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|Genre||Children's literature, mystery, adventure|
|Publisher||Hodder & Stoughton|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|No. of books||21|
|Genre||Children's literature, mystery, adventure|
|Publisher||Hodder & Stoughton|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|No. of books||21|
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 young children – Julian, Dick, Anne and Georgina (George) – and their dog Timothy. 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. Nearly all of the novels have subsequently been adapted for television.
A feature of the last page of the original books (and reprints) was an invitation to readers to join the Famous Five Club. Proceeds went to paediatric charities. Eileen Soper illustrated the original Famous Five series.
In 2008 Chorion, who now own the rights to Blyton's books and characters, published through Hodder's Children's Books the Famous Five's Survival Guide, a book that combines survival tips and facts with a story in which the grown-up characters revisit a case they failed to solve in their childhood.
Three of the children, Julian, Dick and Anne Bannard, are brothers and sister. Their father is Quentin Kirrin's brother. Quentin Kirrin is married to Fanny Kirrin; their daughter is Georgina Kirrin, a tomboy who insists on being called George. During their holidays, Julian, Dick and Anne are regularly sent to the seaside village of Kirrin to stay with their Aunt Fanny, Uncle Quentin, and cousin George. George owns a large mongrel dog, Timothy, who is very much part of the group and a character in his own right. Timmy accompanies the four children on every adventure.
The stories always take place in the children's school holidays when they have returned from their respective boarding schools. Every time they meet, they get caught up in an adventure, the location of which varies from book to book. Sometimes the scene is set close to George's family home at Kirrin Cottage in Dorset: "Kirrin Island", a picturesque island owned by George and her family in Kirrin Bay, for example, presents many opportunities for adventure. George's own home and various other houses the children visit or stay in are hundreds of years old, and often contain secret passages or smugglers' tunnels. In some books, the children go camping in the countryside, on a hike or holiday together elsewhere. The settings, however, are almost always rural and enable the children to discover the simple joys of cottages, islands, the English and Welsh countryside and sea shores, as well as the adventures, picnics, lemonade, bicycle trips, home-made food, raspberry pop and ginger beer.
In some of the books, the four children and Timmy are joined by other children. Some of these newcomers start off being disliked by the four children including the gypsy girl Jo, and Henrietta, another tomboy; and some of them are friends from the start, including Sooty and Tinker, both sons of Uncle Quentin's scientist friends.
Blyton always said that George was based on a real girl she had once known: in her later life, she admitted that the girl was herself.
The characters, as is usual in Blyton's fiction, are outlined with very few words, and there is very limited description of scenes, but this style and the fast pace of the writing keep children's attention and are seen by enthusiasts as fuelling their imagination and encouraging them to think for themselves. Blyton's characterisation, however, has also been much criticised as being stereotyped and encouraging sexist attitudes; and the books have as a result been extensively parodied.
Enid Blyton wrote 21 Famous Five books; in chronological order they are:
Blyton also wrote a number of short stories featuring the characters. These were finally collected together in 1963 as Five Have a Puzzling Time and Other Stories.
There are also books written originally in French by Claude Voilier (the Five have long been extremely popular in translation in the French-speaking parts of Europe) and later translated into English. The Voilier titles are:
Starting in 2004, an additional 21 new Famous Five novels written by Sarah Bosse have been published in Germany, but as yet, they have not been translated into English. The 10th Bosse book, published in February 2007, is numbered 50 in the German sequence, and is a two-in-one volume, although the second novel in the volume is a sequel to the first.
Two books only came out in Germany. The titles are:
Although Enid Blyton was named as author on the cover, the books were most likely written by German author Brigitte Blobel, who was named as translator. Due to copyright issues, the books were recalled after the first edition. Today the books are rare and high priced collector's items.
Two of the Famous Five stories by Enid Blyton have been filmed by Danish director Katrine Hedman. The cast consisted of Danish actors and were originally released in Danish. Ove Sprogøe stars as Uncle Quentin. The movies are: De 5 og spionerne (Five and the Spies) (1969) and De 5 i fedtefadet (Famous Five Get in Trouble) (1970).
All four of the films have been released on DVD in their respective countries.
In 2012 the movie Fünf Freunde was released in Germany, with Marcus Harris in a small role.
The Famous Five 1978 television series was produced by Southern Television and Portman Productions for the ITV network in the UK, in 26 episodes of thirty minutes. It starred Michele Gallagher as Georgina, Marcus Harris as Julian, Jennifer Thanisch as Anne, Gary Russell as Dick, Toddy Woodgate as Timmy, Michael Hinz as Uncle Quentin and Sue Best as Aunt Fanny. It also starred Ronald Fraser, John Carson, Patrick Troughton, James Villiers, Cyril Luckham and Brian Glover. The screenplays were written by Gloria Tors, Gail Renard, Richard Carpenter and Richard Sparks. The episodes were directed by Peter Duffell, Don Leaver, James Gatward and Mike Connor. The series was produced by Don Leaver and James Gatward. Most of the outdoor filming was done in the New Forest and parts of Dorset and Devon.
