Lynley's Reviews > The Enchanted Wood

The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
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Jan 19, 14

bookshelves: brit-lit, children
Read from January 06 to 19, 2014

Well Enid, you’ve still got it.

I recently had a breakthrough by successfully reading The Magic Faraway Tree to the five-year-old, and she listened the entire way through – like mother, like daughter, The Magic Faraway Tree has become her very first chapter book. I had tried to start with The Enchanted Wood, but for some reason I can’t quite explain, it failed to draw her in. Now I can guess that it’s because The Enchanted Wood takes a few chapters to set up – the children move from the city to the country, whereas in The Magic Faraway Tree, the children begin almost immediately explaining their magical adventures to cousin Dick. For five year olds, diving right into the action is imperative. They don’t have much patience for moving to the country, however well paced Enid Blyton can write.

Trying to explain the concept of a ‘prequel’ to a five-year-old has failed; she has no idea of chronology. Mind you, I don’t think Enid Blyton bothered too much about it either. Naturally, the books stand alone in their own right.

Now that I’ve read two of the series aloud, one thing stands out about the writing style, which isn’t particularly masterful if you compare it to great stylists such as Roald Dahl – Enid Blyton wrote in the oral tradition. And it was all very peculiar (at least by today’s more tightly edited standards).

Speaking of editing, I wonder, had the publishers guessed at the longevity of this series, might they have paid more attention to the small details? For instance, in this volume, Dame Washalot is referred to approximately half the time as ‘Mother Washalot’. By the time Blyton wrote The Magic Faraway Tree it was a consistent ‘Dame Washalot’. A small detail perhaps, until you remember that children are still developing their comprehension skills, and therefore consistency in the naming is fundamental. I ask myself the same of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight – might that first book have been more carefully copy-edited had the publishers known that it would soar? Perhaps not, though I like to think so.

I am the lucky owner of the de luxe edition of The Enchanted Wood, published at the end of the seventies -- the one illustrated by two sisters, Janet and Anne Grahame. Even a little of the wonderful paper smell remains, though not much. That is my favourite smell in the world.

Having jumped from The Magic Faraway Tree straight into The Enchanted Wood, the difference between the illustration styles stands out: The pictures from The Enchanted Wood are darker and more sinister than the more cherubic painterly depictions of country life as illustrated by Georgina Hargreaves. The red goblins of The Enchanted Wood are particularly evil. Now that I’m an adult, I can see that my illustrated version of this story did as much to draw me in as the words themselves. So for the first time I have looked up these sisters, and am surprised to find that one of them died around the time this book was illustrated, of smoke inhalation due to a kitchen fire. This does nothing to allay my impending nightmares brought on by the red goblins. The surviving sister apparently managed to complete the sisters’ contracts even while under the heavy weight of grief, and I can’t help but wonder if it was this book the pair were working on when one died.

Onwards and upwards… next, The Folk Of The Faraway Tree, with the insufferable Connie, as I recall.
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