The Secret Island – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?


As promised here I am starting a new text comparison, this time of the first book in the Secret Series, The Secret Island. My original copy is a sixth impression from October 1949 (and has an inscription in the front from Christmas 1949 when the book was given to Pamela, by her ‘Uncle Wendy,’ or at least that’s what it looks like!) The paperback is an Award one from 2009.

Starting, as you do, at the very start of the book, the first difference is that there is no end-paper illustration in the paperback, or vignette on the title page. Modern books so rarely have these lovely pictures which is a shame. Also, the Roman numerals have been removed. There are no chapter numbers in the paperback in fact, though all twenty-one chapter titles are unaltered.


CHAPTER ONE: THE BEGINNING OF THE ADVENTURES

The first change, which seems to be quite common is that the double quotation makes for speech are replaced with single ones. I always think double ones are clearer.

For some reason the single line after the first paragraph has been merged into the opening paragraph in the paperback. I can’t really see why.

Very quickly we get into the problem that the original text refers to Nora being slapped. She says Aunt Harriet slapped me six times this morning because I didn’t wash the curtains well enough. Look! This is replaced with yelled at me six times. Look! Originally she then shows Jack her arm, red with slaps. This is changed to her hands which were red and sore from all the washing.

Later when Mike says he hates to see the girls slapped and worked hard, it becomes bullied and worked hard.

And later, another line is drastically altered from Nora got a few more slaps and Peggy was scolded so hard she cried bitterly into her overall, to Nora got shouted at again, and Peggy was in such trouble she cried bitterly for hours. So slaps becomes a shouting-at, that’s expected really, but why has a scolding becomes trouble? And why can’t a girl doing cleaning wear an overall? It could easily have been changed to an apron or dress, why make it a time period instead?

Not all mentions of violence are removed though. In both copies Mike says that his uncle shook me so hard I couldn’t stand up afterwards. Likewise, the phrase no unkind aunt and uncle to slap them appears in both. I’m not sure either of these can be seen as any more acceptable to the editors so I assume they were somehow missed somewhere in the process.

The rest of the changes are quite minor really. The usual hyphenations become one word like to-day, good-bye and to-night, hallo Jack becomes hello Jack, and Granpa becomes Grandpa. I’m sure you can argue many ways that Grandpa is more correct but surely people are allowed to choose their own names for their grandparents? Be it Grandpop, Pop-pop, Paw-paw, Grandad, Granddad, Grandaddy… Granpa is pronounced a little differently from Grandpa and is a different name. Finally, some emphasis and excitement is lost when we must, must, see the secret island becomes just must, must (the second must losing its italics).

One change which may turn out to be a simple error comes when the children are being described. Nora is described as having a head of black curls originally, which matches the illustrations in both books, but in the paperback she is blonde in the text. Peggy also has blonde hair instead of yellow. It will be interesting to see if the hair colour changes back later.


CHAPTER TWO: AN EXCITING DAY

A few more references to slapping are removed. Instead of looking forward to being safe from the slappings and scoldings, it becomes from shouting and unhappiness. Also, Peggy originally says she doesn’t care how much we are slapped or scolded now and this becomes shouted at now. 

A spelling error is corrected too, as Jack in the hardback has them bale out and baling out the water from the boat, this is altered to bail out and bailing out. I admit I did a quick Google just to check, and the difference is explained as bale is correct for bundles of hay for example as it is from an old German word connected with ball. Bailing out is spelled so because it’s from the French for bucket – baille.


Somewhat unusually (in my experience anyway) the paperback has a fair number of illustrations. There is one decent sized one in each of the first two chapters (compared to six small ones in the hardback). Unfortunately, in my opinion, they are fairly poor especially when compared with E.H Davie’s originals. The cover is lovely, as expected as it was by the great illustrator Val Biro (who sadly passed away recently aged 92), but the internal illustrations are by a chap called Dudley Wynne. I’ll take a few photos of them just to show you what I mean.

Wynne’s are much more heavily drawn and shaded and the children (especially Nora) have odd-looking faces. E.H. Davie manages to put much more detail in too. I’ve had a flick through the paperback and the illustrations don’t seem to improve so I will probably share some of the worst in later posts.

Anyway, I make that sixteen changes to the text (if you count all hyphen removal as one). It will be interesting to see if there are as many in later chapters as they will be removed from the slappings and shakings and scoldings then. This updated text doesn’t seem to go as far as some others does in terms of gender equality (at least not yet) as Mike still takes on the burden of making the decision about running away despite the fact Peggy is the oldest. And he sits and wonders if the girls will manage, roughing it on the island without proper beds.

