The life and time of Enid Blyton

I found this essay below while browsing goodreads.com written by someone who has read Enid Blytons biography. What a wonderful tribute this is to one of the most read children’s authors in the world. I put this here in a fit of nostalgia, for children today are wholly unfamiliar with the type of good wholesome literature that was fed to my generation in the 1990s. And I feel a little sad that people even five to seven years younger than me are unfamiliar with Enid Blyton.

I blame  this shift on the Harry Potter phenomenon. The first Potter book came out when I was eleven and I got on the bandwagon when I was twelve, but by that time I had already gone through hundreds of pages of Blyton (and LM Montgomery of Green Gables) as had many of my friends. But let me clarify that I love JK Rowling books to a fault and can pick up the juvenile Captain Underpants novels and enjoy them. This is not to say that books like Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Artemis Fowl etc are inferior, just that the volume of values with which Blyton imagined her stories has never been repeated (odd expression, volume of values, but I can’t think of a better description). I suppose I can say the same for Tintin and Asterix comics, and maybe The Hardy Boys and Hitchcock’s Three Investigators for boys and those older than me… beloved characters that we suddenly lost track of at the end of the 1990s.

As an adult one can always go back to old literature, as literature for adults does not lose its charm with age. Unfortunately, if one misses out on more child worthy works like Blytons, it is a lost space that cannot be explored or appreciated again.

The biography pictured here is a bit hard to find, though BBC is planning a biopic starring Helena Bonham Carter (but sadly I can never think of her as anyone else but Marla from Fight Club).

Enid Blyton could be called the Barbara Cartland of Children’s Literature. They both wrote voluminously and both received the scorn of their critics. However,in my books, there is one vital difference: Enid was a GENIUS!! 

Her biographer, Barbara Stoney, agrees that “her stories are repetitive, lacking in characterisation and limited in their vocabulary” among other ‘faults’. But she also points out that librarians and educationalists who were among her severest critics from the 1950’s onward, by the 1970’s, having become aware of the falling literary standards,”realised that no other author appeared capable -to the same degree- of writing the kind of stories which would encourage a child to take up a book and read it through to the end. This resulted in more of her work appearing on school and library shelves…” from which her books had been banned. 

Banned!!! 

But her sales increased!!! 

Her countless fans having had their source cut off by adults simply went to the bookstores and bought what they wanted. 

THIS is Children Power!!! 

Enid was not only a Genius of a Storyteller. Firstly she was a Genius of a Teacher. 

Early in her teaching career from 1920 she had realised that her talent for writing would enable her to reach far more children – and teachers. Poems, songs, stories and plays as well as articles for teachers were already keeping her busy outside of classroom duties. Editing and writing Teachers’ Manuals and Journals, Nature Study articles and lesson outlines some of which she herself illustrated, retelling Biblical Stories and Classic tales, graded rhythmic movements and dance steps, history and geography – these and more flowed from Enid’s imagination and pen. She claimed as her audience the tiny-tots of Kindergarten to adolescents, as well as their teachers. 

Finally she was accused by the Get-Enid Brigade of the mid-50’s that she used ghost writers and that she was dead!!! Then there was the suspect relationship between Noddy of Toyland and the more elderly BigEars!!! But however dubious adults found Noddy, he led Enid into the new realms of writing for pantomine, theatre and television. 

Yes, Enid continued to flourish. 

Her ‘Enid Blyton Magazine’ spawned four clubs through which children were able to assist Blind Children, Spastic Children, a Children’s Home and Sick and Injured Animals. 500,000 children made up the clubs. 

Enid stated her aims: 

“I’m not only out to tell stories, much as I love this – I am out to inculcate decent thinking, loyalty, honesty, kindliness, and all the things that children should be taught.” 

And this influence was worldwide. 

Enid herself did not always measure up to what she wanted to inculcate either as wife, mother or friend. Often those who can so clearly point the way are unable to advance far along the way themselves. Nor did she ever seem to find the deep spirituality she obviously thirsted for through any of the traditional Christian churches. 

In 1991, almost twenty years after her death, Enid remained the most successful children’s writer of the 20th Century with approximately 8 million of her books selling annually worldwide in 27 languages. And the Sunday Times included her name in “1,000 Makers of the 20th Century”. However in that same year Enid’s name “did not feature in that year’s list of approved books for the National Curriculum.” But again the children had voted!!!”…she was one of the three most borrowed children’s authors from British libraries announced that year. (The works of the other two – Roald Dahl and Rene Goscinny, who wrote the Asterix books – did not appear on the list either.)” 

Reading Enid’s magical adventure story “The Treasure Hunters” to my Year 4 class back in 1978, I could see its limitations which however simply evaporated as one got caught up in the story. The day I finished the book after several weeks of reading I will never forget. As I sadly closed the book I was deluged with a chorus of cries from the children :”READ IT AGAIN!!! READ IT AGAIN!!!” Yes, I had tears in my eyes then, and now as I type this. 

There. A nice departure from my tirades on Pakistans economy and politics.

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One thought on “The life and time of Enid Blyton”

  1. “I’m not only out to tell stories, much as I love this – I am out to inculcate decent thinking, loyalty, honesty, kindliness, and all the things that children should be taught.”

    Her books are truly engaging and they indeed focus upon the noble notions mentioned. Alas! there are hardly any authors left who write in a similar fashion.

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