The Island of Adventure – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 3

We’re up to chapters five and six now, and as I was looking at my excel file I realised there was something I forgot to cover last time. Oops. It wasn’t changes to the text so it’s not too bad of me, but rather, it was what was left in the text that caught my eye.

As covered Jo-Jo is now Joe, a white man, yet he retains lots of stereotypical language (much like Sam from The Mountain of Adventure). For example he asks They coming to Craggy-Tops? rather than are they. He also says Miss Polly, she didn’t say nothing about any friends, no she didn’t. Neither of those lines sound right coming from an average white man. Perhaps if he was noted to be from Europe with an accent or some such, but he isn’t.

The other thing left alone is the fight in the car. Philip still bangs Dinah’s head off the door and they pummel each other – surprising considering how many references to violence have been removed in other books.

But anyway, on with the actual changes. The earlier posts can be found here and here.

My own copy of the book is a 1955 8th impression and the modern copy I’m comparing it to is a Macmillan one from 2001 (on loan from Stef).


There’s actually nothing major changed here. I’m beginning to feel that Blyton did put too much emphasis on Jo-Jo’s colour and perhaps it would have been positive in modern editions if this had just been scaled back a little. As it is, of course there are no references to him being black in this edition as he isn’t. 

In this chapter the references are just cut instead of changed so Jo-Jo, the black man, frowned at the noise, becomes Joe frowned at the noise. I rather think they could have replaced the words with a description of their own. Likewise where the black man departed down the stairs he’s now just the man departed down the stairs. Perhaps He departed or Joe departed would have sounded better and a little less repetitive. At this point, as he’s departing his eyes are said to be rolling, or in the modern copy they are angry instead.

Jo-Jo is also referred to as a sullen man instead of a sullen servant.

And lastly house-work becomes housework.

Again there are some perhaps surprising things left in this chapter. It’s still telephoned to and Mr Roy is said to be at the other end of the wire. These sorts of things were changed in Five on a Treasure Island I remember. Then again with all the other old-fashioned things in this book maybe they thought it wasn’t worth altering these out-dated references.

In The Secret Island there are lots of small changes to make allocation of the chores less sexist – though that’s not the case in this book. Dinah still gets sent to clean out the boys’ tower room.

And actually lastly this time, Joe continues with his strange speech for a white man when he says no that she shouldn’t and I’ve telled her so.


As if to prove my point from last week both instances of queer in this chapter are replaced with strange. 

Summer-time, oil-lamps and drinking-water  lose their hyphens and become two words while candle-sticks becomes one. However sea-birds, wind-driven and well-bottom stay as they are.

In the original text it is remarked that the water from the well was not salt. This has been altered to not salty. I feel that’s really dumbing things down. It’s obvious it means not salt water not that Jack is surprised that the water is not a solid mineral.

Some emphasis is lost when Jack is asking about Jo-Jo’s boat and Philip says we are not allowed to set foot in it instead of we are not allowed even to set foot in it. Perhaps the word order is a little odd but making it not allowed to even set foot would have kept the emphasis there.

I think I was right about Jo-Jo being the catalyst for an awful lot of editing. 

He’s no longer half mad, he’s just strange. As per the last chapter he’s not the black man, he’s just the man or the handyman. For once the editor has changed a description of him though, from the sullen black man to the unfriendly man. Perhaps they felt sullen had been used too many times already?

Also for the first time his speech is changed, from What you doing? to What are you doing? This is one of my issues with the updates – they’re so inconsistent! 

At one point his scowl is described as even blacker. Now that’s something Blyton has used lots of times – particularly for George. People have black looks, black tempers or black scowls and it has nothing to do with skin colour yet this is changed to even deeper. I wonder if Jo-Jo/Joe wore a black coat it would become a grey one…

In a similar change to the last chapter rolling eyes have become roving again but the wording around it has also been changed. From his dark eyes rolling and the whites showing plainly to his eyes roving so the whites showed plainly. I’m not certain why Joe can’t still have dark eyes or why the tense of the end of the sentence had to be changed there.

A few more things left in include you’d better go before I slap you and he’d [physically] beat you if you did (obviously not the same editor as did First Term at Malory Towers) as well as the girls were given household tasks to do (while the boys fetch the wood and water).

I think that’s another ten changes though it’s hard to decide what to count and what not to. I’m not counting Joe/Jo-Jo, straight removals of the word black or substitutes for queer, nor am I counting the hyphens after the first one or things like rolling to roving if it’s not the first instance.

That’s 26 reasonably unique changes altogether.



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2 Responses to The Island of Adventure – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 3

  1. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if anyone actually checks the changes – it doesn’t sound like it.
    Thank you Fiona


  2. chrissie777 says:

    Very interesting comparison. Thank you, Fiona.


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