Anglican Samizdat

November 15, 2009

Noddy was not good enough for the BBC

Filed under: Books — David @ 6:45 pm
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I remember my mother reading Enid Blyton’s Noddy stories to me when I was very young. She taught me to read for myself quite soon after and fed me a regular diet of The Famous Five, The Adventurous Four and The Secret Seven seasoned with Worzel Gummidge and Just William for variety. As I grew a little older she introduced me to Wind in the Willows – a book that is never far from my affections – and then C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy, J. B. Priestly, C. P. Snow and others I’ve forgotten. All from the library, of course because she had no money to buy books. In my middle to late teens, in my obnoxious phase (some would say I am still in it), I turned my nose up at my mother’s tastes and started choosing my own authors: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Arthur Koestler, Jean-Paul Sartre, William Golding, Nikos Kazantzakis, Henry Miller, J. P. Donleavy, Mervyn Peake, Soren Kierkegaard, Norman Mailer, Victor Hugo and others now lost in the dusty recesses of my memory. There was no method to my choosing; I simply followed the trail of biscuit crumbs from one author to the next in the hope that he might say something more interesting than the last. I discussed many of the authors with my mother (not Henry Miller) and, returning the favour she did me when I was young, convinced her to read some of them.

Looking back, I realise that I owe my mother and Noddy an inestimable debt of gratitude for instilling in me the capacity to withdraw temporarily from this vale of tears by giving myself unreservedly to a book; there is nothing quite like it.

All of which makes this revelation from the BBC seem particularly stupid:

Children’s author Enid Blyton was banned from the BBC for nearly 30 years because her work was considered “small beer”, archive documents have revealed.

The best-selling writer unsuccessfully approached the corporation several times to get her material on the radio.

Executives considered the Famous Five and Noddy creator “second-rate” and lacking literary value, according to 18 newly released letters and memos.

She first pitched ideas in 1936 but did not appear on Woman’s Hour until 1963.

A memo about a short story stated: “Not strong enough. It really is odd to think that this woman is a best-seller. It is all such very small beer.”

Another simply said “reject”.

Head of the BBC schools department Jean Sutcliffe said in an internal memo dated 1938: “My impression of her stories is that they might do for Children’s Hour but certainly not for Schools Dept, they haven’t much literary value.

“There is rather a lot of the Pinky-winky-Doodle-doodle Dum-dumm type of name – and lots of pixies – in the original tales.”

She added that they were “competently written”

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6 Comments

  1. The Island of Adventure set me on a whole life time of reading. Thanks Enid Blyton

    Comment by obituary — November 15, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

  2. Well pixies (or at least elves) are the back-bone of what has been described as the greatest 20th century English book, the Lord of the Rings trilogy; while I would not, myself, rush to call it THE greatest (though it is very fine), it’s very revealing to see who the people are who are desperate to trash it, and also trash Enid Blyton (you can guess who I mean, the PC gang).

    Comment by John Thomas — November 16, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  3. I loved Enid Blyton when I was a kid. I remember being heartbroken when I realized that I had read all of the Five Find-outer books. The main character was named “Fatty”, and he was the smartest of the bunch, and the leader. You couldn’t do that now, I suppose.

    Comment by Kate — November 16, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

  4. And I suppose Big Ears would be politically incorrect too! I loved Noddy.

    Comment by Muriel — November 16, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

  5. No, I’m quite sure Fatty and Big Ears would be banned, but Noddy and Big Ears sleeping together would be permissible as a text by which very young boys could be induced to develop a need for gay sex, and to show that such things were considered normal a long time ago (notice how when any perversion is promoted, it is promptly historically back-dated, by its protagonists).

    Comment by John Thomas — November 18, 2009 @ 5:29 am

  6. Talking of Enid Blyton, I am glad to inform you that I have just published a book titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.bbotw.com).

    Stephen Isabirye

    Comment by Stephen Isabirye — November 21, 2009 @ 6:30 pm


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