Enid Blyton was a prolific author of English children's literature, producing around 800 books during her forty-year career, which were many people's first introduction to literature
, and which still sell well to day. To date her books have sold over 600 million copies worldwide.
Her writing is mostly set in an idealised version of pre-war England, and reflects the attitudes of the time, using some now-dead tropes
about race, sex, and social class, commonly mocked when Blyton is parodied. Often, her characters spend days roaming across the countryside, without any trace of adult supervision
, eating lavish picnics and having jolly adventures fighting assorted villains.
While her work was highly influential (even all these years later, those who have read Blyton can't help but be reminded of the St. Clare's
and Malory Towers
books while reading about Hogwarts
) there is a fairly large amount of Values Dissonance
strewn liberally among her books, and it has come under controversy, although even that hasn't stopped her books from still being widely bought and read today.Enid Blytons's main series include:
- Noddy (24 books). Set in Toyland.
- The Famous Five (21 books). Four children and a dog, who regularly stumble across mysterious happenings.
- The Adventure Series (8 books). Four children and their cockatoo have an adventure each time they go on holiday together.
- The Mystery Series (6 books). Four children and a monkey on a quest to find one of the children's missing father, solving mysteries as they go.
- Five Find-Outers (15 books). Five children and a dog, who solve a mystery every summer holiday,
- The Secret Seven (15 books). Seven children and a dog in a detective club, who solve mysteries during term-time.
- Malory Towers (6 books). One girl's progress through a Boarding School
- St. Clare's St (6 books). Two twins' progress through a Boarding School
- The Naughtiest Girl (4 books, plus 6 by Anne Digby). Elizabeth Allen makes trouble in a progressive Boarding School.
- The Faraway Tree (4 books). Three children find a magical tree which has a Magical Land at the top, but the land it connects to changes every week.
- The Wishing Chair (3 books). Two children buy a magic chair from a mysterious shop.
- The Circus Series (3 books). The adventures of a young boy and his family who join a circus.
- Now out of print, The Three Golliwogs a book full of a trio of gollywog dolls. A publishing nightmare in terms of modern race relations. Not only are the dolls based on a racial stereotype visually, but the text uses names that have since become bound to racism. An excerpt:
Once the three bold golliwogs, Golly, Woggie, and Nigger, decided to go for a walk [...] So off went Woggie and Nigger, arm-in-arm, singing merrily their favourite song –- which, as you may guess, was Ten Little Nigger Boys.
Many of her works have been televised or filmed. The Famous Five
is the one most commonly referenced, while Noddy
is popular worldwide for it's numerous Animated Adaptations
. Blyton also wrote hundreds of stand-alone novels. Her books still sell around eight million copies a year. The Famous Five books alone sell more than two million copies a year according to The Other Wiki
There are two fansites at http://enidblyton.net
This author's books provide examples of:
- Absent-Minded Professor: A stock trope for Enid's works. Most evident in Uncle Quentin from the Famous Five novels.
- Acceptable Feminine Goals: A fair proportion of the girls from Malory Towers seem to avoid this trope - four of them go on to university, one to a very prestigious musical career, and two set up a business together. One of them would have been an Olympic swimmer except for a disregard for the rules which nearly got her killed.
- Adults Are Useless - partly justified since the adults tend, for the most part, to react the way regular adults would. Often it's not so much a case of 'Adults Are Useless' as 'Adults aren't as suspicious as they should be and don't trust their children'. Uncle Quentin is a particularly good example in that his major failing is that he is just like George - as hot headed as a blowtorch!
- Amateur Sleuth
- Animated Adaptation: Noddy in particular got multiple TV adaptations, most of which Overtook the Series.
- Anime: the St. Clare's books were adapted into the 26 episode Anime "Ochame na futago: Claire Gakuin monogatari".
- Anti Gravity: The villains of The Mountain of Adventure are trying to build antigravity wings as a weapon.
- Author Appeal: Enid Blyton has a fondness for writing tomboyish female characters (George, Jo, Henry, Bertha, Bobby, Bill, etc.) in her novels who either crossdress or assume male names.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Nobody actually says "Lashings of ginger beer".
- The hilariously not-childsafe parody Five Go Mad in Dorset corrects this oversight.
- Berserk Button: Most evident in George's hair trigger in the Famous Five books whenever someone is mean to her pet dog Timmy, or worse dares to call her a girl.
