Enid Blyton is among the most cherished English children’s authors. Her works are a treasure trove of adventure and thrill that excites every young reader. A UK-based charity English Heritage, however, has linked Blyton’s works to “racism” and “xenophobia”.
The charity, which manages over 400 prehistoric places, monuments and sites shared it in an updated blue plaque.
English Heritage has placed nearly 950 plaques in and around London to show visitors where important people in history have lived or worked. Blyton’s plaque has been placed at her former home in Chessington, where she started working on the much-loved books The Famous Five and The Secret Seven.
On the charity’s official website, the plaque reads, “Blyton’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit. A 1966 Guardian article noted the racism of The Little Black Doll (1966), in which the doll of the title, Sambo, is only accepted by his owner once his ‘ugly black face’ is washed ‘clean’ by rain. In 1960 the publisher Macmillan refused to publish her story The Mystery That Never Was for what it called its ‘faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia’. The book, however, was later published by William Collins.”
“In 2016, Blyton was rejected by the Royal Mint for commemoration on a 50p coin because, the advisory committee minutes record, she was ‘a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer’. Others have argued that while these charges can’t be dismissed, her work still played a vital role in encouraging a generation of children to read,” it adds.
Last year, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, English Heritage said it would be contributing to a review by the Mayor of London’s Commission for Diversity of the historical figures who have been commemorated.
Talking about the plaque, Anna Eavis, curatorial director at English Heritage, was quoted as saying by Sky News, “On our website, we are providing more information for each blue plaque so that people can find out more about the person behind the plaque.”
The controversy invited mixed reactions from netizens. Here’s what they said:
1. The World Is Going Crazy- So, Enid Blyton has been cancelled.Her books have been now accused of Racism and Xenophobia.She sold over 600 million copies beating JK Rowling,wrote 4500 short stories and over 700 books. Who does not remember Famous Five, Secret Seven, Noddy contd. pic.twitter.com/phIF9FNc9w
— Rami Niranjan Desai (@ramindesai) June 17, 2021
She was ahead of the game on transgender issues. George was a great character and Enid Blyton just described her as she was, and we accepted her as she was. Also, the girls got to do everything the boys did.
And no one got left behind when they went on an adventure.
— Catherine’s Book Choices (@book_choices) June 17, 2021
Now Enid Blyton’s work is being termed as ‘xenophobic’ & is said to ‘lack literary merit’.Like millions of readers whose imagination was fuelled by her books,there goes my childhood I guess.The world is a cruel place but the faraway tree & Malory towers had nothing to do with it.
— Pooja Bhatt (@PoojaB1972) June 17, 2021
Re Enid Blyton – racism, yes, xenophobia, yes, but “lack of literary merit” about books that have sold 600 million copies just sounds weirdly snooty.
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) June 17, 2021Subscriber Only Stories
What do you think of the controversy?