I've been revisiting The Magic Faraway Tree stories lately as I read them to our 7 year old before I tuck him into bed.
Although we're reading from the modern version (where certain character names have been 'sanitised' and Dame Slap is now Dame Snap - but I'll save my rant about that for another day) he's loving it!
Last night however, among the silly stories of Dame Washalot's dirty water and Whatzisname finally discovering his real name we read an uncharacteristically deep thought from Enid.
Just dropped in among the light-hearted narrative was this:
'There was a tiny goblin who had once done a wicked thing, and couldn't forget it. He wanted to know the secret of forgetting, and that is one of the most difficult secrets in the world if you have done something really bad.'
I had to pause for a moment before I kept reading because, despite knowing the story would work out alright; that the tiny goblin's problem would be solved (for everything turns out well in the Faraway Tree even when things seem most dire!) I had a sense that Enid had accidentally shared more of her heart than she'd meant to.
Writing has a way of doing that. We write what we think are just stories, make believe, but there is always another layer - at least for me anyway. The stories become at the same time a telling and a working out of the struggles in our hearts. Some writers seem to circle around the same themes no matter what they write. I find connectedness, belonging and courage in hard places to be issues I am constantly exploring. Even when I try hard NOT to write these stories, I find myself coming back to them.
The process of editing is when I most often find out what my stories are really about. Sometimes my wrestling about a topic is part of the creative process, but not meant to be overt in the finished product. I then need to weed away what are my issues, to leave only what truly belongs to the characters. But even after all of this work, I know that in whatever I write my heart is at least in some way, and to some extent, exposed.
Just like Enid's was in the chapter entitled: 'Connie in trouble'.
I know the goblin's secret to forgetting wasn't sufficient for the ache in a heart Enid had just described. I think even my 7 year old knew that. And perhaps that's what Enid was wrestling with as she wrote this chapter. Perhaps she knew, even as she hurriedly provided the goblin with a solution of sorts, that forgetting isn't enough for this kind of ache. That we need something more.
I wonder if she ever found the answer. I wonder what made her feel like this. And I wonder what was going on beyond the writing desk of her life that caused her - an author who generally didn't tap into deeper themes in her prolific writing career - to share this part of her heart.
(Excerpt from chapter 17, The Folk of the Faraway Tree, by Enid Blyton. First published 1946, this edition 2008, Egmont, London. )
In high school I used to call them 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. These days I probably call them journal entries, or blog posts. Whatever the name, here's some of what I get when the penny drops, or doesn't, and I sit down to write...