So, part three is all the rest of my nitpicks and comments.
Unusual phrases and words I noticed
First up is skewbald, as used to describe Sniffer’s horse. I’ve read this book dozens of times and yet I had no idea what that word meant until I Googled it right now. It means irregular patterns of white and another colour (but not black). It’s one of those words that it’s not essential to understand to understand the book. Similarly, piebald. In The Circus of Adventure the children despair at Gus for not being able to identify piebald horses. Nope, me neither. You can tell I wasn’t into horse stories as a girl. As it turns out, piebald is black and white. So a bit of a pedantic difference and totally not worth arguing over.
Then we have patrin. I took it at face value that these are real things and it seems to be that is the case. I did a little Googling anyway and found other mentions of them online but sadly no pictures or real details.
Two odd phrases were Her face one big beam and They really do get across one another. I get the meaning of both but I don’t think I’ve ever seen those particular combinations of words before.
Ben’s dialect is interesting, but I’ve no idea what area it pins down Mystery Moor to. He uses baint, nigh, worrit, and most interestingly mort to mean a lot.
I also noticed that Dick calls them the Famous Five in this story. It’s fine to be on our own – just the Famous Five together.
I love Eileen Soper’s illustrations, she’s without a doubt my favourite Blyton Illustrator and probably my favourite illustrator of all. Saying that, she makes errors now and again.
The first is when she depicts the Five talking to Sniffer’s father. There is another child with them who looks like Henry. It’s certainly not Sniffer. And yet Henry is not with the Five in the text.
Later on, when George and Anne are being held prisoner they cut their ropes with a knife brought by Sniffer, and lie down to sleep. George wakes when she hears Henry coming, and thinking it’s one of the gypsies she arranges the ropes around herself again. After Henry and William come in Anne wakes up – but Soper has drawn her asleep sitting up against the post.
I’ve also noticed that Soper has Anne awake while Sniffer’s father is talking to George, but she’s asleep in the text.
I noticed a lot of what I would consider rudeness – and a lot of it from our beloved Five!
First Julian and Dick turn up at the stables unannounced, expecting to stay. OK they’re happy to sleep in the stables but still, they turn up with a fair bit of entitlement! Anne and George also just seem to announce that they are staying an extra week, too. Aunt Fanny may have called and arranged it – if so it’s not mentioned. Then there are another four children who are going to arrive early. Poor Mrs Johnson, she seems happy enough to run a fairly casual booking system but I still think it’s a bit rude to just turn up and expect accommodation and meals.
Dick says to Sniffer of his caravan I hope it’s not smelly, and Julian says Why doesn’t he get a haircut behind Sniffer’s father’s back. The second one I get, it wasn’t done for men or boys to have long hair in England in those days. It still sounds rude, though.
They (mostly Julian) presumes that the gypsies are thieves on two occasions. As they are involved in a counterfeit money operation, they are, for all intents and purposes thieves, but that’s not the point. They assume that the gypsies will be stealing ducks and hens just because they’re gypsies.
There isn’t a great deal of food in this book. There are a couple of meal-time scenes where food isn’t even mentioned!
One picnic includes egg and sardine sandwiches, tomato and lettuce sandwiches and cherry cake. Can’t say I think much of those combinations!
The only typical Famous Five feast is the breakfast at the end – and that’s simply described as huge platefuls of bacon and eggs.
The Five’s failures
One thing that is more prevalent than food is the Five’s failures. The Five aren’t perfect and do make mistakes now and again but they seem surprisingly incompetent in this book!
Firstly, Julian manages to get them lost on the moors twice. The first time it’s daylight and he is using a compass. The second time they don’t think ahead to avoid losing the railway tracks in the mist, and then only remember they have a compass at 5am.
The girls manage to go up the tracks in the wrong direction, which is somewhat understandable in the mist, but are then stupid enough to think that the quarry, a mere quarter mile from the gypsy camp is a safe place to stay.
Julian and Dick are also unbelievably dense when it comes to Henry. They mistake her for a boy which is not an issue, but then George talks about HENRY who is really HENRIETTA and they just don’t twig that the HENRY they met could possibly be a girl?
They are also very slow to consider that the money might be counterfeit. As they say, there’s no rule against bringing (legal) money into the country.
I always picture the moor starting right outside the stables, and so wonder why George and Anne only hear about it so much later. Clearly it’s a bit further away than my mind lets me picture. I can’t help but think that pap endpapers would be great for all the Five books.
What is intriguing, distance aside, is that Captain Johnson has never heard the story of Mystery Moor. He explains it by saying he’s only lived there for 15 years! Old Ben says it happened some 70 years ago (which by my rough count makes it the 1880s, farther back than I think I’d imagined) but still, if your local area had a tale like that, wouldn’t you know about it?
Which leads me to wondering about the name of the moor. Old Ben tells the Five that, when he was young, it was Misty Moor. Sometime after the Bartle’s disappearance it became Mystery Moor. What I want to know is what is it called on a map? Is Misty/Mystery just a colloquial, local name? If the mist comes off the sea, as they say it does, isn’t it a haar anyway (or hare, hoar, har, harl etc)?
Regardless of the name, the stories of the moor are quite dark for Blyton. We get the stories of the Bartles, Mrs Banks who was berry-picking, and a boy called Victor who was playing truant, who all disappear in the mist. Are there a load of dead bodies lying in shallow graves on the moor? Did they fall into the sea? Did the gypsies get them all and toss them over the cliffs?
And all the rest
This story is set in April, with the previous adventure being the summer of the year before. I’m not going to try to work out their respective ages based on that, but there’s a website which has done just that… Julian would be 18, Dick and George 17 and Anne 16. I think you have to ignore that sort of maths, though, as it puts the Five far too old by book 21. I did notice that the police call Julian sir, suggesting that in this book at least he is around 17 or 18, or at least looks it. Any younger and I can’t see them calling him sir.
Anne and George were set to stay at the stables for one week, while the boys camped, then they were all to return to Kirrin. However they stay at the stables so I wonder if they saw their parents at all. Julian’s parents are away abroad and their house is being decorated (I think it gets decorated a couple of times through the series but I don’t have the evidence to hand).
Julian (I think) tells Old Ben to get himself more tobacco, as a thanks for telling them the story of the moor, as Ben is smoking a pipe. I wonder if this is left alone in modern editions, or turned to sweets like in Demon’s Rocks.
Strangely both George and Anne sleep though the aeroplane the first night it flies over, and even stranger George isn’t annoyed that Julian and Dick went off in the night to investigate without her (after her outburst in Off to Camp in particular). Anne seem capable of sleeping through anything as she also sleeps through George’s conversation with Sniffer’s father and the arrival of Henry and William.
I find that I don’t really like Sniffer, but I’m not sure why. I feel sorry for him but I don’t like him the way I like Nobby, for example.
Maths isn’t my strongest suit but I think that Mrs Johnson is in a bit of bother when it comes to visitor numbers. She says she’s at full capacity with George and Anne staying on. Thus the boys sleeping in the stables. She has four to arrive after three depart, which would have her one over, but the four are to arrive early…. making her four over, but George and Anne go camping, making the stables two over capacity… and that’s assuming that it’s an appropriate mix of boys and girls to share the rooms! She definitely has a casual approach to organisation.
I’m surprised I had so much to say (again!) but there you are. I’ll try not to leave it so long before I review Five Have Plenty of Fun.
Next post: Five Have Plenty of Fun