The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part seven


I thought this would be a fine way to break up the Christmas posts a bit (but don’t worry there will be more of those!)

Previous parts can be seen  hereherehereherehere and here.

As always my own copy is a Methuen from 1957 – a 12th reprint/impression of the original. The new version is the most modern of any paperbacks I have looked at so far,  which is an Egmont copy from 2014.


CHAPTER FOURTEEN: CLEAR-ORF TURNS UP AT AN AWKWARD MOMENT

Fatty’s bruises are again the cause of massive editing. I’ve decided to show the whole original passage and then the new passage as I think that’s the easiest way to show the difference.

Pip’s mother asked how Fatty was after his fall. Fatty was delighted, because the others had quite forgotten to ask about his bruises again.
“Thank you, I’m all right,” he said, “but my bruises are rather extraordinary. I’ve got one the shape of a dog’s head – rather like Buster’s head, really.”
“Really?” said Pip’s mother, astonished. “Do let me see it!”
Fatty spent a wonderful five minutes showing all his bruises, one after another, especially the one shaped like a dog’s head. It was difficult to see how he made out that it was shaped like one, but Pip’s mother seemed most interested. The children scowled. How annoying grown-ups were! Here they has been trying to stop Fatty from continually showing off and boasting, and now Pip’s mother was making him ten times worse.
In a few minutes Fatty was telling her all about the bruise he had had once that was shaped like a church-bell, and the other that looked like a snake.
“I’m a really marvellous bruiser,” he said. “I shall be a wonderful sight tomorrow when I’m in the yellow stage.”
“Come on,” whispered Larry to Pip. “I can’t stick this. This is Fatty at his worst.”
Leaving Fatty talking eagerly to Pip’s mother, the four children crept off. Buster stayed with Fatty, wagging his tail. He really seemed as much interested in his young master’s bruises as the grown-up!
“Let’s go for a bike-ride and leave old Fatty to himself,” said Pip, in disgust. “I can’t bear him when he gets like this.”

And then:

Pip’s mother asked how Fatty was after his fall. Fatty was delighted, because the others had quite forgotten to ask about his bruises again.
“Thank you, I’m all right,” he said, “but I’ve still got some rather nasty bruises.”
Leaving Fatty talking eagerly to Pip’s mother, the four children crept off. Buster stayed with Fatty, wagging his tail.
“Let’s go for a bike-ride and leave old Fatty to himself,” said Pip, in disgust. “I don’t want to hear about his fall all over again.”

As you can see the new passage is far shorter than the original. It also causes a couple of problems. Firstly, the children deciding to get up and leave comes rather out of nowhere, and secondly it makes them sound very petty. In the original you can understand why they would want to go off and make a point of not listening to his boasting. Pip saying he doesn’t want to hear about Fatty’s fall again doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as Fatty has barely said anything about the fall itself, and even less in the edited paperback.

The four instances of italics are removed:

  • Maybe he has got a pair that do match
  • You are mean (twice)
  • Oh you are clever Fatty!

Fatty is made to sound even more of an ass than he already does. Half a page after nearly storming off when the others return from their bike ride he says I think I ought to go with Larry [to Mr Smellie’s in the night], instead of Daisy who is desperate to go. Originally he had said I think a boy ought to go with Larry. I’ll go, Larry. Now to modern ears that’s potentially just as offensive – but it’s a common attitude amongst Blyton’s male characters and doesn’t set Fatty as any more arrogant than they are in their assumption that girls ought to be left safely at home. When he shuts down Daisy’s suggestion that she goes by just saying that he ought to go, he just comes across as superior and awful.

A line from Fatty’s interaction is then cut – The policeman shook him angrily, and for some unknown reason Goon’s odd manner of speech is punctuated differently now. Come-alonga-me has become  Come-alonga me.


CHAPTER FIFTEEN: A FRIGHT FOR LARRY AND FATTY

And another chapter is butchered to remove some – but by no means all – references to Fatty’s bruises. It fails to make any sense any more (if indeed it made any to begin with) considering his bruises have an integral part in the story now.

Anyway, the changes in this chapter start with telephone to the police becoming call the police. 

Then Mr Smellie pounced on Larry and took hold of him with a surprisingly strong hand.  He shook the boy hard, and Larry gasped. The first sentence remains in the paperback but the second is cut to Larry gasped.

Shaking Larry hard, and muttering all sorts of terrible threats, he pushed the boy before him into the hall also becomes Muttering all sorts of terrible threats, he pushed the boy before him into the hall. 

So grabbing and pushing is perfectly fine – but shaking is a no-no. Just so we’re clear.

Later, (after a fight which is unedited) Fatty says that Mr Smellie caught me and pummelled me and threw me down the stairs. Now, only the ‘caught’ part is true but it still gets cut to caught me and threw me down the stairs. 

 I’m covered with bruises then appears in both texts but Look – here – and here – and there – and there! Oh, fetch a doctor, fetch a doctor is cut from the paperback.

 The description of Fatty from Miss Miggle and Mr Smellie’s viewpoint is also cut. From The boy in the hall was really and truly covered with the most terrifying purple, green and yellow bruises. They stared at Fatty as he showed them his curious markings right down to the boy in the hall had several bruises 

It just makes no sense! How can they see he has bruises unless he has pulled his clothes around to point them out?

Miss Miggle then says Just look at the poor child! How could you knock a little boy about like that?  which has become Just look at this boy’s bruises. How could you do that to a little boy?  So they’ve added a reference to the bruises they’ve tried so hard to omit everywhere else.

Like here, where Fatty’s line –  “I’m a wonderful bruiser,” began Fatty. “I once had a bruise shaped like a church-bell.”  – is cut.

Miss Miggle also no longer speaks in a most reproachful tone for absolutely no reason I can see.

What makes this all stranger is the below quotes which have been left in the paperback.

  • he wouldn’t hit you
  • have him up for injuring a child
  • I’m covered in bruises
  • awful bruises
  • put something on the bruises
  • dabbing each bruise with the stuff from her bottle

The first one makes no sense as Fatty no longer claims to have been hit (or pummelled) and the others are just odd considering how much the bruises have been cut from the story already.


Thirty-two changes in all – so that brings us to 173 in total.


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One Response to The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part seven

  1. Francis says:

    Fiona
    A very valuable expose of just how awful changing the original text can become.
    Thanks, Francis

    Like

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