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Racism allegations against Enid Blyton: Children's books have always been cleaned up


Are children's books like the "Five Friends" racist and sexist? Yes. Is that why you are no longer allowed to read it? But.

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With over 600 million books sold, Enid Blyton is one of the most successful young adult authors.

Photo: George Konig / Getty Images

Anne has decided to let her four friends George, Julien, Dick and Timmy go out alone.

After all, she promised Aunt Fanny that she would cook jam with her.

As a girl, of course, you don't say no to such a unique opportunity - and forego a day full of adventure.

The first names are the least of the problem with this excerpt from the children's book series "Five Friends". "Fanny" is a very vulgar word for vagina in British English and "butt" in American English. And how one translates "Dick" nowadays should be known. In 2006 the names were changed, Aunt Fanny became Aunt Franny and Dick became Rick. Even the prejudice that girls would rather stay at home and help with housework no longer exists in the updated versions. All four now share the housework, only dog ​​Timmy is spared.

Even then, the small changes caused a stir.

“Nobody was called Rick in the 1940s!” Wrote an outraged fan on an Enid Blyton forum.

Now, 15 years later, the subject is being discussed again.

This time it's about an updated author entry on the website of the English Heritage organization.

Blyton's work was criticized during his lifetime because of its "racism, xenophobia and because of its low literary value", it says.

Critics of the criticism counter that Blyton is a victim of political correctness and cancel culture.

Members of the Enid Blyton Society argue that their stories need to be read in context.

Nostalgia makes you reactionary

In a way, that's understandable. Walter Benjamin already knew that nostalgia makes you reactionary. We are attached to what has shaped us. We solved exciting cases with the five friends, messed up her first date with Dolly and planned funny pranks against Mamsell with Hanni and Nanni - how can something that was so much fun be wrong? Nostalgic memories make it difficult to judge Blyton's books by the values ​​of our society today.

But many of their views no longer fit our time.

The focus of criticism is her story "Little Black Doll", in which the doll's face is washed "clean" by the rain.

Only then does the owner want the doll back.

In other stories, too, the villains are often black or come from poor backgrounds.

Even the otherwise innocent »Hanni and Nanni« series can be accused of bullying.

There is always a girl who doesn't fit in and is excluded as an outsider: First it's her uncool cousin Ellie, who is interested in fashion and glamor, then it's Margret, who is a joke.

This behavior is not criticized, but encouraged.

Books are tidied up

To make books contemporary, they are tidied up. This is nothing new and has nothing to do with cancel culture. In the first version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" the Oompa-Loompas come as slaves from the deepest and darkest part of the African jungle, in the illustrations they are black. At that time Roald Dahl showed himself understanding and changed the appearance and origin of his characters himself. In 2009 Pippi Longstocking's »Negro King« became the »South Sea King«. And also Dr. Seuss has repeatedly changed details in his books that no longer really wanted to fit in with the times. Many will never have read the original versions of their favorite children's books. Has that affected the reading experience? Hardly likely. That our perception of what we perceive as appropriate children's literaturechanged, show German fairy tales best. The originals were bloodthirsty and cruel, they are no longer suitable as bedtime stories. We prefer to read the weakened, harmless versions. They are therefore far from being canceled.

Blyton might have written the stories differently today.

It is wrong to judge them for ideas that were accepted at the time.

But neither does this body of thought have to endure forever and be recorded in books.

From today's point of view, many of their views are sexist and racist, that can be criticized.

Fortunately, today there is a huge selection of children's books that are diverse, varied and inclusive.

And Blyton books are still good today: you can use the stories to talk to children about racism, sexism and bullying.

Then they are read in context, in today's context.

Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2021-06-25

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