Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Enid Blyton is the UK's best-loved writer, according to a survey conducted for the Costa Book Awards. (Blyton voted 'most loved writer')
Blyton, who wrote the Famous Five series and the Noddy books, has sold more than 500 million books worldwide.
(Enid Blyton came top, followed by 2. Roald Dahl 3. JK Rowling 4. Jane Austen and 5. Shakespeare)
Enid Blyton's work is translated into 130 languages!
Why so successful?
She wrote like a ten year-old.
Ask an average ten year-old to write an adventure story and it might read something like this:
"Four children go to stay in an old house at the coast. They make tree houses. They ride bikes and have picnics and go swimming. They find some dark caves with secret passages. They take a boat out to a mysterious island. They are captured by smugglers. Without any help from adults, they escape from their incompetent and silly captors and tell their story to the grateful police."
The vocabulary is simple. The story is simple. The prose is child-like. There are no boring descriptions of people or scenery, but there are some details of things like tree houses and picnics and caves.
Blyton has been accused by the horrid PC world of being racist, sexist and snobbish. But, note well that Blyton's books do not encourage kids to overdose on heroin or commit gang rape. They encourage kids to enjoy being kids, and they encourage kids to read. Both adults and children can enjoy the books.
Let's take THE ISLAND OF ADVENTURE as an example.
Chapter 1 The Beginning of Things.
A young boy called Philip normally lives with his impatient Aunt, his non-child-loving Uncle, his sister Dinah, and a "stupid" black servant, at a house on the coast called Craggy Tops. But during the summer holidays Philip, is getting extra tuition at the home of one of his teachers, a Mr Roy. While staying with Mr Roy, Philip makes friends with a boy called Jack and his sister Lucy-Ann. Jack and Lucy-Ann are looked after by an uncle. Note that the children do not have straighforward family backgrounds. Blyton's parents were divorced, and she herself got divorced.
Chapter 2. Making Friends.
As there were only four boys to coach, Mr Roy gives them each individual attention. Philip tells Lucy-Anne that Craggy Tops is "wild" and "queer". Philip takes a hedgehog out of his pocket. "It was a baby one, whose prickles were not yet hardened. Observe that the Blyton world was a world free of child abusers and serial killers. Instead it was a world of harmless teachers and hedgehogs in pockets. Did you know that hedgehogs are bisexual?
Chapter 3. Two Letters and a Plan.
"Uncle doesn't want us back," says Jack. Philip decides that Jack and Lucy-Ann should escape with them to Craggy Tops. As you can see, the children do some pretty risky things, but nothing cruel and nasty.
Chapter 4. Craggy Tops.
The children arrive at Craggy Tops. "It was a queer place." There has still been no violence!
Chapter 5. Settling in at Craggy Tops.
"Lucy-Ann wished she was sleeping nearer to Jack." Isn't she sweet and innocent.
Chapter 6. The Days Go By.
"It was a queer place to sleep for the first time at Craggy tops." Jack shares a mattress with Philip. "Jack soon got warm, cuddled up against Philip's back." Blyton has suspected paedophile tendencies?
Chapter 7. A Queer Discovery.
The children explore the damp dark caves, some of which have "queer holes in their roofs." Dinah pushed Philip. "She had certainly meant to give philip a hard blow." Philip falls into a hole. What would Freud think?
Chapter 8 . In the Cellars.
A secret passage is discovered.
Chapter 9. A Strange Boat.
Philip - "Even when he was wearing bathing-drawers he seemed able to secrete some kind of creature about his body. Yesterday it had been a couple of friendly crabs. But when he had accidentally sat down on one, and it had nipped him....." Is this why kids love Blyton?
Chapter 10. Night Adventure.
The black servant is involved in some dark doings.
Chapter 11. Bill Smuggs.
The four children visit a cove. "The children slipped off their jerseys and shorts and went into the water to bathe." They spy a boat. "What a queer place to keep a boat, " says Philip. Is the pace too fast? Are you embarrased by the strip-tease?
I won't describe all 29 chapters, as I'm sure you've got the idea.
Blyton is gentle innocent fun for both adults and children.