Noddy is back thanks to Enid Blyton's centenary. Colin Welch, the idiosyncratic genius of rightwing journalism who died in January, was the first to denounce Noddy hype in this Encounter article from 1958by Colin Welch / March 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
If you have small children and they do not like Noddy, you are very lucky. I have; they do; I am not. This insipid wooden doll, with its nodding head crowned with cap and bell, with its taxi and its friend Big Ears, has opened a rift between parents and children which time alone may heal. They love it; we do not. And we cannot agree to differ, because we parents have to sit and read the stuff to them.
The Noddy business has taken its place among Britain’s major industries, along with the manufacture of ice-lollies, righteous indignation, and plastic pixies. Two years ago 12m Noddy books had been sold: 12 titles and about 1m sold of each. Noddy is reproduced in countless foreign languages, including Tamil, Hebrew and Swahili. By-products, controlled by five separate companies, include Noddy pyjamas, painting books, jigsaws, Christmas annuals, cut-outs on cereal packets and models. Noddy has also appeared on television and the West End stage, although not yet at the Royal Court.
Noddy’s begetter is, of course, a former schoolmistress called Enid Blyton. She has been described by the Daily Express as “a sweet-looking woman in her middle years. The outstanding thing about her is her eyes. They are deep and kind.” The really outstanding thing about her is her industry. From 1948-52 she managed to fill nearly four close-printed columns of Whitaker’s Cumulative Book List-261 titles. In 1955, she clocked up 59 titles, more than a book a week. Last year she only managed 28. She also produces a fortnightly magazine, runs four children’s clubs, and personally answers 1,000 fan letters a week.
The scale of her activities has naturally aroused suspicion that she must be a corporate entity, or even some sort of electronic brain. These allegations she denies. “Once I get started,” she has said, “I’ve just got to go on and on. Oh, I love it… Stories flow from my imagination like cotton from a reel.” According to her husband, “It has been a constant battle to restrain her from working. The sheer effort of turning out 10,000 words daily-sometimes 14,000-has resulted in heart strain. She never lets up… She is a remarkable woman, but now she must rest.” Fourteen thousand words daily-if we assume a seven hour writing day-means 2,000 words an hour, about 33 words a minute, a word every two seconds. Miss Blyton’s style may…