Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories then and now, part 6

Nearly half-way through, now.

Previous parts look at story 1, stories 2 and 3, stories 4 and 5, stories 6 and 7, and stories 8 to 10.


The Donkey on the Sands

Originally published in Sunny Stories #192 in 1940. It has been reprinted three times in Jolly Tales, with editions in 1948, 1952 and 1961. The stories are the same in each but the publishers and covers are different. It has also been printed in a few other story collections more recently.

A brief review

This is what you might call a comeuppance story, as in, someone gets their comeuppance. Blyton was very fond of these. There are some where a child learns a hard lesson through the natural consequences of their behaviour and strives to do better after. Then there are others where a child gets a punishment from an external source leaving them fearful of misbehaving again. This story is the latter kind.

The donkeys of the title are there on the beach for children to ride. Jim, and some other boys, like to dig their heels in and make the donkeys gallop faster along the sand. Nora, on the other hand, thinks that’s cruel and remonstrates with the boys about it. She also brings treats for the donkeys to eat.

Because of this the ‘donkey-boy’ – as in the boy in charge of the donkeys, not, presumably, a half-donkey half-boy creature, lets Nora have much longer rides than the boys. Jim in particular is not happy about this and turns the other boys and girls against Nora, leading to them trying to duck her while swimming in the sea.

There’s no-one around but the donkey-boy and the donkeys, and Nora’s rescuer is perhaps the more surprising of the two choices – Neddy the donkey! He pulls her from the water and then takes Jim and another boy and drops them in the mud.

As this takes place on the beach, and the suggestion is the children go regularly this is probably set during the summer holidays.

The updates

I don’t have the original, so I can’t compare, but there are a couple of surprising things about this version.

Firstly – the money. Rides are either a penny or two pence, so definitely not decimalised.

If the names are updated then they’ve gone for some odd choices – Jim, John, Helen, Nora, Peter and Neddy.

The fact that the single, brief, reference to riding a donkey is removed from Wagger Goes to the Show earlier in the book is even odder when you then read this one. Is donkey-riding OK or not? (You can still ride donkeys on some British beaches today anyway).

In the Middle of the Night

I go walking in my sleep. I can’t read that story title without my brain immediately starting to play the Billy Joel song The River of Dreams, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

The story was first published in Sunny Stories for Little Folks #245, 1936. I thought for certain I’d have a copy of it already as I have two books –  The Red Story Book and Tricky The Goblin and Other Stories – with stories listed with that title. It turns out, though, that not only are neither of them the same story as in the Holiday collection, but they are different to each other, too.

The one we are wanting was reprinted in Mr Icy-Cold in 1948, a stand-alone collection of short stories, and then not again until 1996.

A brief review

Harry is off to stay with his aunt and uncle and while he is there, the house is broken into. The thieves steal Uncle Peter’s silver cups and trophies, but nobody witnesses it. The house-painters saw nothing, the gardener and his helper saw nothing, and nobody saw anyone coming or going along the road either.

It’s not until later, after Harry has rescued a rabbit from a trap, that the mystery is solved. It’s entirely accidental, as rabbits do like to dig!

The mystery isn’t really all that mysterious. I think it’s fairly obvious that certain people who were at the house on the day of the robbery must have been involved, and if the stolen items hadn’t been taken away from the house they must have been hidden pretty near by.

Brodie, being far more the target audience than me, however, was entirely baffled and surprised by the mystery. He was also a bit frightened by it all and woke up in the night scared that someone was going to come and steal his toys!

The updates

As I don’t have the original I can’t compare. From what I can tell from other reviews the names haven’t changed at least.

A Bit of Blue Sky

This was first published in Sunny Stories #150, 1939. Its only reprint during Blyton’s life was in The Happy Story Book, though it has appeared a few times later on, twice in the 1980s and twice in the 2010s.

A brief review

This is one of those strange stories where you think you are in one of Blyton’s perfectly ordinary worlds, but then it turns out that you aren’t at all.

Harry and Joan want to go out to play and ask old Nannie Wimple if the weather will stay fine. She tells them it will, if there’s enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers. I’ve never heard that phrase before but the internet tells me it’s real. It can also be to make a Dutchman a pair of trousers. Both traditionally wore (or wear?) bell-bottom trousers so it has to be enough sky to make those, not a pair of skinny jeans clearly.

Anyone who has even been to Scotland will know that there can be enough blue sky for several pairs of trousers, or indeed, boat sails and yet it can also be pouring with rain at the same time… but Nannie Wimple is certain about her weather predictions. The children don’t know how to measure trousers out of sky so Nannie Wimple simply waves her scissors out the window, mutters a few magic words and down falls the bit of blue sky.

Even carefully arranged and folded, it isn’t quite enough, however. This means that the weather won’t be fine later in the day. But Harry presses that it might be enough for a small sailor, and after thinking about it, Nannie agrees. It will be good weather after all. So back the bit of sky goes.

After lunch the weather is indeed much brighter and there are hardly any clouds in the sky at all. It makes me wonder how Nannie, with all her magic, got it wrong to begin with. If she’s magic, though, maybe she’s controlling the weather? Who knows.

The updates

There is actually only one edit to this story and that is changing queer to strange.

The lack of consistency in editing these books really annoys me. I don’t approve of the vast majority of the changes. But if you are going to change Joan to Suzie in an earlier story, why is Joan still Joan in this book? Either Joan’s so old-fashioned you need to modernise it, or it’s not.

Little bits of more old-fashioned language like whilst and all the afternoon and the italics are left alone.

What’s most surprising is that the children want it to be nice so the can go out and play Red Indians – complete with feathered headdress. This was a popular game when the story was written, with cowboys and indians being very popular in books, magazines, movies, advertising and so on. Nowadays the term is Native  or Indigenous Americans and you’d be hard pressed to find children playing at cowboys these days (in the UK, at any rate). They would be playing superheroes, or maybe soldiers instead.

I don’t think it’s something that is necessary to change, so I’m happy it was left alone. I’m just surprised that amongst all the strange edits to modernise the book they haven’t changed one that’s a) very dated and b) often considered to be offensive.

The illustrations

There is only one but it is an Eileen Soper one, so worth a hundred of the unrelated scribbles provided at the start of the stories in the modern collection.


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