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picking holes in Enid Blyton
Like most of my generation, I grew up with the Famous Five, my childhood enriched by farfetched notions of mystery and secret passages.

Rereading those books of long ago, I can forgive the predictable plots and banal writing style and enter into the carefree world of children solving crimes and catching villains. I am happy to accept the implausibility of these children having such adventures everywhere they go and never seeming to grow old despite a succession of school holidays. I am happy to accept their life of plenty in an idyllic rural England, and do not mind at all that they're overtly sexist, all white, and displaying middle-class superiority. Why should I mind if they have lashings of ginger beer and a cook to make their sandwiches? Kids that are fed on tales of princesses and frogs are quite able to fantasise imaginary cooks, and Blyton never mentioned 'lashings' anyway.

No, what niggles me are the minor discrepancies and things that don't add up, as though the author has bashed out the story without considering the details.

In the first book, Five on a Treasure Island, we are introduced to the three siblings, Julian, Dick and Anne, who have arrived home from their respective boarding schools. You'd think the parents would be pleased to spend time with their little darlings, after seeing so little of them during termtime, but Mother and Daddy have decided to go off to Scotland together, leaving the children to holiday on their own.

They're not sure where to dump them, until it occurs to Daddy to send them to his brother, Quentin, who lives by the sea. Strangely, the children have only met their Uncle Quentin once, despite living just a day's car ride away and despite Daddy being involved in some kind of business matter with Quentin's wife, Fanny.

Mother has only the vaguest idea about her husband's family, struggling to recall whether Quentin and Fanny have a child of their own and what her name might be. They're clearly not in the habit of exchanging birthday greetings and Christmas cards, as the children seem not to have heard of her either.

Indeed, there may be some mystery regarding the family background, because, as we learn later, the children's mother is called Mrs Barnard, whereas Quentin and Fanny's name is Kirrin. Unless Daddy is living with a married woman who is not his wife, it would seem that the two brothers have different surnames.

It's possible that they may be half-brothers with different fathers, or that one of them was fostered out and given a different name. Another explanation might be that Quentin Kirrin was once Quentin Barnard, but took the unusual step of adopting his wife's name on marriage. This latter explanation seems more likely, as Fanny Kirrin has inherited property around a village of the same name, and it may be that they don't want the historic family lineage to die out.

The Barnards arrive at the Kirrin household and the children are ensconced in their rooms: the boys in the attic and Anne sharing her cousin's room. Kirrin Cottage is a large house, but apparently doesn't have space for Mother and Daddy to stop overnight, obliging them to stay in a hotel before travelling back the following day. This contradicts later books, where various extra guests are often accommodated in the house, including a cook and a tutor, which suggests that Quentin and Fanny are simply making excuses or have since had an extension built.

The children are excited at meeting their previously unknown cousin. Georgina is a tomboy, who insists on being called George, though female pronouns continue to be used. She is a solitary child, who, owing to diminishing family fortunes, has seemingly never been sent to school, but she has the distinction of owning a small island, which was gifted from her mother's estate. She also has a dog called Timothy, which she keeps in secret, since her parents banned him from the house.

George had originally been keeping the dog at home, but her father had ordered her to get rid of him, on account of his barking and chewing. They seem to have been rather neglectful parents if they expected an eleven-year-old to dispose of a dog without assistance and never made enquiries as to what had happened to him.

In fact, she is using all her pocket money to pay a local fisherboy (who starts off as James and then becomes Alf) to look after him without their knowledge. And here we have another discrepancy, because it seems unlikely that the child could do this without news getting back to her parents. Her father is an absentminded scientist, but her mother must surely encounter people from the village, and sooner or later someone would be bound to say, "Oh, I saw young George out with her dog the other day..."

The children eat lots of sweets and ice creams, and hearty meals of bacon and eggs, cold meat salads, fruit pie and cake, as though there is no such thing as wartime rationing. Perhaps we can gloss over that as sheer escapism, but we seem to have a howler when George kicks Anne under the table for almost giving the game away about Timmy, and the little girl develops a bruise after only ten minutes. Is this medically possible?

George takes them in her boat to visit her island, despite spotting signs of an approaching storm. They shelter in the ruined castle as the storm hits, and then the tide does an amazing thing, lifting the wreck of Great-Great-Great Grandfather Kirrin's ship from the seabed and planting it upright on the rocks. Again, is this scientifically possible?

George's parents are quite unconcerned when they come back at teatime, with no worries at all about their daughter and young charges having been out alone on a stormy sea. After tea, the children decide to play at wrecks with an upturned table, which seems more like the type of thing a five-year-old might do than kids of ten to twelve who can handle real-life boats. Or perhaps the author is just a little out of touch?

The rest of the story pans out quite nicely, with no glaring inconsistencies. The children return to the wreck next morning and discover an old box, which contains a map of the castle, showing where the gold ingots are hidden. They trace a copy of the map, but rather stupidly return the original to the box, which Uncle Quentin unwittingly sells to some crooks who claim to be interested in antiques. Worse still, he agrees to sell the island itself, despite it nominally belonging to George.

So the children decide to go camping on the island while they still have the chance, and George and Julian find the ingots in the castle dungeons, but then the crooks arrive and lock them in. Dick manages to rescue them by climbing down a well, and they escape back to the mainland and call the police, with the crooks arrested before the sale of the island is finalised.