And I will leave it there for this week.

This entry was posted in Updating Blyton's Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to The Secret Island – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?

  1. Dale Vincero says:

    Thanks for the review, Fiona. Not surprised the modern edition has been through this “cleansing” process. I have read both books in this series. Interesting how the same theme of caves/secret hiding places and animals come through in most of Blyton’s novels. To be expected I suppose. I would be the same, allowing my world view to come alive in the stories I wrote.

    Like

  2. Naveed says:

    Not sure this is relevant, but though I loved this story there was something by which I was really..really put off. That is on the island when Jack hunts and kills rabbits for all the children to eat. The whole rationale he evokes to doing so and the fact that the children actually eat them really put me off. Also I know that Blyton was very enamoured and caring towards animals–and also rabbits. So this really jarred on me that she could include such a happening. I know the times were different, but I thought so was Blyton. She seems to have let down her scruples and thinking on this one.
    Are the rabbit offered to the children for eating scene(s) in the modern version as well?

    Like

    • fiona says:

      The rabbit catching/eating scenes are present in both editions Naveed. I’m not sure I can agree with you about Blyton letting down her scruples, though. The children also catch fish to eat – is this morally wrong? Both are caught as humanely as possible and eaten out of necessity, just as they eat sausages and meat pies and so on when they are off the island.

      Like

      • Naveed says:

        Can’t say I agree with you fiona. I think Blyton did let down her scruples, especially in the context of Enid Blyton referencing something about animals. I think it is safe to state that she wrote (or typed) many stories about animals or books that had varied types (even as characters). Cats, dogs, monkeys, horses come immediately to mind. No-where did she really seem to emphathize with ill-treatment or killing them.
        Furthermore was it really necessary for the children to eat the bunnies in this book? They were not starving. There was the fish and other food. I would also question the humane killing. How do you humanely kill a rabbit on an island like that? I mean you are going to hurt the thing for sure before they die no matter what….. NO I am against what happened, and more to our point here I think that Blyton really let herself down. If I am not incorrect there were two separate mentions of the rabbit incidents. In the second one the other children actually discuss and ruminate on it….and it is stated that they had no appetite, despite Jack rationalizing it. Blyton seems to have thrown her let-down, and then still seemed to see herself as being fair and impartial on the issue.
        Let me end by saying this….if this incident about the rabbit killing was put out and publicized before anyone could read her other innumerable nature books….I think there would be a definite contrast…and let down to the readers of the same.

        Like

        • fiona says:

          I think you – and briefly the children – have the same issue. Bunnies are sweet and cute and it therefore seems more wrong to eat them than some of the less attractive animals (this is also seen in conservation efforts where the cutest and most photogenic animals raise the most money, while the reptiles and insects and less attractive creatures barely get a mention). The children were entirely self sufficient for food and doing a great deal of physical activity so I think actually they would have required reasonable levels of protein in order to remain healthy – more than fish could provide them. As Jack says “you have often eaten rabbit-pie at home.” The difference being you don’t usually see your pie contents running around before you eat them. Blyton covers the killing and eating of animals in her various farm books – Children of Cherry Tree farm and The Six Cousins books spring to mind immediately, and also The Buttercup Farm Family. Pigs, cows, chickens and so on are raised for their produce and inevitably their meat. I haven’t read either title in a while but I believe the younger children in at least one story become sentimental over the farm animals and have to learn the lesson that they are not pets but destined for their plates.

          Like

          • Naveed says:

            I have read some of the books you mention for the first time…and very recently. The Six Cousins, the buttercup farm family don’t really deal with the farm animals being raised for their meat. Of course they ARE on a farm (as well as for their produce, as in eggs etc) , but I cant recall Blyton going into this issue–at least in any measure in the aforementioned books. None of the children went sentimental or anything. I have not read Children of Cherry tree farm.

            Yes of course you are right about differentiation between cute animals and others. My own stand is against even the less salubrious ones ending up in the pot. Personally even fish! However the prevailing notions seem to be OK with that….however today (I hope in general) killing bunnies would not be persona grata. At least with many folks, and as you say the cute factor is in play too with these folks….

            Anyway that bunny thing left a bad taste in my mouth…in an otherwise excellent book. I like The secret Island so much that I am trying to obtain an earlier edition (I read it via the 1960s Armada pbk). I have managed to obtain all the rest of the series…the other four books, of which The Secret of Killimooin is my next favourite (I have a 1st edition). That one should really have been titled “The secret of the forest”. Anyway lovely adventure with underground caverns and waterways through the mountain. I also like the fact that Eileen Sopper illustrated that one.

