Five on a Treasure Island – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 3

Continuing with Five on a Treasure Island, I’ve looked at chapters five and six. It appears that as the excitement and action starts in the story, the editor’s pen has started to fall more heavily. In chapters five and six, which deal with the children’s first visit to Kirrin Island, I found twenty seven alterations, which is three more than in the first four chapters put together! And that’s not including the majority of the hyphens that were removed in words like to-morrow as I’ve already covered that in my first and second posts.


The first change I truly approve of is where Mother and father becomes Mother and Father, which is grammatically correct, and we all know how much I approve of good grammar.

There were, once upon a time, six instances of queer in this chapter. There are now three uses of strange, one odd, one funny and one peculiar instead. I suppose six queers in a chapter is a little much, but then are we counting how many times strange is used now?

There are a few real head-scratching changes made, such as when the little girl hadn’t got quite the right stroke becomes simply, the right stroke. That changes the meaning, rather pointlessly I think. Anne doesn’t have the wrong stroke, just one that isn’t quite right, but is close.

Also, hie Tim! becomes hey Tim! What’s wrong with hie, I ask? Then, George’s I wonder why! is changed to I wonder why? It’s a statement, not a question, to me at least. I’m open to debate though, if anyone can give me an explanation as to why a question mark is more grammatically correct in this instance.

I commend their consistency at least as lighted becomes lit again, fire-place becomes fireplace and worth while becomes worthwhile, but bizarrely at one point good morning suddenly becomes good-morning!

And finally, a change I anticipated as soon as I saw the word spank. If you go after the rabbits I’ll spank you  is now I’ll be furious. That’s George to Timmy by the way! Obviously the editors disapprove of corporal punishment used on pets as well as on children.

Interestingly,  Master George has been left alone in this chapter, as Alf calls her that when she goes to collect Timmy, and it’s even said that the children find it queer/funny to hear her called that. I complained when it was removed from a previous chapter, so the fact it’s left in here makes the earlier removal all the more odd.

So, fifteen changes in all, making it the most-changed chapter so far.


Consistency fails a little in this chapter, as lighted becomes lit twice, and then a third time is left alone, the sun shone on [the wreck] and lighted it up. I don’t really see the need for it to be changed in the first place, as I said in my second post, they’re both correct, but if they were going to change it they should change every instance!

I know I said I wouldn’t include all the times they changed a hyphen or two words into one, but in this chapter near by becomes nearby, which to me sounds like near-bay or near-bee. But then I’m strange sometimes.

The rest of the changes are all queer. By that I meant the removal of the word queer. It was used nine times in the chapter (which I admit is rather a lot). The first time it becomes amazing, then we get five stranges in a row, and then almost as if the editor realised there were other alternatives, we get two odds and finally a peculiar.

The whole issue rather reminds me of an old childhood favourite (ok, I’m still rather fond of it now) book by Lois Lowry. Anastasia Krupnik, the eponymous character is constantly saying things are weird, and her poet father takes offence.

“Anastasia. This is a household of verbal, articulate, intelligent people. We have an entire room filled with bookcases. In those bookcases are dictionaries. Encyclopaedias. Roget’s Thesaurus. Anthologies of obscure Elizabethan poetry. There are a hundred words – at least a hundred words you could substitute for weird. ”

“Name some.”

He got a beer from the refrigerator. “Strange,” he said. “Dreadful. Formidable. Ghastly. Unearthly. Demoniacal…”

Anastasia could tell, when he got to demoniacal, that he was going to go on for a while….

“PHANTASMAGORICAL,” said her father.

I suppose my point here, is, people complain queer is over-used in addition to being an inappropriate word nowadays. If the editors felt the need to add more variety to her language, why are they limiting us to strange, odd and peculiar? They could at least be inventive and throw in a few phantasmagoricals or demoniacals. (I’m being tongue-in-cheek here, before you get worried!)

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry. I recommend it, and the rest of the series!

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry. I recommend it, and the rest of the series!

