Enid Blyton was born 117 years ago today. One of the world’s most beloved, and most divisive, children’s authors, Enid’s works have been banned from more public libraries than those of any other author, yet more than 600 million copies of her books have been sold.

The controversy surrounding Enid’s books – which has resulted in heavy revisions in modern editions – is not simply a result of modern political correctness. The anti-Blyton campaign took hold as early as the 1930s. From the 1930s to the 1950s the BBC conspired to ban adapting Enid’s books for radio, considering her books to have no ‘literary value’. In the 1950s librarians and educationalists began questioning everything from her ‘limited’ vocabulary to the ‘suspect’ relationship between Noddy and Big Ears, to ‘racial discrimination’ – aimed at the presence of many Golliwogs in her stories. Some librarians complained she simply wrote too many books and that children were reading nothing else. Others, not to be outdone, were claiming one woman could not possibly write so many books and began spreading rumours that she used a team of ghost writers.

Noddy-Big-Ears

Enid did not take criticism well. She was also deeply hurt by the rumours that she didn’t write her books. In a somewhat unfortunate, yet endearingly awkward response to those who criticised her books Enid claimed that the attacks came “from stupid people who don’t know what they’re talking about because they’ve never read any of my books.”1

Yet hope still remained. A somewhat more subtle response was published in the Daily Mail in 1964:

“As Big Ears Said to Noddy Yesterday”

One day Noddy came home quite tired out. He really had had a very busy day. He had gone all the way to Nottingham in his little car. And when he got there a nasty man called Librarian had kicked the poor little car very hard. He had also told Noddy he would never be allowed back there again because he was not grown up enough for all the boys and girls in Nottingham.
‘Oh I am so sorry, poor little car,’ said Noddy, stroking the steering wheel.
“Parp-parp,” said the little car, painfully.
‘Hallo, Noddy,’ called a voice over the fence. It was Tubby Bear.
‘What’s a vocabulary Noddy? That grumpy Librarian says you have got a very limited one. And he thinks you’re awful bad for the little boys and girls.’
Noddy was so worried that he hurried off to see Big Ears. He had never seen his old friend looking so cross.
‘We’d better face it,’ said Big Ears, sternly. ‘You and I and all the rest – and that goes for Mr. Plod, the policeman too – are like Librarian says, caricatures. And what is more, we are members of the intellectually under-privileged class.’
Noddy could not believe his ears.
‘B-b-beg pardon?’ he stammered. Big Ears sounded just like the fierce Librarian.
‘We’re redundant in Toyland,’ said Big Ears, angrily. ‘Do you really think children want our stories any more? We’ve got to do what the man says. All these little what-nots are going to be specialists by the time they’re nine. You’ve got to catch up on Thermo-dynamics and the Economic Position…Children want literature now. Literature with a capital “L”.’
Big Ears began to be quite worked up and so frightened Noddy that a little tear ran down his cheek. He rushed away and ran all the way home. As he went through the gate he fell right over the little car and BUMP!
With a big start Noddy woke up. It had all been a nasty dream, after all. And everything in Toyland was all right and always would be until Blyton knows when. And what is more, the kiddies went on loving Noddy and they didn’t give a parp-parp for Librarian and all those big words. 2

Fie to you, stern librarian. I’ll read what I like.

A very happy birthday to my favourite childhood author Enid, and long live Toyland!

 


Save

  1. Stoney, Barbara, Enid Blyton – A Biography, First Edition 1974, P 166
  2. Nash, Roy, The Daily Mail February 7th 1964 – reproduced from Stoney, Barbara, Enid Blyton – A Biography, First Edition 1974, P 166

About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

11 Responses

  1. Dale

    I loved her books when I was little and they didn’t do me any harm…as least I don’t think so!

    • Olga Hughes

      I admit reading her books has made me somewhat suspicious of goblins and naughty pixies 🙂

  2. Underdogge

    A while back (can’t remember the show – it might have been one of John Culshaw’s programmes but don’t take that as gospel truth) some British comedians did a sketch about goblins complaining about the “bum rap”* they were getting in literature. I did enjoy Enid Blyton’s books when I was a child; I was more of a “Secret Seven” and “Famous Five” fan though. In fact I would go as far as saying EB got me interested in reading which was something that the Happy Venture Readers (a series of reading books in vogue in the UK in my early school years) never managed to do. In time I grew out of them (as one does) but I don’t think I’m too terrible a person [though as they say “self praise is no recommendation”].

