Bye Golly, Noddy!

One of the striking features of the Dr Seuss fuss is that most commentators seem to be treating this as something new. No one I’ve read in US commentary on the topic seems to be aware that “Dr Seuss, cancelled” is a shot-for-shot remake of a British drama.

It reminded me immediately of the arguments about golliwogs in Enid Blyton’s Noddy books, which started just about the time (a long, long time ago) I grew out of those books, and moved on to reading such gems as the Famous Five . After a long series of adjustments, turning golliwogs into goblins and so on, the issue was resolved by the reissue, in 2009, of a new canonical series, with no golliwogs. (There’s still controversy about golliwogs in general, but not wrt Noddy).

As is always the case, once you know what to look for, you can always find someone who’s made the same point before. In my case, very close to home. Here’s Kate Cantrell and Sharon Bickle from the University of Southern Queensland making exactly this point, with many more examples.

14 thoughts on “Bye Golly, Noddy!

  1. I must admit I hated all these stupid Noddy books and hated Enid Blyton and her boring children’s stories. Spent a lot of time painting, going to art classes singing, learning songs around our piano which my grandmother olayed and also swimming in the ocean and lots of sailing when I was young. Us kids also made our own fun snd adventures and used to disappear all day doing playing and having fun. Books were around, but not Noddy and other silly English stories. I grew up in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) a very different cultural experience. Lots of festivals of course.

  2. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/10/censorship-is-alive-in-new-zealand-i-should-know-my-book-was-banned

    Family First appealed the decision, a new body was assembled (four co-opted members) and they overturned the censor, imposing an R14 restriction. To my knowledge this was the first-ever restricted New Zealand novel.

    The campaign against reality in children’s books has been going on a lot longer than any concern with racism or any similar “modern PC nonsense”. Books are quietly edited, or written in the first place, to take account not just of social standards but of whatever the trigger words for activist groups are. I’m sufficiently old that I recall “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” being the preferred case study even though Lolita was available and both more offensive and more topical (possibly too much of both?)

  3. Another side to the story was the fact that librarians mostly regarded Blyton’s books as worthless trash (agreeing with Sonia above). I was a voracious and undiscriminating reader and went through a fair bunch of them – our school library must have had them despite the general attitude.

    Can’t remember anything about them except that one of the girl characters was called George (for Georgina), something which seemed like pretty daring gender-bending to a child in the early 1960s.

  4. stereotypes.

    put me down as blardy strayan plus cork hat and skin cancer.

    frogs and rosbifs and nips and yanks and chingchongchinaman and lots of derogatory, petty spite.
    everybody cops that kind of thing.

    but while not everybody is spiteful enough to do it,it’s good idea to not forget what it is.

    sometimes though, just sometimes.

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/3/22/2022246/-On-Cute-Names-for-Impeached-Stochastic-Mass-Murderer-Donald-Trump-With-Poll

    “figjam fuhrer?

  5. I read Biggles books from Grade 3. Was that any better? I doubt it. Heck, I had a Reader (Grade 6 & 7) that had an excerpt called “The Relief of Lucknow”. It lauded the Brits of course. The Reader didn’t mention the Massacre of Amritsar, April 13, 1919. Gee, I wonder why? We were taught reading comprehension with the most blatant propaganda, so obvious from our modern perspective.

  6. I read everything. As Barry Crump once memorably described it “he’d read the back of a cereal packet”. Also, before I was allowed to graduate to the adult section of the local library I “had to” read every single book in the young adult section… this was before I started secondary school, so I would have been maybe 12. So technically I’ve read the entire “Black Beauty” series (something about horses) as well as “Anne of Green Gables” and whatnot. I genuinely did read them, but the price of getting access to the science fiction section was steep.

  7. The Grimm Brothers peddled real terror and I didn’t find anything particularly funny about Punch & Judy shows.

    There was an episode of the Argonauts where an escaped prisoner had kidnapped a young boy, threatening him with all sorts of dire consequences. I remember hanging on to that wireless like grim death.

    There seemed to be a violent streak running through much comedy, the 3 Stooges were always violently beating each up and Monty Python had a fair bit of slap stick bomb throwing with dismemberment.

    Mr Magoo was a wonderful panacea to all this bloodshed and mayhem as were Dad and Dave

  8. I’m somewhat skeptical of librarian book reviews, they’re library operators not literary critics for the most part, and even today many “children’s librarians” lack alone formal qualifications in that sub-field (or even education qualifications generally)*. That’s not to downplay their actual skills and qualifications, but their opinion about arbitrary classes of literature is not necessarily more informed than yours or mine.

    I quite liked the Famous Four books by Blyton, but then I also enjoyed the Swallows and Amazons series, Commando comics, Biggles, Ramona and Beezus, Readers Digest magazines, all sorts of books. Ayn Rand gave me mental indigestion, albeit I read that when I was maybe 14 or 15, about the time L Ron Hubbard excreted Battlefield Earth (it was long! In the opinion of some of my relatives that made it a good book for me, it might take me more than a couple of hours to finish it).

    * when I was allowed to read “adult” books none of them thought to steer me away from books with graphic rape scenes or other really ugly material. There’s multiple levels of WTF there.

  9. I found Ayn Rand weird but everybody was raving about her so I figured I wasnt as smart as them and I was missing out on something important.

    Many years later I figured out that nobody ie everybody hadn’t understood Ayn Rand at all, they thought she wrote tragic mega blockbusters that you avidly read on trains and later on, planes.

    Maybe Trump wasn’t so bad after all 🙂

  10. I read quite a few Biggles, and I still have a copy of Biggles Flies North. All I can remember now is that for some reason Johns modified the names of the planes. For example, Heinkel became Weinkel.

    Afterthought: The best “As you know, Bob ..” explainer I ever read was when Biggles (sometime in the 1950s) asks the Wing Commander (or similar), why the Chinese government would be unlikely to help him deal with Russian bad guys, and is told about global Communism.

  11. I presume the Weinkelization of Heinkels and other planes was so Johns wouldn’t constantly be involved in snail mail flame wars with people aggrieved that he wrote that a plane’s left flange had the wrong number of rivets.

  12. remember Benny Hill?

    the A rand?
    what grated for me was the utter contempt for the everyday skills.
    only the overseeing managermind had the ability to hold the crumbling wreck of society together.
    Heinlein was better.
    and he wasn’t the best (just my opinion)

  13. As a matter of fact, the most — unexpectedly!! — vile Seuss book is still on the shelf, viz. ‘Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose’. It’s about how the well-meaning but naive moose lets one bug ride on his antlers and, well, you know what it’s like when you let one in… They invite some more animals in, those invite others, eventually Thidwick’s carrying around an entire menagerie on his antlers, he’s cold and hungry and worn out, he ends up in real physical danger…it’s a pret-ty gross book, and a surprising and *blunt* metaphor against accepting refugees

    Mulberry St is a good one, though; odd that they wouldn’t just further edit the ‘chinaman’ thing, since it is so incidental.

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