So there you go, twelve more queer ghastly changes in this chapter, bringing us up to fifty one so far (in six chapters or sixty odd pages.)

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13 Responses to Five on a Treasure Island – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 3

  1. Francis says:

    Well done Fiona! I am beginning to believe that they have changed the text just because they can. Unlike Enid, their changes are not held to account. Power without responsibility – they don’t put their name to the changes.


  2. Corinna says:

    Wow, it’s so interesting to see (read?) all the changes detailed like this. Great job Fiona – you have more patience than I do! I also was a fan of the Anastasia books as a child – I must have a re-read. 🙂


    • fiona says:

      Thanks Corinna 🙂

      It doesn’t take as long as you might think, though reading a sentence in one book then again in the other, back and forth takes a bit of getting used to! I’m glad I’m only attempting two chapters at a time or I think I might drive myself batty.


  3. Michael says:

         Again, more silly and pointless changes to the text. Almost none of them are positively better than the original – many are harmless enough, but still entirely unnecessary – and yet others are undesirable.

         Perhaps 6 “queers” in a chapter is a bit too many; but I’m sure I never noticed them as a child, and probably wouldn’t even today if it hadn’t been pointed out.
         As for “Mother and father” becoming “Mother and Father”, I assume you are referring to “father” not having a capital letter, and the editors giving it one. But I would assume this to be a simple typo in the original: “Mother” and “Father” would both normally have capital letters when used as a name (either in the narrative or in the speech of a character), so I have no problems with that change – in fact, I regard it not as real revising or updating at all, but merely correcting a typing error. I never noticed that one, despite originally having read quite an early edition of the book, because my memory of the books has for years always been that “Mother” and “Father” are used like names, with the capital letters required.
         The correct usage is clearly illustrated by a simple example like this: “I will go and ask Mother and Father” – but “I will go and ask my mother and father”. Small difference here – just one word present or absent – but it changes the grammar quite considerably.
         If the more modern “Mum” and “Dad” were used instead, the same would still apply, although it’s often ignored nowadays: “I will ask Mum”, but “I will ask my mum”. But the exact reverse is regrettably often seen today. Superfluous capital letters are just as incorrect as missing ones that are required.

         Definitely “I wonder why” should not have a question mark after it. It may have an exclamation mark after it, depending on the emphasis or emotional tone you want to give it.
         It’s not open to debate, in my opinion: the question mark is wrong, and that’s all there is to it. The fact that the idea of questioning something is mentioned or implied in the sentence makes no difference: a question mark is called for only when the actual grammatical structure of the sentence is a question – otherwise it’s incorrect, as the changed version here is, and for the sentence to mention wondering or questioning makes no difference whatever.
         It’s an easy mistake to make, though: even in writing text myself, I occasionally catch myself terminating a sentence with a question mark because the idea behind the sentence is asking something or wondering about something, but the actual grammatical structure of the sentence is a simple statement, not a question. It’s annoying; but I always correct it immediately I see it, and wonder if there’s any way I could permanently cure myself of that bad habit. (The reverse sometimes happens, too: the structure of a sentence is that of a question, but it is rhetorical, or otherwise not a question in its nature, so I tend to put a full-stop at the end instead of the required question mark. Again, it’s wrong, plain and simple, and I kick myself and correct it. It’s *always* the actual grammatical structure that determines it – not the sense of the words.)

         As for the hyphens, some of the words affected are ones that I myself would not put a hyphen in – even though I reject many modern usages that made their first appearance after I left school – but I have no problems with the earlier hyphenated versions being used.

         As for using a thesaurus to find replacements for over-used words, some “how to write” guides I’ve read are very cautious about this. Maybe you could use it to remind yourself of words you actually already know; but I would regard it as very hazardous to use words you either don’t know at all, or know only vaguely but are not intimately familiar with, since it would be too easy to misjudge the subtle undertones of certain words, even if you get the basic meaning right, and that can lead to ludicrous results – ludicrous, at least to readers who are more familiar with the word you have misused.
         If “Five on a Treasure Island” had a few “phantasmagoricals” or “demoniacals” in it, I would definitely suspect that the thesaurus had been misused or overused.


