Enid Blyton wrote a lot of short stories. I was planning to start reviewing some of them to encourage me to read more of them. But first, I thought I would just write a bit about her short stories in general. (Partly as a general introduction and partly because I haven’t gotten around to ready any yet.)
So how many is a lot?
A lot. So many there’s never been an accurate count done. It would be near impossible to do such a thing, because:
- Many stories have appeared multiple times in different publications
- Many others have appeared only once in collections by various authors; some of these under pen-names that are suspected to by Blyton’s but are by no means certain
- Some stories have the same name as other stories but are entirely different; and some reprinted stories have had their titles changed!
So in order to get a precise (or even close) count you would have to be able to check every book and magazine she wrote or wrote for, and read at least the start of every story to make sure it wasn’t a repeat/retitled. It would be a gargantuan task, and certainly not one I would be willing to undertake. It would take forever and a lot of money just to source every short story collection and magazine with her name on it, without even considering the contributions she made to Teachers’ World, annuals, readers, books of verse and so on.
Types of short story
There are a few different types of short story Blyton wrote.
One would be short stories about a well-known character or characters. So the Amelia Jane, Mister Meddle, Mr Pink-Whistle, Mr Twiddle etc books would fit into this category; their books are a collection of short stories rather than a novel broken into chapters. Also, there are short stories about the Famous Five, Secret Seven Adventurous Four and other characters who have their own full-length novels.
Perhaps it’s strange but I rarely consider the Amelia Jane type stories as short stories. The Famous Five type definitely are, as they are very much shorter than the originals. Somehow the fact that the Amelia Jane type are published together in a single volume makes them feel like more of a ‘bitty’ or disjointed novel rather than a short story collection. For me this idea is compounded by the tiny details that do overlap, such as Amelia Jane promising to amend her ways at the end of one story, then it being remarked upon that, at the start of the next story, set not too long later she has forgotten her promise.
For that reason, as well as having already reviewed Amelia Jane and Famous Five short story books, I won’t review this type now. I might review Mr Meddle/Pinkwhistle/Twiddle etc but as whole books.
Anyway, the other type of short story (which I will review) is the standard tale about a one-off character or characters. These form probably the larger part of her output of short stories, and are the ones I have read far less of.
I find it’s harder to care when you’ve only been introduced to Pam/Sally/Belinda/Jane or John/Graham/Kenneth/Michael one page 1, faced with their triumph or tragedy by page 6 and they’ve gone never to be met again by the end of the story. Saying that, the general message of the story is often more important than the person it is about. Blyton used her general short stories to convey lots of good messages about kindness, honesty, hard-work and generosity. The good children are almost always rewarded and the bad children punished or later rewarded when they amend their ways.
There are also a few types of picture-book short stories, like the strip books and so on. These are perhaps short books as they are a single story per publication so I may (or may not) include them in this series of reviews.
What short stories do I have?
At one point I was making a note of all the short stories I had, adding them as I bought new collections. I quickly gave up, though, as it took forever.
I know what collections of short stories I have, though. Not including the Amelia Janes etc, I have around 70 short story collections and books which contain stories amongst other content.
My collection is made up of:
- 20 (ish) miscellaneous story books
- 10 Sampson Low Holiday books (I’m missing #1 and #3)
- 8 Hodder Happy/Jolly etc books
- 7 Macmillan Story Readers
- 4 Enid Blyton Magazine Annuals
- 4 Methuen Colour books
- 3 Macmillan Nature Readers
- 3 Foyle’s Flower books
- 2 Hodder Party books
- 2 Evans Day books
- 2 Methuen Naughty Children books
- 2 Werner Laurie books
As I said earlier I had, at one point, kept a note of the short stories within the books I had. I’ve just checked and there are about 850 listed across just 43 of my books. So if the average book has 20 stories and I have about 70, I probably have in the region of 1,400 stories though of course many will be duplicated. But maybe that gives you an idea of the scale we are dealing with when I said ‘lots’.
I definitely won’t be reviewing hundreds of short stories but I will probably dip in and out of various books and do whatever stories take my fancy!
What’s your favourite short story?