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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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 )

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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!"

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.

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.

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