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Enid Blyton’s birth anniversary: The controversies that shrouded her books

On Enid Blyton’s 121st birth anniversary, today, take a look at some of the popular controversies surrounding her famous books.

books Updated: Aug 11, 2017 14:07 IST
Lakshana Palat
Lakshana Palat
Hindustan Times
Behind the illusion of magic and fantasy, Blyton’s works have always been a subject of much controversy.
Behind the illusion of magic and fantasy, Blyton’s works have always been a subject of much controversy.

Picnics by the river, holidays in caravans, delicious meals of jam tarts, chicken sandwiches and ice cream puddings — Enid Blyton’s books were, and still are the perfect escape for many of us. However, behind the illusion of magic fantasy, and of course, food, Blyton’s works have always been a subject of many controversies.

On the celebrated author’s birthday, today, here’s a look at some of her story elements, which raked-up quite a few debates, worldwide:

Cover of the book The Three Gollywogs.

Accusations of racism
Remember falling in love with the story of The Three Gollywogs? Most children wanted the Gollywog toy after reading this book. However, the tale of these black-faced folks came under much fire, and Blyton was accused of racist slurs. In the story, the owner Angela, doesn’t want to play with the Gollywogs, as she considers them “ugly”, and all the other toys abandon them, causing the Gollies to run away. While they are still portrayed as nice creatures in the book, the Gollies portrayed a nastier shade in the Noddy series, when they were shown as thieves and stole Noddy’s car.

The accusations of racism in Blyton’s books were first made by a newspaper article in 1966, where Blyton’s The Little Black Doll was highly criticised. Sambo, the black doll, is hated by his owner and the other toys owing to his “ugly black face”, and runs away. A shower of rain washes its face clean, after which it is welcomed back home with its now pink face.

Sexual innuendos
Who didn’t love the story of the Faraway Tree, with its characters Silky, and Moon-Face? Yet, the names of the protagonists — Jo, Fanny and Dick (Gasp!) caused much uproar. Why? The names were actually obliterated through censorship in the mid 1990’s, and were changed to far-less obscene versions — Frannie and Rick. What was common in the 50’s had become vulgar in the 90’s, and therefore had to be fixed, to become more politically correct.

Dame Slap from the Faraway Tree series.

Dame Slap to Dame Snap
Dame Slap was one of the popular Blyton characters — from the Faraway Tree series — an old woman shouting and slapping children in her school. The name was changed as people believed that reading about slapping is sure to traumatise young readers and turn them into psychopaths.

Gender roles
Blyton’s Famous Five stories are a famous hotbed of criticism too. There are two girls, George and Anne, along with two boys, Julian and Dick. George is the hot-headed girl, who wants to be a boy and craves male approval. She dresses like one, to the extent that people get confused whether she is a boy or a girl?

Anne, is a dainty girl, who loves to play house rather than seek adventure. George has been criticised so much, as it seems to assert Blyton’s understanding that boys were of a far more value to society than girls were. It also seemed to represent the picture of the society in that era — where women were expected to be “homely”. It was very rare that Blyton’s female characters were rough and tough, and lived outside the world of dolls, dresses and frocks.

The Famous Five had Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog as the protagonists.

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