Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Enid Blyton Phenomenon

I realize that, as far as this blog is concerned, my Enid Blyton posts don't get much truck.

Still, I persist, and believe that it is important to spotlight those souls dedicated to keeping the Blyton wagon rolling.


 This handsome quarterly digest is a product of The Enid Blyton Society, and is lovingly edited by Blyton scholar Tony Summerfield, the man who produced the mammoth, four volume Illustrated Bibliography of one of the world's best-selling childrens' authors and most prolific writers of all time.



I started reading Blyton when I was little more than a squirt. I'm still reading her.

It was Mr. Meddle's Muddles that got me hooked.  I was sick and home from school when my mother presented the book to me. I began devouring it immediately and came across a story in which the indefatigable 'Meddle', an elfin-like goofball bearing character traits similar to Rowen Atkinson's 'Mr. Bean' (I smelt plagiarism long ago!), takes a trip to the countryside with his buddy. While sharing a hotel room, Meddle is kept from sleeping by the oppressive heat of the chamber. Fed up, he gets up and stumbles about in pitch darkness until he finds a window. Unable to open it, he smashes it. Moments later, he describes his relief and relishes the cool breeze wafting into the room.


Come morning, a refreshed Meddle notices the room's window strangely intact. Had he dreampt the whole thing? Had the window been repaired in the night? Well, not exactly, mate. Meddle, to his horror, then spots a thousand glass pieces on the floor, fragments of a chest he'd unwittingly destroyed in his effort to cool down.

"What a silly Meddle!" is a statement often applied by Blyton her village idiot character. My favorite, though, is this one: "He always tried his best, but it's such a bad best, isn't it?"

This was the first time I laughed hysterically at something I'd read as a child. I enjoyed Dr. Seuss books and found them fun, but I never laughed out loud.   There was something very endearing about Meddle, as there  is about Mr. Bean, and I felt great sympathy for the chap. Blyton, on the other hand, seemed somewhat unsympathetic towards him, despite devoting three books to his crazy, accidental adventures. I always felt, and still do, that she sort of enjoyed laughing at him.




In the journal's current issue, there is a fascinating item on Blyton's adult stories ('The Eligible Bachelor'), and a rundown on the two recently released "Famous Five" dvd's, Five on a Treasure Island and Five Have a Mystery To Solve; I recently nominated these as two of my favorite dvd releases of 2010.

A loving poem to man's beast friend

Of immense interest in this issue is the third part of Anita Belsoussane's stellar tribute to Blyton's "The Naughtiest Girl" books in which she discusses Elizabeth Allen's ongoing adventures at Whyteleafe, an English boarding school.



For those not familiar with the writer's canon of work, it would be impossible for me to summarize the extraordinary influence it has had on generations of children throughout the world. It would also be a foolhardy task for me to attempt to describe the amazing appeal of her work. So, I will recommend a baker's dozen titles for those of you who are absolutely oblivious to her world but ready to take the plunge.


The Wishing Chair
Mr. Meddles Muddles
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage
The Naughtiest Girl
The Six Bad Boys
The Magic Faraway Tree
The Twins at St. Claire's
Five on a Treasure Island
The Valley of Adventure
Secret Seven on the Trail
The Rubadub Mystery
Come to the Circus
The Boy Next Door

A perfect example of the stunning cover art Blyton's work inspired

Although the snippy Ms. Blyton was often highly critical of cinema and comics, I love her work deeply. Her attitude towards cinema, in particular, was often quite simplistic, but not unusual for the time. 

"It cannot be said too often," she wrote in the Church of England Newspaper in 1950, "that the cinema is one of the most formidable powers for good or evil in this world, and most especially for children. Its great danger lies in the fact that it can make evil so attractive, so tempting and irresistible...As the twig is bent, so the tree will grow, and the false world portrayed in many adult films must have warped great numbers of developing young minds..."

At face value, this seems to generalize terribly, but, at its core, she is recognizing the incredible power of cinema to do not just evil, but good also.


Personally, I don't believe that children should be exposed to everything, as they (now) potentially are, thanks to the internet and parental indifference, but I do believe that nothing should be censored or restricted to adults.

I can't help feeling that the most restricted of all material provides the greatest catharsis to adults... and, therefore, greater peace for the individual and general public.



In response to this blog, I have just received a message from a Blyton scholar named Stephen Isabirye. This gentleman has recently written a book titled The Famous Five - A Personal Anecdotage. 

At 'AssociatedContent.Com', reviewer Jonathan Musere had the following to say:

Stephen Isabirye convincingly delves into the mind of Enid Blyton as he offers his comprehensive and remarkably detailed analysis of Enid Blyton. This is first analysis of Enid Blyton from an international perspective, and the book is a lengthy wealth of details. The perspective goes beyond Blyton's "Famous Five" series, bringing into perspective and comparison other writings by Blyton. Isabirye goes into the social backdrop, the environmental and political aspects of the era of Blytonian writing, the setting of the powerful British Empire and colonial incursions at the time, the ancient and contemporary literature that likely influenced Blyton.

Sounds like heaven to me.

I've ordered it, and will offer a blog post once I've thoroughly devoured it.

11 comments:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterFebruary 7, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    Phantom, once again you shouldn`t have made the decision to delete my last com-girl-t, remember "The Hamster" is just being truthful about what really goes on in all of our minds but which has to be kept hidden and repressed in this hideous time of lies, hypocrisy and sexual repression that we were all unfortunate enough to be born into.

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  2. A great blog on Enid Blyton. Well, I am glad to inform you that I have written and published a book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.thefamousfiveapersonalanecdotage.blogspot.com).
    Stephen Isabirye

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  3. I think you should change your name to Paradox of Pulp.

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  4. jervaise brooke hamsterFebruary 8, 2011 at 6:21 AM

    Phantom, i know this post is just another example of "The Phantom Of Pulp" pining for his fjords (as it were), its just that i always prefer to be truthful about what really goes on in peoples minds.

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  5. Stephen, thank you for letting me know about your book. I have just ordered it from amazon.co.uk. It sounds fascinating, and I've been eager to read such a thorough exploration of her work for many years (decades, actually). Congratulations on a supreme effort (reviews of the book are very positive also; not that they would have affected my decision to buy it!)

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  6. Anon -- Paradox of Pulp? It does have a ring to it. Whatever makes you say that!? :-)

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  7. I could never tire of your writings.

    -mAQ

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  8. Fucking brilliant post.
    Unexpected and intriguing at the same time.
    Top notch!

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  9. Phantom, i was just thinking, in Jervaise Brooke Hamsters murderously homo-phobic way of thinking and writing the word "management" would be "girl-age-girl-t" !!!.

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  10. I always felt an affinity with Lotta, she was integral in my youthful yearnings to run away and join the circus and perhaps my adult fascination with little people. I'm grateful that Five Go To Mystery Moor didn't end in a meeting with a couple of characters named Brady and Hindley...or am I?

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  11. Renae -- ah, Lotta, I loved her so. Brady and Hindley may have found something of interest in Mystery Moor.

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