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The John Vespasian Letter
The work of the British writer Enid Blyton
(1897-1968) is one of the great literary achievements of the 20th
century. She wrote mainly for children and produced an average of 2
books per month during four decades.
Her writings have been
translated all around the world. Irrespective of your cultural
background, chances are that you have read one of her Famous Five
stories, which recount the adventures of 4 children and a dog.
the fact that some literary commentators show little appreciation for
Blyton's work, her overwhelming popularity leaves little room for
debate. Her readers, children in dozens of countries, adore her books.
In our days, sales of her work continue to reach enormous figures, even
though her stories play in a world without mobile phones and internet.
of Blyton's tales are set in an environment of rigid social classes and
traditions, where people have pudding for lunch and tea in the
afternoon. Her own life was relatively quiet, far from the ways and
fashions of modern media celebrities.
The only unusual event,
considering the times, is that she divorced her first husband whom she
had married when she was 27 years old. At 46, she entered a second
marriage that turned out to be very happy. She continued her massive
literary output during the next decades, played tennis and golf
regularly, and died at 71, shortly after her second husband.
is remarkable of Enid Blyton's life is, of course, her adamant
determination to produce volume after volume at a very high speed. All
her books were written at a time when word processors did not yet exist.
The average novel for adults has about 90.000 words; in comparison,
children novels tend to be short, less than 40.000 words. Nonetheless,
Blyton's ability to produce hundreds of finished manuscripts during her
lifetime is truly extraordinary.
While tradition and routine
filled a good part of Enid Blyton's life, her children books embody the
virtues of independence and entrepreneurship to an extent that few
writers have equalled. In her stories, kids explore the world on their
own and girls face danger with incredible courage.
under-age heroes make plans to achieve their goals, learn to deal
effectively with adverse circumstances, overcome difficulties, and
finally triumph. Even if some of her plots are slow, most of her main
characters show relentless determination.
Young readers around
the world may feel little admiration for the traditional English society
that she depicts, but this aspect is immaterial to the success of her
books. Blyton's skill consists of placing wonderful protagonists in
constrained settings. She is a master at portraying boys' and girls'
entrepreneurship against colourless backgrounds.
In her stories,
Blyton uses culture, not as a summation of uncontested expectations, but
as the ultimate literary ploy. Tradition is the giant to be fooled, the
ancient clock that ticks aimlessly forward, the spider web that fills
an uninhabited cave.
Meaningless routines do not make a world
that children want to inhabit, nor any discerning adult for that matter.
Enid Blyton's message to every young reader is that he should not base
his decisions on questionable traditions; that he should think for
himself and check things twice; that he should do what is right, which
is not necessarily what people expect him to do.
Is it then a
surprise that her books continue to delight millions of boys and girls
around the world? As soon as a kid reads a volume of the Famous Five, he
is hooked and won't stop until he gets hold of the complete series.
Blyton's work originates the same fascination in young girls, who
constitute 50% of the protagonists of her novels.
Inspiration and courage
is unmistakable: readers, especially children, love stories whose main
characters show purpose and resourcefulness, independence and
entrepreneurship. Let me also underline that Enid Blyton's books are
remarkably non-violent. Physical aggression rarely plays a role in her
stories, which focus more on the development of courage and
Will you follow the same principles the next time
that you have to make an important decision? Let yourself be inspired by
Blyton's stories and learn from her characters how to face life
courageously. This is what draws children to her books, teenagers to
video games, and adults to philosophy.
In fiction, we seek
inspiration; in ethical ideals, validation. Blyton's stories awake moral
reasoning in children, who understand the meaning without realizing the
abstraction. As children turn into adults, independent thinking and
entrepreneurship are qualities to be cultivated further.
tales have happy ends, where virtue triumphs over nastiness and deceit.
Her characters, in particular the Famous Five, have helped millions of
boys and girls around the world internalize ethical values. Children
stories, however, are insufficient to provide guidance to run our lives
effectively. That task belongs to philosophy, from which the best is
still to come.
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For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
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