Folks! Got this letter in response to the post about “Fannie” and “Dick” becoming Frannie and Rick in the updated Enid Blyton oeuvre. (Hardest thing to spell since “hors d’oeuvres.” Which, come to think of it, is the same word.) Anyway, this note comes to us from Sarah Thompson, who describes herself as a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom of two boys, ages 2 and 4. — L
Dear Free- Range Kids: Since Enid Blyton has passed away, it does not seem fair to tamper with her work. I would hate to think that if I’m ever fortunate enough to be published someday, someone would “update” my work after my death. It doesn’t seem respectful to the writer. Yes, times change, but can’t we just explain to our kids that these stories were written in a different time? Why not give our children the perspective of times past?
My son is a Thomas the Tank Engine fan, and when he first took interest in the train series I searched for the corresponding books. The difference between the older ones and the newer ones is pretty striking. In the old stories, the engines get grumpy and snap at each other, and any misbehaving engine is punished, perhaps in ways that might seem harsh. (One engine is sealed into a tunnel with brick walls when he refuses to run in the rain. He is eventually let out.) The engines actually haul coal and things you would expect trains to transport.
In the newer stories, they are all cheerful and happy all of the time. No one ever seems to get punished. Indeed, there isn’t much need, since everyone is always so eager to please. The trains haul cargo like jelly, toys, and party supplies.
I read both the newer and older stories to my son, and he enjoys them both. I don’t know why they felt the need to sanitize the characters, though. It’s just not realistic. No one is happy all of the time, and sometimes (gasp!) real work has to be done. I think a balance of older and newer perspectives is important in helping to show our kids that times change, but we can still learn something from the past. – Sarah