Friday, August 6, 2010

Enid Blyton

The Enid Blyton Question

When I was at university in the 1950s I wrote, as part of a thesis on writing for children, a piece on the work of Enid Blyton. The idea was hardly revolutionary, simply being that although the writing was not so great, the appeal to children was phenomenal. At that time the works were often the subject of discussions among librarians mainly because of the inbuilt racism, but they were a fairly new topic for academic treatment. Since then I have not paid very much attention to them.

But among my collection of old videos is a copy of The Magic Faraway Tree, and of all the old videos the one my grandson fixed on was this one. He asked for the book of the film. So his father started reading it to him at bedtime, and now the child has become enchanted by, and a bit obsessed with, Enid Blyton. He has a favourite CD of Kate Winslet reading The Magic Faraway Tree. And I know a grandmother whose grand-daughter of a similar age has also fallen for all this. Admittedly I am dealing with an anecdotal sample of two.

The copies the children are hearing are from the old texts, although the Winslet recording makes changes such as in the names – I am not sure what else. The child notices and discusses the differences, but these do not seem to bother him. The vocabulary and ideas of the originals he treats as he treats any story – it is good narrative and it engages him and he learns new words and ways of being.

I bought him a new version of one of the books, and he accepted that this was the same but different, and so what.

The old Enid still writes terrible sentences, but she still has the power to enchant and enslave readers with her narrative drug. Changing her stuff seems to be a waste of time – unless it is just a ploy to boost sales, which I suppose is all it is.

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