On my way home today I stopped in a bookshop, and after being bored by the synopsis on the back cover of a book about female chauvinist pigs, turned toward the children’s books on a side wall.
Ahh, ‘The Enchanted Wood’! Wouldn’t that be a lovely book to give my tiny niece for Xmas. Memories of childhood imaginings about Joe, Bessie, and Fannie climbing the Faraway Tree and meeting Moonface; hot-cold goodies; and exploring the land at the top of the tree. I loved this when I was a kid out in the bush, and one sunny day lamented that I wanted to have adventures like Joe, Bessie, and Fanny, considering my own life unadventurous. Although I doubt that Joe and co. ever had to concern themselves with avoiding snakes, sunburn, and dehydration on bush walks, or helped break in neurotic ponies, or were solo driving at seven.
Harmless storytelling to inspire the imagination of another generation. Certainly, I became aware many years ago that some of Enid Blyton’s storybook characters were racially-offensive confections compounding stereotypes, well out of place in a more culturally-aware society. Fair enough if these had changed.
Surely there wasn’t anything offensive in ‘The Enchanted Wood’.
But lo, there it was on the back cover: “Joe, Bessie, and Frannie.” FRANNIE? FRANNIE?? FRANNIE???
What numpty, politically-correct publishing prat changed Fanny’s name to that of a burnt-out middle-aged bank teller with frigging corns and a nylon blouse?
I hot-footed it out of there.
What the hell else has changed? Let me guess:
- Joe, Bessie, and Frannie’s helicopter mother follows them everywhere and won’t let them climb trees.
- Joe, Bessie, and Frannie’s famed bottle of milk and sandwiches stuffed into a bag, is now a bottle of organic soy milk with individual cups and enviro-killing wet wipes and gluten-free, nut-free in an ostentatious bento box-style Disney-licenced plastic lunch box of wanker proportions.
- Joe, Bessie, and Frannie aren’t allowed to touch the tree in case they get bark-poisoning just from looking at it.
- Joe, Bessie, and Frannie never find out what is up the Faraway Tree, and never have any adventures because their pathetic helicopter mother is too freaked out to let them climb it.
- Joe, Bessie, and Frannie miss out on eating Moonface’s hot-cold goodies, because there’s no proof that they are paleo-inspired and come out of a twee enviro-killing crunchy plastic bag that’s headed straight for land-fill. Also, Moonface may turn out out to be a tree-hugging creep.
- Joe, Bessie, and Frannie are forced to ‘curate’ a photo essay of their day out for their mummy blogger’s Instagram account, which will be full of over-exposed ‘whimsical’ shots of them in twee designer clothes that are not designed for playing in outdoors.
Re-framing literary narratives within the confines of a contemporary social narrative has its merits, but at some point, revisionism egregriously assumes an -atriarchal[sic] role in a reader’s critical thinking that sucks some of the enchantment out of storytelling.
c. Kylie J. Lawrence 2017