The gold is deemed to belong to the Kirrin family, which makes them very rich, and George is rewarded by being allowed to keep her beloved Timmy in the house again, as well as having three new friends.

This is arguably the best book of the Famous Five series.

In the second book, Five Go Adventuring Again, we find that George and Timmy are now attending Anne's boarding school, where, incredibly, the pupils are allowed to bring their pets. One can only imagine the bedlam when the dogs start barking at night.

The Barnard children cannot spend the Christmas holiday at home, because their parents have scarlet fever, so it's arranged for them to stay at Kirrin again. Kirrin Cottage can't be as short of bedrooms as the first book suggests, as they now have a resident cook, and a resident tutor is being hired for the duration.

The children go exploring at nearby Kirrin Farm, which is full of secret hidey-holes from the olden days. They find an old book belonging to the farmer's wife's great-grandmother, and here we encounter yet another family anomaly, as both ladies have the same surname. So perhaps it is a local custom for married women to keep their maiden names.

They also find a piece of cloth with cryptic directions to the 'via occulta' or secret way, though why anyone should take the trouble to write this in Latin is certainly a mystery. The boys don't know much Latin, despite going to a posh prep school, so they rather unwisely show it to the tutor, Mr Roland, who is actually a crook trying to steal Uncle Quentin's scientific papers...

to be continued when I get a Round Tuit



























15 comments

Howard Somerville said:

It needs revising for the modern child.

One at least of the five must be bame, one must be a wheelchair user, and George will be proudly transgender and on puberty-blockers.

"Lashings" of anything, even ginger beer, has sadomasochistic connotations and must be expunged. But the worst crime of all - their being middle class - cannot so easily be undone.
16 months ago

Isisbridge replied to Howard Somerville:

The lefties don't seem to worry about class so much these days, now that they have race and gender to sow division. Timmy is a mongrel (which might count as bame), and George is obviously gender fluid, as she is seen wearing a skirt in the second book.
16 months ago

Howard Somerville said:

Aw. Where's my comment? Have you lost your sense of humour in your old age?
16 months ago

Isisbridge replied to Howard Somerville:

My humour's fine thanks, but Mary Whitehouse has been having a clean up.
16 months ago

Howard Somerville replied to :

Unto the pure all things are pure. (Titus 1:15).
16 months ago

Howard Somerville said:

Noddy books are banned because of Big Ears' suspicious interest in little Noddy.

For once, the adjective "incredibly" (which is used universally in place of "very", and which I hate) here is used appropriately, about pupils' dogs being allowed in boarding school. (What, incidentally is a "posh" prep school? Is that a Latin word?)

In my prep school days I myself had Scarlet Fever, and no one had to move out of the family home. It was wonderful - it was (by luck) in term-time and I had 3 or more weeks off school.
13 months ago

Isisbridge replied to Howard Somerville:

I'm sure they couldn't care less about Big Ears' interests, in these days of LGBTQ+ and the inclusion of MAPs. The main objection to the Noddy books is the portrayal of golliwogs as malevolent criminals. Never mind the amiable Mr Golly who ran the Golly Garage!
13 months ago

Howard Somerville replied to :

Oh yes they do. The PC fanatics would have Big Ears burnt at the stake for (without a DBS Certificate, or even with one) daring to go within 100 yards of or even smiling at an unaccompanied child. With its double standards, this is one area where Political Correctness shoots itself in the foot.
13 months ago

Isisbridge replied to :

I think you're a little behind the times. The education marxists now support what amounts to the sexual grooming of children, in the form of drag queen story time and inappropriate sexual literature from nursery age upwards.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqMR0WLbdzE

The end goal is to normalise paedophilia, with the term 'paedophile' now being replaced by 'minor attracted person' or 'MAP'.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VKsDIXY1TA&t

LGBT inclusive education
www.youtube.com/watch?v=asBzE0cUuLw
13 months ago

Howard Somerville replied to :

I agree that children shouldn't be exposed to or taught that sort of thing. It isn't good for them or for society. But what exactly IS a "paedophile"? In law, a pedophile is a man who rapes young children. But so is a boy who has consensual, protected sex with a teenage girl a day before her 16th birthday. They're called the same, but are they the same? And are all MAPs abusers, rapists or murderers? I myself am NOT a MAP, but have read that psychologists, in tests, have consistently found that a high percentage of normal heterosexual men, who would never abuse or harm a child, to a measurable degree are MA. Hence the demand for child pornography. Should all of them be labelled "pedophile?"
13 months ago

Isisbridge replied to :

I don't know what the law says about it, but the psychiatric definition of a paedophile is an adult who is sexually attracted to children (regardless of whether any rape takes place).

There are some paedophiles who feel this attraction but endeavour to keep it at bay, and they should be given appropriate support if needed. But there are others who are trying to normalise it and lower the age of consent.
13 months ago

Isisbridge replied to :

moves towards child consent being recognised
www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7rrojYJb1o
13 months ago

Isisbridge replied to :

a 'must watch' if you want to know what kids are being taught in schools
www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc9cRjMdPus
11 months ago

Isisbridge replied to :

happening in Canada too
www.youtube.com/watch?v=AllVMVgMNCc
6 months ago ( translate )

Isisbridge said:

BBC introduce a black trans person as the central character in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five…
www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpCNb1uw7VY

BBC's Phoney Five
www.youtube.com/watch?v=esb551n4c7s

and the REAL Famous Five
www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_ylFj1BMXI&list=PL0D6AAC2F5186592F
4 months ago