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Have all the racist/sexist bits been removed from the reprinted Enid Blyton books?

(27 Posts)
nailslikeknives Wed 13-Jun-18 06:48:46

Just that really. I'm considering buying the Famous Five set and the Adventure set.

Obviously I don't want to expose my kids to casual racism/sexism.
If the books still contain those parts, I'll feel like I'm condoning those prejudices by buying the books.

Anyone know if they've been successfully modernised?

Thanks in advance.

FesteringCarbuncle Wed 13-Jun-18 06:52:42

I loved the famous five and bought the set to read to my DD
I couldn't do it. I didn't get far into the first book to find nothing has changed

PiggeryPorcombe Wed 13-Jun-18 06:57:54

Not that I’ve noticed. I read them to the dc so I just alter the names sometimes so the boys are doing the washing up or being scared etc. I also miss out all the “George is as good as any boy” bits.

The racism is harder to avoid as it tends to form the basis for some of the plot lines. So I include it and use it to discuss changes in attitudes since the 1940s.

I wouldn’t want them reading the books to themselves though. That said, I read them all as a child and I’m not racist or sexist!

Frusso Wed 13-Jun-18 06:58:25

If you removed all the sexism and racism from them there really wouldn't be anything left to read.

nailslikeknives Wed 13-Jun-18 07:06:02

What a shame. I enjoyed them as a child too. Was hoping to share them with my children.
Ah well.

Witchend Wed 13-Jun-18 07:08:49

If you read them as historical stories, then they're actually quite forward thinking with sexism.
They do point out that Anne is the bravest of the lot of them as she is scared and still does it.
And she likes to stay behind and cook-actually I would have chosen the same. It's a choice because she likes it.

TheCatFromOuterSpace Wed 13-Jun-18 07:09:59

I don't see how you could without rewriting the books - it's not just the language used but the way that the boys get to do things while the girls stay at home and make lunch.

I suppose you could reverse the characters when you read it aloud, eg make dick a girl and Anne a boy.

DinosApple Wed 13-Jun-18 07:11:46

There's a good author called Helen Moss who writes adventure stories in a very similar but modern way. All the adventure and fun, none of the racism and sexism. My eldest loves them. It's the adventure island series.

nailslikeknives Wed 13-Jun-18 07:54:25

Dinos, thank you for the recommendation, I'll have a look at her.

bookmum08 Wed 13-Jun-18 08:22:00

From what I remember the 'racism' part of Enid Blyton was to have characters who were loud mouth obnoxious Americans. There are often characters who are 'Gypsies' or 'Circus Folks' (or have a mother who is) but they usually turn out to be 'good people'. Oh and French school girls are a bit doppy. As for the sexism bit - I mostly read the School stories so came across many a strong, clever, independent girl. There was a series of stories about a group of children and I remember a boy character called Benji who was the one who was never allowed to join in, or was considered annoying and should 'stay home with Mother' - why? Because he was the youngest. I think people often look for things in Enid's books so they can slag them off - but really they are just over analysing them. So Anne likes cooking and cleaning - so what. Alicia likes playing tricks, Darrell likes writing plays, Elizabeth is the naughtiest girl in the school until she realises being nice is better and joins the very important school council. I don't think children will be rushing off to join the BNP after reading Enid nor will they suddenly expect the girls to do the washing up because they are the girls. Children like Enid because they are easy to read, have easy to remember characters and similar plots. Same as any 'series' books - Rainbow Magic, Goosebumps, Beast Quest, etc.

cloudtree Wed 13-Jun-18 08:36:23

They are written from a very 1930s/40s perspective and you have to read them in that way. I think most children would be aware that they are set in a different time. The abundance of cooks and maids hanging around shows that from the outset. There are lots of good strong girl characters though.
There is racism in some of the books which is again of its time. The three golliwogs for example have original names that would shock nowadays (and clearly the toys themselves cause offence too).
They have changed some of the names "Fanny" in particular!