            Like

            • fiona says:

              I’m sure that Killimooin has been renamed in recent reprints – to something along the lines of The Secret Forest.

              Like

              • Naveed says:

                I believe this was Enid Blytons first FULLY fledged ‘adventure’ books or series? I think we can attribute the titling of that fourth book in the series as ‘secret of Killimooin’ due to this reason. Otherwise she would have made sure it was in synche with the other titling (as she did in her future adventure genre), and something along the lines of “Secret of the Forest” or “Secret of “Secret of the strange forest”. Anyway its a very good story.

                Like

    • Kirsty says:

      Eating rabbit would have been normal in those days, though.

      Like

      • Naveed says:

        surely not normal even on those days for young children to do so, especially as I mentioned they would have fish and other food to sustain themselves in their seclusion on the island.

        Like

        • fiona says:

          You’d be surprised! It would be very normal for families who lived rurally to catch their own rabbits – a free source of meat – and boys especially would have been taught to do this from their teenage years if not earlier. Remember Jack is 14 in the novel – if he had actually gone to school he would have been finishing then and going into the world of work. I still don’t get why it’s ok for them to catch and eat fish but not rabbits.

          Like

          • Naveed says:

            actually from my own personal point of view it is NOT OK to catch fish either. But I don’t discuss that here as it is more commonly accepted then…and today. Still makes it as reprehensible though to my mind. Also I am trying to show the discrepancy and double standard of Blyton….she was very caring to all animals, and yet in this book she condoned the killing of rabbits. I think it is stated in her biographies that she loved animals.

            Like

            • fiona says:

              It’s not a double standard. Blyton believed in taking good care of pets, wild animals and livestock. She had no problem with the killing and eating of animals. Just think of how many sausages and meat pies her characters got through. Either she’s immoral to allow her characters to eat meat or she’s not – you can’t draw arbitrary lines at pigs are ok but rabbits are not. It was entirely normal and acceptable to eat rabbits back then – in fact at one point rabbits were imported as a meat source as one breeding pair could produce 90kg of meat a year. The only difference is that rabbits (to my knowledge) have not been commercially farmed so their eating is slightly less common – but butchers to this day still sell rabbit meat in the UK.

              Like

              • Naveed says:

                It is a double standard in the context and stance on Rabbits and Bunnies and Blyton’s response to them. Granted that in most instances her depiction of them is loving and caring (take Timmy the dog in the Fives books….he is not allowed to injure any of them, and the bunnies are portrayed as gentle, cute creatures). yet in The Secret Island Blyton is callous on the subject. Leaving aside other animals, my point is that she shows a double standard on the rabbits.

                Like

                • fiona says:

                  George wouldn’t let Timmy chase rabbits on her island as it is wholly unnecessary. He wouldn’t be doing it to eat one out of hunger. She’d never let him loose to chase sheep in a field, but they’ll eat lamb and mutton happily. Have you read The Children at Cherry Tree farm and the other books in the series? I think that does a lot of explaining of the morals of caring for animals but also eating them and their products.

                  Like

  3. Naveed says:

    By the way I am not saying that there were not scenes and episodes of cruelty to animals in Blytons books and stories. But in anything else I have read, such attitudes and behaviour were clearly viewed to be wrong. Here in “The secret island” the bunny slaughter seems to have been rationalized by Jack (and Blyton herself). That is where the let-down occurs.

    Like

  4. Naveed says:

    –and to end from myself, I just acquired the 7th impression (October 1949) edition of “The Secret Island” for my collection as well. Very happy with this earlier copy.

    Like

  5. Kirsty says:

    I wonder why they removed all the slappings? The point is that the children are being abused.

    Like

    • Making any change to the text is morally wrong and indefensible. Novels used to include a simple copyright statement, but today they include a statement about the author’s moral right being asserted (in support of the author’s entitlement to copyright). It is a clear violation of the author’s moral rights for her novel to be damaged in this way: and clearly, because she is no longer with us, the publisher thinks it can take offensive liberties with her story since she can no longer object.

      Her literary executors are only interested in the money they can make from her stories, so will presumably raise no objection to any changes, however obnoxious. It is specious to pretend that they will stand up for her moral right to have published the story which she wrote, not some abridged or vandalised version.

      It is left to us to make this type of objection, for the author cannot and her executors have no interest in doing so. This form of bowlderisation is cultural vandalism, of the worst sort, and must be resolutely opposed.

