Who’s Who in Enid Blyton by Eva Rice, a (very critical) review part three: Toys and Enchantment


Welcome to the final part of my review. The first (Adventure Stories) was a rather bad review while part two (School Stories) was a bit more positive. Let’s see how this one fares.


TOYS AND ENCHANTMENT

Enid Blyton’s Fairy Folk
The Enchanted Wood
The Wishing Chair
Mr Pinkwhistle
Amelia Jane
Mr Twiddle
Mr Meddle
The Three Golliwogs
Brer Rabbit
Noddy

As I mentioned before I don’t believe Mr Twiddle should be in this section, as he’s a real man in the real world. OK, he’s a fictional character in a fictional world – but it is supposed to be real. There’s no magic, and no toys coming to life.


ENID BLYTON’S FAIRY FOLK

It’s not clear until you reach this section that the heading doesn’t refer to an Enid Blyton book or series. Rather, it’s descriptions of the different types of fairy folk to be found in Blyton’s books. It covers brownies, elves, fairies, gnomes, goblins, pixies and trolls.

Rice is quite critical of some of the Faraway Tree illustrators for giving Silky wings which are not in the text. If Silky could fly several exciting escapes would have been unnecessary.  I was interested to find out where the wings came from, so I’ve investigated a little. The first edition illustrations of all three books are by Dorothy M. Wheeler and show Silky without wings. Later editions of these books had a variety of illustrators such as Rene Cloke, Georgina Hargreaves and Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. Unfortunately Rice doesn’t mention which editions she is referring to. I do have a Dean and Son copy of The Folk of the Faraway Tree which does seem to show Silky with wings on one occasion (there are only about eight illustrations in the book, most of which she isn’t in.) I don’t know if subsequent illustrations continued to put wings on Silky, but I assume if they did it was because of Cloke’s illustrations. (You can see Wheeler’s and Cloke’s illustrations in the Cave of Books)


THE ENCHANTED WOOD

The Enchanted Wood by Dorothy M. Wheeler

The Enchanted Wood by Dorothy M. Wheeler

Time for me to admit something – I’ve never read any of the Enchanted Wood books. So I will have little idea about any mistakes in this section.

On the plus side, the characters are listed by their original names, Fanny, Bessie, Jo, Dick and Dame Slap rather than the modern updated versions Frannie, Beth, Joe, Rick and Dame Snap. Nothing is said anywhere about the updated names, though, for people with newer editions.

One mistake I can identify is that this book says there are many pop, biscuit or goggle bun-munching sessions in Moon-Face’s home. That should read pop biscuit as that’s one item, not pop and biscuits, (they are correctly referred to later in Silky’s section) and google bun. I’ve also no idea why there’s a hyphen between bun and munching… as the munching applies to both the buns and the biscuits. In addition, I think that Slippery Slip should be written as Slippery-Slip to match the name in the books.

I question why the three children’s father is listed as Mr Jones while their mother is listed as Mother to Jo, Bessie and Fanny.  If they were under Mr Jones, Father to… and Mrs Jones, Mother to… they’d be one after the other instead of pages apart.

Apart from what are mostly typos this is a good section, and I find myself a bit more knowledgeable about the series. Although I’ve not read the books I was aware of most of the main characters and of the general plot from reviews and discussion over at the Enid Blyton Society Website. I’ve recently  bought The Enchanted Wood (1949) from Amazon, and I hope to get the others soon.


THE WISHING CHAIR

The WIshing Chair by Hilda McGavin

The WIshing Chair by Hilda McGavin

Shamefully I’ve never read either Wishing Chair book. Until recently I only had the first book, and was waiting to find the second before I read it. Anyway this isn’t supposed to be about me or my book-buying addiction, so back to the book review.

Rice says something interesting about the Gnome Doctor, that he is obviously intelligent as he “has something in common with a lot of clever Blyton characters – he wears several pairs of glasses.” I can’t think of any Blyton character knowing for wearing several pairs of glasses, either all at once or one after the other… though that may be a common thing in one of the series/books I haven’t read, so an example or two would have been useful.

The Polite Pixie is mentioned a couple of times – we know the chair was made invisible to escape him, but he doesn’t get his own section so I’m left wondering who he was, and just how polite he was to warrant escaping from.

