Enid Blyton was, I believe, my first favorite author ever. And my very first Enid Blyton was ‘Rag, Tag, and Bobtail’. I devoured so many books she wrote over the next few years and while some of the copies I owned are now sadly missing, the memories of enjoying it remain fresh in my mind. Regarding her adventure series, it is hard to pick one favorite among those she wrote as I loved many equally – Famous Five, Five Find-Outers, and the Adventure Series. I read other adventure series she wrote too but these three, I loved! So today’s post is going to focus on the Famous Five (while I might have actually loved the Five Find-Outers just a teeny bit more!). Pictured below – books I currently have with me here in the US (others are at my brother’s place in India)
Here are a few fun facts and personal thoughts on this series:
- The Famous Five is among the most popular series Enid Blyton wrote. My favorite books of this series were ‘Five Go Off in a Caravan‘ and ‘Five Go to Mystery Moor’. George intrigued me and I longed to be a tomboy for a while, though I knew I would not be able to cut my hair short like hers; while Julian managed to inspire and irritate me equally (was not sure if I wanted an older sibling like him, but maybe a cousin would have been fine!). Anne and Dick, and don’t forget Timmy the dog – sometimes I would think Anne was too sweet, enjoyed Dick’s antics, and Timmy – he is always adorable.
- The first Famous Five book (originally called simply The Fives) was published in 1942 – Five Go to Treasure Island. Enid Blyton had initially planned to write only about nine books for this series, but later ended up with twenty-one full length novels and several short stories (which were compiled into one book) when the first few books became increasingly popular.
A private island, secret passages, smugglers, and food! Yes, Kirrin Island was owned by George’s family and the kids were given free rein over that island. In addition, there were always secret passages found that led to invariably somewhere cool, underground streams in some of those secret passages and caves they discovered, smugglers, really interesting people they met along their adventures, beautiful locations, and last, but not the least, mentions of food that made the reader oh, so hungry!So of course, I loved reading these books! I wanted my own adventures, and while smugglers were not abound in our area, the river flowing right next to our town afforded tiny islands we could sometimes walk across in really hot, dry weather, and we imagined our very own Kirrin Island. And tunnels – well, we imagined them through tall shrubs and bushes planted close together!!
- Formulaic Fun: Many readers complained about that her series tended to be formulaic but she wrote a book a week often-times, and while adults might have thought the books were formulaic, that could be the reason why kids loved those books – exciting, adventurous fun from beginning to end – the ones that prompted kids to turn on their torch lights and read under the covers past bedtimes (including me).
- So-Many-Other-Fun-Things: That concept of running into adventures and solving them before everyone else; being able to setup camp no matter where you were (and they setup the most comfortable sleeping areas in moors, outside old ruins, farms, etc), having ginger beer ready on hand, the ‘be-prepared’ way they were (I learned this from them way before my kids joined scouting!), discovering secret panels and secret passages, and wonderful libraries with secret passages
- Location: Speculation is rife and often discussed on Enid Blyton boards about what real-life locations Blyton based Kirrin Island on, and some point to areas in Jersey, England, while others point to Dorset as inspiration, Many others say that Corfe Castle was her inspiration for Kirrin Castle (on Kirrin Island).
- Norman Wright in his book on the Famous Five writes as follows:
The real answer to the Kirrin Island question was, however, finally cleared up by Trevor Bolton in an article for the Enid Blyton Society Journal.
Trevor corresponded with Enid from 1948 until the early 1960s and in his letters he often asked questions about her books and stories. In one letter he asked if Kirrin was based on a real place and in her reply she said: “Yes, Kirrin was based on an actual village, bay and island – but in the Channel Isles, not England.” Enid Blyton visited Jersey during her honeymoon in 1924 and, if not based on Jersey itself, it is likely that Kirrin Island was inspired by one of the many small isles she visited nearby.”
- From another thread by a contributor on the discussion in the website Enid Blyton Society:
…this is what she(Blyton) did have to say in a letter to a group of children:-
“I am so glad you like my books. I will be sure to write you plenty more. I will see if I can put the “Five” on Kirrin Island again for you. It was an island I once visited several times when I was in Jersey – it lay off the coast & could only be reached either by boat or by a rocky path exposed when the tide was out. It had an old castle there and I longed to put the island & castle into a book. So I did, as you know!”
- Many friends and family appear in many of the books to help the Five in their adventures – Jo the gypsy girl (easily my favorite of their friends), Alf the fisherman’s son, and George’s scientist-father among others.
- Memorabilia: Cards, games, jugsaw puzzles, and more.. While I am not sure how many of the original ones we can find today (you can check those out on the enidblytonsociety website here), I am going to see what new ones are out and add them to my wish list. And a set of Blyton stamps that included one with the Famous Five.
- Illustrations: So why do I mention this? The original books were illustrated by Eileen Soper and I loved those charming drwaings (still do). Later editions have had many other interpretations, including recent ones by Quentin Blake (and while I love Quentin Blake, I think I prefer the original Eileen Soper ones for this – nostalgia wins).
Check the two covers below and let me know which one you like!
- More: In addition to the original 21+1 books written by Blyton, there have been various other sequels and continuations of the series over the years. There have also been movies, stage plays, two television series (and I recall enjoying the 1970s version of the same), as well as a Disney cartoon series
- And there used to be a club as well – The Famous Five Club – according to information in the enidblytonsociety forums, this club used to send out badges to members (and FF Fans could identify each other this way!) – these badges sometimes show up on eBay even today. The club was active in the 1950s. I found a welcome letter from the club available for sale on AbeBooks for the price of ~$80 + shipping from the UK!
So, have you read the books? If yes, who is your favorite character? Which was your favorite book?
This post goes towards ABC Wednesday‘s round 22 – letter F (my theme for ABC Wednesday’s Round 22, as you might have already guessed, is children’s books – I will pick one popular (and sometimes the not so popular/the unknown) book/series – classic/modern/old/new… – and write about it – be it a backstory or facts or something else completely).