Hero of August: Enid Blyton

Women August 2019 Figure - Enid Blyton-01Adorageek wishes to acknowledge the controversy surrounding Enid Blyton and maintain this post referring to her achievement in literature only. Adorageek regrets any conducts and behaviors that could be seen as racist, sexist, or xenophobic. It is our principle to celebrate diversity and the aforementioned values are directly at odds with what the blog is aiming to achieve.

Enid Blyton was an English children’s writer whose books have been among the world’s best-sellers since the 1930s, selling more than 600 million copies. Blyton’s books are still enormously popular, and have been translated into 90 languages.

She wrote on a wide range of topics including education, natural history, fantasy, mystery, and biblical narratives and is best remembered today for her Noddy, Famous Five, and Secret Seven series.

Enid Blyton was born on 11 August 1897 in East Dulwich, South London. From 1907 to 1915 Blyton attended St Christopher’s School in Beckenham. She was not so keen on all the academic subjects but excelled in writing, and in 1911 she entered Arthur Mee’s children’s poetry competition. Mee offered to print her verses, encouraging her to produce more. Blyton’s mother considered her efforts at writing to be a “waste of time and money”, but she was encouraged to persevere by Mabel Attenborough, the aunt of school friend Mary Potter.

Women August 2019 Typewriter - Enid Blyton-01Blyton’s manuscripts had been rejected by publishers on many occasions, which only made her more determined to succeed: “it is partly the struggle that helps you so much, that gives you determination, character, self-reliance – all things that help in any profession or trade, and most certainly in writing”. In March 1916 her first poems were published in Nash’s Magazine.

In 1920 Blyton relocated to Chessington, and began writing in her spare time. The following year she won the Saturday Westminster Review writing competition with her essay “On the Popular Fallacy that to the Pure All Things are Pure”. Publications such as The Londoner, Home Weekly and The Bystander began to show an interest in her short stories and poems. Blyton’s first book, Child Whispers, a 24-page collection of poems, was published in 1922. It was illustrated by a schoolfriend, Phyllis Chase, who collaborated on several of her early works.

Women August 2019 Noddy - Enid Blyton-01In 1942, Blyton published the first novel in the Famous Five series, Five on a Treasure Island, with illustrations by Eileen Soper. Its popularity resulted in twenty-one books between then and 1963, and the characters of Julian, Dick, Anne, George (Georgina) and Timmy the dog became household names in Britain.Blyton based the character of Georgina, a tomboy she described as “short-haired, freckled, sturdy, and snub-nosed” and “bold and daring, hot-tempered and loyal”, on herself.

The first book of Blyton’s fifteen Secret Seven novels was published in 1949. The Secret Seven Society consists of Peter, his sister Janet, and their friends Colin, George, Jack, Pam and Barbara, who meet regularly in a shed in the garden to discuss peculiar events in their local community. The French author Evelyne Lallemand continued the series in the 1970s, producing an additional twelve books, nine of which were translated into English by Anthea Bell between 1983 and 1987.

Women August 2019 Bulat - Enid Blyton-01Blyton’s Noddy, about a little wooden boy from Toyland, first appeared in the Sunday Graphic on 5 June 1949, and in November that year Noddy Goes to Toyland, the first of at least two dozen books in the series, was published. The Noddy books became one of her most successful and best-known series, and were hugely popular in the 1950s. An extensive range of sub-series, spin-offs and strip books were produced throughout the decade, including Noddy’s Library, Noddy’s Garage of Books, Noddy’s Castle of Books, Noddy’s Toy Station of Books and Noddy’s Shop of Books.

Following her commercial success, Blyton went on to build a literary empire, sometimes producing fifty books a year in addition to her prolific magazine and newspaper contributions. Her writing was unplanned and sprang largely from her unconscious mind; she typed her stories as events unfolded before her. The sheer volume of her work and the speed with which it was produced led to rumors that Blyton employed an army of ghost writers, a charge she vigorously denied.

Women August 2019 Tessie - Enid Blyton-01Blyton’s work became increasingly controversial among literary critics, teachers and parents from the 1950s onwards, because of the alleged unchallenging nature of her writing and the themes of her books, particularly the Noddy series. Some libraries and schools banned her works, which the BBC had refused to broadcast from the 1930s until the 1950s because they were perceived to lack literary merit. Her books have been criticized as being elitist, sexist, racist, xenophobic and at odds with the more liberal environment emerging in post-war Britain, but they have continued to be best-sellers since her death in 1968.

Enid Blyton inspires us that to be a successful writer, we must be willing to devote our time and energy to it. Over the years, Blyton’s routines seldom varied. She usually began writing soon after breakfast. Stopping only for a short lunch break she continued writing until five o’clock, by which time she would usually have produced 6,000–10,000 words.

Need other kinds of inspiration? Just check Adorageek’s other posts!

Hero of January: Kinue Hitomi

Hero of February: Sarojini Naidu

Hero of March: Emily Murphy

Hero of April: Gabriela Mistral

Hero of May: Catherine the Great

Hero of June: Benazir Bhutto

Hero of July: Frida Kahlo

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