09 June 2010

Upper Fourth at Malory Towers Pt 1

Another example of the mid-nineties misleading advertising - is there anything in that picture that screams mid-century boarding school? Yeah, that's what I thought.

You thought I’d forgotten Darling Darrell, hadn’t you? I haven’t. She’s still on my mind, even while I’m supposed to be on holidays. Enid didn’t take holidays (well she did, but she used all of the information in her books, so it was more like research trips ...)

I thought I’d start writing this as I sat in LAX terminal three waiting for my delayed plane, tired, queasy and watching a bunch of children play a game in which the main action is hitting one another and giggling. Happy days. It has been 7 June for 2 days, and I have come to the decision that I am over this particular day. (I fell asleep in the terminal soon after writing the above – I’m now in San Francisco, hiding from the chilly wind and Karaoke night)

But back to the matter at hand, which is Darrell’s latest stint in juvie. We have some fun in this book – so much that I am going to break up this into at least two, perhaps three, entries.

My fist entry is going to be background information and Super Smackdown, the second will be fourth form bitches and the last will be MT: the next generation.

So, I shall begin.

Many people have made a comparison between the two most beloved authoresses of children’s literature over the past century: Enid Blyton and JK Rowling. Detractors will say that Ms Rowling stole (or borrowed heavily on) this tradition of going-away-to-school stories, of which Enid was a past mistress. It’s so clear that JK hasn’t an original bone in her body given the blatant copying: Enid’s books are set at school, so are Rowling’s; most of Enid’s characters are students, so are Rowling’s. (Do you see all of the similarities? CLEAR copying).

You might notice that I don’t really subscribe to this view of HP plagiarism. At least I didn’t, not until I started reading Upper Fourth at Malory Towers. All at once, I was overcome by the clear deception that I had bought into, thinking that JK was an original writer. If you read Upper Fourth and then HP and the Order of the Phoenix, you’ll start seeing strange similarities. Darrell has her School Certificate (precursor to the O-levels, which then became the GCSE exams – I actually wrote an entire entry on this topic, but fortunately you are to be spared this piece of nerdiness – I left my usb with it at home); Harry has his OWLs. Darrell faces the challenge of being head-girl of the form; Harry has Voldemort’s return to contend with. Both deal with these pressures in the same way – by retreating into a bubble of anger that eventually bursts forth. Harry yells at Dumbledore – Darrell beats the crap out of a first-former.

Can you see how Rowling has copied? Taking this highly original story by everyone’s favourite author, Rowling callously appropriated it and planted it in her story – the responsibility, the anger, and spurts of irrational violence. Harry might as well wear a sign saying “I’m a PMS-y school-girl with a stupid name”.

So this is basically the storyline – Darrell goes back to school, gets made head-bitch of the form, the form does something naughty and a first-former (who I’ll talk about in my ‘next gen’ post) finds out. When she threatens to snitch, Darrell loses it well and truly – and is found a couple of minutes later violently shaking a pre-pubescent girl as violently as a person such a Darrel can. Unfortunately, because a teacher actually witnessed the violence, they can’t turn a blind eye, and sack her as head bitch (in spite of her clear skills in the area). She mopes around for the rest of the term about not being head-girl (OH OH OH – HARRY KEPT BITCHING ABOUT NOT BEING MADE PREFECT! Rowling strikes again!). All turns out just fine in the end, by the way – Darrell solves a perplexing mystery and earns enough brownie points to earn back the posish. Hoorays all-round as the mindlessly violent triumph again!!

I’ve mentioned before how fortunate Darrell was in her choice of victims – all vulnerable and alone at the time of the attack – well the little first-former is no different. Darrell can’t be more that a foot taller than her and no more that 10-20 kgs heavier – there was nothing wrong with what she did – she was probably just teaching the stupid girl a lesson. And the punishment? The teachers basically say “I’m going to do the worst thing I can think of – I am going to take away my trust ...” They don’t send her to the headmistress? No detention? Suspension? Court-appointed psychologist? Nope – just their trust ... how terrible!

Look at me, being all laconic! I am actually going to finish the post here ... but keep looking out for the next two for this book – I have some plane flights coming up, so I’ll write them then ...



  1. I don't even need to read the fourth book, now that I know it's pretty much a slightly older, girlier version of Order of the Phoenix. This saves me so much time!

    But wait, what's that? An actual consequence of something our dear protagonist has done? Surely not!

    I hope you're having a fantastic time on your trip!

  2. I'm posting notes on Facebook about my trip - I may start posting photos soon ...

  3. Oh really? I'd missed all the notes - I think they were buried under the deluge of people liking six million things before breakfast or playing Farmville. I'm catching up now.

  4. the 'similarities' you pointed out b/w HP and MT are laughable. wtf is wrong with you? tearing down enid blyton isn't enough, you have to launch a crazy attack against jkr too? your criticism is malicious and destructive.

    1. I'm not sure whether you are a troll or not, but I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt, Anonymous. I'm not sure whether you realised that my tongue was firmly in my cheek the whole way through that post.

      Just to confirm: I don't think JKR copied Malory Towers, but I was just riffing off a heap of articles I had read which suggested that Harry Potter was heavily influenced by earlier authors such as Blyton (and others). The similarities ARE laughable, and I was indeed laughing at them.

      I hope that clears things up.