Of the original 21 novels, 3 were not adapted for this series; Five on a Treasure Island and Five Have a Mystery to Solve because the Children's Film Foundation still had the film and TV rights to the books, while Five Have Plenty of Fun didn't fit in the production schedule. Due to the success of the series, Southern Television were keen to make another season of episodes, but the Enid Blyton estate forbade them to create original stories.
The 1978 series was originally released on video by Portman Productions with reasonable regularity between 1983 and 1999, many of which are still easy to find second-hand, although the sound and picture quality is not always what it could be. A four-disc DVD collection, containing 23 of the 26 episodes produced for the 1978 series (and two episodes from the 1996 series) was released in region 4 (Australia and New Zealand) in 2005. The box and disc art identify it as a release of 1996 series. (The distributor had licenced the 1996 series but due to an administrative glitch, it was supplied with master tapes and artwork for the 1978 series.) The error was corrected in a later release.
A 7 DVD set containing the entire series and extensive bonus material was released in October 2010 in Germany by Koch Media; although with an option choose either the original English or German dubbed versions, the English version had non-removable German subtitles across the bottom the screen on every episode. The same company released the DVD set in England (without the fixed subtitles) on 25 June 2012.
A four DVD set containing all 26 episodes, without additional content, was released for region 4 (Australia and New Zealand) in late 2011, as Enid Blyton's The Famous Five: The Complete Collection.
A later series, The Famous Five, initiated by Victor Glynn of Portman Zenith was aired first in 1995, a co-production between a number of companies including Tyne Tees Television, HTV, Zenith North and the German channel ZDF (this was also shown on ITV in the UK). Unlike the previous series, this was a period piece, set in Wales, and also unlike the previous series it dramatised all the original books. Of the juvenile actors the best-known is probably Jemima Rooper, who played George. Julian was portrayed by Marco Williamson, Dick by Paul Child and Anne was portrayed by Laura Petela. Timmy the dog was called Connal in real life. In this series, because of the slang meaning of the word fanny, Aunt Fanny was known as Aunt Frances played by Mary Waterhouse. In some but not all recent reprints of the book, the character has been re-christened Aunt Franny.
The 1995 series was released in its entirety on video; only the adaptation of Five On A Treasure Island seems to have been released on DVD in the UK, although there are apparently some rare mainland European DVD releases of the series, available via certain websites in the UK (these are, of course, Region 2 DVDs). Fans of the series remain mystified as to why the rest of the series cannot be officially released in its entirety in the UK – the country in which it was made, and Enid Blyton's home country.
A three-disc DVD collection, containing 13 of the 26 episodes of the 1995 series, was released in Australia and New Zealand in 2005 (these are region 4 DVDs). This release followed the erroneous release of the 1978 series with 1995 artwork, and is marked "Revised Edition" to avoid confusion.
A new animated TV series of the Famous Five began airing 2008. Famous 5: On the Case is set in modern times and features the children of the original Famous Five. These children are Max (the son of Julian and Brandine), Dylan (son of Dick and Michelle), Jo (daughter of George and Ravi, a tomboy who, like her mother, prefers a shorter name to her given name Jyoti) and Allie (daughter of Anne and John). It has not been stated whether their dog is the son of the previous dog, too. The new series was first announced in 2005, and is a co-production between Chorion (which currently owns all Famous Five rights) and Marathon in association with France 3 and The Disney Channel. Disney confirmed their involvement in December 2006. Stories were developed by Douglas Tuber and Tim Maile, who have previously written for Lizzie McGuire. Chorion claims on its Web site that "these new programmes will remain faithful to the themes of mystery and adventure central to Enid Blyton’s classic series of books." Blyton's biographer, Barbara Stoney, however claims it is nothing like the original stories. In total, there will be 130 episodes, and each episode will be 22 minutes long.
On 28 August 2007, it was announced on the BBC News website that a revival of The Famous Five is being developed. Julian, Dick, Anne and Georgina were all going to be in the story – now all as adults in their forties; they would also be joined by a descendant of Timmy The Dog. Co-developer Twofour states "casting and writing talent is still very much under wraps and no broadcaster is yet confirmed. However, some of the best-known acting talent in Britain is already under consideration."
Hodder Headline produced in the late 1990s audio dramas in English, which were published on Tape and CD. All 21 episodes of the original books were dramatised.
The 21 original stories by Enid Blyton have been released in the 70s as Fünf Freunde audio dramas in Germany as well. The speakers were the German dubbing artists for Gallagher, Thanisch, Russell and Harris, the protagonists of the first television series.
For the sequels (not written by Blyton and decidedly more "modern" action-oriented stories) the speakers were replaced by younger ones, because it was felt that they sounded too mature. In addition to the original Blyton books, another 80+ stories have subsequently been released and published as radio plays and books in Germany. They are based on the original characters, but written by various German writers.
A 1997 musical was made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Enid Blyton's birth with the title The Famous Five and later released on DVD as The Famous Five – Smuggler’s Gold – The Musical.
