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Noddy returns, minus golliwogs, to mark 60th year

LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Noddy, the beloved toy character created by Enid Blyton 60 years ago, returns to the book stores on Thursday in “Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle”, written by the late author’s granddaughter Sophie Smallwood.

The book will be the first classic Noddy tale to appear in 46 years and has been illustrated by Robert Tyndall who has been the artist for the stories since 1953.

Smallwood, 39, who has admitted the challenge she faced was daunting, has created new characters including Stumpy the Elephant and The Bull and retained several old favourites like Big-Ears and Mr. Plod the policeman.

According to the book’s publisher HarperCollins, in the story the goblins are up to their old tricks again, turning cows blue, making the pigs woolly and driving the tractor into the pond. Fortunately Noddy is at hand to put things straight.

But among the notable absentees are the golliwogs, characters inspired by black-faced minstrel rag dolls which have gone out of fashion in Britain because the term is widely interpreted as being racist. “The golliwog characters haven’t been part of the Noddy ecosystem for at least two decades now,” said Jeff Norton, senior vice president at Chorion, the company which owns Blyton’s literary estate.

“Firstly, the storyline just didn’t involve them, but secondly we all felt it was not appropriate to put characters and terminology into a children’s book that have that connotation,” he told Reuters.

Chorion approached Smallwood, who is a teacher by profession, to pen a Noddy story to mark his diamond anniversary. Smallwood already knew illustrator Tyndall.

“This is the first classic Noddy tale for more than 40 years and goes back to the 1950s style versus the more modern, CGI animated version,” Norton said.

Chorion has built the Noddy brand into a global industry worth 200 million pounds ($330 million) a year, and many children will know the stories in their modern incarnations and through television series rather than through the old books.

Blyton was born in 1897 and died in 1968, and became one of the most successful children’s authors of the 20th century.

Chorion said Noddy’s original tales alone account for 200 million copies sold. Blyton’s other classic series include “The Famous Five” and “The Secret Seven”.

Editing by Steve Addison