After more than 70 years, Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree series is being rewritten to appease the political correctness of today. The children of the novel will be educated about gender equality after the girls help with domestic chores. The original book, which was released in 1943, will also be tweaked, as the children will no longer adventure without adult supervision. After Jacqueline Wilson was confirmed to be making some significant changes to The Magic Faraway Tree, the Enid Blyton Society hit back, saying children need to read the original text to understand changes in society and that the new book will itself also become “out of date”. Similarly, Wilson has weighed in on the issue, suggesting the original author wouldn’t like the alterations.
Jacqueline Wilson’s reworking of The Magic Faraway Tree was recently announced and has quickly caused a wave of controversy online. It will be the first new adventure in the saga since 1951’s Up The Faraway Tree, working as a continuation of the existing stories.
Set for publication on May 26, 2022, publisher Hachette Children’s Group wrote: “The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure revisits the original magical world inhabited by Moonface and Silky, while introducing three new children and some fabulous new lands, all guaranteed to appeal to Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton fans the world over.”
Wilson is well aware of the controversy surrounding the changes, telling the Today programme, “goodness knows what she would think,” when asked what Blyton would make of her alternations.
The Enid Blyton Society weighed in on the news, rejecting the idea that any sort of alternation is necessary for today’s audiences, even suggesting that any changes are inherently futile.
The Administrator of the Enid Blyton Society, Anita Bensoussane, said: “Jacqueline Wilson has a very natural, readable style and I expect her book will be popular. However, it’s a pity that so much new material based on established Enid Blyton series’ is being commissioned (from various authors) at a time when a number of Enid Blyton’s original books have been out of print for some years.
“The new titles by other authors may be ‘more in keeping with today’s world’ but they too will become out of date as time passes. It’s a good thing for children to understand that society alters over time, so I think it’s important to keep the focus on the originals.”
The Society is not the only group upset over the news, as The Free Speech Union also offered their opinion. Bluntly, the Union said: “Classic works of children’s literature should not be rewritten to make them more politically correct.”
They continued to echo Enid Blyton Society’s points by asserting that the original novels are “of their time,” and that it is important to teach children that people of the past thought differently to today. However, it isn’t the first time The Magic Faraway Tree has been updated for modern readers, as a similar situation took place in 1990.
However, Wilson defended the work, distancing herself from the claims that it was simply a revisionist piece, instead asserting that “I’m not actually updating it”.
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Wilson explained: “I think the first three Far Away Tree books were quite wonderful and I mean they have been gently over the years one or two things that people would question have been edited out.
“But they’re still essentially exactly the same. I’m not touching them. What I’m doing is following on. I was asked to write another Far Away Tree story and I’m being very, very faithful to the whole situation that Enid Blyton set up with this wonderfully original idea about a tree that reaches up to different lands.
“I have three modern children going into the enchanted wood, up the tree, meeting Silky, Moon-Face, etc, and then going up and finding the different lands. So, the magic world stays the same and if anybody reads this new book when it comes out I very much hope that they will go back to the others.
“It’s written as if they’re all of a piece, but I’m simply following on and goodness knows what Enid Blyton would think about it. I’m not sure that she would be that thrilled, but she was a shrewd woman and she’d probably like the extra publicity… if it needs it – it’s never been out of print.”
Next year, 2023, marks the 80th anniversary of the original novel’s release, inevitably leading to more controversy surrounding the books. Likewise, the ongoing debate around how modern readers should connect with the original source material will continue, especially for work that no longer reflects our modern sensibilities.