Jacqueline Wilson admits Blyton 'wouldn't be thrilled' about rewrite

Jacqueline Wilson admits Enid Blyton ‘wouldn’t be that thrilled’ about her woke rewrite of The Magic Faraway Tree as author’s society says it’s a ‘pity’ new ‘gender equality’ version has been commissioned

  • The Tracy Beaker writer said that ‘goodness knows what Enid Blyton would think’
  • But she claimed that she was trying to follow on from original instead of update it
  • It comes as the Enid Blyton Society said the new book ‘too will grow out of date’
  • The group also hit out at a recent fashion to commission rewrites of the classics

Jacqueline Wilson has admitted Enid Blyton would not be thrilled about her new version of The Magic Faraway Tree.

The Tracy Beaker author said ‘goodness knows what she would think’ when asked how her woke rewrite would go down with the legendary novelist.

But she doubled down and claimed she was trying to follow on from the original rather than update it.

It comes as the Enid Blyton Society blasted the new book and said it ‘too will become out of date as time passes’.

They also hit out at the recent fashion to commission rewrites of classics when the old versions have been out of print for years.

Mrs Wilson (pictured) said: ‘I had such fun writing a brand new Faraway Tree book. I read the three original Enid Blyton books many times as a child, marvelled at all the adventures and wished I could be Silky’s best friend and share Moonface’s toffee shocks’

A beloved novel by Enid Blyton (pictured with a puppet of Noddy) has been rewritten by Jacqueline Wilson to airbrush alleged sexist elements, reports say

Asked on the Today programme if the book needed updating, Mrs Wilson said: ‘I would agree with you in that I’m not actually updating it, I’m following on.

‘I think the first three Far Away Tree books were quite wonderful and I mean they have been gently over the years one or two things that people would question have been edited out.

‘But they’re still essentially exactly the same. I’m not touching them. What I’m doing is following on.

‘I was asked to write another Far Away Tree story and I’m being very very faithful to the whole situation that Enid Blyton set up with this wonderfully original idea about a tree that reaches up to different lands.

‘I have three modern children going into the enchanted wood, up the tree, meeting Silky, Moon-Face etc and then going up and finding the different lands.

‘So the magic world stays the same and if anybody reads this new book when it comes out I very much hope that they will go back to the others.

‘It’s written as if they’re all of a piece, but I’m simply following on and goodness knows what Enid Blyton would think about it.

‘I’m not sure that she would be that thrilled, but she was a shrewd woman and she’d probably like the extra publicity… if it needs it – it’s never been out of print.’


The Magic Faraway Tree (left, the updated version and right, Blyton’s original) has been tweaked by the Tracy Beaker author to make it supposedly fit for the 21st century

What has Jacqueline Wilson changed in her version of Enid Blyton’s classic?

The adventure book will still see siblings Milo, Mia and Birdy head to the enchanted wood and meet Moon-Face, Silky the Fairy and the Saucepan Man. But comments from the magical creatures mentioning girls helping with domestic chores will see them educated on gender equality.

The Magic Faraway Tree, which was first published in 1943, has also been edited to stamp out children adventuring on their own without supervision. Mrs Wilson has reportedly tried to make the parents similar to today’s, where they are anxious about what their youngsters are doing.

Editorial Director at Enid Blyton Entertainment Alexander Antscherl said: ‘The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure revisits the original magical world inhabited by Moonface and Silky, while introducing three new children and some fabulous new lands, all guaranteed to appeal to Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton fans the world over.

‘Milo, Mia and Birdy are on a countryside holiday when they are astonished to discover an Enchanted Wood. Exploring there they meet remarkable creatures, including a man with a head like the moon and a fairy with long, silky hair, who live in the tallest tree in the wood.

‘Little Birdy is thrilled to find that fairies are real. Even her older brother and sister are soon won over by the magic of the Faraway Tree and the extraordinary places they discover above it, including the Land of Unicorns and the Land of Dragons.’

Mrs Wilson’s book will still see siblings Milo, Mia and Birdy head to the enchanted wood and meet Moon-Face, Silky the Fairy and the Saucepan Man.

But comments from the magical creatures mentioning girls helping with domestic chores will see them educated on gender equality.

The Magic Faraway Tree, which was first published in 1943, has also been edited to stamp out children adventuring on their own without supervision.

Mrs Wilson has reportedly tried to make the parents similar to today’s, where they are anxious about what their youngsters are doing.

Anita Bensoussane, Enid Blyton Society Administrator, told MailOnline: ‘Jacqueline Wilson has a very natural, readable style and I expect her book will be popular.

‘However, it’s a pity that so much new material based on established Enid Blyton series is being commissioned (from various authors) at a time when a number of Enid Blyton’s original books have been out of print for some years.

‘A handful of the major series are being given a great deal of attention, while lesser-known books and series are sadly neglected.

‘The new titles by other authors may be ‘more in keeping with today’s world’ but they too will become out of date as time passes.

