Enid Blyton: To The Woman Who Shaped Lives

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I’ve been reading for as long as I’ve known how to and there have been some key points in the process of my life that have reinstated my faith in the wonderful world of words time and time again. My childhood is filled with the wonders of Secret Seven, St. Clare’s, Clifford The Big Red Dog and the likes. Most of what I read were books by one of the most renowned authors, Enid Blyton. Sure, she’s been criticized for being sexist, elitist and xenophobic but when you’re 6 and 7 years old those words don’t mean much to you. At least for me at that point all I wanted was a story to take me away from my very mundane and uneventful childhood. Books were my reality and the characters in them were my friends. If they were happy, I was happy. Of course I haven’t gone through even half of Blyton’s works but here’s what I can tell you about the few books that I have had the pleasure of reading.

The first series of books that I ever laid my hands on by Blyton was The Naughtiest Girl series. The protagonist was a girl named Elizabeth who has to be by far one of the most annoying characters I had ever come across at the time. I, being a completely obedient and quiet child, was completely repulsed by this girl who did everything in her power to annoy her peers and disgust authorities. The series was started in the 1940’s-50’s by Blyton and was continued by Anne Digby. The scenes are set in a progressive yet traditional boarding school in which Elizabeth gets up to her antics and makes enemies, then realizes how lonely she is (obviously!) and then tries to turn things around and makes friends. This keeps happening as Elizabeth is torn between her need to be expelled and the loneliness that gnaws at her. Honestly, I’m still not a fan of the series even though it may have a lot to teach a young generation obsessed with their own needs and wants; spoiled brats basically. I’ve never been a fan of them.

the-naughtiest-girl-collection

A series I read immediately after The Naughtiest Girl was The Secret Seven or Secret Seven Society. I think it’s a given that anyone who reads The Secret Seven most probably doesn’t like The Famous Five series…or is that just me? Either way, I was severely obsessed with this beautifully thrilling series which was more adventure than my little mind could handle. This series of 15 books is about 7 child detectives who seem to have it all. The seven composed of Peter, Janet, Colin, Jack, Barbara, George and Pam. They go around in their free time doing these fun little things and uncovering and solving little crimes (which at the time seemed like the biggest crimes ever!). There was hardly a dull moment as Peter’s sister and her best friend constantly tried to play tricks on the gang, pretending they hated them when all they really wanted was to be a part of the group. Honestly, who wouldn’t? I still do.

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The Faraway Tree series was probably my first introduction to the world of fantasy and has sort of paved the way for the books I read till date. With Jo, Bessie, and Fanny interacting with the likes of Saucepan Man and Mrs. Washalot it was hard not to want a magic faraway tree in my own backyard (or having a backyard for starters). There was always so much to see and do in the world beyond the magic faraway tree. It is one series I highly recommend when reading the little one to sleep.

The Faraway Tree Quadrology

Enid has written a boatload of other series and books that I have indulged in endlessly, including The Valley of Adventure series, The Famous Five series, the St. Clare’s series, The Mystery Series, The Wishing Chair series, Noddy and a bunch of other well known books. Even though critics have deemed her books rather unfit for young ones it’s been rather difficult to keep these books off the shelves and Blyton knowing all of this never backed down in the midst of her commercial success. She even says, “most of you could write down perfectly correctly all the things that I believe in and stand for – you have found them in my books, and a writer’s books are always a faithful reflection of himself.” There have also been a bunch of TV, stage and film adaptations of her work, like Noddy, The Famous Five Musical and a bunch of coming strips as well. The work of Blyton has influenced and shaped the childhoods of many people and I’m sure most who have read her work cannot deny this fact. Blyton was very nearly the be all and end all of my childhood and I am ever grateful to the fourth grade teacher who pushed me to read The Naughtiest Girl all those years ago.