First Term at Malory Towers – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 3

I’m now onto chapters six and seven of the book, and have reached the bit I was most looking forward to – Darrell versus Gwendoline in the pool. I imagined that would have been heavily updated and I was right. How right? You’ll have to read on and see!

You can see my comments on the first two chapters here, and chapters three to five here.


There is only one real alteration in this chapter, when Alicia deliberately mishears Mam’zelle Dupont asking her if she has a cold. She pretends she thought she said gold and replies no, only a ten-shilling note. This has been updated to a five pound note again, as in chapter one as this is the amount given to the girls as pocket money for the term.

Removal of full stops for abbreviations and de-capitalising break remain consistent though.


Now here we go! Lots to discuss here.

Firstly, a simple change. How queer becomes how odd.

The rest of the changes revolve around the word slap, which apparently is too heinous a word for children to read and it must be replaced with less on non-violent words.

Gwendoline no longer thinks she would like to slap them both, or that it would be decidedly dangerous to slap Alicia. Instead she thinks about how she would like to scold them both, and how it would be decidedly dangerous to scold Alicia.

I don’t really approve of changing slap to scold, especially as these are only thoughts and not actions, but they make sense at least. It’s rather spoiled by the line in between those thoughts, though, which is Miss Winter had always said that a little lady kept her hands to herself. That really makes no sense in the modern edition, in between to references to scolding someone which involves no hands at all.

The sharp slap Gwendoline receives from Darrell for ducking Mary-Lou becomes a sharp shove. I’m not sure a shove can be sharp, really. A simple shove might have worked better, though to me a shove is still violent so I’m not sure why shoving is more acceptable than slapping. 

The next edits are some of the biggest I’ve seen, whole sentences rewritten or removed altogether so bear with me as I try to outline it all.

Right after the first confrontation between Darrell and Gwendoline, Gwendoline tries to leave the pool and Darrell catches up with her. Then, originally, it reads there came the sound of four stinging slaps and Gwendoline squealed with pain. It has become there came the sound of Gwendoline’s squeals as Darrell shook her roughly. 

Again, shaking is violent. Why it that allowed if slapping isn’t? The change leads to a lot more changes too. 

Whole lines are lost. Originally, immediately after the above quotes, we have Darrell’s hand was strong and hard, and she had slapped with all her might, anywhere she could reach as Gwendoline hastily tried to drag herself out of the water. The slaps sounded like pistol-shots.

This is cut to simply Gwendoline hastily tried to drag herself out of the water. It could have been made into something along the lines of Darrell’s arms being strong and she shook her so hard her teeth rattled but maybe that’s too violent – there seems to be a line in the sand somewhere below slapping.

So, all other references to slapping are lost (I shan’t list the ones which are straight forward exhanges from slap to shake but there are two if you are interested). Katharine tells Darrell she has put herself in the wrong, slapping about like that (which is a bit of an odd phrase anyway!) or in the paperback for behaving like that.

Then, more big cuts. In the changing rooms after, Darrell sees Gwendoline, dolefully examining the brilliant red streaks down her thighs. That was where Darrell had slapped her. This is edited to it was Gwendoline, dolefully trying to console herself after Darrell’s rough treatment. I’m not sure just how you dolefully console yourself. Sometimes I think they try too hard to leave in the original wording especially where it no longer makes sense.

And one last decent sized change, I shall write and tell mother, she thought. If only she could see those red streaks – why, you can see all Darrell’s fingers in this one! becomes I shall write and tell mother, she thought. How horrible Darrell is! 

Almost tame in comparison is the final edit where Darrell’s towel-cloak becomes a plain old towel. I don’t know exactly what a towel-cloak is. Presumably a cloak make of towelling material for wrapping around your shoulders when you’ve come out of the pool?

article-2022032-0D474DF500000578-290_306x590This is from the late 1920s (borrowed from the Daily Mail online), so I’m thinking that’s the sort of thing they mean, a towel that ties around the neck. I’m getting off topic now though!

I had intended to do three chapters again this week but there was so much to write about chapter 7 I’m going to stop there for the moment. Neither chapter was illustrated so there’s nothing to say about those either. 

I make that 11 changes then, between the two chapters. Not all that many, but most of them were quite substantial really. That brings us to 42 in total.


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7 Responses to First Term at Malory Towers – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 3

  1. Francis says:

    It’s amazing what happens when they start removing slapping! Much worse happens in Harry Potter. Thanks for article.


  2. Cathy says:

    I think it’s so silly to remove these things, as you say they are all acts of aggression whatever they are, they’ll be having the girls just wagging a finger at each other next!! *rolls eyes*
    I personally think it’s quite a quaint impression of life at a girls’ boarding school – it’s a well-known fact that girls get into scraps and slap each other, they always have done (even I did, haha!).

