A household name, think of her and chances are you’ll think of the Famous Five, Noddy or the Secret Seven series. However, she wrote on a broad range of topics throughout her career, including fantasy, education, biblical narratives and natural history. Enid Blyton went on to build what can be described as a literary empire, producing up to 50 books a year, as well as her contributions to various newspaper and magazine publications.
Born in the summer of 1887 in London, her love for writing was apparent from a very early age. After winning a writing competition as a young teenager, publications such as The Bystander and The Londoner began to show an interest in her poems and short stories.
They were wise to do so. In her lifetime (Blyton died in 1968) she sold a staggering 600 million books worldwide. In 2008, she was voted Britain’s best-loved author, beating Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling.
In this archive footage from British Pathé, we get a glimpse into Enid Blyton’s home life back in 1946. Keep an eye out for her famous habit of typing using just her two forefingers:
- Enid Blyton was often asked if her characters were based on real people. Later in her life, it is said that she admitted to her literary agent Rosica Colin that The Famous Five’s George, a tomboy who hates being called by her real name ‘Georgina’, was, in fact, based on her.
- Enid Blyton had a pen name – Mary Pollock – which she used to write six of her books. Pollock was the surname of her first husband and Mary was her middle name. No one knows her exact reasons for doing so, but some believe it was to avoid the paper rationing of the war (two authors would be able to use twice as much as one!), while some think it was an experiment to see if her books could still be popular without the ‘Enid Blyton’ name on them.
- Unlike many authors, Enid Blyton did not have a fixed idea of a plot before writing her books. Instead, she allowed it to unfold in her mind as she typed away on her typewriter, which she would balance on her lap in either her study or garden. She never learnt to touch-type and used her two forefingers!
- Enid was a drama film for TV, first broadcast in 2009, based on the life of Enid Blyton. Helena Bonham Carter played Enid, for which she was nominated Best Actress at the BAFTA TV Awards. The film explored how the simple, innocent worlds within Blyton’s stories contrasted with her complex personal life. Bonham Carter said in an interview with The Telegraph: “Her writing was possibly a response to her father leaving her… that sort of painful encounter with reality meant that she wrote a world that was much more comfortable.”
- Enid Blyton approached the BBC numerous times in an attempt to get her work broadcasted. Finally, in 1954 they gave in and the first production was aired. Below is one of her pitches to BBC radio:
Source: BBC Archive
Enid Blyton’s stories send young readers on an exciting adventure, with her timeless and imaginative storytelling. Tony Summerfield of the Enid Blyton society has said:
“I know an awful lot of people who say when times were bad, they went away with an Enid Blyton story. The characters had adventures, and they did things that children can’t do nowadays. That’s part of the appeal to adults today.
“I think it’s a nostalgia thing. So many people learned to read with Enid Blyton. She wrote great, escapist stories in a simple and readable style.”
Although she wrote hundreds of books in her lifetime that hold a special place in the hearts of both children and adults alike, here are some of her most-loved series. Would you add any to the list?
The Malory Towers series – comprising six books – was first published in 1946 and is set in a girls’ boarding school by the seaside in Cornwall.
The series follows protagonist Darrell Rivers from her first day at school aged 12 to the day she leaves.
Darrell arrives at Malory Towers excited and eager to impress; however, her hot temper soon gets her into a spot of bother!
The books remain a big hit with girls (and many boys, too!) since their first publication nearly 70 years ago.
The four stories within this series take place in an enchanted forest where a huge tree (inhabited by fairies and laden with all kinds of fruit) grows.
Jo, Fanny and Bessie discover that the upper branches of the tree lead them to magical, ever-changing lands; from the Land of Take-What-You-Want and the Land of Topsy-Turvy to the Land of Dreams and the Land of Spells.
It is here that the children make friends with characters such as Saucepan Man and Moon-Face.
Almost all children who have read The Secret Seven series will have wanted to be part of this group of child detectives, consisting of Peter (the leader), Janet, Jack, Barbara, George, Pam and Colin.
The children conduct meetings in a shed with “SS” on the door, and must use a password and wear their badge in order to enter.
It’s here that they muse over the strange goings-on in their local area, with an aim to solve the mystery and put things right.
Exciting stuff for any young reader.
The Famous Five is made up of five children: Dick, Julian, Anne, George (Georgina) – and their dog, Timmy.
Each story takes place in the school holidays when they return home from boarding school, and each sees them embark on an exciting adventure, sometimes involving criminals or lost treasure.
Full of camping, hiking and picnics, but also smugglers’ tunnels and secret passages, the books (there are 21 full-length novels in the series) continue to sell more than two million copies each year.
There’s no doubt about it – Noddy is an icon. Much of Noddy’s success is down to the beautiful illustrations by Harmsen Van der Beek, and other illustrators who took on Noddy after Beek died in 1953.
Enid Blyton wrote 24 Noddy books between 1942 and 1963, introducing him in the first book as a little wooden boy who lives in his House-for-One in Toyland. After running away from the woodcarver who created him, he meets Big Ears who takes him under his wing and he soon becomes a self-employed taxi driver. Kind and honest Noddy often lands himself in trouble, and has many run-ins with PC Plod.