As far as I can tell this was a decent section for the book, though there may have been many mistakes and omissions I couldn’t spot!


MR PINKWHISTLE

Mr Pink-Whistle by Hilda McGavin

Mr Pink-Whistle by Dorothy M. Wheeler

The name really should be Mr Pink-Whistle, rather than Mr Pinkwhistle. Pinkwhistle has been used – the cave shows it in two Sunny Stories magazines, a few jigsaws, some story tapes and in two post 1970 short stories but these seem to be exceptions rather than the rule. It’s a minor thing, but as he has a double-barrelled name with a hyphen in a vast majority of his published works, I tend to think that would be the correct spelling – and the spelling Rice is most likely to have seen herself.There are 18 books with Pink-Whistle, 97 short stories and 46 magazine entries (many of these are the same story or book reprinted but they always kept to the same spelling.)

In this and several other sections there is suddenly no introductory paragraph, we jump straight in to the first character to be described, and the general plots/setting of the books are conveyed in the characters description.

Other than that Mr Pink-Whistle’s section is short but sweet. He and his cat Sooty are the only characters to get mentioned, but that’s completely understandable as Mr Pink-Whistle encounters hundreds of children in his books, all of whom appear very briefly – usually in only one chapter.


AMELIA JANE

Amelia Jane by Sylvia I. Venus

Amelia Jane by Sylvia I. Venus

The first fault is that only two Amelia Jane books are listed, More About Amelia Jane (1954) is missing.This is another section without an introductory paragraph (luckily Amelia Jane is alphabetically first, so we can start with an explanation of the series through the main character description.)

The Amelia Jane books feature a large cast of regular characters (the teddy bear, the golliwog, the sailor doll, the clockwork mouse, the brownies in the garden, Nurse, the pink rabbit, the clown and more.) However, there’s only a single page here with Amelia Jane, Mister Noah, Tibbs and  the cowboy doll the only toys to get their own section. The cowboy doll is only in one story Amelia Jane and the Cowboy Doll from Naughty Amelia Jane, as he doesn’t belong to the children who own the nursery but has been lent to them by friends. Tibbs (in original and Dean versions called Tibs) apparently he has an uneasy relationship with the other toys as he chews on them, but there’s no mention of the fact he is a cat.

I find it the choice of characters chosen to be featured ludicrous! Why not pick a couple of toys who appear in just about every story and have distinct personalities?

Having an early edition (7th impression 1947) to hand I can see the quoted description of Amelia Jane Rice has missed out the word long in describing her black curls (but at least she’s not blonde like in some updated texts). Rice also refers to Nanny’s scissors in the original texts it is Nurse not Nanny who cares for the children (Nanny appears in the updated versions.) I point this out as up until now (leaving aside the Jo/Joe/Jo-Jo issue) Rice has used names and information from the original texts.

She also gives the characters’ names capital letters Pink Rabbit etc, whereas Blyton, always using the in front of names, used lower cases the pink rabbit, as the rabbit’s name is not pink rabbit, he is a pink rabbit, and is actually called Bunny by the other toys in speech. Likewise Blyton says “the clown walked off” but when another toy speaks to the clown, it is “we’ll do it Clown,” and the toy soldier is called Tom. It should also be the brownies not the Brownies. Rice also calls the teddy bear just Bear…  It may seem silly, but Blyton was consistent in her capitalising. Normally using the capitals would be fine and sensible, but when you’re discussing characters from a book I think you should write them exactly as they appear – hyphens and capitals included. (I’ve checked both early editions and the Dean versions, though later editions may have started using capitals.)

A rather poor section for me.


MR TWIDDLE

Mr Twiddle by Hilda McGavin

Mr Twiddle by Hilda McGavin

Like with Amelia Jane, Rice has missed out one of the books in the series – the second book, this time – Don’t Be Silly Mr Twiddle! (1949). Again, there’s no introductory paragraph – and worse, Mr Twiddle is the only character listed. His wife is mentioned, but doesn’t warrant her own heading, despite being the second biggest character.

Not a great section.


