Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl go “local”
by Joshua Lim and Cindy Co
At the opening ceremony for the Singapore Writers Festival on Oct 30 at The Arts House, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu called for a Singapore literature for Singaporeans that reflects the local culture and identity. Singapore needs its own Enid Blytons and Roald Dahls, because it was important that our future generations “grow up not just dreaming about jam and scones and tea and snowflakes and chimneys, but of Singapore hawker fare and of our HDB flats.”
We decided to localise some famous tales.
1. Matilda, by Roald Dahl
Synopsis: Matilda is a story of a young girl who can move things with her eyes. Her family runs a business selling people defective cars, and her teacher has an aunt that is cheating her out of her inheritance.
The local version: Merlion
Synopsis: Merlion is a story of a young guy who can use his eyes to estimate accurately the weight of objects including one dollar coins. His family runs a business selling people fake degrees, and his teacher has an uncle who is living off her because he isn’t eligible for the Pioneer Generation Package.
2. James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
Synopsis: This story is about James Henry Trotter, an orphan who is sent to live with his two horrible aunts. One day, an old man gave him a potion, which he accidentally spilt on a barren peach tree. A giant peach grows and James embarks on the adventure of his life.
The local version: Tan Jian Guo and the Giant Durian
Synopsis: Tan Jian Guo is an orphan who is living with his two aunts who are constantly nagging him to study for his upcoming PSLE. One day, he meets an old man who gave him a bottle of Newater, which he accidentally spilt on a barren durian tree. A giant durian grows and the Singapore Tourism Board turns it into a tourist destination with a $30 entrance fee for a smell and a peek.
3. The BFG, by Roald Dahl
Synopsis: The BFG is a 24-feet tall giant who catches dreams and blows them into children’s bedrooms every night. Sophie, a young orphan who saw the BFG in action one night, was taken to his residence. Both devise a plot to alert the Queen of England about the presence of other man-eating giants and to set a trap. The Queen, in thanking the BFG, builds a castle for him and a little cottage next to the castle for Sophie. Both live happily ever after.
The local version: The GCT
Synopsis: The GCT is a 1.87m giant among men who is the CEO of a ship building firm called Little Red Dot Pte Ltd. One day the GCT meets a young man, who is coincidentally the son of GCT’s mentor, and decides to groom that young man to take over his job. Fourteen years later, he retires to run illegal cock-fights and to give talks about how the ships he built are virtually unsinkable because he uses quality materials and has a highly productive labour force.
4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
Synopsis: Charlie Bucket, who lives with his parents and four grandparents, has won the fifth and final Golden Ticket hidden in chocolate bars all over the world by eccentric chocolatier and chocolate factory owner Willy Wonka. He is invited, along with the other four Golden Ticket winners, to tour Wonka’s mysterious factory operated by the equally mysterious Oompa Loompas.
The local version: Chan Ah Tee and the Kueh Lapis Factory
Synopsis: Chan Ah Tee, who lives with his family of 10 in a two-room HDB flat, has a liking for the kueh lapis made by eccentric baker and cake shop owner Tan Kow. One day, Tan Kow decided that he would bequeath his recipe and his business to anyone who holds a Jubilee ticket hidden in boxes of kueh lapis. Overnight, snaking queues form at every outlet. Staff had to restrict every person to buying a maximum of two boxes. There was queue-cutting, scuffling and plenty of mewling. In the end, Tan Kow sold his kueh lapis recipe and his business to an international luxury brand conglomerate for over $100 million and started another cake shop in Iskandar, Johor.
5. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, by Roald Dahl
Synopsis: Charlie Bucket continues the adventure of his lifetime with Willy Wonka, following his tour of the chocolate factory. In Wonka’s Great Glass Elevator, he picks up his parents and grandparents, complete with their beds, and skyrockets into outer space where more quirky things await them in the Space Hotel. They eventually managed to return to Earth and are received by the President of the United States.
The local version: Chan Ah Tee and the Great Glass Dome
Synopsis: Chan Ah Tee, who was injured in the scuffle for kueh lapis, was compensated with 10 tickets to the Gardens by the Bay. When the family of 10 enters a glass dome, they found themselves lifted into the haze towards Sumatra where they succeeded in extinguishing the forest fires. They eventually managed to return to Singapore and were congratulated by the President of Singapore for showing the world that one aircraft could do wonders.
