As it would have been Enid Blyton’s one hundred and twenty-second birthday on Sunday, I thought I’d do a post looking at birthdays in her books.
The Exciting Birthday
Published in 1927, The Exciting Birthday is all about Mollie’s seventh birthday. Chock full of presents, fun, parties, meals and magic, Mollie has a truly wonderful birthday. Yes, she even gets a donkey!
The Teddy Bear’s Party
I almost missed this one as the title doesn’t have ‘birthday’ in it! This one is set in a nursery much like the Amelia Jane books. Instead of a naughty doll, there is a rather vain and rude bear called Bruiny. The Old Monkey, wisest of the toys, advises him to throw a birthday party for himself and invite all the other toys as a gesture of good will. In order to do this he is silly enough to start trying to steal sweets and cakes from those very toys! He meant well, I suppose, and he is very lucky that Old Monkey persuades the other toys to throw the party themselves, and by the end of the book they have all made friends with Bruiny.
Birthday Time Books
There are seven of these little books and each could be found in a birthday card, though the cards weren’t Blyton-related, and they were put in at random. I wonder if children begged their parents to buy greetings cards that weren’t needed, in order to get an Enid Blyton book – but perhaps they weren’t well advertised.
The whole list is here, and three of the stories are even available to read in full.
The Birthday Kitten
This isn’t a rare book – published by Lutterworth Press – but it’s one I don’t have. It’s not something I’ve really looked for as I’m probably least fond of the animal books genre (I own Snowball the Pony, and The Boy Who Wanted a Dog but have never read them!) It was originally serialised in Enid Blyton’s Magazine, and I have five of the twelve issues it was in, not really enough!) Anyway, The Birthday Kitten isn’t just about kittens, it’s about a birthday. Technically two birthdays, on the same day, as the main characters are twins called Terry and Tessie.
As this is a ‘young adventures’ title, it’s not as simple as them being given a kitten, like Mollie above is given a donkey. Rather, they find one, half drowned, and as they aren’t allowed a pet at home they must try to look after it without anyone finding out.
Birthdays in the novels
I can’t fall back on my trusty Famous Five knowledge here, as there are no birthdays celebrated over twenty one books! There are probably references to birthdays in many more books, but I’ve stuck to ones where they feature as a reasonable plot point and not just a passing mention or two.
The Land of Birthdays in The Enchanted Wood
The last chapter of The Enchanted Wood has not just Bessie’s birthday, but also the Land of Birthdays appearing at the top of the tree. You can only enter the land of birthdays if one of your group is having their birthday, so everyone is very lucky that is is Bessie’s birthday. You can wish for anything you want when in the Land of Birthdays, but everyone only gets one wish.
Joan’s birthday in The Naughtiest Girl in the School
Joan’s birthday is not a particularly happy birthday tale, even if it all works out well. Joan never gets any letters from her family, even though she writes regularly. Elizabeth, her friend, sees this and decides to make a big fuss of Joan. She buys an enormous cake and lots of cards and presents, but her mistake is pretending they all came from Joan’s parents. She even signs cards from mummy and daddy. Of course Joan writes to thank her parents, and when they actually write back, but to say they have no idea what she’s talking about… well, Joan doesn’t take it well. Being a Blyton story, it does have a happy ending at least.
The great midnight feast in the Twins at St Clare’s
Miss Theobald has a birthday, and most of the girls put half a crown into a collection for her. They don’t say what gets bought but it must have been quite extravagant with that amount of money!
Not long after Janet has her birthday, and her friends all go into town to buy her some small gifts. From home she gets an enormous hamper, containing a big chocolate cake, shortbread biscuits, sardines in tomato sauce, Nestle’s milk and peppermint creams. A slightly strange combination, but a feast nonetheless. The girls all buy an extra item each to supplement this, a jam sponge sandwich, a bar of chocolate, candles (not for eating!), and a cake with almond icing and pink and yellow sugar roses. There are also pork pies, tinned pineapple, ginger-beer and bread and butter to make sandwiches with the sardines.
A jolly time is had by all, even if there are several stomach-aches the next day. And no wonder!
Tessie’s birthday in the O’Sullivan Twins
Tessie is one of Janet’s friends, and generous as she is she know she can’t stretch her birthday money to provide food for all of the first and second formers. She decides to just share it with a few of her best friends instead. She plans a midnight feast along in the music room, down to the detail including frying sausages on an oil stove. There is to be birthday cake, fruit cake, sweets, biscuits, home-made toffee, Nestle’s milk again, ginger-beer and four tins of peaches.
The frying sausages rather prove to be their undoing; those and an unkind girl called Erica who sets Mam’zelle onto the midnight feast, bringing it to an abrupt end.
