Oct 4, 2016

The Famous Five Have Plenty of Fun

The Famous Five were Britain's answer to the Boxcar Children or the Hardy Boys, five youthful detectives who appearing in 21 volumes by Enid Blyton from 1942 to 1962.

There have also been original Famous Five novels in French and German, films in English, Danish, and German,  comic books, a video game, and even a stage musical.
The Famous Five are really the Famous Three:

1. Julian Bannard, age 13 (right), described in boys' adventure novel terms as tall, strong, and muscular.  He was played by Marcus Harris in 1978 and Marco Williamson in 1995.

2. His brother Dick, age 12 (far left), a practical jokester and standard boys' adventure novel sidekick, played by Gary Russell in 1978 and Paul Child in 1995.

3. Their cousin George, age 12 (center), a girl who "wants to be a boy."

The other members are:
4. Their young sister Anne, who doesn't do much except get scared and "stay here where it's safe."
5. The dog Timmy (a regular dog, not talking).

Perpetually 12-13 years old but acting several years older, the Five solve their mysteries during school holidays, usually while on vacation on Kirrin Island.  There are kidnappers, smugglers, secret rooms, gypsies, decadent circuses, ghosts that really aren't, and lots of scenes set on the beach, giving Blyton the opportunity to describe the boys' physiques in swimsuits.

One might suspect that the family dynamic and the presence of both boys and girls would eliminate buddy-bonding, but in fact Julian and Dick behave rather like the Hardys, going off alone with each other to investigate the mystery, and there are lots of other kids to interact with.

The gay-vague George is most likely to seek outside friends, mostly other girls "who want to be boys," such as Berte and  Jo, but Julian does his share of bonding with older boys as he tries to establish his own adolescent identity.

The gender-transgressive girls are not the result of gay-friendliness, but of sexism: Blyton thought that adventuring was a masculine preserve, so any girl with an interest in danger and excitement must "want to be a boy."

There have been three incarnations on British tv.  The 1978-79 series was never shown in the U.S.

The 1995-97 series was a period piece, set in 1940s Wales.

In 2008, an animated series featured the children of the original Famous Five.  Even George has a daughter (but her partner is never mentioned; maybe she had a wife).