    I’d love a towel cloak – I’m always freezing when I get out of the shower and your shoulders are the place you feel the cold – I think I’m going to buy a huge bath towel and customise it 🙂 🙂
    I did have one of those towel wrap dresses from Primark – like a towel but with shoulder straps and it fastens with velcro across your front – they’re fab! 🙂


    • Michael says:

           Or possibly towel cloaks may be a little like the towelling clothing invented by the eccentric Australian composer Percy Grainger. See pictures here:

      More here:–4BMKklQX8lYGwBw&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ&biw=1277&bih=592

           Or – far more simply – when I was a boy, there’s something we used to do with towels when we were at the beach or at a swimming pool. If we came out of the water for a break before going back, we might feel a bit cold from the water, and also wish to keep the sun off a bit, so we would do this: Taking the top of the towel, we would wrap it round a thigh, the rest of the towel hanging down to the ground; and, holding it in place, we would turn down the top edge of the towel all the way round, and roll it down several rotations, creating a piping effect at the top, maybe a couple of inches in diameter. We would then slide it off the leg altogether, and then, holding the ring of towelling in place with a hand, we would place it on our head, with the rest of the towel hanging down our back, a bit like Superman’s cape. The effect looked a bit like an Arab headdress. It was quite effective in keeping the sun off large parts of one’s body, and wind too, if it was a bit windy, and felt nippy owing to being cold from the water.
           Maybe that is the kind of thing that was meant.


  3. Michael says:

         These changes about slapping are just beyond ridiculous. It would be very difficult to parody this dumbing-down, this obeisance to the mighty god of political correctness; it is its own parody.
         Sure, slapping people (or worse) is politically incorrect. It is also – quite independently of that – unacceptable behaviour; and my comments here in no way negate that.
         But is that any reason to purge fiction of any mentions of such behaviour? Who ever laid down an edict that fiction must never portray unacceptable behaviour? Surely fiction reduced only to the acceptable just becomes ineffectual, anodyne pap.
         Do these do-gooding editors really believe that school children never hit or slap each other, simply because it is considered unacceptable behaviour? If so, the boys I knew at school obviously come from a different planet than these editors apparently do. To be sure, this was long before bullying was taken seriously by schools as an issue that needs to be stamped on (as it should be, of course); but, even today, when it is taken as a serious issue, we continually hear stories in the news of serious bullying or ill treatment that takes place at schools – sometimes creating significant mental health problems in the victim, and occasionally even prompting suicide. If kids can behave in such a drastic way as this, I surely think they are not likely to jib at doling out a bit of slapping here and there. (Since I went to a boys’ school, they tended to deal in punching or rough manhandling rather than slapping; but the principle seems much the same.) My views about what behaviour is or is not acceptable in real life is quite unconnected with what I think it appropriate to portray in a story; fictions deals with many kinds of situations, not all of them desirable, and so anything can appear in fiction, given a suitable context.
         I don’t understand why anyone who cares about Enid Blyton’s work even bothers with recent editions. Anyone who cares really does need to look for editions printed before about 1970 or so. This is highly unfortunate in one way, because such editions are becoming collectors’ items, and as a result can sometimes be very expensive. Still, I cannot view modern, censored editions as being anything other than a very unsatisfactory substitute.
         Slapping or hitting occurs not only in the school stories sometimes, but also in many adventure stories, where criminals who have captured the children sometimes box them on the ear or assault them in some way. For that matter, isn’t merely locking them in a room or some other place (as common as anything in a Blyton book) unacceptable because it violates their rights (well, derrr…!), and so shouldn’t be featured in a novel, especially for children?
         I am now wondering whether these episodes with criminals ill-treating children in adventures have now been censored out of current editions. I also find myself, as a person who has started writing an adventure novel, whether including any kind of ill treatment would automatically bar my story from publication. Although it will be an adventure story, it actually starts in a boys’ boarding school, and one of the boys who will be one of the central characters is subjected to quite severe, systematic bullying in the opening chapters, and it is very distressing to him, and a significant motivation for him running away from school later on (which ultimately leads to the adventure that will ensue). I’ve probably already eliminated any possibility of publication, on the showing of what is now done to Enid Blyton’s books.
         I would refuse publication rather than bow to a stipulation from the publisher about what behaviour I can and cannot portray. Fortunately, I can always publish it on a web site of my own, and keep it how I want it, not how someone else wants it. To be sure, I would probably not make money that way; but the odds would be against me making much money through regular publication anyway. I guess it’s a comparatively rare author who can make significant income out of publishing novels. But to me publication of a mutilated text would be no better than no publication at all.


  4. I’m surprised the thought of slapping is left out, actually, considering the reprints of St Clares where the books mention that Carlotta sometimes slaps people if she doesn’t like them in “Summer Term”, and in “Second Form”, she tells the other girls that she’d like to slap Elsie, where they pretend to be shocked. When Elsie walks up, she tells Carlotta that they don’t talk about slapping people in the second form, and Carlotta just asks if she wants to know who she was talking about slapping. Point is, there’s a lot of talking about slapping people, so why not here? I guess it’s because Darrell’s supposed to be a girl who was brought up in a very ordinary home and is considered a good girl with one awful flaw, while Carlotta is only in her second term and still considered untamed. Although I don’t see what slapping has to do with growing up in a circus, even if it was a rough environment.


  5. Lou says:

    As somebody who grew up reading only the modernised version I have to say that I never really understood why Darrell’s first instinct was to shake Gwendoline and why they thought it was so terrible. Dunking someone as scared as Mary-Lou under the water for that long seemed far worse than just shaking someone, in a pool at that… Also whenever they talked about scolding in the book I just assumed that the word scold used to mean slapping or spanking back in the 40s. In other words, I fail to see how these edits made it easier for modern kids. (Also, I feel like changing shillings to pounds is a bit unnesscesary, since “five pounds” doesn’t mean much if you assume it was worth more back in the day, so you may as well say ten shillings.)


    • Fiona says:

      Really interesting to see it from the POV of a reader of the updated text. The publishers really do modern readers a disservice by assuming they are not clever enough to understand the books as they were published.


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