Philip’s birthday in The Ship of Adventure
This is the only birthday I can recall being mentioned in the Adventure Series. It’s Lucy-Ann who mentions it first; asking Lucian to help her buy Philip a present while they are on Amulis. He makes a couple of suggestions but Lucy-Ann remembers that Philip has always wanted a ship in a bottle. With Lucian’s help she finds one in a fisherman’s cottage.
I’ll get a bit of paper and wrap it up. I do, do hope Philip will like it. It’s an exciting present, isn’t it?”
Well of course the ship in a bottle sparks off the whole adventure when they discover a treasure map inside it. But before then Philip has a low-key birthday. The only present Blyton mentions is Lucy-Ann’s, but Kiki wishes him a Happy Christmas, several times.
Annette’s sixth birthday from Those Dreadful Children
Although Annette has become less vain by living next door to the Taggerties, on her birthday she still dons her blue silk party dress and prances around asking if everyone likes her dress and doesn’t she look nice.
Twenty children come to her party, all bringing presents. There are balloons, games and crackers, but Annette is so excited she can hardly eat. She has six candles on her cake; each a different colour. Her favourite present is a kitten from the Taggertys, though she got three dolls, a pram, and books and games and toys too!
There are too many short stories to list (though many of them will be repeats I imagine). I will only include the ones I have copies of so that I can tell you more than just their title and publishing details.
The Three Golliwogs’ Birthday from The Three Golliwogs
Thankfully I have a Dean edition which apart from being much cheaper than the original, also features less offensive names for the three main characters.
The three Golliwogs are obviously triplets as they share a birthday. They send out invitations, order cakes and then wait impatiently for the day of the party to arrive.
The postman arrives but only brings a bill, no cards and no presents. What’s worse is that nobody turns up to their party! Not even the cakes come. They are most disappointed, and although they at first think how unkind their friends are, they soon start to think that they must have to be nicer and kinder themselves.
However, the next day, the postman arrives with twenty-one cards, fifteen letters and twelve presents. After that the cakes arrive, and all their friends.
Are they all a day late? No! The silly gollies tore too many pages off their calendar and thought that it was Saturday on Friday!
The Grand Birthday Cake from The Red Story Book
This story is more about a kind deed being rewarded but is set during a birthday. It is Micky’s fifth birthday and Eileen next door admires Micky and his siblings but is too shy to approach them. She just longs to see the birthday cake she has heard about – a great big birthday cake with five fairies on it, each holding a candle for you.
She goes to peep in the window and sees Micky’s new puppy about to take a bite out of the cake. She warns the family and as a reward gets invited to the party, and finally makes friends with her neighbours.
Peter’s Birthday from A Story Party at Green Hedges
On Peter’s ninth birthday he gets a new bicycle, just what he wanted. Before he rides it his mother and father warn him about reading the highway code and being careful as he is hasty and careless.
Of course he doesn’t listen and goes out, at first being sensible, but then decides to hitch a ride on the back of a lorry going up a hill. He ends up in hospital with a broken leg, no bike, no party, and learns a hard lesson.
Not a very happy birthday tale!
On Jimmy’s Birthday from The Eleventh Holiday Book
There is a party planned for Jimmy but his baby brother (known only as Baby throughout) falls ill and the doctor says there is to be no noise so he can sleep. Jimmy is very disappointed there can be no party, but puts on a brave face.
He has just been around all his friends to tell them not to come, when he bumps into Mr Benny and helps him carry his shopping home. Mr Benny says he can’t bear to see a birthday wasted and organises for Jimmy and his friends to have a party at the zoo with his birthday cake, and crackers, lemonade, sandwiches and buns.
Dan’s Magic Gold from The Teachers World
This is a story about a fairy queen’s birthday and the efforts of Dan, to make her a lovely present. You can read it in full here.
I like to think that Enid liked birthdays, there are so many grown ups who think that they don’t matter as soon as you’re an adult, and any adult who makes a fuss about their birthday is a fool. She wrote about her birthday a few times in Teacher’s World, and Bobs (her fox terrier) wrote many times about his birthdays, his parties and his presents.
In 1930 Enid wrote about getting field-glasses for her birthday, twenty-five goldfish, twenty-four big pond snails and a tortoise!
In 1931 Bobs wrote that he had fifty-three cards on his fifth birthday, and many many presents. The next year he had another load of presents including a flag to put on his kennel.
Those are just a couple of examples, Bobs wrote about his birthday several more times.
This isn’t the most exhaustive list – I’ve probably forgotten several birthdays that feature in novels. Maybe I will have rediscovered them in time for Enid’s next birthday!