“Enid Blyton was a child, she thought as a child and she wrote as a child” psychologist Michael Woods summarizes the secret of her writing.
As far as I can remember when I first learned to read, my very first book by Enid Blyton was ‘Noddy’ . And that is how my association with the author started. It is without a moment’s hesitation that I can say that she is the reason I became interested in writing and that she is my mentor (indirectly). During my childhood it was my favorite hobby to curl up on a sofa or my bed with one of her books, and I could spend hours and hours lost in the magic of her words. I could either be found on a mysterious land on top of the far away tree, or a in the middle of a smashing adventure with the famous five or better yet enjoying a secret midnight feast in the common room.
With a career that spanned 40 years, she enthralled millions of children all over the world and still does. Therefore let us delve into her past to find out a little more about the best loved children’s author of all times.
Enid Blyton: Early Life
Enid Mary Blyton was born on 11th August 1897, and was the eldest of three children, the younger ones being two brothers. Since a child she had a very close relationship with her father. She shared all his interests such as nature, gardening, the theatre, art, music and literature which was the reason of the close bond that they shared. In her autobiography, The Story of My Life (1952), she wrote: “my father loved the countryside, loved flowers and birds and wild animals, and knew more about them than anyone I had ever met. And what was more he was willing to take me with him on his expeditions, and share his love and his knowledge with me! That was marvellous to me. It’s the very best way of learning about nature if you can go for walks with someone who really knows.”
Her education took place at St. Christopher’s school. She was an intelligent, popular and lively student. She thoroughly enjoyed her school life where she excelled at physical activities as well as academics. She not only organized concerts and played practical jokes but went on to become a tennis champion and captain of the lacrosse team as well. Often she won prizes in various subjects, especially English composition. In the final two years she was appointed as Head Girl. While she also started a magazine with the help of her two friends Mary Attenborough and Mirabel Davis, by the name of Dab (it stood for the initials of the three girls surnames).
Enid Blyton: Professional Life
She had a gift for music which is why her family assumed she would become a professional musician like her father’s sister. Moreover she won a scholarship and was due to study at the Guildhall School of Music. However after teaching at Sunday School in the summer of 1916 she knew what she wanted to do.
So she took up a training course to become a kindergarten teacher at Ipswich High School, and soon opened her own infants’ school.
In 1917 one of Enid’s poems, “Have You…?” was accepted for publication by Nash’s Magazine. In her spare time she started writing stories, and her first book was a collection of poems Child Whispers which was published in 1922. She married Major Hugh Pollock in 1924, with whom she had two daughters Gillian and Imogen. When the literary commitments increased, she devoted herself entirely to writing. Her first book, Book of Fairies which was a collection of short stories was published in 1924. In 1926 she started editing a magazine for children by the name of Sunny Stories. Her stories, plays and songs for Teachers’ World were also accepted. She also compiled a children’s encyclopedia, but it was not until the 1930s, when her stories actually started getting really popular. Enid Blyton’s first full-length children’s adventure book, The Secret Island, was published in 1938.
During World War II, when publishing was limited, she managed to get her work printed. In the following decades she reigned the field of children literature. She could write up to 10,000 words a day, which is how she could produce such large volumes of writing so quickly. Enid Blyton was once described as a “one-woman fiction machine.”
In 1943 she got a divorce from her husband and married a surgeon Kenneth Waters with whom she spent the rest of her life happily as he shared many interests with her.
Enid Blyton: Her Writing
Enid Blyton once said that since childhood she “liked making up stories better than I liked doing anything else.” As a child she was keen to develop her writing and story-telling skills. She told stories to her brothers, made up her own rhymes based on other rhymes. She wrote down her dreams in a journal, wrote letters to real and imaginary people, entered writing competitions and paid great attention to English lessons at school. She also greatly enjoyed reading.
She started submitting her work to publishers at a young age, but faced rejection. Nonetheless, that only increased her resolve and she persisted with her writing. She said: “It is partly the struggle that helps you so much, that gives you determination, character, self-reliance—all things that help in any profession or trade, and most certainly in writing.”
There was a great range to her writing. From adventure and mystery stories, school stories, circus and farm books, fantasy tales, fairy-tales, family stories, nursery stories, nature books, religious books, animal stories, poetry, plays and songs to re-telling myths, legends and other traditional tales. She amassed great wealth from her writing and in 1950 she set up her own limited company; Darrell Waters Ltd., to look after her monetary affairs.
Enid Blyton: Other Activities
In 1952, after a span of twenty-six years she stopped working for Sunny Stories. Instead she launched her own fortnightly Enid Blyton’s Magazine in March 1953 for she wrote all the contents herself.
The purpose she wanted to accomplish was to mould the character of the children and urge them to be kind and helpful while also encouraging them to believe that they could make their contribution to society despite of their age. She started four clubs through the magazine. The Busy Bees (which helped animals), the Famous Five Club (which raised money for a children’s home), the Sunbeam Society (which helped blind children) and the Magazine Club (which raised money for children who had spastic cerebral palsy.) Thousands of readers joined and Enid Blyton was immensely pleased that children were helping her carry out the work she wanted to do. By 1957 the four clubs had approximately 500,000 members altogether and had raised about £35,000 in six years, which was a tremendous amount of money in those days.
Highlights of Enid Blyton’s Career at a glance
- Enid Blyton’s books have sold an estimated 400-600 million copies
- Her books still continue to sell more than 8 to 10 million copies worldwide
- More than a million Famous Five books are sold worldwide each year
- Her books have been translated into more than 90 different languages
- In the 2008 Costa Book Awards, Enid Blyton was voted the best-loved author, ahead of Roald Dahl, JK Rowling and Shakespeare.
- Enid Blyton Day is celebrated on 10th May, since 1995
- An estimate puts her total book publication at around 800 titles, not including decades of magazine writing
After suffering from bad health Enid Blyton died peacefully on 28th November 1968, in a nursing home, where she had been moved three months prior to her death.