Unlisted - Enid Blyton in general – Enid's Desciption of Foreigners
September 19, 2011 – Deborah says: I am a fan of Blyton's, but the thing I don't like is her criticizing of Americans as vanity icons. Like Zerelda in Malory Towers, Berta in The Famous Five, Sadie in the Twins at St. Clare's. Especially also Pamela Cox! She has criticized Esme in Summer Term at Malory Towers. And the normal English girls are 'hearty, jolly schoolgirls'. The Americans are also mentioned as 'stupidity'. Puh-leeze, dah-ling. And the Irish! in St. Clare's, Pat and Isabella are conceited. Hate that. Thanks, Deborah.
September 21, 2011 – Paul says: Deborah: Enid had a problem with cultural insensitivity. One company refused to publish one of her books because they felt that it was xenophobic. The French and American nations would have had good grounds to sue Enid Blyton for libel - witness the way Zerelda Brass is exoticised in Malory Towers and Claudine in St Clare's is said to "lack the English sense of honour". Claudine was based on a Belgian girl Enid knew at school. Apparently Enid also thought that France and Belgium were interchangeable.
Fatty says: Just as I was about to sing Rule Britannia!
September 21, 2011 – Stephen Isabirye says: Deborah and Paul, with due respect to Enid Blyton's apparent "insensitivity" to other cultures, if you have been in the United States for quite sometime and have followed the educational debate, one can argue that many American high school students resemble Zerelda Brass. So Enid Blyton was right on the money in analyzing America's troubled elementary and high school educational system through the Zerelda Brass (and to a far lesser extent, Sadie Green) character.
October 5, 2011 – Saky says: Well, we may criticise Enid's apparent dislike of foreigners but frankly, the other side isn't too different. In many American films and books, the British are often portrayed as formal and serious while the Americans are normal and fun-loving people. So, we can't only talk about Enid.
Fatty says: So are you saying we're not "normal and fun-loving"? :-(
October 5, 2011 – Saky says: No, I'm just saying how the other side perceives Britons! The Americans are portrayed as normal and fun-loving in the books and films.
Fatty says: Maybe that is why Enid never achieved fame in the USA.
June 9, 2012 – Jeni says: Fatty, it's to the USA's detriment, that Enid never achieved fame over here. A real shame. American children have missed out on so much by not being exposed to her artistry. The thing is, I disagree with the statement that Enid criticized Americans. That's a broad statement. I think she "criticized individuals" in her books. Whatever culture that particular person was, didn't matter to Enid. It was about "who you are as a person", not "where you're from". I remember the book (not sure if it was St. Clare's, or Mallory Towers), where a girl stole and got herself expelled from school. If I recall correctly (and it's been years since I re-read those 2 series), that particular girl was British, not American or some other culture. No, Enid was not knocking cultures. She dissected personalities and put a name to each one, threw in a few cultures (French, American, Gypsy) and called it a story. But what a story!! She did it in such a way, that it was magical to every child who read it, and it remained embedded in our minds and hearts forever.
Fatty says: Yes, she did criticise individuals - take the Sticks, for example. She wouldn't have criticised someone just because of their race.
December 25, 2012 – Winky says: I don't think she did criticize the Irish. If it ever mentions that Pat and Isabel were Irish I think she only made them so concieted at the begining to make the characters more interesting and also to show that simple sensible schools like St Clares were a lot better than schools that had servants and maids that waited on you.
December 29, 2012 – jeni says: Enid never criticized anybody. What she did do, was create stories of intrigue and adventure that fascinated children. Of course Enid knew that children existed in every country. Of course she would know that her many thousands of books would one day reach children in every corner of the world, practically. So why not weave delightful stories around children in 'foreign' cultures, like American Zerelda Brass and so on? (also the French student in the school series) Makes perfect sense to me.
January 6, 2013 – Stephen Isabirye says: Winky, with due respect, it is great that you mention Pat and Isabel described as being conceited. Their Irishness may have or may have not been coincidental. Nonetheless, if one examines Enid Blyton's treatment of the Irish, despite her having had an Irish grandmother, was not always in the best of light. I jot a couple of these examples in my book on her, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage. For instance in The Six Bad Boys, Patrick is described as a "wild Irish Boy" who is " loud-voiced, fiery-tempered, amusing, and cunning" whose father regularly beats him "just to keep him in order." Incidentally, of the six boys, Patrick turns out to be one that is "beyond redemption." All in all, The Irish in Blytonian literature either play a marginal or negative role. For instance, the stolen banknotes in The Ragamuffin Mystery are to be shipped from The Welsh coast to Ireland. In Those Dreadful Children, while the children in the Carlton family are "genteel" and religious, the Taggertys, who incidentally happen to be Irish, are presented as being "rough" and "heathens" for not attending church services on a regular basis. Despite having had Irish origins, unless I am mistaken, Enid Blyton never visited any of the two Irelands despite their very close geographical proximity to England.
