Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Magic Faraway Tree.

I hate exams. I hate grading papers. Everytime it's marking season, I plot to quit with great vehemence. It doesn't get me anywhere in terms of clearing my work. Neither does being distracted. And right now, re-reading old books and copious amounts of surfing seem extremely attractive.

And the copious amounts of surfing led me to want to re-read books from my childhood. More specifically, the Malory Towers collection, the St Clare's collection, the Famous Five, the Five-Findouters and perhaps the Naughtiest Girl in School collection. What they have in common, Enid Blyton, a definitive author from the childhood of a lot of my generation, myself included.

How did this come about, seeing that I no longer own any Enid Blyton's? Like I said, copious amounts of surfing led me to the Guardian site, where I discovered this article. Apparently, they want to edit the books because it's brought up generations of racist, sexist children with absolutely no imagination and fixed, stereotyped gender roles.

Well, I thought George in Famous Five was way cooler than Anne who used to do all the housework and the cooking. Of course, someone might say it made me a closet lesbian or something, but I think I liked George because she seemed to have so much fun, plus she had the dog while Anne always had to do the stuff I loathed, the cleaning up and the looking after the others.

It's ridiculous, wanting to edit the books to make it appropriate for children. It's a reflection of that time and we all grew up fine reading those books. I mean, it really wasn't the only influence in our lives and there really are a lot more harmful things out there now that should be controlled and contained before they start the whitewashing these books.

And I had such great memories with those books. I wanted so badly to have a cave, a secret meeting shed with passwords. I wanted to go to boarding school and have so many friends and have midnight feasts. I wasn't too keen about lacrosse and darning my own tunic (Of course, I had no idea what a tunic was!) but I would've liked to be able to solve the mystery of the broken plates in my estate (it took me some years to figure out it was the result of some ugly domestic argument). The power hungry me wanted to be Head Girl in the school and have a gavel when I ran school meetings. The adventurous me wanted to camp out on some island, sleep on heather and build a fire on the beach. I also wanted to live on a farm, milk cows, have a pet lamb and go on nature walks with the Wild Man who could talk to animals and lived in a tree.

So I think denying any kid who is willing and eager to read all that is a cardinal sin. As it is, kids don't read enough, don't imagine and dream enough. To whitewash and clean up such wonderful tales would reinforce in their minds that reading is dull and I think that's an even greater battle to lose. And a much scarier outcome than the unlikely possibility of them becoming socio-culturally ignorant and destructive.

Now, I feel like heading out and buying all the Enid Blyton books I can get my hands on just in case there are enough morons around to actually agree with the perpertrators and sanitise the books. And if that happens, at least I would have my precious collection and could start a highly illegal library where I could loan out the books if you came to my door in the middle of the night and knocked three times. And word would spread in hushed tones of the lady who lived by the faraway tree with all those banned books with wonderful tales hidden in the inside of the tree .

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 21:27

11 thoughts...

11 thoughts...

At 12:12 am Blogger Elia Diodati said...

I <3 Moon-Face. He always had the most amazing stuff in his house.

I was a lazy kid too. I wished for my own wishing-chair

 
At 11:36 am Blogger Tym said...

The only series I ever liked was the Famous Five one, and yes, I'm with you on wanting your own cave and camping trips and heather to sleep on (even though I'm still not quite sure what it is).

And ginger ale! Who could forget that?

 
At 11:49 pm Blogger Ondine said...

I think it was ginger beer, not ginger ale although I haven't quite figured out the difference.

And if I'm not wrong, there was a drink with nettle in it.

And dinner at lunch and tea at dinner.

 
At 12:38 am Blogger YounG said...

Those days when i did the Secret Sevens too. I still recall my books back then got pictures of child actors.

You guys did know they made it into a drama serial back then.....

 
At 7:27 am Blogger avalon said...

I read the same Guardian article you mentioned. I never noted the sexist or racist undertones they mentioned. Maybe they were too subliminal or maybe it really doesn't matter.

I remember a favourite Blyton novel, about the runaways. A one-off story that's really exciting, about runaways who actually succeeded. Today I'm grown up and am reading about adults who run away and go on journeys, (On The Road by Jack Kerouac) and it is still fascinating.

 
At 9:49 am Blogger Cake said...

I know what Avalon is talking about
!!

It's about Jack Nora and etc!! Where the kids are abused by their auntie and uncle and they run away to the island! That's my fave blyton book! I think i still have it!

I love Enid Blyton, that's why I love England so much. when I went to England, I went on a mission to find out what's humbugs! what's scones!WHAT'S CLOTTED CREAM(i expected something gross)!!

I love Enid Blyton. I'm 18 already and now I'm currently halfway through Famous Five on Treasure Island. heh heh.

 
At 11:00 pm Blogger Minaki Yun said...

True, I have the same feelings about George and Anne. But I will be glad if there are girls like Anne around so that I can be George, and if I remember correctly, I stopping reading Famous Five when I come to this story where in one part, Julian was telling George to "start behaving like a girl since they are now older and it is time for George to put her old ways behind her."

 
At 11:14 pm Blogger The Great Swifty said...

Ah, I still have quite a lot of these Enid Blyton books I read when I was a kid. Liked those circus and farm books a lot, felt that the likes of Secret Seven and Famous Five were too redundant, however, I like the Five Investigators, the one which has this guy called Fatty as the leader.

 
At 1:04 am Blogger Peishan said...

yessssssssss. at one point in time, i had over 300 enid blyton books. but my bookshelf ran out of space, and my dad said i had to get rid of some books to make room for new ones.... so i had to sell them. oh, i'd give just to read them again. and people here in the US didn't grow up on the enid diet, it's no fun trying to tell them about the magic-ness of her books.

 
At 12:37 pm Blogger Ondine said...

Young- I remember the television series but I didn't like it much. I preferred to imagine them for myself.
And Secret Seven had the annoying little sister Susie that you wanted to throttle at times!

Avalon and Cake- I read that book too! I think it was the Secret Island. I thought it was so much fun that they camped out on the island. I imagined that was what I would do when I got into trouble with my parents. I think this book was the one that made me realise children's books all had happy endings!

Minaki Yun- I did not like Julian one big. He was the know-it-all big brother that was filled with self-importance. And he always made Anne do the housework.

Great Swifty- Fatty was fun! I was amazed at his gall at always being rude to the Inspector. And his disguises were fun.

Peishan- I'm sure they grew up on a different diet of books. But this sure is an offshoot of colonial cultural imperialism for us. Albeit one of the nicer ways of doing it to us, with no real permanent damage. :)

 
At 12:04 pm Blogger jenny said...

The book I have been looking for ages was actually a book she wrote based on a John Bunyan classic "Pilgrim's Progress". The title is "The Land of Far Beyond". But it is out of print and the available 2nd hand copies online are expensive.

In any case, I grew up on an intensive Enid Blyton diet and sure glad I did!

 

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