Dame Slap


Excerpts from ‘The Enchanted Wood’ by Enid Blyton…..

Let’s hope Dame Slap doesn’t catch sight of us!

Every one looked about nervously—and suddenly down a path came a tall old woman, with large spectacles on her long nose and a big white bonnet on her hair. Moon-Face ran to the aeroplane.

Quick! he said. It’s Dame Slap!

But the old lady was up to them before they could escape.

Aha, she said. So here is another lot of naughty folk sent to me to cure! Come this way, please.

We haven’t been sent to you, said Jo. We landed here to give our aeroplane a rest. We are on our way home.

Naughty boy, to tell stories like that! said Dame Slap and she gave poor Jo a sharp smack that made him jump and turn red. Come with me, all of you. Heads up, every one ! Don’t stoop, little girl!

The little girl was poor Fanny, who got a poke between her shoulders to make her stand up straight.

Really, Dame Slap was not at all a nice person. It was very bad luck to have landed in her garden. A small pixie walked up to her.

Haven’t I told you to brush your hair properly for meal-times?

said Dame Slap, and she slapped the pixie hard. Twinkle burst into tears.

And there’s Doodle over there with a torn tunic! said Dame Slap. Come here, DoodleDoodle came and was slapped very hard indeed.

…they made such a noise that nobody heard Dame Slap coming back again! My goodness, wasn’t she angry! She clapped her hands together and made every one jump nearly out of their skin !

What’s all this? she shouted, in a very fierce voice. Form up in a line. March past me at once!

To the children’s dismay every one got a good hard slap as they passed the cross old lady.

Now, please, answer the questions written on the blackboard, said Dame Slap. You have each got paper and pencil. Any one putting down the wrong answers will be very sorry indeed.

Jo looked at the questions on the board. He read them out to the others, in great astonishment.

  • If you take away three caterpillars from one bush, how many gooseberries will there be left ?
  • Add a pint of milk to a peck of peas and say what will be left over?
  • If a train runs at six miles an hour and has to pass under four tunnels, put down what the guard’s mother is likely to have for dinner on Sundays?

Everybody gazed at the board in despair. Whatever did the questions mean? They seemed to be nonsense.

I can’t do any, said Moon-Face, in a loud voice, and he threw down his pencil. It’s all silly nonsense ! said Jo, and he threw down his pencil too.

The girls did the same, and Silky tore her paper in half! All the pixie and fairy-folk stared at them in the greatest astonishment and horror.

Indeed! said Dame Slap, suddenly looking twice as big as usual. If that’s how you feel, come with me!

Dame Slap led them to a small room and pushed them all in. Then she shut the door with a slam and turned the key in the lock.

You will stay there for three hours, and then I will come and see if you are sorry, she said.

Nobody liked it. They all sat on the floor and looked angry and miserable. If only they could escape from Dame Slap’s silly old school.

During the 1990s, Enid Blyton’s publishers began revisions to her books to censor the content and make it “ageless”. Acting like an Orwellian 1984-style ‘Ministry of Truth’, the characters Dick and Fanny’s names were changed to ‘Rick’ and ‘Frannie’ due to ‘unfortunate connotations’. The sadistic Dame Slap became ‘Dame Snap’. WTF? Further evidence that the world is going mad. [NB: How come the name ‘Doodle’ survived and didn’t become Damian?]

Presumably in modern versions of ‘The Enchanted Wood’ and ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’, Dame Slap will offer the children ‘time out’ to think about their options or restrict access to wi-fi rather than applying corporal punishment?

I wondered what Enid would have thought of these revisions, so it was interesting to read an account of Mrs. Blyton’s personal life here. She sounded a lot like Dame Slap! Her daughter Imogen described her mother as:

Arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct.

She wrote as a child with an adult’s writing skills. She saw everything in black and white. She was emotionally immature. She could love the children who were her readers. It was only her own children who failed to capture her love.

Moving from pondering these grim personal qualities and the lunacy of overweening political correctness …What about Slap’s 3 unanswered questions? How can these conundrums be deconstructed into something twitterable for today’s youngsters? Have your say, vote in the poll!

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