Enid Blyton hailed as the best writer for children

Enid Blyton has been voted as Britain’s best loved author in a survey, and needless to say it’s well deserved! Seeing the name in print after such a long time also refreshed a lot of fond memories. My favourite stories were those of Malory Towers and St Clare’s. These tales about boarding school capers, held a strange sway over me and my friends. In fact, my best friend at that time even persuaded her parents to send her to a boarding school. We were mesmerized with the concept of midnight feasts and tucks, as no term in the fictional schools was complete without one. It was through Malory Towers that I came to know that the French rolled their R’s. My favourite words became “featherhead” and “fib” and I dreamed of playing lacrosse and horse riding. Of course, the latter never happened and I grew up and a lot of dreams simply faded away. But I’m digressing…
Long before JK Rowling exploded into the literary circuit and Lord of the Rings was celebrated, Blyton was already enthralling her readers with tales of magic in ’The Enchanted Wood’ with its ‘faraway tree’. The stories of the occupants of the tree like moonface, the saucepanman with his clanging wares and the angry pixie who threw water at anyone peeping through his window was pure magic! And of course the magical lands that appeared above the tree were something else: “Land of Do as you Please” and “land of Treats”. Of course it wasn’t all good always; there was also a land where everyone got whacked! Now that I think about it, these lands were something like the ‘every flavoured’ jelly beans in the Harry Potter series.
What amazes me about Enid Blyton is the number and genres of books she wrote in her lifetime. Her detective series ‘Famous Five’ is supposedly the best selling of all books, selling more than 1 million copies in a year. I guess my love for food grew after reading the Enid blyton stories and especially this series, as invariably the 5 would have the most delicious of picnic baskets: buttered scones, ginger beer, tarts….Most times I didn’t know how most of the stuff tasted; I still don’t! Yet, the description was so yummy, that I could feel it melting in my mouth. The adventures of Julian, Dick (funny name, now that I think of it; but those were more innocent times), George (short for Georgina, as she never liked the girly name), Anne and their dog Timothy had me captivated like Hardy Boys or Nancy Drews never could. I think I even had a mild crush on Julian after reading one of the books. That’s the power of the characters Blyton created!
A lot of stereotypes led to Blyton being labelled as racist and sexist. For instance, the villains were always swarthy and Anne was always doing the washing up by virtue of being the girl (George was the tomboy, so she got off free). I guess all I will say is that even Shakespeare has been accused of racism! Enid Blyton has also been accused of being ‘out of touch’, which I think is a very biased point of view. Oh sure, there is no romance in the air, no crushes, no teenage angst, but honestly that’s the charm of her books. There was no problem that could not be solved with a good picnic basket.
Yet, it was not like Blyton babied her readers. I still remember one of her stories ‘Family at Red Roofs’ which depicted a happy family until tragedy struck and in a typical Ekta Kapoor way, the family got scattered. However, the hallmark of Enid Blyton’s stories was how she kept the narrative simple without getting too preachy. I think such a mature topic was handled pretty well. It’s a pity that her name today only evokes a blank stare as a response.