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Literature / The Famous Five

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The Famous Five is the name of a series of children's novels written by British author Enid Blyton. The first book, Five on a Treasure Island, was published in 1942.

The novels feature the adventures of a group of five children (well, four children and a Team Pet) — Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and the dog Timmy. Blyton created several similar groups for her detective series, including The Secret Seven, The Adventurous Four (not to be confused with The Adventure Series) and Five Find-Outers, but the Famous Five is the best-known and most popular of these.

Blyton only intended to write about 6 to 8 books in the series but, owing to their high sales and immense commercial success, she went on to write 21 full-length Famous Five novels. By the end of 1953, more than 6 million copies of these books had been printed and sold. Today, more than two million copies of the books are sold each year, making them one of the biggest-selling series for children ever written. Over a hundred million books have been sold, and nearly all of the original novels have subsequently been adapted for television (the first TV series in the late 1970s adapted all but three of them, missing out two due to rights issues and another because it was impractical to film on the available schedule, and a later mid-90s series managed a full house).


    Novels in this series 
  • Five on a Treasure Island (1942). Takes place during the Summer holidays.
  • Five Go Adventuring Again (1943). Takes place during the Christmas holidays.
  • Five Run Away Together (1944). Takes place during the Summer holidays.
  • Five Go to Smuggler's Top (1945). Takes place during the Easter holidays.
  • Five Go Off in a Caravan (1946). Takes place during the Summer holidays.
  • Five on Kirrin Island Again (1947). Takes place during the Easter holidays, initially written to be the conclusion to the series.
  • Five Go Off to Camp (1948). Camping vacation. The time of the year is left vague.
  • Five Get Into Trouble (1949). Takes place during the Easter holidays.
  • Five Fall Into Adventure (1950). Takes place in September.
  • Five On a Hike Together (1951). Takes place during the October mid-term break.
  • Five Have a Wonderful Time (1952). Takes place during the Easter holidays.
  • Five Go Down to the Sea (1953). Takes place during the Summer holidays.
  • Five Go to Mystery Moor (1954). Takes place during the Easter holidays.
  • Five Have Plenty of Fun (1955). Takes place during the Summer holidays.
  • Five on a Secret Trail (1956). Camping vacation. The time of the year is left vague.
  • Five Go to Billycock Hill (1957). Takes place late in May.
  • Five Get Into a Fix (1958). Takes place during the Christmas holidays.
  • Five on Finniston Farm (1960). Takes place during the Summer holidays.
  • Five Go to Demon's Rocks (1961). Takes place during the Easter holidays.
  • Five Have a Mystery to Solve (1962). Takes place during the Easter holidays.
  • Five Are Together Again (1963). Takes place during the Easter holidays.

Such was the series' popularity in France that after Blyton's death Claude Voilier, who had translated the original books into French, wrote a series of 24 more officially-licensed Five books, all but six of which were also translated into English. Two original books apparently written by the series' German translator also exist, but they were recalled almost immediately due to not being properly licensed.

