The Times reports that Enid Blyton’s biographer has accused publishers of bowing to political correctness by sanitising some of the children’s author’s best known books.
Barbara Stoney, backed by the Enid Blyton Society, has condemned changes introduced to make the books more palatable to today’s readers.
Dame Slap has become Dame Snap, who now scolds naughty children rather than giving them a smack.
Bessie, a black character with a name associated with slavery, is now a white girl called Beth, while in the Far Away Tree stories Fanny and Dick have been changed to Frannie and Rick.
The rigid gender divisions in the Famous Five and Secret Seven series have also been swept aside, with both sexes expected to do their fair share of domestic chores.
“I say” has been replaced by “hey”, “queer” with “odd” and “cookies” replaces “biscuits” in an attempt to appeal to the American market.
“What has happened is a lot of nonsense,” said Stoney. “I just don’t see why people can’t accept that they were written in a particular period and are a product of that.”
I have to admit it’s the cookies thing that annoys me the most. The Sun’s headline screeched “Five Go And Do Ironing”. Hilarious.
If this is true (Hodder denies it) then my feeling is that the greatest crime is in not crediting children with enough intelligence to know when they are reading stuff that is clearly from “the olden days” – which it was even when I were a lass.
On the other hand, over at the good old Guardian, Guy Dammon argues that:
What is brilliant about Blyton, rather, is her ability to transform everyday worlds into landscapes rich in imagination and adventure – in her ability to enhance and enrich children’s relations with their surroundings. But if children actually can’t find anything everyday about what is presented – which is what happens with unexpurgated Blyton – this is much less likely to take place. If the stories don’t feel real, there’s no place for the imagination to take hold.
I’m just not sure. I feel that young readers see the past as one reality (maybe not their own, but grounded) and still take flight into the Faraway Tree. I certainly don’t think the argument applies to the adventure stories like the Secret Seven books.
I hate arguments about so-called political correctness, but let’s put that to one side for the moment. The critical questions, really, as with any kind of cultural censorship, are “where does it end?” and also, “who decides?”.