Five go woke: Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Malory Towers books get modern overhaul with innocent uses of ‘gay’ and ‘brown’ removed to avoid causing offence
- Daily Mail analysis found Enid Blyton’s books have been stripped of key words
- Innocent uses of words ‘queer’, ‘gay’, and ‘brown’ were changed to avoid offence
Enid Blyton‘s Famous Five and Malory Towers books have been charming young readers since the 1940s.
But Daily Mail analysis has found the books have been stripped of many of the much-loved author’s key words – with innocent uses of ‘queer’, ‘gay’, and even ‘brown’, with reference to tanned faces, changed to avoid causing offence.
The findings come after outrage over controversial ‘woke‘ rewrites by ‘sensitivity readers’ of 16 Roald Dahl children’s classics by Puffin Books.
‘Old hag’, in Dahl’s The Witches, has been changed to ‘old crow’, greedy Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is no longer described as ‘fat’, and Miss Trunchbull in Matilda has lost her ‘great horsey face’.
Booker-prize winning novelist Salman Rushdie – still recovering from an assassination attempt – felt moved to speak out, saying: ‘Roald Dahl was no angel, but this is absurd censorship’.
Daily Mail analysis has found the books have been stripped of many of the much-loved author’s key words, such as innocent uses of ‘queer’ and ‘gay’
The hundreds of millions of fans of Blyton, born in East Dulwich, south London, in 1897, may be similarly surprised at changes to current editions of some of her most popular books.
Her first Famous Five adventure – Five on Treasure Island – introduced youngsters Julian, Dick and Anne and their tomboy cousin Georgina, or George, plus her dog Timothy.
In the 1942 edition, ‘queer’ was very much Blyton’s favourite adjective, used as often as twice on one page, and applied to everything from cormorants to waves. Never, of course, with any reference to sexuality. But nervousness over the word is such that in the current Hodder Children’s Books edition available in 2023 bookshops, that it is banished entirely – and replaced variously with ‘peculiar’, ‘odd’, ‘strange’, ‘funny’, ‘weird’, and ‘amazing’.
So when Anne wonders why Georgina has not greeted her and her brothers, she originally remarked: ‘Isn’t she queer – not wanting to welcome us…’ In 2023, she says: ‘Isn’t she odd – not wanting to welcome us…’ There is also evidently modern nervousness around skin colour.
A description of ‘a brown-faced fisher-boy’ is ‘changed to a suntanned fisher-boy’. In 1942, Blyton had gone on: ‘The fisher-boy….grinned at George. ‘Morning, Master George,’ he said.
It seemed so queer to the other children to hear Georgina called ‘Master George’!’ The words were emphasising the key plot component of Georgina/George’s tomboy nature – but that was clearly too contentious for modern readers.
Now the passage says simply: The fisher-boy….grinned at George. ‘Morning, George,’ he said.’
While spanking of children is far less common than it was 80 years ago, it is not yet a criminal offence in England. But there is not a word of it in today’s Famous Five. In 1942, Uncle Quentin had said of his daughter: ‘Where’s George? She wants spanking.’ Now, he says: ‘She wants a good talking too.’
Blyton wrote that the girls’ ‘gay voices sounded all up and down the platform’, but in the updated version, their voices are instead ‘happy’
Respect for elders seems to have gone out of fashion too. When Julian apologised to Uncle Quentin in the 1942 version, he said: ‘I’m sorry, sir.’ Now, he is sorry – but does not include the apparently too subservient ‘sir’.
After the children’s heroic adventures come to an end with them – spoiler alert – finding hidden gold, Blyton had an important moment for her tomboy character, finally earning respect from her father.
She wrote: ‘Uncle Quentin ruffled George’s short curly hair. “And I’m proud of you too George,” he said. “You’re as good as a boy any day!”’
In 2023, with his speech slashed, and any comparison to boys removed: ‘Uncle Quentin ruffled George’s short curly hair. “And I’m proud of you too George”, he said.
Colour is similarly stripped out of Blyton’s 1946 classic, First Term at Malory Towers, which launched a series about Darrell Rivers’ education at a Cornwall girls’ boarding school.
On arrival in the dormitory, Darrell and her housemates were originally told to get in bed by ‘A tall, dark girl, quiet in her manner’. In 2023, it is ‘A tall girl, quiet in her manner’.
French teacher Mam’zelle Dupont was originally ‘short, fat and round’ – now she is ‘short and round’. And while Darrall originally wanted to ‘slap’ enemy Gwendoline, now she wants to ‘shake her’.
Blyton’s first Famous Five adventure – Five on Treasure Island – was published in 1942 and introduced the group of four friends and a dog
And while in 1946 Gwendoline was described as feeling she had to ‘work like a slave’, in 2023 she ‘must work hard’.
Blyton’s first book of an astonishing 800 titles was published in 1922. She died in 1968.
She has previously faced attacks for descriptions of a car-jacking by ‘black-faced Golliwogs’, and writing about doll Sambo, who was unpopular because of his ‘ugly black face’ until it turned white in the rain.
The parent company of Hodder Children’s Books, Hachette Children’s Books, said no-one was available to comment on the changes to Blyton’s original text.