This series includes examples of

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Uncle Quentin, though more bad-tempered than most examples. In Five On Kirrin Island Again this manifests itself as Forgetting To Eatuntil his wife tells him to throw away some cans of soup which have spoiled, at which point, of course, he promptly eats it.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Julian. He's only 11-13 (yes, really), but has all the aplomb of an eighteen year-old, using his wit to impress the police and run circles around criminals.
  • Adventure Towns: The children seemingly cannot go anywhere without having a new adventure.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Times five. Well, four.
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  • Berserk Button: Most evident in George's hair trigger in the Famous Five books whenever someone is mean to her pet dog Timmy, or worse dares to call her a girl.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Anne is a Proper Lady but every once in a while, well you know how the Trope goes. Also Dick at times.
  • Big Eaters: The Famous Five never fail to finish off their tea sandwiches for lunch.
  • Boarding School: The characters all attend one, and George is improbably allowed to keep Timmy at hers.
  • Bound and Gagged: Happens many times to the Kid Detectives, especially George and Dick.
  • Bowdlerise: "Modernized" by Hodder in 2010 to changed the slang (e.g. swotter to bookworm) and bring in more gender equality.
  • Boyish Short Hair: George.
  • Busman's Holiday: The children have a tutor in Five Go Adventuring Again during Christmas break. Justified because Julian and Dick were sick with the flu twice during the term and missed lots of schoolwork.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Anne.
  • The Chick: Anne, oh so much.
  • Christmas Episode: Five Go Adventuring Again and Five Get Into a Fix are the only two books that take place during Christmas holidays.
  • Comic-Book Time: 21 adventures all occurring during the holidays of boarding school.
  • Constantly Curious: George and Dick, to a lesser degree Julian. Not Anne, as she would much rather 'stay out of adventures'.
  • Crappy Holidays: Subverted in Five Go Adventuring Again. The children think that they will have horrible holidays because they have a tutor. They have another adventure instead.
  • Covert Distress Code: A standard covert distress call is for George to sign her name 'Georgina' (something that she hates doing) whenever the bad guys inexplicably ask the captured children to send a note to the non-captured ones, to alert them that something is wrong.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: In the penultimate book, Five Have A Mystery To Solve, the otherwise timid and helpless Anne gets a much-needed injection of spirit and assertiveness — much of it thanks to her finally meeting someone who annoys her so much she just snaps. She loses her temper several times during the book and with the aid of Timmy actually ends up chasing away the bad guys with her spectacular display of anger. Her brothers joke that she's "turning into a tiger," something that she discovers she actually kind of likes being told.
  • Dead Pan Snarker: Dick occasionally.
  • Deserted Island: George's island. There are only rabbits there.
  • The Determinator: George. If there's something she wants - don't get in the way. Just don't.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Julian talks about the incident in Five Go Adventuring Again when a fellow student's mouse escaped and scared a matron at the school.
  • Evil Cripple: Subverted in Five Go to Smuggler's Top, the villain's henchman Block feigns deafness to avoid suspicion and eavesdrop on the secrets of the Lenoir family.
  • The Every Man: Dick. By far the most normal of the group.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Anne. The five would have starved to death long ago, if not for her.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Choleric: George
    • Sanguine: Julian
    • Phlegmatic: Dick
    • Melancholic: Anne
  • Food Porn: Famous for the lavish descriptions of the gang's (many) meals.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The human members of the Five make up this. Timmy tips it in favour of males.
  • Free-Range Children: A staple of Blyton's world.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: George, she gets better but still, you do not want to piss her off. She inherits it from her father, Quentin.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: George's mother is called Fanny. More recent adaptations change her to Frances.
    • The boarding school that the girls go to is called "Gaylands School". Back then of course, "gay" meant happy.
    • Let's not mention how many places, things and people —even poor George the first time her cousins met her— just look "queer" in every adventure.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Sort of - one of the heroes is a dog, and the other four love him.
  • Heroic Dog: Timmy
  • Homeschooled Kids: George in the first book. Later she goes to boarding school.
  • Hot-Blooded: George. In the final book, she single-handedly (well, Timmy helped) pushes two hardened criminals off a cliff....for trespassing on her island.
  • Identical Stranger: Jo the Gypsy girl is a dead ringer for George.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Five Go To Somewhere Or Do Something (parodied with the Comic Strip's Five Go Mad In Dorset).
  • Ill Girl: Downplayed in Five Go Adventuring Again when the children's mother has scarlet fever.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Uncle Quentin's hot temper makes him something of a jerk at times, but it couldn't be plainer that he loves his family. George is also one for the same reasons.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: All of them.