MR MEDDLE

Mister Meddle by Rosalind M. Turvey and Joyce Mercer

Mister Meddle by Rosalind M. Turvey and Joyce Mercer

Another name issue here – I think it should be Mister rather than Mr Meddle. Mister is in the first edition titles of all three books, though some reprints of the first two books have Mr on the front cover. As far as I am aware he is always Mister Meddle or just Meddle in all book text. As before, this is a small error but an annoying one, and it’s more likely you will come across Mister in any published work than you would Mr.  (Mister is in 10 books, 116 short stories and 47 magazines, while Mr in in 6 books, 2 tapes, 10 short stories and 19 magazines.)

This section also has no introductory paragraph and there’s only one character listed. Even Meddle’s poor long-suffering Aunt Jemima doesn’t get mentioned.


THE THREE GOLLIWOGS

The Three Goliwogs by Rene Cloke

The Three Goliwogs by Rene Cloke

Redeemingly, Rice is sensible about this book, and asks us to remember the time it was written in. She also recognises that the three golliwogs are kind and friendly characters, and do not promote racism. She doesn’t, however, give any of the characters their own headings, or an introductory paragraph.


BRER RABBIT

Brer Rabbit by Grace Lodge

Brer Rabbit by Grace Lodge

Again, there’s no introductory paragraph and are no sections for different characters here – just a brief overview of the stories and short descriptions of some characters. Rice does explain the origins of Brer Rabbit who wasn’t a creation of Blyton’s.


NODDY

Noddy by Harmsen Van der Beek

Noddy by Harmsen Van der Beek

Noddy doesn’t get an introduction either – though a large number of characters get their own sections. I’ve never read a Noddy book before (and I call myself a Blyton fan!?) so I probably won’t catch any mistakes here.

Unless Rice writes sentences that make no sense: Big-Ears himself resides in Toadstool House in the Dark Wood, with Whiskers his cat, and his days helping Noddy out of scrapes and cycling round on his little red bicycle. Apart from being a rather long sentence (try reading it out loud without running out of breath) it should probably say and spends his days helping Noddy. It also sounds like Big-Ears helps Noddy ride his bike, when it actually means Big-Ears rides his own bike.

We do get a very interesting story about the Mary Mouse books, they are the size and shape they are as the publisher used offcuts from normal-sized books because of war-time paper rationing.

Interestingly, Noddy gets two whole pages dedicated to him (by far the largest description of any character covered in the book.)

Mr Sparks is listed as the mechanic of Toy Town, with no mention that the original garage owner was actually a golliwog, before the books were updated.


FINAL THOUGHTS

And with that, we are at the end of the book.

To summarise my 5,000+ word review in around 100 words:

  • This book is inconsistent. The depth of examination changes drastically from series to series, and the content/layout is not consistent between series either.
  • There are too many opinions stated as fact –  The most loveable Pixie [is] Chinky, [the Wishing Chair is] the most alluring of all… inventionsNoddy is the best loved and most celebrated of all Blyton’s characters, [Noddy’s] appeal is indisputableand so on. 
  • There are countless mistakes – books missing from lists, people with their name written wrongly or with the wrong name altogether, facts that are just completely incorrect and several examples of poor writing and grammar.

So, that was a rather scathing review, wasn’t it? It’s really unfortunate as the book could have been good.

I think it’s obvious which books the author was most familiar with, and I wonder why she chose to then write about books she clearly didn’t know much about. In her introduction she does say I am not pretending to have included every single Blyton character and that although she will write in detail about several series she will only mention characters from a number of other series. I can’t help but feel that’s a poor excuse given to explain the number of important characters who are missing. It may suit Rice’s work ethos, but it makes for a poor book.

I would still be interested to read the later, revised, edition to see exactly what alterations are made, though I’m not keen to buy it. According to Anita from the Enid Blyton Society Forums:

“Unfortunately, practically all those mistakes and omissions were repeated in the second edition, though it was expanded slightly to include a section on the Barney Mysteries.”

Perhaps I can get it from the library? If I do, I’ll certainly review the Barney section and have a look to see if the biggest mistakes have been corrected.

And with that I’ve finished reviewing this book. I’m actually very, very glad, as being so critical is hard going. (I bet reading it wasn’t a picnic either!) I honestly feel like I’ve written a review as long as the book itself.

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