    * Although they did not use exactly that expression.

    • Olga Hughes

      I haven’t grown out of them, I still read them Underdogge 🙂 I actually have a collection of her books, a few hundred of them. Many of them I didn’t read until I was an adult, some of her stand-alone novels like House on the Corner and Six Bad Boys are my favourites, but I also adore her school stories.
      I mainly read the Dean chapter books when I was a kid (I’m a Faraway Tree and Mr. Pinkwhistle girl) I didn’t read Noddy until I was in my late twenties. I read them when I was recovering from a major illness and I was too tired to read any full-length books. So I read them over and over, and I loved them. I also read the Famous Five for the first time then.

      • Dale

        I really enjoyed the Famous Five too, and also the Adventure series. The one I remember most was The Island of Adventure, tried to get my kids
        interested in them but no luck. I had Enid’s signature when I was a kid, must have been a give-away or something.

    • Olga Hughes

      I loved the Adventure series too, and I still have to read all of the Fatty books.

  3. Underdogge

    When I was at primary school there was an “Enid Blyton’s magazine” (with short stories) and another magazine for primary school children, though not by Enid Blyton was “Sunny Stories”. These had stories with words more (though not exclusively) than comic strips and speech bubbles. Yes I remember the Faraway Tree and “The Mystery of….” series and of course Mallory Towers and the Naughtiest Girl in the School [though not so well]. There were so many… I’m not saying I didn’t like any of the comic-strip type comics – Dennis the Menace and Minnie the Minx (in the “Beano” and I think the “Dandy”) had to be enjoyed at other kids’ houses though. “Bunty” and “Judy” were the only comics my Mum would let me have…though I did buy a few Superman and other DC comics in my early teens. I’ve rather gone off the topic of Enid Blyton though. I say kudos to her if she interests children in books. There is a Noddy cartoon series on TV for very young children in the UK. The Noddy books were given an overhaul in the 1990s to address the gollywogs being racist issue and the spanking was excised as well. There is a Dinah Doll who is black in the TV series but she’s a good girl. (The things I had on TV when I was watching it early morning before going to work when I still worked full-time),

    • Olga Hughes

      I’ve got a bundle of the Sunny Stories and Blyton Magazines but there are so many it is a bit difficult to actually try and collect them. I did enjoy reading those though, I wish we had stuff like that when I was a kid. I don’t even remember what we would have read at school, we didn’t have any readers that I remember. My strongest memory is the librarian reading us Dr Seuss.

      I’ve never seen the Noddy TV series. Enid will always be popular, although I will tell you there are a lot of parents who refuse to buy the bowdlerised editions of her books. In all the years I have been selling old books one of the most common questions I am asked with regards to Noddy is whether they have Mr. Golliwog in them.

  4. Underdogge

    Amendment to previous post:- “Make Way for Noddy” may not be on TV currently.

  5. Underdogge

    This is off-topic, as they were not written by EB, but do the Rupert Bear books still sell today? They were mainly picture books but they did have paragraphs of reading matter, both prose and rhyming couplets under the pictures. Of course what sells in Australia may not sell in the UK. I’m not sure about the present time but in 2008 there was a Rupert TV show for children. Rupert and his friends (mostly animals but a few humans) have fantastical adventures. CS will be re-assured to know the characters wear pants as well as tops. Ping Pong (who may have been known as Pong Ping in some of the older books) is a Peke who sometimes does magic which often goes wring and has a little dragon, Ming.

    • Olga Hughes

      Oh yes Rupert is still popular, and he does wear trousers! I’ve not yet read a Rupert book, but I think they are still reprinting them. I’ll remind CS, there’s also the Wind in the Willows characters, although I am thinking of Rackham because that’s the illustrations my copy has, I’ll have to look at the text again. And the Toby Twirl characters have trousers. I might have to do a follow-up one day.