Welcome to the third in the series of Famous Five posts. As usual, there may be spoilers for the books you’ve not read yet (if so, shame on you, get reading!) Interestingly, Blyton had intended to finish the series with book 6 “Five on Kirrin Island Again” but carried on thanks to the volume of letters she got from her readers, begging for more Famous Five adventures. Thank goodness she listened to them!
FIVE GO OFF TO CAMP, 1948
The Location: A lonely, high-up stretch of moor-land with only a small farm and old railway nearby.
The ‘Baddies’: Mr Andrews and some of his farm-workers.
Significant other characters: Mr Luffy, a genial but absent-minded teacher from the boys’ school who loves to study insect-life and (more interestingly) can waggle one of his ears. Jock, a boy from the local farm. Wooden-leg Sam, the scared watchman from the disused railway.
The Plot: Camping with Mr Luffy, the Five are intrigued by a disused railway tunnel especially when they hear tales of night-time “spook trains” from the railway’s watchman, and are warned away from it by Mr Andrews and the Shepherd. The three boys sneak off at night to watch for spook trains (much to George’s chagrin) and they’re not disappointed. Though thanks to an inopportune twisted ankle they’re unable to investigate further.
Armed with information about the tunnel from a helpful old porter the boys plan to walk through the tunnel and search for the spook train. The boys and Anne walk right through the tunnel and out the other side without seeing anything unusual. Scared, Anne decides to walk over the moors to the tunnel’s other end. Meanwhile, George has gone off on her own and poor Timmy manages to fall down a hole, leaving him and George stuck in the tunnel with the spook-train.
The boys retrace their steps in utter confusion but before they can figure it out Mr Andrews and his men are upon them and all is revealed. Thanks to George and Timmy being there, and Anne raising the alarm help is summoned so no harm comes to the boys.
My favourite parts: I used to have this on tape, so when I read it I can hear the voices from the recording. Dick-with-a-lisp saying “blow, I’ve twisted my ankle”, and Jock in his strong Scottish accent saying “aye, I’m a ninny” and “I’ve let the cat properly out of the bag”, as well as the scornful way he says “Cecil Dearlove”. From the story I love Anne’s “volcano”, and exploring the old tunnel is really exciting, even without the ‘spook’ train. Also, Mr Luffy’s life-long disappointment that he can only waggle his right ear, but not the left is an amusing little aside.
FIVE GET INTO TROUBLE, 1949
The Location: Owl’s Dene, a large house surrounded by a high wall with an electric gate.
The ‘Baddies’: Rooky, Perton and Hunchy.
Significant other characters: Richard Kent, the son of a very rich business man. Aggie, an old lady who works at Owl’s Dene.
The Plot: The Five head off on a bicycling tour (well, Timmy’s not actually on a bicycle), and at their first camping spot meet a boy called Richard who claims they are trespassing on his father’s, land. He is appeased with a free breakfast courtesy of Anne, and rather insists on joining the five on the rest of their tour. After cycling with the five for the day, Richard abruptly heads home, only to return later claiming he’s being chased by an enemy. Julian, George and Timmy are off sourcing food from the nearest farm (facing an unusually surly man who’s not at all won over by Julian’s usual charm), so when the men find Dick at the campsite he is taken in Richard’s place, to somewhere called Owl’s Dene. Anne’s overheard this, so they all head to Owl’s Hill, where they guess Owl’s Dene will be. When they get there they find themselves shut in by electric gates and then when they sneak into the house, they are caught. The Fve plus Richard are allowed to spend their days in the grounds of Owl’s Dene and have to hatch a daring escape plan.
My favourite parts: Richard’s escape near the end of the story and Rooky’s secret hiding place. Also, Aggie’s kindness to the children despite her fear of Hunchy.
FIVE FALL INTO ADVENTURE, 1950
The Location: Kirrin Cottage, Raven’s Wood and Red Tower’s place.
The ‘Baddies’: Red Tower, Markhoff, Jake, and Jo’s father Simmy.
Significant other characters: This is the first time we are introduced to Jo, the gypsy girl who’s tomboy enough to give even George a run for her money. Joan the cook is ‘in charge’ this time as Uncle Quentin and Aunt Fanny are away at a conference. Sid the paper-boy makes an important appearance too.
The Plot: The Five meet an irritating gypsy boy, who actually turns out to be a gypsy girl. Soon Kirrin Cottage is burgled, and it seems some of Uncle Quentin’s work has gone missing. George and Timmy then don’t return from their walk at night, and the next day Jo appears with a note, demanding another of Uncle Quentin’s notebooks for George’s safe return. The house is being watched, so a clever plan is hatched where Dick will swap places with the paper-boy and follow whoever collects the notebook. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the person Dick captures is Jo, and she promises to lead them to George. She is to take them to Raven’s Woods the next day, but is hauled away by Jake. The three find their way to a caravan deep in the woods, but it’s empty. George has been there as she’s written “Red Tower” on the wall. They then get hopelessly lost, and end up sleeping in the woods. Jo rescues them the next day and leads Julian and Dick to ‘Red Tower’ to rescue George.
My favourite parts: The scene with Sid is great, from his indignation at what’s going on to his utter joy at playing cards, I love the things he says like “I’m partial to chocolate mould”, and in a way he reminds me of Ern Goon. I always think Jo is a bit of a hero in the final scenes, climbing the tower, pretending to be George and using the larder key as a decoy.
Next post: Books 10-12