  • Kid Detective: Yep.
  • Kid Hero: Obviously.
  • Lighthouse Point
  • Little Miss Badass: George: Of the five, she swims the best, climbs the best, fights the best...and she's a girl.
  • Mouthy Kid: George again. Julian counters this, by being unbelievably polite and pompous.
  • Nice Guy: Dick, he cracks the jokes and looks after his little sister. Julian is intended to be one, but comes off more bossy and arrogant.
  • No Name Given / Only One Name: Averted with Toddy Woodgate, Timmy's actor (not voice actor, actor) in the series. Like most dogs with surnames, he takes his handler's.
  • Nonindicative Name: The titles often have nothing to do with the plot, or are generic enough to fit any of the books. For example, the plot of Five Have a Wonderful Time involves the recent disappearance of prominent scientists and Five Have Plenty of Fun involves protecting a girl from a gang of kidnappers.
  • The Notable Numeral: The Famous Five.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted in the first few books, as they start the series at around 9-11, and end up 12-14. Played straight for the rest of the series, as they apparently stop aging.
  • Omni Disciplinary Scientist: Uncle Quentin, although it's more an Informed Attribute. He's also something of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer as well.
  • One of the Boys: George. She'll be insulted if she's anything else.
  • Only Sane Man: Dick. Although Julian seems to think its him. (See The Quiet One below).
  • One Steve Limit: An aversion triggers the plot in one book where the adventure starts after a guy with a message for villain Dirty Dick finds Dick from the Five instead, and Dick, unaware of the former’s existence, accepts the message.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Dick can fall into this.
  • Plucky Girl: George. Anne to a lesser degree, as she's too busy being a wimp most of the time.
  • Police Are Useless: Because when it's a group of five teenagers and a dog that are finding all the clues and solving all the crimes, you know the police in the world of Blyton can't handle even the simplest of problems.
  • Power Source: The experiments Uncle Quentin is doing in Five on Kirrin Island Again turn out to be developing a new clean power source to replace fossil fuels. In 1947. We don't get to hear details, except that it requires the apparatus to be surrounded by water, hence why he's testing it on an island.
  • Private Tutor: Mr. Roland in the book Five Go Adventuring Again.
  • The Quiet One: Dick. In any situation, you can bet George is yelling, Julian is lecturing, Anne is crying and Dick is stuck in the middle.
  • Rebellious Spirit: George.
  • Running Gag: George being called Georgina and/or a girl.
    • The five of them deciding not to have an adventure this holidays.
  • Secret Underground Passage: Stock trope, bordering on Artistic License – Geology on occasion. The tunnels in Five Go To Smugglers' Top are sufficiently extensive to be a full-fledged Tunnel Network.
  • Sixth Ranger: While the series is called "Famous Five", the books often feature new kids joining them for an adventure or two. The first and better remembered is Jo the "ragamuffin" girl.
  • Snooping Little Kid: Uh, well, yeah.
  • Snowed-In: George lampshades it by saying that it happens often at Kirrin in the winter.
  • Team Dad: Julian. And proud of it.
  • Team Pet: Timmy the Dog (who is the fifth member).
  • Timmy in a Well: In the first book this happens very literally when Timmy the dog chases a rabbit and falls down an old well. In this case, though, it's the children who rescue the dog, rather than vice-versa!
  • Tomboyish Name: Georgina always calls herself George. This is used as an Out-of-Character Alert in one book.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: George and Anne respectively.
    • George is a tomboy. She has short curly hair styled in a typical haircut for boys. She dresses like a boy, typically in "jeans and jersey". She insists on everyone calling her by the masculine form of her name, a decision respected by her parents and teachers. She is athletic, the best of the group at swimming, handling boats and driving caravans. She is often mistaken for a boy and takes great pleasure in it. She rarely cries, going by the mantra "boys don't cry". She is "brave" and "fierce". Her mother insists on her performing domestic chores but George has no taste for it.
    • Anne is not given an actual description but is often described as traditionally feminine in both looks and behavior. She scares easily and at times seeks protection next to her older brothers (Julian, Dick) and cousin (George). She cries often and feels no evident shame about it. She enjoys domestic chores and activities, "playing house" as George observes. She likes to keep "everything very clean" and actually volunteers to clean up. Her brother Julian even describes her as "a good little house-wife". In her first appearance she proclaims "I like pretty frocks - and I love my dolls", activities scorned by George. She is the one picking flowers while the others are searching for arrow-heads. She is not athletic and is noted as the worst swimmer among them.
  • Treasure Map: In the first Famous Five book.
  • Unfortunate Names: While Dick is somewhat unfortunate but understandable, one-time villain Dirty Dick is a little harder to take seriously.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: In Five Go Adventuring Again the children can't go home for Christmas because their mother is sick and there's quarantine.


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