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17th Jun 2021

Enid Blyton’s books deemed “racist and xenophobic” by charity

Jade Hayden

Blyton wrote over 700 books during her career.

Enid Blyton’s books have been deemed “racist and xenophobic” by a charity.

English Heritage has carried out a review of its blue plaque scheme, which pays tribute to notable men and women across the UK, following the Black Lives Matter movement.

The group has determined that Blyton’s well-known children’s books are “racist”, “xenophobic” and that Blyton herself was “not a very well regarded writer.”

“Blyton’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit,” they said. “In 2016, Blyton was rejected by the Royal Mint for commemoration on a 50p coin because, the advisory committee minutes record, she was ‘a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer.’

“Others have argued that while these charges can’t be dismissed, her work still played a vital role in encouraging a generation of children to read.”

Blyton’s original use of the highly offensive term ‘Golliwogs’ in the Noddy series has long been criticised, as has her book Little Black Doll, in which the main character ‘Sambo’ is only loved when he washes his “dirty black face.”

Her short story The Mystery That Never Was was refused publishing for its “faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia,” while Blyton’s posthumous bid for commemoration on a 50p coin was denied by the Royal Mint’s standing committee in 2019 due to her “racist” and “xenophobic” content.

Anna Eavis, English Heritage’s curatorial director, said last year that the charity wanted to educate on those “whose actions are contested or seen today as negative.”

She said: “We need to ensure that the stories of those people already commemorated are told in full, without embellishment or excuses.”

Blyton, who wrote over 700 books and approximately 4,500 short stories over the course of her career, is best known for her popular series’ The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, and Noddy. Her books have remained in children’s top 20 literature lists long after her death in 1968.

Blyton’s English Heritage plaque was installed in 1997.