Principal actors: Elizabeth Marsland, Lyndon Ogbourne, Matthew Johnson, Vicky Taylor, Jon Lee, Director: Roz Storey and also in the five
A brand new musical adaptation was premiered at the Tabard Theatre on the 8 December 2009 and played until 10 January 2010.
Two sets of gamebooks in a Choose Your Own Adventure style have been published. These books involve reading small sections of print and being given two or more options to follow, with a different page number for each option. The first series of these, written by Stephen Thraves, featured stories loosely based on the original books. They were issued in plastic wallets with accessories such as maps, dice and codebooks. The gamebooks were titled as follows:
The second series, written by Mary Danby, was entitled "The Famous Five and You". These consisted of abridged versions of the original text, with additional text for the alternative story routes. The books in this series were based on the first six original Famous Five books:
In 1990 an interactive fiction computer game based on the first of the books, Five On A Treasure Island, was released. It was programmed by Colin Jordan and first released for the SAM Coupé by Enigma Variations.
He originally started coding the game on the ZX Spectrum using his own "worldscape" technique. When the SAM Coupé was launched, he switched to it as the target platform while still hosting the code on the ZX Spectrum. He later ported it to the Amstrad CPC and completed the ZX Spectrum version. The game was also ported to the Commodore 64, Amiga and Atari ST by others.
Later Ravensburger published the interactive CD games Famous Five The Silver Tower, Famous Five Treasure Island, Famous Five – Kidnapped for the PC or Mac.
Six comic books created by Bernard Dufossé and scripted by Serge Rosenzweig and Rafael Carlo Marcello were released in France between 1982 and 1986, under the title Le Club des Cinq. Most of comic books in the series are based on Famous Five books created by Claude Voilier. Books were released by Hachette Livre. The first three of these volumes have also been released in English, under the name Famous Five. The titles included "Famous Five and the Golden Galleon" (which featured a sunken ship that was laden with gold with the Five fending off villains seeking to make off with the gold, "Famous Five and the Treasure of the Templars", where it transpires that Kirrin Castle is actually a Templar Castle that houses their hidden treasure which the Five ultimately secure with the help of members of the order, and "Famous Five and the Inca God" which was set in an antiquities museum and dealt with the theft of an Incan fetish.
Beginning in September 1985 a series of monthly Comic Magazine titles Enid Blyton's Adventure Magazine were published. Each issue published a full length illustrative comic book story adapted from Famous 5 Novels. The series came to end in the 1990s.
The Five also inspired the Comic Strip parody Five Go Mad in Dorset and its sequel Five Go Mad On Mescalin, in which the characters express sympathies with Nazi Germany and opposition to the Welfare State, homosexuals, immigrants and Jews, in an extremely broad parody not so much of Blyton but of wider perceived 1950s prejudices. The parodies were deliberately set towards the end of the original Famous Five "era" (1942–1963) so as to make the point that the books were already becoming outmoded while they were still being written, although the continuing popularity of the books even in the 21st century may be seen to suggest otherwise. Both parodies made use of Famous Five set pieces, such as the surrender of the criminals at the end when Julian states "We're the Famous Five!", the arrival of the police just in the nick of time, and the appeal for "some of your home-made ices" at a village shop. The series was revived in 2012 with Five Go To Rehab, with the original cast reprising their roles.
Viz comic have parodied the series' style of writing and type of stories on a number of occasions, most notably in its Jack Black strip. In one such strip, Jack Black actually murders a group of young detectives clearly based on The Famous Five, so they won't compete with him for a reward.
In the late eighties, Australian comedy team The D-Generation parodied The Famous Five on their breakfast radio show as a five-part serial entitled The Famous Five Get Their Teeth Kicked In. The parody was based on the first book Five on a Treasure Island.
A 2005 story in The Guardian also parodies the Famous Five. It argues that Anne, Dick, George and Julian are caricatures rather than characters, portraying Anne as having no life outside of domestic labour. It highlights what the writer, Lucy Mangan, considers to be the power struggle between Dick, George and Julian while Anne is sidelined.
In the book The Big Goal by Rob Childs, Andrew mentions that a girls team won against 'some rubbish lot called The Famous Five'.
Robin Gordon's "The Kirrins and the mystery of the sandy-haired dwarf" begins sounding like a parody but then develops into an exciting adventure in which the children of the Famous Five combat IRA terrorists (including the murderous paedophile sandy-haired dwarf), assisted by Uncle Dick, now a member of a mysterious British secret organisation known as the Duke's men. (Can be found at www.auksford.co.uk/rg/Kirrins/
British comedian John Finnemore did a radio sketch in which Julian and George run into each other as adults and reminisce. It is revealed that Julian has gone on to a career as a smuggler and regularly has to deal with copycat groups of children trying to thwart his plans.
The seemingly perpetual youth of the Famous Five who experience a world of seemingly endless holidays while not ageing significantly, known more generally as a floating timeline, has been highlighted by a number of contemporary children's fiction authors as an influence upon their own work. J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series of books has been quoted as saying of the eponymous character: "in book four the hormones are going to kick in – I don't want him stuck in a state of permanent pre-pubescence like poor Julian in the Famous Five!"