I think the reason these books are frowned upon over others of their era is that young children don't necessarily understand that times have changed and they can soak up the casual references (in the same way as they do all information) without realising. I do however think they provide useful talking points. Having said that, they were popular at a time when there were fewer children's books written. Reading them back as an adult they are actually just not very good (although give me EB over the dreaded beast quest any day!)

MyOtherUserNameIsAUnicorn Wed 13-Jun-18 08:58:36

I recently re-read one of the Mallory Towers Books as I loved these as a child. The last chapter/page had the Headmistress reflecting on the girls leaving school for the summer. It said something along the line of "As she watched them walk off to the summer she thought about what sort of wives and mothers they would become,"
Obviously outrageous, but clearly outdated.

I'm struggling with what we do in your predicament OP, do we only read books that mirror our own cultural values.

My favourite books as a child were varied, but we have The Little Princess, Little Women, What Katy Did, Enid Blyton, Green Gables books, as I grew up as there was very little teen fiction before Harry Potter (BHP) I started reading Thomas Hardy and (yuk) Maeve Binchey (that I took from my Mum's collection)

Children should know that the world was different. They won't read everything and think that it's acceptable.

commonarewe Wed 13-Jun-18 09:01:59

Jesus Christ - does all literature have to be viewed through the lens of 21st century ideological pieties? Have you heard of putting things in their historical context? 2000 was not Year Zero, you know.

Babdoc Wed 13-Jun-18 09:16:41

I read hundreds of classic children's books to my two DDs. When it cropped up, we discussed the different attitudes of the past. With Victorian tales it was even more noticeable - child chimney sweeps, extreme poverty, class snobbery, etc.
It’s important for modern children to be aware of our history and to set their own lives and values in context. I’d be appalled to find a classic book had been censored to fit modern sensibilities.
I even read Little Black Sambo to my kids. They loved the clever way he outwitted the tigers, and envied his stack of pancakes! The author was a missionary in India, and she simply wrote fun stories for kids back home in Britain who had never seen tigers. Please don’t deny your kids their literary heritage for fear of pc issues.

DragonsAndCakes Wed 13-Jun-18 09:18:55

I read them to my eldest and just talked through with them any dodgy bits. It was interesting in the context of ‘this is what people used to think’.

cloudtree Wed 13-Jun-18 09:25:40

We had the secret seven set on audio book which we listened to in the car. There were not that many bits that we talked about in particular. Just general commenting on how tings had changed (not surprising since they were written 75 years ago).

cloudtree Wed 13-Jun-18 09:26:53

I think its interesting how people are "shock Enid Blyton" when they wouldn't say the same about a child reading Huckleberry Finn for example.

halcyondays Wed 13-Jun-18 09:29:40

Unless they are very young, children quite easily understand that some books were written a long time ago when attitudes were different. Yes, a lot of the books have been edited and changed in places. You could also get them Pea's Book of Holidays by Susie Day which discusses this very issue, it's a great book.

In Malory Towers many of the girls did go to university and other careers which was probably quite good for the time they were written.

Children will read all kinds of books at school which would show different attitudes.

WellThisIsShit Wed 13-Jun-18 09:32:08

I got DS The Island Of Adventure for his birthday, remembering how much I liked it as a child and forgetting the awful racist portrayal of JoJo the black servant!

However, they’ve definitively taken out the word ‘black’ and (thank god!) ‘blackie’ etc out of the book (winces)... and interestingly, although I can still read it as Jojo = black, DS certainly doesn’t. Actually, because it would never cross ds’s mind that any of those negative stereotypes exist about colour of skin, he wouldn’t read it in the same way anyway... unless it really was inescapable.

In the original, Enid Blyton managed to get in not just one, but two racist stereotypes into that character, which I’d obviously completely blanked out of my memory as an adult! But I certainly wouldn’t have given DS the book with that still in had I remembered. JoJo starts off as your typical ‘stupid child like black stereotype’ who needs talking too in broken English and doesn’t understand anything more than basic concepts. Hideous. But then later in the book we learn he was just pretending, which is something of a relief to be honest (!), but then he turns into your typical ‘evil black guy’ character, which is better, but still pretty awful.