January 31, 2013 – Emma says: You see, I'm not criticizing Blyton, for I enjoyed a lot of her books when I was little. But I can't agree that she doesn't criticize America. Zerelda Brass in Malory Towers : she adored film stars, was mature, looked about twenty, while the English girls were Jolly Joes. Sadie Green from St. Clare's, Berta and Junior in the Famous Five- all of them are American. Even Pamela Cox criticizes them- Esme in Malory Towers! American girls are not all stylish- they're jolly and fun too. In most of Blyton's books, the people laugh at something happened to another. And the 'wunnerful, twenny, sharp (instead of shop), ' it is simply a part of American charm. Yes, some books in America do depict the Brits as 'Prim, serious and proper, the people who counted paperclips and keep their red markers in a separate drawer'. Yet they don't criticize the COUNTRY. In Malory Towers, some mistress thinks 'Was America really so slack in teaching its children, or was Zerelda just stupid? ' All in all, you can't blame the USA! I don't think Blyton criticized Ireland, though. Jean in Malory Towers is a good example, though Pat and Isa were really snobbish, they turned out good in the end.
February 3, 2013 – Corinne Pepper says: I think many of Enid's generation distrusted America in the immediate war and post-war years when the school stories were written. Britain and France had lost their Great Power status and would never regain it, while America and the Soviet Union now called the shots. I'm sure that Enid mourned the loss of Merrie Old England and the Empire.
March 12, 2013 – Winky says: Stephen Isabirye, I haven't read the books you mentioned but from the examples you wrote I agree it is a bit too much of a coincidence that they all happen to be Irish. The American and French also all seem to be very much the same (they both all seem to hate walks, the sun, getting dirty, swimming and sports in general). On the other hand a lot of critizised characters are English like the Sticks (as Fatty said) in the Famous Five, or Connie in the Faraway Tree, Alison in St Clare's, Goon and his nephew in the Five Find Outers and dog, Arabella in the Naughtiest Girl, Gwendoline and Maureen in Mallory Towers. Emma, I think Jean in Mallory Towers was Scottish not Irish. I might remember wrong but a lot of the Famous Five tapes use foreign accents for burglars and kidnappers.
May 30, 2013 – Sapna says: I grew up on Enid Blyton books and love most of them. But today, as an adult, I do find a touch of xenophobia in her books. In St. Clare's, statements such as "English Sense of Honour" and she was French, so she couldn't understand the importance of sports; statements that are made in an almost critical manner. What does it matter if a culture prefers embroidery and sewing to sports? I s that a crime? Also, I realize that Zerelda did need taking down a peg or two but tell me, which teen age girl doesn't experiment with make-up? In fact, Enid Blyton's books make me wonder whether girls skipped adolescence during her times because her characters look down upon anyone who indulges in dressing up and make-up and not one of them has a crush. Even though they are 12-18 years old. Grrr! Still I love the worlds that Enid Blyton created for the flaws in her books are outnumbered by the 'wizard' things in it and her books are 'too smashing for words'.
Bets says: I believe nationalism was considered a very favourable trait to have back when the Malory Towers and St. Clare's books were written. I am inclined to admit that there is a thin line between nationalism and xenophobia, and where that line lies will change with the times. You are right, however, about Blyton's girls almost completely skipping adolescence!
May 30, 2013 – Nigel Rowe says: Sapna, you must realise that we were in post war Britain, where any foreigner had been viewed with suspicion. It wasn't 2013 where the UK is truly multi-cultural. You must read the book in the era that they were written. Nothing wrong with a bit of flag waving, after all, GB and her Allies had just liberated Europe and TRotW from fascist tyranny. In any event, how could Enid be xenophobic when she corresponded with children from all over the globe? .
Fatty says: Say it as you see it, Nigel! You're right, of course. :-)
May 30, 2013 – rogoz says: Sapna - EB consistently emphasised the differences between the superior English middle class and anyone else, be they French, Irish, Cornish or working class. It was wishful thinking because during that period, the British Empire was fast disappearing.
