If J.K. Rowling inculcated the habit of reading amongst young readers of our generation, Enid Blyton did the same for my mom’s generation! And what is best is that even today, the magic of Enid Blyton continues. Often when we friends sit down and remember primary school we can all still connect very well with memorable characters like Fatty (from The Five Find-Outers), Peter (Secret Seven), George a.k.a. Georgina (Famous five), Noddy, Twins from St. Clare and of course the adorable doll Angela. I even remember naming one of my dolls after her!
Considered as the sixth most popular writer worldwide and almost on equal ranking with Shakespeare on UNESCO’s Index Translationum; Enid Blyton is rightly called the “one woman fiction machine.” Blyton was truly a writer for the young readers. However, she wrote for all age groups. She used a pseudonym Mary Pollock for a few titles (middle name plus first married name). In her last few years of life, she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. The last volumes in her most famous series were published in 1963.
Enid Blyton was often criticized for her quality of writing as the critics found her writing too simple and lacking “literary” elements. However, she always rebuffed them by saying that the only critics that mattered were those under twelve years of age. And indeed those had nothing to complain about as she was read widely and never affected the popularity. Strangely, in the 1950s and the 1980s, a lot of Blyton’s books were banned from the libraries on account of language. A 1958 article in Encounter by Colin Welch, directed against the Noddy character, led to a ban due to the use of “naive language permitting double entendre (e.g. a tendency to imagine sexual connotations, for instance, Noddy “jumping into bed” with Big Ears, another character, clearly not intended by the author).” As a reader, if I actually see it from the point of view of the target audience which constitutes children, I don’t really see them drawing any such references from the various statements or characters. I mean, it is a rather disturbing connection. And really, if J.K. Rowling can make an iconic character like Dumbledore gay (which has been seen positively as a move towards social acceptance) I am sure that Enid Blyton’s books do not need any censorship or modification! The same Noddy series is also reprinted with replacing of Golliwogs with teddy bears as it sent a racist message. Same was the case with the story of “The Little Black Doll” who wanted to be pink. But, I guess that’s where Blyton’s triumph lay. Her writings affected all genres of readers and people!
Writing this article is nostalgic as it reminds me of library periods of class II and III which involved our teachers reading excerpts from various fantasy tales. Blyton’s writing triggered our imaginations – dolls becoming alive, a world of goblins and gnomes, midnight feasts at school, a hiking trip with friends and so much more. Well, one thing I used to look forward in the books was the good food – lots of cheese, cakes and chocolate! I actually remember becoming nice to my toys after reading a story about how toys went on a strike as their owners mistreated them! Strangely, I feel that the books even passed strong messages of respecting others and self independence to children. Mostly, her characters are strong-willed and independent children. If we had The Five Find-Outers solving mystery cases and becoming popular, we even had them showing the same respect to parents till the very end.
Blyton has given some memorable characters. Her writing basically explored three primary genres – fantasy, adventure and boarding life. With so many famous characters it is actually difficult to summarize her work.
However, as a tribute, it is worth recalling George, Anne, Julian, Dick and Timmy from Famous Five. I am sure we all had some fun with them. Then of course the Five Find- Outers and the hated Mr. Goon the policemen. It is impossible to remember Enid Blyton and not remember Noddy! He is indeed, one character who has a special place in Disneyland! Personally, my favourite character is that of Darrell Rivers from the six-book series – Malory Towers. This is one set of books I collected with great fondness and I have preserved it. Often considered to be a semi-autobiographical work of Blyton’s, this was one series that one can actually associate with. Set in a girl’s boarding school it deals with a lot of issues like fitting in with the rest, spitefulness and jealousy among peers, bonding with teachers, learning to take responsibility for your actions and most importantly – friendship.
Today, we have the young readers reading very different set of books all together. The fantasy world is also dark. Aragorn and Harry Potter are definitely everyone’s favorites, but we cannot deny that they lack the innocence of the Faraway Tree and the Wishing Chair. We have a lot of books about university and college life, but the boarding life of Malory Towers and St. Clares was fun too!
Well, while I go digging out some of these books, the readers can relive Enid Blyton by remembering what they first read. And if someone has not read her books, I can only say, “You need to go back to school!”
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