6. Five on a Treasure Island, by Enid Blyton
Synopsis: Having to spend the summer at Kirrin Cottage with their Aunt and Uncle, Julian, Dick and Anne meet their cousin, Georgina, a grumpy girl who insists on being called George, and her dog, Timothy. When the five of them visit Kirrin Island, an island belonging to George’s mother, they discover a shipwreck that surfaced during a storm. In the wreck, they discover a treasure map, and they decide to find the gold for themselves. Eventually, they discover it in an underground dungeon, and outsmarted robbers who were planning on keeping the gold for themselves. The gold actually belongs to George’s family, and she ends up joining her cousins in boarding school, having become close.
The local version: Four at Pulau Ubin
Synopsis: Peter, Bala and Sumei visit their friend Ali at his grandparents’ house in Pulau Ubin during the June holidays. While exploring the island, they discover a shipwreck they believe to be Sang Nila Utama’s ship. Inside the ship, they find a old map that claims to mark the secret location where Sang Nila Utama hid his gold upon landing on Temasek. Although Ali, Bala and Sumei are excited to find the gold, Peter believes that the police should handle this and calls 999. The police arrive and find nothing. Not only are Ali, Bala, Sumei and Peter scolded, they had wasted their entire holiday instead of doing their school homework. They end up failing their PSLE.
7. The Flyaway Money, by Enid Blyton
Synopsis: Willy is a fat and lazy boy who only ever gets up to go to school and spend money. One day, when the wind blows his money away, he is forced to run to get it. Along the way, he learns how to appreciate nature and becomes a better person because of it.
The local version: The Blownaway Money
Synopsis: Ah Meng is a fat and lazy boy who only ever gets up to go to school and church. One day, Ah Meng decides to donate all his savings from his pocket money to support his church’s building plans. He discovers that his money has been blown on raunchy music videos and learns how to be more wary of people next time.
8. Adventures of the Wishing-Chair, by Enid Blyton
Synopsis: While searching for a present for their mother, Mollie and Peter discover a magical chair that can grow wings and take them to many different lands. On their first adventure, they rescue a pixie named Chinky who becomes their friend and lives in their playroom, and together they go on many pleasant and dangerous adventures together.
The local version: Adventures of the Reserved Seat
Synopsis: NSman John takes the Reserved Seat on the MRT and discovers that it is a magical Reserved Seat that can take him to many places in dreamworld. On his first adventure, he meets his dream girl, Mindy, who becomes his girlfriend and lives in his bunk, and goes on many other adventures with him. When he wakes up, he discovers that he has missed his stop, and has been STOMP-ed by an angry commuter.
9. The Naughtiest Girl in the School, by Enid Blyton
Synopsis: Elizabeth is a spoiled girl who is sent by her parents to Whyteleafe, a boarding school. Upset and outraged, she is determined to make as much trouble as possible so that she will get expelled. However, Elizabeth makes friends at school, especially with a girl named Joan, who is neglected by her parents. Slowly, Elizabeth learns the value of friends, and decides to stay at Whyteleafe.
The local version: The Top Student in the School
Synopsis: Ah Lian is a spoiled girl who is sent by her parents to study in the brand name school in Singapore. Although she spends most of her time in school bitching about teachers, other students and the system, she secretly goes for tuition and mugs through the night. The only friend she makes, Mei, is another spoiled girl who loves drinking and going to clubs. After the A Levels, Ah Lian gets top grades and gets a PSC scholarship to go to Cambridge.
10. The Adventures of Mr. Pink-Whistle, by Enid Blyton
Synopsis: Mr. Pink-Whistle is a lonely half-brownie and half-human, with the ability to turn invisible at will. Outraged at all the injustices in the world, he sets out on an adventure to reward kind but unlucky people by helping them out with his invisibility. Through his kind deeds, he gains the love of many people he has helped.
The local version: The Adventures of Dr Lee KC
Synopsis: Dr. Lee KC is half-businessman and half-philanthropist, with the ability to pay for absolutely everything. Outraged at all the injustices in the world, he sets out to give as much money as he can to poor people to help live a better life. Through his kind deeds, he has almost everything in Singapore named after him, from a Natural History Museum all the way to various libraries.
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