Enid Blyton

Culture and Media

My friend Shebana Coelho has produced a radio documentary on Enid Blyton, which will be broadcast on Oct. 30:

BBC RADIO 4 DOCUMENTARY  BLYTON IN BOMBAY SET FOR BROADCAST ON SAT, OCTOBER 30, 2004 AT 3:30 PM (UK TIME) British children’s writer Enid Blyton has been a staple of Indian childhoods for generations. In the BBC 4 radio documentary BLYTON IN BOMBAY, Shebana Coelho sets out for the city of her own childhood, Bombay, to investigate the effects of a steady and persistent diet of Blyton on generations of Bombay-ites.  The half hour program features readers of all ages confessing their first time with Blyton, their favourite characters, their attempts at recreating her world, their reactions to India references in Blyton and their opinions on Blyton’s legacy.  As Coelho crisscrosses Bombay uncovering the ways that Blyton continues to linger in the streets and minds of its residents, it becomes clear that to talk about Enid Blyton’s books in India is, in fact, a way to talk about so many other things — political, social and personal  -  all washed down with mythical lashings” of ginger beer. BLYTON IN BOMBAY is scheduled for broadcast on  BBC Radio 4 (92-95 Fm and 198LM in the UK) on  Saturday, October 30 at 3:30 pm (UK time).  Listeners in India and other countries can hear the program via digital radio (at 8 pm, India time) or via the web: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/.  (the program will be streamed live and remain on the website for about a week)   Please visit the BBC Radio 4 site for further listening details.

A lot of us learnt the joy of reading through her books. And also learnt to idolize a bucolic English childhood, and to see ourselves through these idealized English characters. So there is an entire generation, who in the back of their head crave buttered scones, a really rather bland and uninteresting dish. Blyton seems to be popular worldwide, though people like Madonna are exempt from the Blyton Effect.

Here is a biography of Enid Blyton. It has a lot to say about the Mystery and the Famous Five series, but nothing about the Three Golliwog stories. The Golliwog figure has an interesting history, and Blyton’s depiction is one in a long line of such figures:

The claim that Golliwogs are racist is supported by literary depictions by writers such as Enid Blyton. Unlike Florence Upton’s, Blyton’s Golliwogs were often rude, mischievous, elfin villains. In Blyton’s book, Here Comes Noddy Again, a Golliwog asks the hero for help, then steals his car. Blyton, one of the most prolific European writers, included the Golliwogs in many stories, but she only wrote three books primarily about Golliwogs: The Three Golliwogs (1944), The Proud Golliwog (1951), and The Golliwog Grumbled (1953). Her depictions of Golliwogs are, by contemporary standards, racially insensitive. An excerpt from The Three Golliwogs is illustrative: Once the three bold golliwogs, Golly, Woggie, and Nigger, decided to go for a walk to Bumble-Bee Common. Golly wasn’t quite ready so Woggie and Nigger said they would start off without him, and Golly would catch them up as soon as he could. So off went Woogie and Nigger, arm-in-arm, singing merrily their favourite song — which, as you may guess, was Ten Little Nigger Boys.

The last time I went to India, I brought back some of my Enid Blyton collection, among them was this particular book. My friend Sam came to visit, and looked at the book and said, You grew up on this? no wonder Indians are kind of crazy.”