June 4, 2013 – Sapna says: Maybe 'xenophobia' is too harsh a word. I should have said slightly prejudiced. In real life, of course, Enid Blyton wouldn't be like that: she did corresponded with children from all over the globe and they loved her. But, I do find the foreign characters in her book a tad stereotypical. Thank you for enlightening me about post WWII conditions, of which I wasn't aware. However, I am an Indian. It irritated me even as a child that if the English had such a 'Sense of Honour' and were so honourable and righteous, why did they inflict imperialism on India and other countries. India gained independence from GB in 1947 (after the SC books were written). Please don't take my post in the wrong sense. I am not blaming Enid Blyton (who I think was apolitical), nor Great Britain (which I think is a fabulous country) and definitely none of the present GB citizens (who are not responsible for the mistakes of a few of their forefathers). I am just stating a fact that struck me as a child, who read about the Indian Freedom Struggle in history textbooks in school and the 'English Sense of Honour' in EB books at home and found the two things contradictory.
June 5, 2013 – Jeni says: Let's not fail to note the fact that the British back then, brought some kind of ORDER and decency to a country (India) trapped with the evils of their sickening "tradition" and barbaric acts of savagery, that they called everyday life. Yes, not all went swimmingly well, but the fact remains, the British brought civilization to a country that as of today, still hasn't figured out what being "civil" means, because they're so steeped in ignorant tradition. Btw, I'm "Indian" also.
Bets says: I hope this doesn't open a can of worms! I personally believe every civilization has a rich tradition that many will find strange and difficult to understand. Of course, with time, many will change but the best will always remain. :-)
Fatty says: I say, let's bring back the British Empire! ;-)
June 5, 2013 – Jeni says: Bets, I like your points. However, I do need to elaborate further: The Indian culture is NOTORIOUS for their horrendous cruelty and mistreatment (assault) of their females. In fact, this is now making headline news around the world. In Guyana, such was the norm (my great grandparents left India and migrated to British Guiana in the 1800's). If you were born an Indian female, you could expect to be assaulted (by male relatives even) and nothing come out of it. The government of Guyana turned a blind eye to it, as it still does today. I should mention that Guyana was once a British Colony (formerly British Guiana) until 1967, when it became independent. As soon as the last British left, anarchy took over in Guyana. No one was safe any longer. Frankly, I, along with the rest of my family, were praying that the British would STAY in Guyana. Because in all truthfulness, that was the only time in Guyana the people were truly peaceful and happy. When the British left, all that changed, and not for the better.
Fatty says: Yes, many parts of the world treat women abominably - all the worse when it is done in the name of religion. Hopefully, one day women won't be treated as objects and abused at the will of men.
June 5, 2013 – Sapna says: I don't want to start an argument here about one country versus another on what should be a forum about Enid Blyton and her books. Let's just say I am as entitled to 'nationalism' as Bets called it as any citizen of any country. I have every right to be proud of my country. I am not blind to her faults but I am not ashamed of her.
Bets says: Nicely said, Sapna! There are positives and negatives to every country.
Fatty says: Although some countries have more negatives than positives. The things we take for granted in the west are sadly still a pipe dream for many in other countries.
June 5, 2013 – Sapna says: Ok. Forget my last post. I really do have a temper like Darrell's and cannot take this lying down. I have been convincing my parents since the past 7 years (and finally succeeding in many cases) the demerits of arranged marriages, to let me wear one-pieces, attend night clubs, let me have a peg or two of beer , and issues I won't even go into as this may be a forum for children too. I am stuck with the horrible Indian education system yet rupee fails miserably against pound, euro and dollar that I may never fulfil my dearest wish of studying abroad. Every day, I read about the horrible incident of ‘Nirbhaya' in New Delhi. Sometimes, I literally hate living in India till I could scream aloud. I live the miserable parts of being an Indian every day of my life. Yet I love India! When I remember all the fun I've had during gatherings of 300+ people during Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Holi; all the bhajans, kirtans and Bollywood remixs we have sung together; my dear Mumbai; all the Gulab Jamuns and Tandoori Chicken I've eaten; the Mehendi I've applied; the sheer number of languages and cultures we know from a young age that will amaze any foreigner; the support system we get here - I'm so glad I grew up in India. The West looks to India for Yoga, Korma and Tandoori food, which are new 'fads' for them. Yes, the British gave us the Railways, Post and Telegraph, abolished 'Sati' and introduced widow re-marriage. Far be me from denying it. But, they also gave us the Jallianwalah Baugh massacre that was as "barbaric" as any crime on a woman; they also trod on a lot of Indians miserably, impoverished many. Mahatma Gandhi, whom the UK and USA and TRotW respect, was not a fool when he decided to free India. Mahatma Gandhi was not perfect but he was a respectable man. India is not perfect, neither is UK. Whether first, third or any world, England and India are like any other country and person, as Enid Blyton called it "half and half". They both have their good as well as bad points. But what generally happens in such forums is that when people speak up for so called "First World Countries" like UK they get a lot of assent and when people speak up for so called "Third World Countries" like India, only the bad aspects of India get highlighted. Nigel has a perfect right to be proud of UK, I to be proud of India and frankly Jeni, in this free 21st century world you may choose to be proud of any country or be a world citizen in general or just be your own independent person: it's really your choice.
