1990s, I worshipped George and her constant insistence that sexist prejudices were just that- prejudices and not the natural order of things. She is always determined to challenge them. I always saw Julian as a patronising fool, and Anne is quitely clearly designed to be seen as wet! Surely they were even more subversive when first printed?

As for the Five Find-Outers, every book has Pip lording it over his younger sister Betsy for being a silly little girl, when the gang have just hit a seemingly insurmountable problem. Guess who provides the solution to the problem, within a page? Betsy! Fatty is always depicted as respecting Betsy's intellect, and the reader is definitely supposed to respect Fatty's opinions.

VictoriaOKeefe Tue 06-May-14 00:15:20

Well, books/plays/tv/movies are not intended as documentaries so I've never really had a problem when they invent a fictional Asian or African country or culture solely for the purposes of the plot.

For example, the early 1990s Australian tv series Embassy where "Raagan" is a fictional south east Asian Islamic republic ruled by a military strongman.

Montegomongoose Tue 06-May-14 08:45:09

We had a few EB books at our school in the Caribbean in the 1980s. They were hugely popular. I don't think any of us caredrealised they were such brain-rotting sexist racist classist claptrap. We just liked the stories of a far away country in the olden days.

Shame we didn't have the benefit of some of the Thought Police here.

I also went on to read literature at a RG. Did a PGCE afterwards where we spent more time wanking on about the abhorrent themes in Dick and Jane and any pre-1968 children's books than we did actually learning how we could teach children to read.

SamG76 Tue 06-May-14 09:54:01

VoK - it's a very long time since I read William and the Dictator, but from what I recall he and the "Nastys" tried to boycott the local sweet shop. They realized after a bit that they were the ones suffering as they couldn't get any sweets. EB may have had some strange ideas, but that story was if anything a demonstration of how stupid the boycotters were.

fridgepants Tue 06-May-14 11:53:20

I read them when I was very small, but somehow I knew that they were of their time and some of the words weren't OK. I loved The Wishing Chair and Amelia Jane the most - though what sticks in my mind is that in one of the Malory Towers books there was a glamorous French student who would always wear a huge hat in the sun to keep pale, which was seen as ludicrously prissy by everyone else.

Things like Sweet Valley High and the 80s Sweet Dreams romances I picked up from car boot sales, a couple of years later, were probably more dodgy. I still remember how every SVH book began with a description of the twins as 'a perfect size six' - which is a 10 in the UK, not that many tweens were aware of that.

fridgepants Tue 06-May-14 11:56:00

We also had some encyclopaedias from the Fifties (my dad was a skinflint and probably thought that the basic facts were the same in 1993) which featured colour plates of 'natives' and referred to 'backward' people in 'the tropics' who believed in voodoo. Half the countries in there no longer existed.

VictoriaOKeefe Mon 12-May-14 08:59:53

I noticed they've shortened/revised Bets' statement of admiration for Winston Churchill in modern editions of one of the Find-Outers books.

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