‘It’s a good thing for children to understand that society alters over time so I think it’s important to keep the focus on the originals.

‘That way, children learn something of how customs, attitudes and language change over time – while enjoying imaginative stories that have enthralled several generations.’

The Enid Blyton Society has hit back at Oxford University Press after it urged parents to read their children ‘woke’ modern books. Pictured: The author

Blyton’s books have sold more than 600 million copies and have been translated into almost 90 languages.  

She worked as a nursery governess while writing while the children slept despite her mother warning her it was a ‘waste of time and money’.

But by the time that she was in her twenties she was a full time writer and over the next 40-plus years her stories became beloved of children around the world. 

It also brought her great fame, and fortune, taking home £4million-a-year in today’s money from sales. 

The Secret Seven, the Famous Five, the Faraway Tree, Malory Towers, and Noddy were the biggest sellers before and after her death in 1968. 

Her work became increasingly divisive among critics, teachers and parents from the 1950s onwards because they were perceived to lack literary merit.

Blyton’s books have been criticised for being elitist, sexist, racist, xenophobic and at odds with the more liberal environment emerging in post-war Britain but they have continued to be best-sellers since her death in 1968.

Since then the books have continued to sell and be loved by children.

To bring them more up to date the language was changed to make them more modern. But the adaptations in 2010 ‘didn’t work’ according to publishers, so they went back to the originals. 

The U-turn meant ‘dresses’ returned to ‘frocks’ and ‘mum and dad’ changed back to ‘mother and father’. ‘ 

The Free Speech Union, which advocates freedom of speech, added: ‘Classic works of children’s literature should not be rewritten to make them more politically correct.

‘They are of their time and teaching children that previous generations thought differently to them is a more valuable lesson than shoehorning in woke platitudes about gender equality.

‘What’s next? Is Jacqueline Wilson going to rewrite Lord of the Flies and change Piggy’s name to Percy to avoid fat-shaming?’

The new book, which comes out on May 26 and is called The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure, is the second time the book has been changed.

It was updated in the 1990s to change the children’s names from Dick and Fanny to Rick and Frannie.

This year’s rewrite will also not be the first time Mrs Wilson has change other classic authors’ works.

She has written modern interpretations of classics such as Five Children and It and The Railway Children.

Editorial Director at Enid Blyton Entertainment Alexander Antscherl said: ‘The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure revisits the original magical world inhabited by Moonface and Silky, while introducing three new children and some fabulous new lands, all guaranteed to appeal to Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton fans the world over.

‘Milo, Mia and Birdy are on a countryside holiday when they are astonished to discover an Enchanted Wood. Exploring there they meet remarkable creatures, including a man with a head like the moon and a fairy with long, silky hair, who live in the tallest tree in the wood.

‘Little Birdy is thrilled to find that fairies are real. Even her older brother and sister are soon won over by the magic of the Faraway Tree and the extraordinary places they discover above it, including the Land of Unicorns and the Land of Dragons.’

‘The Magic Faraway Tree stories are full of wish fulfilment, wonder and delight and have been entertaining children for generations.

‘I knew that Jacqueline Wilson was a huge fan of these books in her early childhood, and with the 80th anniversary of the series coming in 2023 I realised this would be the ideal way to celebrate it.

‘Jacqueline’s outstanding ability to capture authentic, relatable characters, in a story that has all the excitement, fun and charm of the original books, allows readers to revel in the magic of the Faraway Tree, whether or not they are already fans of Blyton’s stories.’

Activists have targeted classic literature in recent years over outdated views on race and gender.

Last month the Oxford University Press was panned after it urged parents to read their children ‘woke’ modern books instead of older ones.

The Enid Blyton Society was among those to hit out at the publisher for ‘narrowing’ children’s reading.

The group warned new novels should be read alongside classics rather than replace them so youngsters learn about history, sociology and language.

It said the old literature keeps their ‘minds and emotions fully engaged’ and helps them understand ‘how the past shaped the present’.

Oxford University Press told parents they should ‘be more adventurous’ and pick up books on topics such as diversity and homelessness.

The major publisher told them to ‘broaden the types of books’ they pick at story time ‘to prompt questions and build greater understanding of global issues’.

It followed new OUP research that found two thirds – 63 per cent – of UK parents prefer to read their children books they enjoyed in their own childhood.

Lashings of controversy: Enid Blyton fell for a married soldier, enjoyed a lesbian affair with her nanny and had a penchant for naked tennis

Enid Blyton was first married to Major Hugh Pollock, pictured on their wedding day in 1924. They divorced during the Second World War

In her 40-year career, Enid Blyton produced more than 800 books, most of them sun-splashed stories of midnight feasts, lacrosse matches and picnics with lashings of ginger beer – a phrase which itself became shorthand for the bucolic world of Blyton’s characters.   