- Beware the Nice Ones:
- Anne from the Famous Five books is a Proper Lady but every once in a while, well you know how the Trope goes.
- Darrell in the Malory Towers series is a perfectly lovely girl unless you really piss her off, and then she snaps.
- Big Eaters: The Famous Five never fail to finish off their tea sandwiches for lunch.
- Boarding School: The setting of the Naughtiest Girl, Malory Towers and St Clares books, and tangentially mentioned in most other series.
- The Secret Seven are the most notable aversion; they are lower middle class and accordingly attend grammar school, though (as is typical) little is seen of their school life.
- Bound and Gagged: Happens many times to the Kid Detectives.
- Bowdlerise: Since The Eighties a lot of her books have been edited for modern consumption — The Faraway Trees Dame Slap was turned into Dame Snap etc. The most recent was a "modernization" of the Famous Five done by Hodder in 2010 that changed the slang (e.g. swotter to bookworm) and tried to bring in more gender equality.
- Brainless Beauty: In the Blyton world, characters who are overly concerned about their appearances are regarded as shallow, dumb and vapid at best, or an Alpha Bitch at worst.
- Cargo Cult
- Cave Behind the Falls
- City Mouse: Cyril, Melisande and Roderick from the Six Cousins duology.
- The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Her works contained loving and devoted families, and children who enjoyed life. Blyton's own approach to parenting and relationship with her younger daughter tended towards Abusive Parents. (Her elder daughter had fonder memories of her, though.)
- Country Mouse: Jack, Jane and Susan from the Six Cousins duology.
- During the War: Due to the period in which she was writing, this crops up quite a lot. Rationing due to World War II leading to national hunger - well, not exactly hunger, but definitely a longing to be able to just pig out sometimes - also goes a long way towards explaining the Food Porn in her books.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Kollamoolitumarellipawkyrollo from The Faraway Tree books, for obvious reasons.
- Evil Cripple: Subverted in Five Go to Smuggler's Top, the villain's henchman Block feigns deafness to avoid suspicion and eavesdrop on the secrets of the Lenoir family.
- Food Porn: Featured vividly in several scenes such as the midnight feasts in her boarding school books and the countryside picnics in the Famous Five. Typically:
- Picnics of freshly baked bread spread with new butter, with crisp radishes, lettuce and tomatoes and slice after slice of ham. This will be followed by generous slices of the fruit cake the farmer's wife gave them for being so polite and perhaps an apple or two (note that apples are always munched; there is no other way in which an apple can be eaten)
- Giggly midnight feasts with a main course of tinned pineapple and peaches, chocolate and sweets, followed by an enormous iced birthday cake for desert. Despite the huge quantities, the girls invariably manage to eat everything before the feast is inevitably disturbed.
- A swelteringly hot day will be described in great detail before the children inevitably happen on somewhere selling delicious ices, when everyone will have at least two, usually three.
- Ginger beer is obviously the drink of choice, but rich creamy milk straight from the farm or crystal-clear icy-cold water from a mountain spring are acceptable substitutes.
- Gender-Equal Ensemble: Her works often consist of a gender-balanced group of children, sometimes supplemented by a pet.
- The Famous Five: Not counting the dog, the titular ensemble consists of two boys (Julian and Dick) and two girls (Georgina and Anne)
- ''The Adventure Series: Two boys (Phillip and Jack) and two girls (Dinah and Lucy-Ann)
- ''The Secret Series: Two boys (Jack and Mike) and two girls (Peggy and Nora)
- ''The Far Away Tree: The second book has two boys and two girls.
- The Adventurous Four: Two boys (Tom and Andy) and twin sisters (Jill and Mary)
- Six Cousin Series: Three boys (Jack, Cyril and Roderick) and three girls (Jane, Susan and Melisande)
- Ghibli Hills: The rather idealised landscapes through which The Famous Five et al roam and adventure.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Perhaps best exemplified in The Magic Faraway Tree when Dick, frustrated at having his name misheard by a hard-of-hearing character, shouts back at him, "Not Chick, but Dick!". You had to wonder if Enid was just a little bit in on the joke.
- George from the Famous Five has a mother called Fanny. Jo from The Faraway Tree also had a sister called that.
- Identical Stranger: Jo the Gypsy girl is a dead ringer for George
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: a different pattern for each series:
- Five Go To Somewhere Or Do Something (parodied with the Comic Strip's Five Go Mad In Dorset)
- The X of Adventure
- The R Mystery (an adjective that begins with R)
- Numbered Something at Malory Towers
- Someone or X Form at St Clares
- Kid Detective
- Lighthouse Point
- Master of Disguise: Fatty in the Five Find-Outers series.
