Continuing my two-pennerth on Enid Blyton’s Anytime Tales.
A Spell for a Lazy Boy
Basically, this story’s title just about sums it up. Poor Leslie is rather slow. His dad promises him a bike if he speeds himself up and gets better marks at school. Leslie goes to a woman for a Quick spell, which sadly speeds things along much too fast for everyone and everything.
Some observations – I do sympathise with Leslie, some folk are not naturally quick (I’m one of those people). His father is the catalyst for the events which unfold. Although he doesn’t seem especially unkind or bad, he places a very unfair expectation on his son in some things, and even resorts to bribery. Of course Leslie would love a bike, and be just like his friends, but when you feel you don’t have the ability to earn it, you face something of a dilemma.
The story is about more than just being lazy, and I feel the lad is shown, by Blyton, to be much worse than he is. To me, Leslie doesn’t seem so very bad – sloppy perhaps, but cheerful and friendly, even willing to improve if he can. We know he has friends, and dislikes fighting. Surely these are not the makings of someone who needs to be on the receiving end of a very harsh lesson.
Sadly, as poor Leslie is exceptionally slow, the spell is particularly powerful. Like the former Anytime Tale Little Queenie, the woman who administers the spell is surely a disreputable creature to disregard Health and Safety, take advantage of a minor, and blackmail Leslie to run errands for her when he’s effectively learned his lesson and been awarded his bike.
One mustn’t forget the author herself wasn’t whiter than white, yet would appear here to present the opinion that children who deviate from perfection (which is surely all normal, healthily developing children) need to be punished!
Look out for the Elephant
There are some unpleasant children in this tale, however, who do go unpunished. We return to a favourite Blyton theme, the circus. In this case, an errant elephant has escaped from said circus and is literally at large in the park, evading all attempts at recapture.
What immediately strikes me as odd, is Jim, who seems to be more concerned that Jumbo will trample the ‘lovely flowers’. It’s not very boyish, is it? He also thinks big sticks will scare the beast, and encourages the handlers to beat the elephant, which is what they intend to do. Only Sara, a nice girl, sees that the situation needs handling with kindness and compassion. It’s then an easy task to lure the elephant with bun crumbs until he’s safe back home.
Now is this story about how to get the elephant safely back, or is it to do with saving flowers from being squashed? Flowers can grow again, or be replanted. Cruelty to animals can never be acceptable. What is Blyton’s view here? She liked animals and wildlife, but doesn’t mention the potential danger a scared elephant could have presented to people. Maybe so much emphasis on the damage to flowers is used to disguise the bigger danger in a way kids can understand. And again, the lesson that with kindness, come rewards.
Next time: The Surprising Broom and The Old, Red Cushion