Messing with Enid Blyton is not confined to Hachette finds Ariane Sherine, who complains about the preposterousness of it all:
Six years ago, the publishers Hachette took the well-meaning yet preposterous step of making ‘sensitive text revisions’ to Enid Blyton’s classic Famous Five books. So ‘tinker’ was changed to ‘traveller’, ‘mother and father’ to ‘mum and dad’ and ‘awful swotter’ to ‘bookworm’. The suggestion that tomboy George needed ‘a good spanking’ became ‘a good talking to’, while girly Anne’s assertion, ‘You see, I do like pretty frocks — and I love my dolls — and you can’t do that if you’re a boy’ had its final clause removed, rendering the sentence throwaway rather than poignant. Unsurprisingly, given that all the charm had been stripped out of them, the revised editions flopped, and last weekend it was reported that Hachette were reverting to the originals. The publishers conceded that the updates had proved ‘very unpopular’.
But Hachette isn’t the only culprit. Earlier this year, I bought my five-year-old daughter one of the Blyton titles I had enjoyed most as a child, The Magic Faraway Tree. I read it aloud to her, expecting to feel warmly nostalgic, but I merely felt baffled and irritated to discover that the publishers, Egmont, had also made several unnecessary changes. The names Fanny and Dick had been changed to Frannie and Rick. At first, I thought this was a misguided effort to avoid schoolchildren giggling at unintentional innuendo, but then I found that the names Jo and Bessie had also been pointlessly updated to Joe and Beth.
Even more annoyingly, the disciplinarian Dame Slap had been renamed Dame Snap, and in the new version she merely shouted at her unfortunate charges rather than hitting them. Despite my distaste at experiencing regular corporal punishment as a child, I couldn’t help but feel that this modification was ludicrous. Dame Slap was meant to be frightening, and her students’ terror was far more plausible when she was given to meting out painful violence rather than simply vocalising her displeasure. This is prudish editing at its most confused, as though mentioning an old-fashioned, outlawed practice were condoning it or advocating that it should be part of modern British schooling.