    • fiona says:

      Hi Michael, thanks for the very in-depth comment! Just a few points I want to revisit.

      I realise I wasn’t clear enough in my post (I may have to go back and edit it) when I pointed out “Mother and father” had been corrected. Perhaps I should have quoted more of the text for context, but it read “Mother and father are always telling me…” so they were being used as names and should have both had capitals, therefore you are right in saying it was a simple correction of a typo. I thought I’d mention it as it is a change (albeit a very minor one) that adds to the picture of how they went about editing the books for modern editions.

      Thank you for confirming the question mark was indeed wrong. I thought it was but I wasn’t completely convinced.

      Phantasmagorical just doesn’t fit with the time period or the tone of the books so if they had put that in you can be sure I’d be complaining. I suppose it’s something you mightn’t notice if you’re actually reading the book for the story – how many instances there are of queer or strange would probably not jump out at you, but as I’m really reading it for the wording I’m noticing these sorts of things. I’m actually noticing other things too, things I had never picked up on before, like there are a LOT of uses of compass points. Winds blowing from the south-east, the beach on the north-west etc. They haven’t been changed between editions but I’m just more aware of them now.


  4. Michael says:

         That’s interesting about the compass points you say are mentioned quite often – that is one aspect I don’t particularly recall having noticed myself. But, when you consider that the exact location of many Enid Blyton books is uncertain, I do wonder whether a detailed analysis of directions mentioned in the books, coupled with a thorough knowledge of the geography of Britain, could enable one to locate the approximate region or district of many scenes, if not the exact location.
         And of course I realize there’s the possibility that Enid Blyton may have simply invented an exact location but envisaged it as being in a certain broad region of the country – or that she may have even not envisaged an approximate region in some cases, so that the directions mentioned may not fit *any* real location within the country – but I do wonder whether analyzing the compass points might resolve some of these issues.


  5. I think that quote was from Anastasia Again, the second book. Right at the start of the book, she calls her brother Sam weird because he’s only two, but articulate enough to politely request that when his face is washed, that soap is not rubbed in his eyes because they are sensitive. And then when trying to explain to a classmate that Sam’s body hasn’t caught up to his brain, he thinks it means Sam has a physical disability, not that his mental capacities are ahead of his age group.
    Yes, I have read all of the books multiple times. I still have most of them on Kindle, but before I read them when I was nine or ten, I thought the titles meant the series went into her moving out and finishing school. Then I got ahold of Anastasia’s Chosen Career and found out she was thirteen from the fourth book onwards.


    • Fiona says:

      Actually, Anastasia says the new curtains her mother is making for the kitchen are weird, thus provoking her father’s melodramatic rant. (The curtains are ‘bright blue with yellow and orange suns and moons and stars all over’, so she has a point.)
      It is the second book though, and she does accidentally make briefcase-carrying Robert Giannini think that Sam is ‘handicapped’ – and later when Sam ‘flashes’ them at a party Robert says something about ‘I thought you meant he was physically handicapped, I didn’t realise you meant mentally…’
      I have a 3-in-1 of the first books so they kinda blend into one for me, I think I probably used a photo of the first book just to show people who Anastasia was/how her series began. I really need to re-read them all again sometime.


      • Yes, I didn’t remember which “weird” the rant was about. The part about Sam just stuck in my head.
        I have the 3 in 1 book too! I differentiate more because I read Anastasia Krupnik and Anastasia At Your Service from the library first.
        Didn’t Robert say “emotionally”? It was after Sam pretended to be a flasher because Anastasia told him what flashers do. The reason he thought Sam was physically handicapped was because Anastasia said “His brain is fine, but other parts of him aren’t so good” when she meant his brain was more than fine and other parts were just ordinary. In the very next book, Sam starts learning to read.


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