Literature / Just William

A long-running series of comic/adventure stories by Richmal Crompton about an 11-year-old English boy named William Brown.

William is a mischevious and adventurous, if mostly well-intentioned, boy, cheerfully indifferent to school and the baffling (to him) rules of adult life.

The series is a strong user of Comic-Book Time; each book is set in the era in which it was written and yet William is 11 throughout. The first compilation of short stories was published in 1921 and the 39th in 1970.

The stories have been adapted numerous times for various media. Three movies (Just William, Just William's Luck and William at the Circus) were produced in The '40s, as was a radio series. Later on, in The '90s, BBC released several Audiobook adaptations of the stores read by Martin Jarvis, which are probably the most well-known adaptations to date.

No less than four TV series have been made based on the characters and stories. The first one, produced for BBC in 1962-63, was simply called William whereas the three following series (in 1976, 1994 and 2010) all kept the Just William title.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless - William certainly thinks so, and he's even right about a vast number of them.
  • All Dogs Are Purebred - Averted. Lord only knows what mix of breeds Jumble is. All the scruffy ones, presumably.
  • Aloof Big Brother - William's "grown-up brother" Robert.
  • Alpha Bitch - William's "grown-up sister" Ethel seems to have shades of this, being very beautiful and pretty fickle with her suitors. William for one is baffled by what others see in her.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling - He's the protagonist.
  • Anti-Hero - Type 1
  • Arch-Enemy - Hubert Lane
  • Book Dumb
  • Catchphrase - "Crumbs".
  • Day in the Life - Just William's Luck, the only novel in the series (as against collection of unrelated short stories) follows this format, beginning with the Brown family waking up in the morning and ending with them going to bed that night.
  • Deadpan Snarker - William tries to be this, but a lot of his sarcasms fail quite badly. His father is notably better at it.
  • Disguised in Drag - Crops up occassionally but the most notable incidence is probably 'William Makes Things Hum' from William the Rebel. William is forced to borrow clothes from a girl the same age, who dons his clothes. Interestingly while he hates the experience and tries to get his own clothes back as soon as possible the girl is delighted to be wearing boys clothes, mentions several times she wishes she was a boy and only very reluctantly swaps back. Crompton probably just meant her to be a Tomboy but to a modern reader she comes across as decidedly transgender.
  • Fat Idiot - Hubert Lane and his chum Bertie Franks (both fall under Fat Bastard too.)
  • Forgotten Trope - Several, given the periods the stories were written in. Good examples include an early 1920s version of the Red Scare and various World War II related tropes.
  • Fiery Redhead - Ginger is almost as impulsive and temperamental as William, and as is evident by his nickname he's a redhead.
  • Five Man Band
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Violet Elizabeth Bott is extremely fond of the Outlaws in general and William in particular. The sentiment is not returned.
  • Generation Xerox - One story focuses on the Outlaws' various schemes to get some fireworks for Bonfire Night. At the end of their story, their fathers, walking home from work, hijack the fireworks and begin reminiscing about their childhood exploits as a gang, which bear a suspicious resemblance to the Outlaws.
  • Gender-Blender Name - An author with the first name of Richmal writing about a boy's adventures is a man, right? Wrong.
  • Gift-Giving Gaffe - One wonders what Aunt Emma was thinking, giving William a geometry set and a book on church history. Had she never met her nephew?
  • Guile Hero - Many stories have William having to defeat Hubert Lane or an especially obnoxious adult by outwitting them.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners - William and Ginger are the closest of friends, and Ginger appears far more often than the other Outlaws.
  • Hypocritical Humor - Meta example: The stories often make fun of child-raising "experts" with no children of their own. The author, Richmal Crompton, was unmarried and childless for her entire life.
  • Kid-anova - Despite claiming to not like girls, William does have a tendency to fall for the pretty ones — or at least the ones who aren't too silly in his opinion. Quite a number of them turn out to like him, too.
  • Laser-Guided Karma/Karma Houdini - Both used frequently.
  • Long-Running Book Series
  • Love Makes You Dumb - Happens to several characters, including William on occasion, but Robert is the most prominent and most constant example.
  • Misery Builds Character - William's parents are rather big on this. Maybe it was their Victorian childhood? (Even when they lived in The '70s, and thus presumably grew up in The '50s.)
  • Naughty Is Good - Of course.
  • New Neighbours as the Plot Demands - Especially in the stories written during the early Twenties before Crompton really soldified her supporting cast outside the Brown family.
  • Noble Demon - William and his friends regularly picture themselves as robbers, pirates, kidnappers and so on and even name themselves 'The Outlaws' but they are almost never actively malicious (at least against the undeserving.)
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up - William has been eleven since 1920. He will no doubt still be eleven in 2120, and quite right, too.
  • Nouveau Riche: The Botts, inhabitants of the Manor (it is not clear whether they are owners or tenants). Mr. Bott made his money from "Bott's Digestive Sauce". Mrs. Bott in particular is highly pretentious, and goes to great lengths to hide her upbringing, which doesn't work.
    • It is implied at one point that Violet Elizabeth's lisp is affected and she doesn't actually have a speech impediment.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname - Ginger, so named for his red hair. We never learn his real first name.
  • The Roaring '20s - The original series setting.
  • Serial Romeo - William's older brother Robert.
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty - Ethel is a 'world class beauty' with countless young men falling for her "red gold hair" and blue eyes.
  • Spoiled Brat: Violet Elizabeth Bott, though with some traces of behaving nicely, depending on the story.
  • Standard '50s Father - William's father, although of course he was created in the twenties.
  • Vague Age: While William is always 11, the ages of his 'grown up' brother and sister Robert and Ethel range from as young as 17 to as old as 22 depending on the story.
  • Zany Scheme