A published author by her twenties, and already on her way to becoming incredibly wealthy, she had shown very little interest in men, focussing on her job as a nursery governess and writing stories in her bedroom.

As her stories took off she met Major Hugh Alexander Pollock, a former soldier ten years her senior who was an editor at the firm which became her regular publisher.

Hugh was handsome, debonair and worldly, and Enid was charmed from the moment she met him. There was just one snag: Hugh was also married. True, he was separated, but such distinctions meant little in the buttoned-up 1920s, and openly courting a man who was married to someone else was still scandalous, not least for a former teacher turned children’s author.

According to recent book the Real Enid Blyton by Nadia Cohen, Enid was certainly not the sort of woman to let such little things get in the way and, by 1924, barely a year after they had first met, she had become Mrs Pollock.  

Enid Blyton with her two daughters Gillian (left) and Imogen (right) at their home in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

Enid was initially delighted with the arrival of her first-born, Gillian, in July 1931, although it was only a matter of weeks before she hired a full-time live-in nanny, Betty, to join the roster of staff she now employed at the family home, Old Thatch in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire.

Enid became the subject of gossip columns after a series of partied at her mansion

Betty not only looked after Gillian during the day but slept in the same room overnight, and by the start of 1932 Enid was spending barely an hour a day with her daughter.

Enid’s second nanny was a rather different matter. Hired after the birth of Enid’s second daughter Imogen in 1935, Dorothy Richards, a trained nurse with a rather masculine appearance – she often dressed in a formal shirt and tie – quickly became far more than a humble employee.

From the moment of Dorothy’s arrival, the pair struck up an intense friendship that long outlasted Dorothy’s employment and which quickly left Hugh feeling surplus to requirements. When they were not out for walks, the two shared private jokes and it was now Dorothy, not Hugh, to whom Enid turned to proofread early drafts of her work. 

By 1938, she and Hugh, who by now was drinking heavily, were living virtually separate lives, with the encroaching war equipping Hugh with good reason to be away to help the war effort. 

What domestic energies Enid retained, meanwhile, seemed to be ploughed in to throwing glamorous parties at the family’s new palatial home, Green Hedges, in nearby Beaconsfield, which has been knocked down and replaced with a housing estate. 

Enid married her second husband Kenneth Waters in 1943 in Westminster

It wasn’t long before Enid’s frantic socialising led to her becoming the subject of local whispers, not to mention the subject of gossip columns. One enjoyable rumour had it that visitors once arrived at the house to find their hostess playing tennis entirely naked.

Hugh was furious when he came home to learn his wife had been entertaining men in an unsuitable way in his absence, although he scarcely had cause to complain, given he was himself cavorting with a young novelist called Ida Crowe.

By early 1941, the marriage was all but over, its fate sealed when Enid was persuaded by Dorothy to join her on a trip to visit her sister Betty Marsh at her home in Devon. 

Among Betty’s other guests was a surgeon called Kenneth Darrell Waters – Enid’s Malory Towers heroine Darrell Rivers would later be named in his honour – and from the first moment he and Enid met over a game of bridge one evening, it was love at first sight for both.

As soon as they returned home they embarked on an affair, meeting in secret as often as they could. Enid rented a discreet flat in Knightsbridge to carry on their romantic liaisons – brazenly using Dorothy’s name to cover her tracks.  

Humiliated, Hugh left home for good after one last bitter argument, although Enid concealed the fact from her daughters for over 18 months, using the war as an excuse.

It would prove the start of an increasingly bitter rift. Afterwards she married her second husband, Kenneth, at the City of Westminster Register Office in October 1943.

With Enid’s income soaring to well over £100,000 a year – around £4.3million today – the newlyweds could afford to indulge themselves.

They employed a number of staff including a cook, maid and chauffeur to drive their fleet of cars, which now included a Bentley, a Rolls-Royce and an MG sports car. Enid would often spend entire days shopping at Harrods. 

One event proved unexpected. In 1945, at the age of 48, Enid discovered that she was pregnant again. Kenneth, who had always longed for a child, was delighted, and Enid, too, seemed pleased.

Then, five months in, Enid fell while climbing a ladder to collect apples from a barn – something Kenneth had expressly forbidden her to do – and lost the baby.

Devastated, Kenneth was never able to talk about it, but true to form Enid instead threw herself straight back into work with enthusiasm. Youngest daughter  Imogen later suggested Enid had, perhaps, deliberately risked her pregnancy by climbing the ladder.

She wrote: ‘She would have been aware of the high risk of giving birth to a child with a defect at her age; and her books were still the most important part of her life.’

No one could dispute the latter: more literary success followed – among them the Noddy series.

By 1957, however, Enid was suffering failing health which would dog her until the end of her days 11 years later. 

She died in a Hampstead nursing home on November 28, 1968, slipping away in her sleep at the age of 71, apparently untroubled that the world she portrayed so famously should bear so little relation to the life she had pursued.   

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