Sunday, November 1, 2009

a world away...

what child didn’t love Noddy, Big Ears, Tessie Bear, Bumpy Dog, the Golliwogs and all the other Toyland friends??

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and with the arrival of television in the 50s and 60s we even got to see our favourite storybook characters magically come to life (mind you, it was new technology so we pretty much saw all telly as magical!!! )

who could have known that by the late 80s Noddy, Big Ears and the Golliwogs would become so controversial – infamous even...

(the following excerpts from "Noddy, older and wiser?" in The Scotsman newspaper)

there were accusations of homosexuality (hey, i was a kid and we understood friendship - we didn’t understand sexuality – and what difference did being gay or straight make anyway??? – let’s not forget, we’re talking wooden dolls here!!!!)

the fact that Noddy and his top chum Big Ears – without whom, let's face it, he'd probably still be wandering around the woods in the buff – would cuddle up in bed together with a nice steaming mug of hot chocolate has been the cause of much sniggering for many years... Blyton's liberal use of the words 'queer' and 'gay' was deemed 'inappropriate' and in 1989 all use of the words was taken out, and Big Ears was banished to his own bed”

there were accusations of racism (i thought the golliwogs were grouse – they were rag dolls, we all knew that! i had one, it was friend and companion – i was totally unaware of the concept of racism...)

“Golliwogs were popular toys at the time of Blyton's writing, but by the 1980s they were seen as promoting negative black stereotypes. The golliwog characters were airbrushed out in 1989, some erased completely, while others were replaced with goblins.”

even librarians hated noddy...

“Children may have loved Noddy, but librarians loathed him. Described by one as "the most egocentric, joyless, snivelling and pious anti-hero in the history of British fiction", poor young Noddy was on the verge of being blacklisted. There was a movement in the 1960s to ban Blyton's books – and in particular Noddy tomes – from libraries, because of their supposed limited vocabulary, but it did not last long, with many finally recognising that Blyton's ability to get children to read in the first place was far more important.”

Enid Blyton didn't live a conventional life for the era apparently... according to author Kate Forsyth from an article entitled Enid Blyton, Shoddy Noddy and the Infamous Five..

"Blyton's own life has been a source of continual fascination, perhaps because she so unfailingly represented it as bathed in perpetual sunshine. The Channel Four series Secret Lives recently probed the dark, secret shadows of her life with great relish - Blyton's frigid relations with her own family her affairs and bitter divorce, her intense friendship with Dorothy Richards (Bi Women on the Web, a resource page for bisexual women, lists Enid Blyton as one of its heroines, along with Josephine Baker, Simone de Beauvoir and Sandra Bernhard).

Most tellingly, Blyton has finally been the subject of an in-depth critical analysis, published last month in the UK as Enid Blyton and the Mystery of Children's Literature. David Rudd, a senior lecturer at Bolton Institute, has examined the life and work of Blyton, with particular emphasis on the fact that, despite the storm of adult negativity, Blyton remains the most popular children's author ever.

"Why does a writer accused of being ... middle-class, snobbish, sexist, racist ... continue to fascinate in our multicultural world? To fascinate not only in France, Germany and Australia, but also in Malaysis, Russia and Japan, and in languages such as Catalan and Tamil?" Rudd asks.

To begin with, Rudd examines the primary criticisms of Blyton's work and concludes that many "are based on glaring misreadings, sometimes not even drawing on Blyton's own original texts."

The accusation of sexism, for example, is one that has always troubled me. Of all the thousands of books I read as a child, it is George of the Famous Five that remains most vivid in my memory - the tomboy who refused to let the boys push her around, the girl who could out-swim, out-climb and out-wit anyone. The critic Bob Dixon has described George as "a very bad case of ... penis-envy', yet she was a powerful role-model for literally millions of young girls.

Blyton's books are filled with passionate, independent girls who fight desperately against being straitjacketed in normal gender roles. Even Anne, normally dismissed as the typical domesticated female, has her own power, which often takes her brothers by surprise. And as Rudd points out, without the contrast of Anne, George's behaviour would not appear half so subversive."

so why write about Noddy now?? because the young lad is making a comeback in the first classic Noddy tale to appear in 46 years - “Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle” with illustrations by Robert Tyndall, who has drawn the series since 1953 - minus the golliwogs of course, and big ears will be confined to his own bed (no more snuggling up together) – it’s written by Sophie Smallwood, the granddaughter of Enid Blyton... i heard it mentioned the other day and was transported back to my childhood - a world away...


Sailor Lily said...

I am a HUGE Enid fan and in grade two was proud to master her signature perfectly, much to the amazement of my (impressed and newfound) friends....
I have most of my Mum's collection of the 1940's hardbacks of 'The famous five' with their woderful ink drawings semi-coloured in pencil; I think there were were three colours (red, blue and yellow) in those editions. I still turn to them when sick or tired or just tired of the world, cause I always really fancied Julian- such an alpha-male and so perfectly preppie! I think my favorite was 'Five go to Smuggler's Top' though I also really loved 'Finniston Farm'.
In my favorite Noddy book 'Little Black Sambo' who is wicked rubs a naughty spell on Noddy's car, and it goes nuts around town running down Mr Plodd and sending Mrs Skittle flying!
I recently was delighted to pick up the 'wishing chair' and 'enchanted woods' books in hardback at a garage sale. I hope Finn will enjoy them with me.
And my battered 'Bedtime stories' with Naughty Amelia Jane and the curious candle that belonged to Connie is still in easy reach.
Speaking of naughty- how was that Elizbeth?? I always thought she went downhill when she bacame a Whiteleafe monitor.
oh dear. I could go on (and on, and on)


i loved Little Black Sambo too... but that was written by Helen Bannerman in 1899...

do you maybe mean Mr Golly in Noddy - he owned the toyland garage??

Sailor Lily said...

no, no, sure it was Sambo. I'll re-check the book though!

Curvy Kitty said...

Little black Sambo was a different book (and one I am delighted to own). Apart from Mr Golly there were also BAD golliwogs that stole Noddy's car. Everyone's right!

I dunno why I never read Noddy. Read every other goddamn EB book. LOVE THEM! Too busy with Rupert Bear and Tiger Lily.

Anonymous said...

On the day that I turned 5 and my mother turned onto ABC radio which was just announcing that the Noddy story just read was deidcated to me. Loved the dedication but was mighty peeed off that I didn't hear the story.
famous five forever...

Larry the librarian

Anju said...

I loved Enid Blyton growing up! you're right, as a child, everything was innocent and pure and then people go and turn everything into either "racist" or offensive to gay people. It's ridiculous. When I was young I thought "Golliwogg" was such a cute word. I never thought of it as an insult or anything. I wish people would just sell books in their original form so that we don't forget what words were part of the original languages.