      We, of all people, must not split hairs: we must not say that such-and-such a change is acceptable, for such-and-such a pretext. We must oppose any and all changes to the original text. If we oppose criminal damage, it is not appropriate to do so only in some cases: vandalising the text is wrong, of itself, and no excuse or pretext will be judged sufficent for doing so.

      Where violence is used in the stories, it must remain in the text. The author is not condoning violence in merely reporting it, she is simply invoking its existence as a valid reason for the children to run away. If they have no reason to run away, the story is thereby diminished.

      Any change in the text diminishes it. The text represents the author’s intent, and is a complex web of cause-and-effect. Harming the structure of cause-and-effect harms the story. But it also violates the author’s legal right to have her work presented as she wrote it. Politically correct vandalism is a violation of that right.

      Like

  6. Dale Vincero, Brisbane, Australia says:

    The ‘slappings’ in Secret Island never bothered me.

    Like

  7. Rose says:

    I wonder if these changes are done by a computer because a lot of them dont make sense. but they change the story, whether you think it is right or wrong. if it is ok to change Enid Blytons then it should be ok to remove or change every work of art book sculpture or painting — that would be ridiculous like removing culture, heritage, trying to erase peoples creativity. Makes me think were headed to “1984” “animal farm” or another dark ages when art and sculpture were destroyed and changed en masse and people were told what they could and could not say. Big brother tells us everythings ok but our lives are drab, with all individuality, colour and creativity removed! – the big question is who is the one who censors these things? not ordinary people. we have a choice to read a book ets, if it offends we arent forced to read it, look at that art film (many things offend and disgust me nowadays but the powers that be seem to allow them all!!)
    thanks for your very informative articles.

    Like

    • Naveed Haque says:

      agreed. My own view is that books should not be changed a single letter, even if it is deemed politically incorrect by todays censures. ( a lot of political correctness has gone beyond anyway in my opinion). But even suspect sentences and paragraphs should remain. If a reader does not want to read….just don’t read the offending bits! It should all be taken in context when the stories appeared and the society and mores were differing. Change ruins the atmosphere and even the historical accuracies (I mean its a sad fact that a lot of black folks were servants in those days, and having a white person serving black folks for example as a maid or whatever would be incorrect for the time periods in question!).

      Again who is to judge what is given the blue erasure. Its subjective in a way too.

      I would not swop my 1st editions of Blyton, Richmal Crompton, Frank Richards or other authors for a new edited so called politically correct one…..NEVER.

      Like

      • Rose says:

        Agree, a lot of changes seem to be on preconceptions of racism, which i think are wrong. All discrimination is obviously wrong, but i think people are assuming prejudice from their own perception when none is intended. But books only paint one story, that of the author. we are all free to write our own stories, my daughter like me think its sacrilege to change someones original work.

        I dont think the stories show racism at all — eg re black servants — (sorry for lengthy explanation!) – my ancestors were very poor, so we would likely be servants too, so i would have been working & living alongside black servants. I have generally lived in areas with Jamaicans and Indians. (Made lotsa lovely friends). People forget that in the past all the poorest working class, especially children and women, were treated bad, regardless of race. ALL races were treated the same in the workhouse, separated from family, mum daughter etc, endless backbreaking work… or in general people lived in dreadful squalor. 4 year old children worked in factories/mines. normal to work 4am until 5pm down the coal mine. eg. a great… granduncle of mine was run over by coal truck working downt mine at age 8, trucks were being manned by child of 10 who fell asleep, inquest held in pub that day concluded his death was an “accident”. As my mixed race daughter says so wisely “in those days, society was broken”. The 1833 & 1844 Acts changed conditions for working children & 1834 slavery abolished in British Empire but note Slavery was never legal in England.

        Society began to treat all peoples of all races & ages better – black men could vote 1867, long before women. By time Enid Blyton was writing, blacks were equals, worked as tradesmen, businessmen, musicians, England never had segregation like some countries. In contrast to the above i have close Jamaican & Indian pals who are from very wealthy families.

        Like

  8. Rose says:

    Oh am i right in thinking that Enid Blytons work seems to be edited and changed more than others because the publishers own the copyright, and they have decided to change this or that. if it were owned by the original writer, fine if they changed it, its their work, their creation. if their family own it because the writer died, then they would know if the writer would be happy with a change. They’d keep some things which some deem as wrong, because removing them weakens changes the story, we can see an event is wrong so immediately have empathy with the wronged character, which is what Enid wanted, to love or hate characters or understand why they did what they did as a consequence.

    Am i therefore correct in saying once something is in public domain, 70 years after writer dies, no copyright exists so if people want the original text, it will come back by public demand. so i have until 2038 to wait!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s