But... when you taken out references to colour, and leave in the rest of it, surprisingly, it actually still works... well, I my opinion, works a lot better. The character becomes stupidly ‘putting on’ a childlike and ridiculous air, really jamming up being a servant, that Aunt Fannie & uncle Quentin fall for, being the idiotic grown ups that they are, and the kids obviously see straight through it. Then when he drops the act and becomes the Big Bad, it just makes sense he’d be over the top with that too, being the kind of character he is.

So, with that one, and a couple of the famous fives we’ve read at bedtime, the racism is now non- existent, which is a relief, as you’re right, in some of them it’s pretty awful & worth checking.

BUT, the thing that’s still throughout all the books is the innate sexism, and that’s not been taken out, as it’s too instrinsic to the writing.

When we read them at night I adjust them as I read aloud to edit out some of the worst sexism. I also give a bit of a commentary on it and encourage ds to spot examples and laugh at it... as a book that was written a long time ago. And is a product of its time. I encourage him to understand that we can enjoy books without lapping up everything they say. And that many books are a product of their time and we can really love the book or the plot or the characters... but also not love certain ideas they have or they say in the book because we know better now.

Obviously if DS is tired and we just want a good yarn, and not a lesson in critical thinking, I just make Julian go do the washing up, and miss out that line where they praise George by saying she’s as good as a boy and replace it by saying something else!

x2boys Wed 13-Jun-18 10:30:24

can you not just explain that things were different in the 20 ,s and 30,s they are books od there time and girls and women did have more "traditional " roles than thats they way it was ?

Fatbird71 Wed 13-Jun-18 22:20:38

My DD and I have just finished the complete set of Famous Five books. We enjoyed them for what they are. My DD recognises that times have changed and we laughed at the girls can't do stuff bits.

emsmum79 Wed 13-Jun-18 23:23:39

If we, who read the books in the 70s/80s/whenever, were able to read them as adventure stories and not understand the racism, sexism etc because we were simply children, can our children not do the same?

Largepiecesofcrookedwood Thu 14-Jun-18 00:22:18

I haven't RTFT but I read them with DS who is now a teen. I think if you approach it properly it's equally as valid a lesson as learning about slavery or suffragettes.
At the time they were hugely popular and as far as the excitement of a children's story goes, rightly so.
As far as the casual sexism/ racism then you simply explain that those were the attitudes of the time and they are nothing like they are today- times have moved on and if this story was happening today, do you think it would absolutely be Anne's job to do the washing up because she's a girl? How do you think X would feel if she was in that position?
DS still talks about the FF with great affection but thankfully doesn't seem to expect that all girls are brainless airheads fit for nothing but washing up and cooking.
Having said all that, I did leave the FF until he was old enough to understand those conversations, rather than the age he could have managed them.

Lustrum Thu 14-Jun-18 00:34:39

Finding EB’s classism, sexism and racism repulsive, precisely because it’s endemic in her huge and brilliantly readable output, is hardly clinging to ‘21st century ideological pieties’, for heaven’s sake.

Even in the 1940s, black people didn’t gibber and roll their eyes constantly, girls didn’t find cooking and making the beds inherently fulfilling, foreigners weren’t either hilarious, cowardly, sly or dirty, and didn’t all have to be retrained to the ‘English sense of honour’ and the working classes and the nouveau riche were not inherently inferior.

I agree that the sexism and classism in particular can’t be edited as too endemic — even if you approve of bowdlerising — and that we can and should read them to our children while pointing out that her views were antediluvian and reactionary even for the 40s and 50s.

happinessischocolate Thu 14-Jun-18 09:23:45

If we, who read the books in the 70s/80s/whenever, were able to read them as adventure stories and not understand the racism, sexism etc because we were simply children, can our children not do the same?

But many of the people who read them in the 70s & 80s are still racist and sexist.

Also if you read EB in the 70s and then used some of the racist terms in the playground you'd probably have got away with it, you really don't want your children repeating those terms at school, or anywhere else now.

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