In 1968, when Enid Blyton passed away, I was just 9 years old. But I clearly remember the day she died. Not the date (November 28 as I just googled and found out), but the day.
I remember because a classmate, Vijaylakshmi Iyer, telephoned to tell me that Enid Blyton was no more. I remember because a legion of us kids – all Enid Blyton fans – were devastated that day.
Who wouldn’t be? A whole imaginary world of enchanted forests, fun-a-minute boarding schools and mystery trails had just been taken away from us. No more adventures. No more Five Find-Outers or Famous Five shenanigans. No more escaping into a world that seemed far more promising and enjoyable than the one we lived in.
It was, in a manner of speaking, our first brush with death. The death of a much loved figure. The death of a whole world we dreamt of.
Life went on, as it is wont to do. But, I never imagined that one would have occasion to mourn the demise of Enid Blyton all over again some 4 decades later.
But that’s exactly what happened when a screen biography by BBC Four was broadcast in 2009, depicting Enid Blyton as a not very nice person. The screen biography is available on YouTube (below) for interested readers.
Enid Blyton fans be warned – the film can upset you. Like I said, who would have imagined that one would mourn the death of Enid Blyton all over again!
Watching the screen biography disillusions because it is hard to comprehend that an author who taught morals in the nicest possible way could not herself occupy the pedestal she placed her characters on.
Speaking for myself, the lessons taught by Enid Blyton in her stories left a deep impression on my young mind. So much so, that I have always strived to live up to the ideals she held up in her books. You can read more about that in an earlier blog I wrote – Worshipping at the Altar of Knowledge.
Read the blog and you will understand the distress I felt on discovering that Enid Blyton was as frail a human as any one of us.
Allow me to quote from an article in The Telegraph*: “The drama reveals how Enid exploited even her own family to bolster the Blyton brand. Her two daughters from her marriage to Pollock, Gillian and Imogen, were routinely wheeled out for publicity purposes as Blyton portrayed herself as a devoted mother. But when the photographers left, the reality was different.”
Here’s another quote from The Independent*: “Along with her sensuous side was a streak of implacable stubbornness and cruelty. When her first husband Hugh married again – as she herself had remarried – Enid was so furious she banned her daughters from seeing their father ever again, no matter how much they (and Hugh) begged to be allowed.”
I have provided links to both the above articles at the end of this post for those readers who may wish to read the full text.
Right here, right now, I will just say that as if watching the screen bio was not upsetting enough, the media coverage made it worse.
I was disillusioned. I was, no melodrama this, quite broken hearted.
Until, one day the thought crossed my mind that whatever Enid Blyton might have been in her real life, she could not have been a bad person. For the simple reason that no bad person could have written the way she did about loyalty, honesty, courage and, on the whole, leading an upright but fun life.
No way, no how! No matter how talented a writer, no one could so consistently portray a world she or he did not really subscribe to.
In defense of Enid Blyton, I think she herself aspired to the world she wove for her legions of child readers.
That’s the world she wanted. That’s who she wanted to be – a Miss Grayling or Darrell Rivers in Malory Towers, an Inspector Jenks in the Five Find-Outers, a Julian or George in the Famous Five.
Maybe, in reality, she could never overcome her human frailty. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that she left a positive impact on generations of young, impressionable minds.
For that, we need to look on Enid Blyton’s achievements kindly. And not rip her apart for being as human as the rest of us.
Let Enid Blyton continue to live through the characters in her books.
Let’s not please bury her under the weight of human malice and delight in her shortcomings.
Featured Image Credit: Enid Blyton, Good Work, Secret Seven by Damian Cugley (Flickr.com CC By-SA 2.0)
*Garry Jenkins. Why Enid Blyton’s greatest creation was herself. The Telegraph. 15 November, 2009.
*John Walsh. Ripping yarns: Enid Blyton’s Secret Life. The Independent. 14 March, 2009.