Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories then and now, part 4

I would like to say that I am whizzing through these short stories but in reality it’s more of a steady plod. Which is fine! Reading each sentence of every story twice does take up quite a lot of time, as does having to put the books down every few paragraphs to make a note of the changes. I have tried using voice-to-text on my phone but it only gets about half of what I say right, which is useless when I’m needing to note exact word choices.

Anyway, I’ve reached story #6 (of 26, though as I don’t have them all I won’t be able to compare them all.)


The Enchanted Cloak

First published in Sunny Stories #244 this was first reprinted in Tales After Tea in 1948. My copy of Tales after Tea is a Collins Seagull Library reprint from 1958. The story list is the same and it still has the Eileen Soper illustrations so I think it’s very likely that nothing else has changed since the first edition. The Seagull Library copy is, I assume, just a more cheaply printed one. The paper is of the thicker (and now yellower) cheaper paper and the illustrations are just in black-and-white. It’s possible that there are less illustrations as publishers often reduced them to save money, but the text probably isn’t altered.

The only other places to find this story are from collections published in 2002 onwards.

A brief review

This story is from one of my less-favourite Blyton genres – fantasy. There are works of hers under that umbrella that I enjoy, such as the Faraway Tree and Mr Meddle, but the short stories often don’t do a lot for me.

The Enchanted Cloak is about Princess Peronel (there are other Blyton stories about Peronel, female, Princess Peronel, and Peronel, male, so they can’t all the the same person, but are any of them the same I wonder?) who wants a special cloak made so she can wear it on Midsummer Night. She entrusts the job to Thimble the pixie, who gets the honour of being woken in the middle of the night to secretly receive the instructions.

Unfortunately Wizard Sly-One steals the cloak, and all its inherent magic (honestly, if Thimble can sew a cloak that grants wishes, why is she just a lowly seamstress?), and locks it away in a trunk in his house. Thimble and Peronel must work together to rescue the cloak – using actually a quite clever method.

What I dislike about this story is how it drags on a bit with repetition of the cloak, its spells and its powers. I also get unreasonably annoyed every time Blyton calls a wizard, gnome or brownie etc Sly-One as it’s not even a subtle nod to the fact they will be a baddie. It’s unnecessary and way over-used.

In addition to this, apart from the fact this cloak is to be worn on Midsummer Night, there’s no links to summer holidays at all, making this one feel more out of place than some of the others so far.

The updates

There are a few minor modernisations of language here but also a few rather pointless changes.

Thimble and Peronel have been discussing the cloak, and what the two spells do. Peronels describes what one spell will do as soon as I put it on – with the context making it obvious she means the cloak. This has been changed to as soon as I put the cloak on. 

After that Peronel says here are the two spells which has become here are the spells. The two was not strictly necessary as we know there are two, but neither is it a mistake or awkward phrasing that would require editing.

The Wizard Sly-One is just Wizard Sly-one, and when talking about Peronel she had been the Princess, now she is the princess. Technically, that’s probably correct but as a sign of respect for the Princess a capital is hardly a crime.

Do be careful of them is changed to do be careful with them – though I think that do in that sense is quite an old-fashioned (or just very posh) turn of phrase by itself.

And lastly, if the cloak hadn’t had those spells in it is modernised to didn’t have those spells in it.

The illustrations

We miss out on the Soper drawings (though I even find Soper’s fairyland illustrations less appealing than her every-day ones). In Sunny Stories it was illustrated by Dorothy M. Wheeler whose style is probably better suited to fantasy than Soper’s is.

Adventure Up a Tree

This one’s from Sunny Stories #486 (1950) and was first reprinted in The Twelfth Holiday Book in 1957. Its later reprints are all from 1971 and after.

A brief review

When Jack and Alan climb a tree and witness a couple of men hanging around, leaving a note for a third, they think it’s very odd. Having read the note, they think it’s even odder but can’t figure it all out. The next morning they read the news about a train robbery, and suddenly the note makes sense and they are able to take their information to the police and help them catch the culprits.

As the boys are off school this is obviously in the holidays, and as the tree is full of leaves it’s likely to be summer – so it counts as a summer holiday story. I suspect the problem often is not so much with the stories, but in the way the book is designed and marketed – the blurb and the cover highly suggest holidays on the beach or at least away from home.

The updates

Surprisingly few – given the very dated content of the story but they snuck in a few just to infuriate me.

First up they have – AGAIN – changed Jack to John. What on earth do they have against the name Jack? As I pointed out in my last post it’s a very, very popular name in the UK, and is certainly more common amongst children today than John is (or indeed Alan)! This also blows my very weak theory – about not wanting any names repeated – out of the water.

Queer is unsurprisingly changed to odd, but the only other change is turning the Coastguard cigarettes to Silk Cut ones. I can’t find any Coastguard cigarettes online, so I suspect Blyton made them up so she wasn’t advertising a real brand. However, Silk Cut is a real brand so it’s rather odd to have those in a modern book.

That brings me to all the things that they haven’t changed – I’m not complaining, but this is the sort of story I could imagine not ever being reprinted as it has so many old-fashioned elements. It sits oddly in this collection beside stories with a ton of random changes.

The boys wonder why the men are hanging around on a weekday when they ought to be working – in the 1950s this was probably a more reasonable question (though it has a judgemental air to it even then, as there were, of course, men who were unemployed) – as men would be expected to be working all day Monday-Friday and possibly beyond – Jack’s dad rushes off for the train after breakfast on Saturday suggesting he’s off to the city for work. Today it sounds a bit silly as plenty of men have days off during the week due to part time hours, shift work, annual leave…

The two main clues in the story are the cigarettes (and matches) and the flat cloth caps. Now some men do wear cloth caps these days, but all three of them? Including one with a rip in it? The cigarettes are an odd thing to leave as often the editors remove those (and pipes) as nobody wants to be seen as promoting smoking to children. The caps are just old-fashioned and I’m surprised they weren’t changed to the boys recognising their coats or hoodies!

The illustrations

These were done by L Davy who appears to only have done two stories in The Twelfth Holiday book for Blyton – and although the drawings are nice the choice of colours – bright yellow, green and red are rather garish when combined (they are brighter in real life than my scanner was able to pick up)! In Sunny Stories they were done by Marjorie Thorp.


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1 Response to Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories then and now, part 4

  1. Andreas says:

    I like your reviews with the updates and the illustrations. I also translated some of them in German.
    If you do again a book presentation “like Blyton”, I would recommend you the following:
    “Mulbridge Manor” by James Reeves.


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