June 5, 2013 – Jeni says: For me, this is NOT about "PRIDE", whether it be pride of nation, pride of heritage, cultural pride, or whatever. For me, this is about me, as a woman, being treated like a respectable human being - being treated like someone's "equal". I could never hope for that kind of respect, or treatment, in India. It's why I choose to live in America. But my other choices were the UK, or European and many other countries, which, for the most part - do not blatantly discriminate against women, the way India does.
June 6, 2013 – Sapna says: Fine Jeni! Settle down wherever you want. My girlfriends come home from work at 12 / 1 am and feel quite safe to do so. I've never felt discriminated against guys in the 23 years of my life in India. If you did (and you are much older than me, so it's likely you did, during those times), it's something that happen to you but that does not generalize an entire country as you did. I know that India is not the best place in the world to feel safe but neither is it as bad as you make it out to be.
Fatty says: Jeni isn't that old, Sapna. I haven't put up your link as it isn't suitable for a site frequented by children. I think this topic has now run its course. Such topics are probably better discussed on a forum such as The Common Room.
June 6, 2013 – Sapna says: I apologise if I've unwittingly been rude or hurt anyone.
August 9, 2014 – ciara says: I am doing a thesis on Enid Blyton at the moment, exploring why she is so well liked despite the old fashioned nature of her books still. I have come across the slightly negative characterizations she puts on certain characters that are not British. It's a lot easier to brush this over when you are a child, because we tend to as children read people at face value. It's hard to put yourself in Enid's view of the world because she is writing form a time that is a lot different from us. Despite this, I still find myself falling in live with all the series again.
Fatty says: It is important to remember that her views were widely held in the era in which she wrote - mainly the 30s-60s.
August 13, 2014 – Hammy says: Hey Ciara, that's an interesting thesis that you are doing! I noticed the "short-comings" of her stories when I am older too but like other Blytonians, I know that's due to different points of view in different eras. Do tell us (at least, me), more about your findings. That is, if you don't mind sharing. : ).
October 31, 2014 – Evie says: May I please make two points? First of all, in St Clare books Enid said that the Irish lilt to Pat and Izzy's voices was very pleasant to hear. Second of all, in the original copy of The Mountain of Adventure, when little Dinah is getting water for them, it says that she was shocked because 'looking out of the trees was a face, and it was black! ' That is a bit racist.
Fatty says: You have a funny ideal of what racist means.
November 3, 2014 – Edward says: Evie, you need to remember that in the era that the books were written, to suddenly see a black face looking out of a tree in deepest Wales would indeed be a great shock. Fatty is right, that is not racist. I would be shocked if a black face suddenly looked out of a tree when I was least expecting it! People seem not to know what the word racist means - many thinking that any mention of a no-white/British national is being racist.
January 12, 2015 – Evie M says: Fatty and Edward, I did not explain well enough. I know that if you just say someone is black it is not racist. However, they kept referring to him as the 'black man' or the 'black stranger' like that was a bad thing. And it said stuff like 'she was so shocked that a black face was in the tree! '. And I know you would be shocked if a black face looked out of a tree at you, Edward, but why do you need to say 'black face'? Wouldn't you be shocked if ANY face looked out of a tree at you, black or white? Sorry if you have a different opinion : ).
August 2, 2015 – Paul says: "Izzy"? We may know Isabel through Enid but cutesy diminutives like that are usually reserved for close family and friends!
August 2, 2015 – Evie M says: It's just quicker typing Izzy rather than Isabel- got a problem? .
Bets says: Yes, there is a problem, when the name was clearly Isabel. :-)
Fatty Can we show a bit of respect, Evie? Saying, "Got a problem?" is both rude and dis-respectful.
August 3, 2015 – Paul says: Bets: I see people do it a lot online. It's assuming a closeness and familiarity that is inappropriate. Just because someone likes Eleanor Roosevelt doesn't mean that they get to call her Ellie or Nora!
August 3, 2015 – Haibara Ai says: I call Isabel Izzy too, Evie when I'm talking about her with my friends.
