I have recently started collecting old books from my childhood with a particular fondness for a set of books from the Purnell Sunshine Library and Deans International who published lots of Enid Blyton’s books. Just in case you didn’t know about Enid Blyton she used to write the most fanciful, whimsical children’s books that catapulted children into far off lands on incredible journeys. She also included stories about gollywogs, chain smoking and general casual violence and verbal abuse in the nicest possible way.
I found the book above after searching for years, it was a favourite book of short stories, unbeknownst to me it also offered some of the darkest stories to issue from Enid’s acid pen too. The opening story is quite cute, a girl who had hiccups but referred to them as ‘hee-cups’ much to the confusion of a couple of elf like brownies (why she called them brownies I don’t know). A simple tale to lure you in to a false sense of bedtime security.
Peter’s Penci Box is next, a cautious tale of a boy that lies his hat off everyday until his mother at the end of her wits asks him ‘Are you a little coward as well as being mean?’ And the teacher joins in with a jolly ‘I think you are a very horrid little boy.’ Way to go Enid, you stick that knife into the young lad and scar him for life.
Pointing out facts in a rude way was also common in the stories. In ‘I’ll Do Them Tomorrow’ a pixie girl is described as plump, dirty and lazy until a local busybody decided to spy on her until she gets off her fat pixie arse to do a bit of cleaning. Further more in ‘He Was Sorry For Himself’ a selfish boy falls foul of another couple of menacing brownies this time called reddies that decide to, well, this is what she writes…
“Can we help him a bit – give him more things to feel sorry about? he’d enjoy that. Think how he would grumble and moan if we took his mother away, made him hurt his leg badly and had his bicycle stolen.”
And they do! Leaving him in tears. Still, in The Cat With A Feathery Tail a silly moggie tries to fool a group of birds and gets the stuffing kicked out of himself by four cats then gets beaten around the garden by a child. The story ends with everyone singing “The cats getting smacked! Hurrah!”
In Pollys P’s & Q’s a mother exacts revenge on her daughter by pinning P’s & Q’s to her everytime she forgets to say please and Thankyou turning her into a human pincushion. In The Broken Gate five yoofs (modern term) ride a gate until breaking point (don’t ask) then lie about it apart from one boy who is described as thick. Sulky Susan the target in the next story has a face like a smacked arse and boy, doesn’t Enid go on about it. To teach her a lesson it goes all Scrooge style and she sees five other miserable sods which are actually her later in life, scared senseless she never frowns again!
Completely random she chucks in ‘A Puzzle Story’, wait for this, it’s a good one. Basically a gnome searches the gutters and bins for discarded cigarettes, it then teaches children how to make a roll up from the stubs and then goes on to tell you how to make a packet of seven cigarettes from six! The only puzzle I could see is that a small child would have difficulty following Enid’s roll up routines, but hey, let the kids smoke I say.
Simple Simon in his story is quite simple, even his mother accuses him of ‘Not using your brains or you haven’t even got any. I can’t make up my mind which.’, a lovely mother statement that must have enriched his life no end so he goes on to smash up a box of matches, sit on a pack of butter and generally mess everything up until the story abruptly ends with his mother final words echoing through his ears ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself!’ Enid stop short of adding ‘You idiot!’ But I’m sure she thought them.
So yes, it was an enlightening book once I read it again forty years on and you know I still kind of liked it. Yes it’s yesteryear and yes some of the subject matters and language is a bit odd but essentially it teaches respect for adults and adds a bit of fear to do the right thing as a child, not necessarily a bad thing. After all I turned out fine, I even managed to break my smoking habit by the age of seven although I still have a unnatural fear of everything brown.
I’m just about to start another book of Enids that I’m sure will be equally delightful, it’s called ‘Rolling Smoking Kids For Fun Down The Stairs Whilst Shouting Abuse At Them’ it looks frightfully good and even has a crying child on the front.