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Guest Post: A blight on the memory of Enid Blyton

noddy gets into trouble Guest Post: A blight on the memory of Enid Blyton

Todays post is kindly provided by Peta-Jo.

I wonder how Enid Blyton would feel hearing the news that UK publishers were going to rewrite her words to better connect with today's youth?

Blyton, the brains behind The Famous Five, The Five Find-Outers and Dog, The Secret Seven and, of course, Noddy, died in 1968 but her work is still topping plenty of modern writers. In fact, last year, she was still the 20th bestselling in the UK.

More than 600 million copies of her books have been sold world-wide.

So does she really need a rewrite at this stage of her illustrious, posthumous career?

The advent of ebooks and print-on-demand publishing has already negated the permanence of written texts.

Should we be making changes to historic pieces such as these? Isn't that literally rewriting history? Or does the fact that it's fiction make it okay?

The beauty of an old book is not only the smell of old, yellowing pages but the language and concepts used inside.

They become cultural pinpoints in time and I would think that changing even the simplest of things blurs people's perception of that era.

Will anything become vintage if we're allowed to change colloquialisms such as 'jolly japes', 'golly gosh' and 'mercy me' with more contemporary phrases?

Her books, released between 1942 and 1963 seldom spoke the language of my generation either, but that's what made them so wonderful. It returned us to a simpler time because of its place in history.

Even as a child, I sensed that her stories were from a different world, a safer place, a gentler time.

Would I have felt that if Dick and Fanny were exclaiming 'cowabunga' instead?

Maybe I'm being old-fashioned. The Famous Five series was updated last year, according to the publisher's managing director of children's books, Marlene Johnson.

And maybe it's not up to the reading public. The decision lies with the publisheraptly titledHachette.

About the author:

Peta-Jo is an Enid Blyton fan from way back and delights in the following facts: Enid Blyton lived on Oakwood Avenue, Peta-Jo went to Oakwood School; neither of them liked maths; Enid trained as a teacher at Ipswich High School, Peta-Jo worked in Ipswich; Enid Blyton became a bestselling author and Peta-Jo wants to be a best-selling author. Peta-Jo shared her passion for historic texts with Emily Post quotes on etiquette in her debut novel, Feral Bells. You can visit her website at or head straight to the online store for her debut novel, Feral Bells, at Bermingham Books.

Peta-Jo has previously appeared on RIASS with an extract from her book Wedding Etiquette for Ferals

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  1. I am really torn about the rewriting of the Enid Blyton books. I understand that we dont want to encourage racism etc in our kids, but when I was reading the Noddy books as a young child I didnt see gollywogs as black people I saw them as gollywogs. Similarly, I didnt see anything out of the ordinary about the relationship between Noddy and the other guy.

    Lots of adults putting their own spin on the story more than anything.
    marg recently posted..Sunday Salon: March Reading Reflections

    • Stephanie /

      Marg, I completely agree: I remember that there was a character called Sooty in one of the Famous Five books, and I didnt even register that characters ethnic background until years later. The same thing with Gollywogs. Obviously the books are racist (and sexist and so on), but that was part of their contextand something that adults should discuss with kids today.

  2. I remember reading about authors updating their books for modern readers a few years ago one author mentioned changing her characters going to discotheque to a going to a club, for instance. They also do things like that when publishing UK books in America (the Harry Potter series, for instance, where they changed all the British vocab into American vocab). On the one hand, I kind of hate that people think kids need to be coddled to, that they cant handle British words or that they cant Google what a discotheque is. On the other hand, sometimes things like that through people out of the book for whatever reason, and if theyre not reading the book then theyre not spending money and publishers go broke. So: I dont know. Id like to imagine that someday kids will be taught that not everything has to be catered to them and their limited worldview and that looking up a word you dont know is actually a good thing.

    Maybe Im just a big ol grouch, haha! Does anyone know if kids even CARE about stuff like this? Has anyone asked them?
    Anastasia @ Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog recently posted..The Sunday Salon (Apr. 8): Rereading for fun and profit

    • Stephanie /

      I think theres a difference in todays authors updating pop culture references etc to keep the book fresh and modern (particularly if the book is still in print and part of its selling point is being on the pulse with fashion references etc) than there is in editing a text that pretty much falls into the classic canonand where the author cant okay those changes.

      I think the changing texts to suit the audience happens a lot more in the US than anywhere elsethe number of times Ive heard people say that foreign texts are too tough for kids to identify with is astonishing. And sad.

      And yes, youre right: Im sure kids dont even care or notice (and lets face it, I bet they would have loved reading about Dick and Fanny way more than Rick and Franny!!)

  3. I am totally against the idea of updating Blytons books. They are windows to another time and should be preserved, as is. If kids dont know what a jolly jape is they can look it up in a dictionary and learn something new. Mercy me! Only a rotten bounder would think of pulling such a nasty trick, or a philistine publisher making a grab for cash.

    • Stephanie /

      Hmm, Violet, that raises a whole new issue. If the publisher updates the text, does that mean that they own that version, which will prevent the text (or at least that version of it) from falling into the public domain for longer than usual? Im going to look into this and do a post on it.

  4. Crysstal /

    I think rewriting is not a good idea I am not sure if people and especially the youth would want this kind of technique in order to make more people can relate to the book

  5. Ive been reading The Enchanted Wood and The Faraway Tree to my three year old at bedtime because I remember adoring it so much when I was little. As I read it, I kept thinking, something doesnt seem right here, and then I realised what it was Bessie had become Beth, Fannie had become Frannie, Jo had become Joe and cousin Dick had become cousin Rick!! And then when they visited the land where the naughty fairies and elves were sent, they ran into Dame Snap instead of Dame Slap, who shouted at them instead of spanking them! I guess I get the reason why Dame Slap needed a re-boot obviously hitting small children / fairies / elves = not good! But why the name changes? Im not sure what it is that bothers me so much about it, but I find I miss their old names immensely! However the characters are a little more arrogant and pretentious than I remember them, I always pictured them as wonderful, delightful children oh well, I still loved the books though, and I think I always will!

    • Stephanie /

      I just cant see any reason for adulterating classic texts like these, Nicola. The books reflect the mindset of the timesare we going to, as one obvious example that springs to mind, remove all the homely housewives from them because they exhibit pre-feminist tendencies and dont have a career or degree? The books certainly arent politically correct for todays audience, but surely thats a point for discussion, which I think is a far more productive approach than simply taking the 1984 route and rewriting the books for posteritys sake. Goodness, if we start with Blyton, theres a big, long slippery slope of rewritten literature ahead of us!

  6. My nine year old has read the updated Faraway Tree and Wishing Tree collections but is now reading my old version of The Famous Five. I dont think the books should have been adulterated, part of their charm even when I was young, was their old fashioned and very English tone.
    shelleyrae @ Bookd Out recently posted..Review: Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry

  7. Stephanie /

    I couldnt agree more, Shelleyrae. I hope I can find some of the originals for when I have kids of my own! :)

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