Before anyone gets confused – Enid Blyton did only have one mother, Theresa Blyton, née Harrison. She didn’t get on very well with her mother and in fact cut all contact as an adult, and many criticise her own skills as a mother. All that aside, since it was Mother’s Day on Sunday, I thought I would have a look at some of the mothers that Blyton wrote into her books.
SOME OF THE BEST MOTHERS
Most of the mothers Blyton wrote about were of the good and decent type, some are wealthier than others but even the poorer mothers strove to provide well for their children.
Mrs Kirrin, aka Aunt Fanny (The Famous Five)
I always think that Mrs Kirrin is referred to as Aunt Fanny much more than she is as Mother but I’m not sure that’s true. She is of course George’s mother first and foremost. She’s a fairly standard Blytonian mother in terms of providing generous meals and home comforts to George, but she also accepts (mostly) that her daughter wants to dress as and be referred to as a boy. She also does her best to smooth over arguments between George and her father which is a tough job.
Mrs Mannering, aka Aunt Allie (The Adventure Series)
Although not present for the first book in the Adventure Series we know that Mrs Mannering (a widow) is off working hard to provide for her children. After that she settles with them in a new home – and takes on two orphaned children, too. Jack and Lucy-Ann call her Aunt Allie but she becomes their much appreciated and much loved mother in all but name. In Castle of Adventure Lucy-Ann is thinking for the hundredth time how lucky Dinah was to have a mother of her own. She felt grateful to her for letting her share her… Mrs Mannering always made her feel that she loved her and wanted her.
Mary Arnold (The Secret Series)
This is one of my favourite Blyton moments, when Jack bursts in to tell Mrs and Captain Arnold that their children are alive and well, and it always brings a tear to my eye.
“John, we must go at once to them,” said Mrs Arnold, who was almost crying with joy. “Quickly, this minute. I can’t wait!”
We don’t see an awful lot of her through the books, but that is necessary to allow the children their many adventures. What we do know is that she is kind and loving and despite the various traumas they’ve been through she still encourages them to be independent.
A lady sat, writing a letter. Jack could see she was the children’s mother, for she had a look of Peggy and Nora about her. She looked kind and strong and wise, and Jack wished very much that she was his mother, too.
Jack gets his wish, as Captain and Mrs Arnold take him on as their own.
Linnie Longfield (Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm/Six Cousins Again)
A farmer’s wife, Linnie is also the very capable mother to Jane, Jack and Susan. She’s often under-appreciated but she doesn’t moan and is grateful for any peace she gets. She also temporarily takes in Roderick, Cyril and Melisande and tries to care for them in a way that their other mother doesn’t. She is always calm and sensible but never a martyr despite her circumstances, and when opportunity arises she grasps the chance to run wild and have fun.
Another figure came flying by, chased by Jane and Jack. It was their mother! She was rescued by her burly husband, who swung her behind him, and proceeded to deal with Jane and Jack. His wife sank to the ground, untidy, hot, and weak with exercise and laughter.
AND SOME OTHERS
I dislike how much judgement there is regarding parenting today – did you BLW? are you an attachment parent? You have a jumperoo!? Saying that, I’m about to talk about fictional characters. c
Mrs Lacey (Malory Towers)
Mrs Lacey means well, I think. But she over-indulges her little darling Gwendoline, spoils her and makes it very hard for her to get along at Malory Towers. She is the weepy, scene-causing type who encourages Gwen to over dramatic public displays of affection even by today’s standards. She also seems quite deluded, as she believes all of Gwen’s stories of academic and physical prowess plus the tale of a dodgy heart. As most of Gwen’s reports from the teachers must point to the exact opposite you wonder how Mrs Lacey couldn’t see the truth.
Alicia summarises the situation for Darrell at the train-station in First Form at Malory Towers:
“I say – look over there. Picture of How Not to Say Good-bye to your Darling Daughter!”…
[Gwendoline] was clinging to her mother and wailing.
“Now what that mother should do would be to grin, shove some chocolate at her and go. If you’ve got a kid like that its hopeless to do anything else. Poor little mother’s darling.”
The mother was almost as bad as the girl. Tears were running down her face too…
Gwendoline appeared ready to go, but her other clung to her still.
“See what’s made Gwendoline such an idiot? Her mother!”
Rose Longfield (Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm/Six Cousins Again)
Rose Longfield (mother of Roderick etc) is another mother in the Mrs Lacey vein. After her house burns down (a dreadful thing to happen to anyone, of course) she takes to a bed in a nursing home and essentially abandons her three children. While you can imagine that it would have been a very hard time for her most mothers would be doing their best to pull together with their family instead of wallowing in self-pity.
“Not quite well,” said his mother, who looked the picture of health and prettiness. “But much, much better. It was such a terrible shock, you know, and I’ve never been very strong.”
Even when she emerges from her sick-bed she is largely incapable of functioning as a farmer’s wife as she seems to expect that dainty sandwiches and best frocks are still appropriate.
Dorcas (the maid/housekeeper) at Mistletoe Farm had some very wise words about the difference between Linnie and Rose (or Mrs David as she calls her, to differentiate her from Mrs Longfield).
She does it [look years younger] by looking after herself so carefully and lovingly, Mam, that she doesn’t have time to look after anybody else, not even her own children. There’s more beauty in your face, seems to me, than there ever was in Mrs. David’s – and I’m not talking about skin and eyes and nose now, Mam. I’m talking about character. Your nature’s writ plain in your face and makes it beautiful to all your family – yes, and to me too. But you’ll look in vain for that kind of beauty in Mrs. David’s face!
Mrs Taggerty and Mrs Carleton (Those Dreadful Children)
I have put these together not just because they come from the same book, but because they were absolutely created to highlight the others’ shortcomings.
Mrs Taggerty is warm and down-to-earth but she is very laissez-faire about tidiness and her childrens’ behaviour. It’s not made clear if this is due to her being unwell, or if being unwell simply exacerbated the problems but the three older Taggerty children had been left to run wild (another problem being their father, who felt that ‘boys will be boys’ and that as long as they have fun it’s ok).
Mrs Carleton however is meticulous in making sure her children are clean, tidy and polite. This goes rather too far, however, as she also makes them rather delicate and cowardly. She also encourages snobbery in them, and looks down on the Taggertys.
Mrs Carleton looking on disapprovingly and Mrs Taggerty in hospital.
Next post: Blyton’s fathers