- Magical Land
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted (mostly), notably in Malory Towers, in which the logical progression in ages is unavoidable. The Famous Five, however, are notable for being portrayed as in their mid-teens at most even though the preponderance of school holidays gives a timeline of several years. (Cover illustrations have attempted to portray them as older but that creates its own problems.)
- Omni Disciplinary Scientist: Uncle Quentin from the Famous five novels, although it's more an Informed Attribute. He's also something of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer as well.
- Portmanteau / Neologism: "Delumptious" and "scrumplicious", being the two portmanteaux of "delicious" and "scrumptious". They became famous enough to somewhat enter the language, and are quoted by Zach in Goodnight Mister Tom for example.
- Romani: Turn up in various guises in Blyton's books. Usually heavily romanticised.
- Red Scare: A lot of the foreign villains have an Eastern European Communist slant to them (especially East German), although they tend to be euphemistically referred to as 'agents of a foreign power'.
- Reformed, but Rejected: Mirabel in the St Clares series.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Practically all the main characters in Malory Towers - Darrell and Sally, Alicia and Betty, Mary-Lou and Daphne, and there's outright Les Yay between Bill and Clarissa.
- Ruritania: Tauri-Hessia from the Adventure series.
- Secret Underground Passage: Stock trope, bordering on Artistic License – Geology on occasion.
- Shaggy Search Technique
- Space Whale Aesop: One of her short stories has the message "Don't kill spiders, because if you leave them alone and then lose some money in the street then you might find it later in a web that they weave."
- Team Pet: Most of Blyton's series featured the children with one.
- Timmy the dog, the fifth member of the Famous Five books is probably the most famous. He is probably also the most useful, too, as he was an excellent guard dog who regularly fought off criminals.
- Miranda the monkey and Loopy the black spaniel in the 'R' Mystery books. Miranda was often useful for fetching keys and delivering messages...Loopy was most useful for chewing hairbrushes and stealing mats.
- Scamper the golden spaniel in the Secret Seven books.
- Kiki the parrot in the Adventure series mostly serves as comic relief with her repertoire of phrases and tricks, but does get the children out of a few sticky situations.
- Buster the Scottish Terrier in the Five Find-Outers series.
- The Cat Came Back: In "The Three Golliwogs", the golliwogs take advantage of the fact that they look identical to do this to one of their antagonists.
- The Notable Numeral: The Famous Five and The Secret Seven.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jack Longfield gives one of these to his twin sister Jane about her poor personal hygiene in the first Six Cousins book.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Are implied to be the hostile foreign power in The Adventurous Four, although they are only ever referred to on page as "the enemy". At the time it was published, it would have been obvious to the readers who they were. The audiobook edition released in the 1990s made it clear that the story was set during World War II and "the enemy" were Nazis, including giving them German accents.
- Timmy in a Well: Used more than once. In the first Famous Five book this happens very literally when Timmy the dog chases a rabbit and falls down an old well. In this case, though, it's the children who rescue the dog, rather than vise-versa!
- Tomboyish Name: Tomboyish girls with names to match often crop up in Blyton's writing, but are usually quite distinct characters:
- In the Famous Five, Georgina always calls herself George to the point that her use of her full name is used as an Out-of-Character Alert in one book. George is the most tomboyish of Blyton's tomboys, fiercely resenting any reference to her being a girl and any effort to make her behave like one. The Alternate Character Interpretation in Fan Fic is that George is a FtM Transsexual.
- Wilhelmina Robinson of Malory Towers insists on being called Bill. She has seven brothers and so is 'more of a boy than a girl herself', and eschews all typically feminine pursuits in favour over her obsession with horses.
- Roberta, the resident tomboy of St Claire's, is always known as Bobby. Unlike tempramental George and distant Bill, Bobby is a good-humoured and quick-witted class clown.
- Treasure Map: In the first Famous Five book and one of the Adventure books.
- True Companions: Just about all her series have the kids forming up as friends as close as family, fairly quickly.
- Wacky Wayside Tribe
- Yellow Peril: Subverted with "the King of the Mountain" in The Mountain of Adventure, an Oriental Mad Scientist who seems to be an example of this trope, but is in fact just a harmless eccentric who's being manipulated by the real villains.