Friday, 16 May 2008

Suitability of Enid Blyton novels for today's children and how much adaption is useful

So Disney has re-made the Famous Five, now showing as a cartoon on their digital channel. I'm very excited to see it, so much so that I'm afraid I've not only Sky plus'd it, I've series linked it. Of course I'm almost certain of disappointment. Waiting and watching the English dramatisation of Famous Five, on I think, ITV as a child, was a big upset for me. It also proved my mum's theory right for me, that all ITV telly was rubbish (sorry ITV, but this was the '70's do understand things have moved on).

Then obviously there was the Comic Strip version, again this was a surprising TV experience for me as a die hard Famous Five fan. It really just enhanced my enjoyment of their food enjoying, sexist lifestyle so all good.

We've also got a Secret Seven story CD, which provides hours of entertainment for the grown ups; 'well he is rather queer Julian', and for the children. Wonderful, but as many of you will remember the Secret Seven were always a bit more, well boring, compared to the Famous Five. They were young and spent most of their days eating biscuits in a garden shed wearing home made badges, whereby the Famous Five nipped around the islands and West Country on their bikes, eating yummy tomatoes and drinking ginger beer whilst camping on their own. That is when they weren't packed off to boarding school to learn their place in life.

But its a hard one, I know it has racist, sexist, classist, and well, just plain unpleasant bits in but...and its a big but, I devoured everything Enid wrote and I think I've turned out ok. As has most of our generation. The dodgy bits seemed to just go straight over our heads, as I imagine any 'preachy' bits of fiction did. (Am still amazed to learn that The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Secret Garden were very very Christian novels! Went right over my head.

So do we sanitise the novels, as has happened to the Noddy books, and in doing so lose some of the true evil of the characters, for in changing the golliwogs to goblins they are less nasty. And part of the reality of the books is having some very naughty characters, which does teach young children about some of the mean behaviour they will encounter at school in life and is thus worth keeping. Or can we not just literally substitute words for more acceptable ones? I'm in favour of the latter, I want to keep the goblins, but for them to be truly horrible. I want to keep the scary face at the caravan window in Famous Five, but for it to just be white, or dirty, but not black as night. I want to keep the queer sorts in Secret Seven though for posterity though please.

Most of all I'm looking forward to the childen discovering Moonface and the Faraway Tree, and the Naughtiest Girl in the School, then for J, the twins at St Clare, and Mallory Towers. All of the books deserve a place in a modern child's bedroom, just supplemented with some in depth discussions (no not more talking about serious things Mummy!) about their historical context. Oh, and about Enid's strange view of the world.


Day from hell said...

Don't forget Noddy, he was Enid's too. I'm sure that the books won't do any harm, i think that most are over pc'd nowdays and really if, as you are, the kids are taught right from wrong etc then the books will only be a bit of fun.

Brax said...

I loved them too. Most of this stuff that is "pc" is just ridiculous. My own favourite is " personhole cover". I mean its just stupid. What is wrong with calling it a "manhole cover" for goodness sake. And I consider myself a feminist and have been called a RadFem in a not very nice way several times in my life. Its all just silly stupid people who have nothing else to do but worry about things like that. I loved Enid too. My favourite author when I was a kid.

Anonymous said...

my girls are lucky enough to have my copies of Enid Blytons books, the Noddy books, the Famous Five and the Secret Seven,along with Malory Towers and St Claire's. They're now 14 and 11 (the younger ones aren't reading yet (2 & 3months!) and they're pretty balanced, neither is rascist or sexist or horrid about anything in particular (well apart from the usual teenage stuff...)

i too missed the whole 'christian' aspect of the Narnia series and so have my girls (maybe we're all just dim?)

i'm just glad we've all had the chance to just enjoy the books as they were written without too much analysis, the Famous Five is fun, Malory Towers is brilliant

that's it!