Who was Enid Blyton? There are conflicting stories, even from her own children about this world famous author of children’s book. One view was she was lovely and a good parent, the other that she was horrible and cared more for her imaginary children than her own.
One of the strange things that seems to back up the option that she did not really understand or like children, in close proximity at least; was the way, in many, many of her novels that the children did not often interact with their parents. Either they went to boarding school or on a voyage or on trips or any where the parents were not! The parents themselves were mostly very extreme and I quote two descriptions from Enid Blyton herself: ’Good sports’ or ‘Dripping with diamonds.’ In the last comment, the mother was shown to have more money than common sense. Enid always seemed to go from one extreme to the other, there was no middle way. The part parents played in the books with the children was tiny; a line or two, throughout the whole book.
One of the things most people who have read her books will remember are her descriptions of food ‘Lashings of Ginger beer, slabs of chocolate cake’ as she would say and I quote from her directly. The liberty allowed to those Famous Five children would make many modern children jealous! Days on end, complete freedom; allowed to wander by themselves with no parental input!
In the famous boarding school books of St. Claire’s and Malory Towers all the teachers bar one, are singles ladies. This also points to an imbalance of male - female adult role models. The girls, the heroines are shown as sensible and full of good sense, but actually between the lines they are encouraged to tease or ‘sit on’ weaker girls. When the heroines do it it is good and right; with good consequences, but when the bullies do it it is unacceptable and wrong; with dire consequences. This is seen as a grown up thing to do. A good example or part of the way Enid Blyton herself thought was a good example?
Again in her boarding school books, many children actually did write to ask her where the schools were so they could attend!
Many of the children who were not popular in the boarding school books were not given fair trial, and Enid had a horrible way of making things too simple. An example of this was the way she would write about how outside exercise and conforming to leaders norms always made a person popular, but if you disliked sport or the popular girls it was because you were in some way spoiled or not normal.
Born in 1897, on the 11 August in London, Enid went though a divorce from the father of her children in about 1941. She remarried in 1943 to Kenneth Darrell Waters. In fact, people who read her Malory Towers books will recognise the name Darrell Rivers as the female heroine of the series.
Her younger child, Imogen remembered her mother as icy and unable to connect as a mother to her children, her older daughter Gillian said that her mother was warm and was very supportive of her children. Certainly this is the image Enid herself promoted.
There are many critiques aimed at Mrs. Blyton’s books, for being racist, sexist and various other ‘ists’ and many libraries stopped stocking her books for these reasons.
Although it is seen, clearly, that Enid Blyton’s books do have issues with gender and ‘isams, one must remember and take into account the age and culture in which she was writing. And actually on the other hand the plain reality is that children love her books. They do not notice or care about the ‘isams’ and her writing for them is a relaxing escape from reality, that children understand and love. It is a pity more adults do not understand this instead of trying to psychologise the younger generation, albeit with good intentions.
What ever ones personal opinion of Enid herself, and however she may have lived her private life, it IS obvious that she did love trying to make children happy, the other thing she insured, was that they were never hungry!
For her books, please check out
Thanks to wikipedia and the BBC for their insightful articles on Mrs. Blyton and her life.