Bill (Wilhelmina) Robinson of Malory Towers

We all must be aware of Blyton’s most famous tomboy, the one and only Georgina Kirrin. In this series I hope to take you through six of Blyton’s best tomboys (i.e. the ones Fiona and I can think of right now). That is, near enough tomboys, including Jane Longfield and Dinah Mannering. Of course, if you think we’ve forgotten any, just comment below!

I’m going to start off with my favourite Blyton tomboy, Wilhelmina Robinson a.k.a Bill from Malory Towers (you can find out why she’s my favourite here). Now I love Bill, she’s a fabulous character who doesn’t get used a lot in Malory Towers, and she has so much potential. She is practical and steady, unlike George who is prone to bursts of temper. Bill has seven brothers and has never really seen herself as a girl, nor has she been treated like one, except for being made to go to Malory Towers.

In my opinion, and it will probably be an unpopular one, Bill is a better, more well balanced tomboy than George. She turns her hand to woodwork, and is the only girl in the fourth form and above to take it, where as we’re never told that George does such things. Malory Towers seems to actively encourage Bill in her pursuits, where as, I always thought that George at Gaylands school, would be made more to toe the line and do what the other girls did.

Bill is the kind of tomboy I always wanted to be, because she was good at all these practical things, was warm hearted, good natured and  everyone liked her. She makes a good impression on the Malory Towers girls from pretty much the first moment they meet her they instantly like her and agree to call her Bill instead of Wilhelmina.

Darrell wrote to Sally that night and told her about Bill…

“You’ll like Bill (short for Wilhelmina). All grins and freckles and very short hair, mad on horses, has seven brothers, says just exactly what she thinks, and yet we don’t mind a bit.”

– Third Year at Malory Towers

The only thing that annoys the girls about Bill is that she won’t pull her weight in the classroom jobs, because she has to spend all her time with Thunder, her horse. To Bill, no one is more important than her horse, and her first few weeks at Malory Towers are fraught with complications as she tries to keep Thunder as the centre of her world like he was when she was home schooled.

After Third Year  at Malory Towers, Bill doesn’t appear much more, which is a real shame. She does make good friends with Clarissa Carter in the Upper Fourth, after Gwendoline monopolises the new girl’s time. Bill bonds with Clarissa over horses and a fast friendship blooms almost instantly.

I think this is a good place to point out that this particular friendship, is one of the more popular ones to write fan fiction about, as it appeals greatly to the LGBT community, given that Bill acts like a boy and Clarissa is more openly feminine (it fits a stereotype of lesbian couples.) Blyton of course never meant for there to be any sexual elements to the friendship, as in most of her novels (The Adventure Series romance between Bill Smugs and Aunt Allie of course, is the obvious exception) the characters were simply supposed to be best friends.  (Though I just want to say that it is marvellous that Blyton can reach so many people on so many levels!)

In the Fifth Form, Bill’s place as the form’s most masculine member is revisited as she takes on the role of the baron in the form’s pantomime. She wears her jodhpurs to the stage, and takes her whip to make her feel more the part, and her short hair and freckles help her act the part.

The sixth form is a quiet year for Bill as she’s not seen much apart from the odd remark, trip out on the horses with Clarissa, and mentioning what the two of them will be doing after they finish. There is no surprise when they announce that they are going to run a stables near Malory Towers. Its a nice way to see Bill, doing what she loves best, near the school she loves.

Even though Bill is a very quiet tomboy, she has (in my humble opinion) got so much personality and great things going for her, that she has to be one of Blyton’s best tomboys! She never claims to be better than the girls, but just prefers to do more masculine things with her time. I believe Bill Robinson to be one of Blyton’s most successful and well rounded tomboys and I only wish, there were more books about her, because she is smashing!

Bill and her horse Thunder. Illustrated by Stanley Lloyd

Bill and her horse Thunder. Illustrated by Stanley Lloyd

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8 Responses to Bill (Wilhelmina) Robinson of Malory Towers

  1. Bill is great, I like her much more than George. Wish there would be more about her. My favorite tomboy is Dinah!


  2. Francis says:

    Amazing how many tomboys Enid created in her stories but in some ways she was a vary feisty character herself who kept tight control of her creations.


  3. Michael says:

         Was Enid Blyton herself noticeably tomboyish? It is commonly said that she based George on herself in some ways – I think she said that herself, so it’s not just others’ opinions. And she does seem to have rather a lot of tomboys in various stories, especially if you include the various incidental characters in the Famous Five books (Jo, Henry, and Harriet of the two Harries come to mind immediately).


    • pippastef says:

      Well Michael, we are always told that she didn’t want to learn the girlish things from her mother and wanted to do what her brothers did.
      Maybe not a Tomboy in the true sense of the word, but she was ppossibly more Bill than George!
      I also think that she wanted to show girls that they had different options they had a choice and could be who they wanted to be.


      • That’s an interesting point. There are a lot of Blyton tomboys. I feel that in some ways, Blyton didn’t particularly like traditional femmenine things. She certainly didn’t approve of makeup or girls who wanted to look pretty or older, as if taking pride in one’s appearance leaves no room for inner beauty. I also felt a bit cross that some of her tomboys hate being a girl at all, and she doesn’t call them out and point out that being a girl doesn’t make you lesser (quite the opposite with her constant “You’re as good as a boy” lines). Sex changes were unavailable when she wrote the books. I know people didn’t freak over PC views back then, but all girls are just as good as boys, not just the ones who try to be boys.


        • Fiona says:

          I don’t know if they hated ‘being a girl’ even though that’s what George says. I think they hated the role that was forced on them for being girls. They wanted to be boys in order to be treated like boys, as they couldn’t see another alternative. History is full of women who disguised themselves as men in order to study and practice medicine or become sailors and soldiers etc.


  4. Sakpal says:

    You’ve missed Jo, from the Famous five book ‘Five fall into adventure’


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