August 3, 2015 – Tom.C.G says: Calm down! Evie!!
August 3, 2015 – Evie M says: Well Paul we all have our own opinions- some people like you disagree and others, like Haibara Ai, agree. (Thanks for the support- did you say Ai is your first name?? : )).
August 3, 2015 – Haibara Ai says: Yes, that's my first name, but everyone calls me Ai-chan.
August 4, 2015 – Haibara Ai says: Well most people do anyway, some call me Haibara-san.
November 5, 2016 – Paul says: I have a new appreciation for Blyton right now, because I've been reading some early Angela Brazil novels, and, well. Brazil was one of the pioneers of the girls boarding school novel as a genre in its own right, but her early stuff, at least, hasn't aged well. I don't just mean the old-fashioned, episodic narrative structure, I mean the bit where the heroine's sister writes minstrel songs for a hobby, or the rant about the inhumanity of the Chinese. Compared to that, Blyton's world populated largely by whites and only prejudiced against non-British Europeans and Americans is enlightened.
Fatty says: Not sure about your last sentence, Paul. As for the Chinese, their human rights record was - and still is to a degree, appalling.
November 5, 2016 – Cathy says: You're right, Fatty - and their animal rights record is 100 times worse!!!!
November 30, 2016 – Padré says: In the Mystery of the Vanished Prince, when Pip and Larry are interviewing the boys who shared his tent, one said of the supposed "prince" that "All his clothes were of the Very best, but would he wash? Not he! And if you said you'd pop him in the river, he would run a mile, wah-wahing! " This sort of behaviour seems to be almost expected of "foreigners". Another boy said that there were two foreigners in his school. One never cleans his teeth and the other howls if he gets a kick at football. Foreigners, eh? .
December 2, 2016 – Nigel says: Ah, those pesky foreigners, eh? If they didn't wash, they certainly needing an eye kept on them! They've certainly got the hang of football, now! I remember, back in the 50s, my mother wouldn't buy foreign chocolate. She thought it inferior to British chocolate.
December 5, 2016 – Paul says: Makes you wonder if Enid would have sympathised with Mary Whitehouse?
February 13, 2017 – Avan N. Cooverji says: I am Indian. For seventy one years of my life, I lived in India. Now I have migrated to NewZealand since the last three years. I started reading Enid Blyton's books since I was eleven and I am still reading and enjoying them. I read only the Five Find Outers and the St. Clare and Malory Towers series as I find these interesting. I have also read the Famous Five but the books did not hold my interest. There seems to be a lot of discussion on whether the books are somewhat racist. I do not think so, though foreigners in her books are viewed with suspicion. But then it also exposes the acute class consciousness that is prevalent in the England of those days as when Ern , a friend of the Find Outers is asked to go to the kitchen for his meals and not eat with his friends at their table. What I feel is that the books are a product of her time, a period when people in England were not familiar with other cultures , so being different is the crux here. In the Mystery Of the Vanishing Prince, Indians are depicted as disliking having a bath but I assure you that Indians are very clean in their habits and very particular in keeping their houses spotless and tidy. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but mostly it is poverty and lack of facilities that unfortunately does not let people be as clean as they would want to. That can happen anywhere. So the matter here is that cultures are different, it was a different world then and now there is a more integrated society all over, so lots of misconceptions are cleared. All countries have their particular traits and concerns, some are more advanced, some more spiritual and so on but people and human nature is the same everywhere and tolerance , acceptance and good will should be the guiding light for all.
Fatty says: An excellent post, Avan. Thanks for sharing your feelings.
April 4, 2017 – Avan N. Cooverji says: Whether one lives in England or in India, a lot also depends on the economic strata and family wholesomeness that you happen to be born into. If one is lucky to be born in an united loving family, be it in India or the UK, it will go a long way in colouring your outlook. Because a happy family will make for a happy contended child while unhappy or split families will naturally make young impressionable children feel insecure anywhere. Also if you are surrounded with comfort and have ease of money , then it will definitely make things easier for you no matter where you are. Every city has areas which are safe and unsafe, affluent and slum-like, so a great deal depends on ones circumstances and surroundings. In this world nothing is perfect, no country is ideal, most things are a mixture of good and not so good, and a lot depends on ones own hard work and luck as well.
April 27, 2017 – Paul says: It's kind of a shame that Zerelda Brass has lost her very Second World War era "Victory Rolls" hairstyle in modern editions of MT. For younger readers - a lot of things were labelled "Victory" or "Liberty" during the Second World War as a way of inspiring people on the Home Front to join the fight against Hitler in their own way.
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