We all know about the main Famous Five cast, but what about the various friends that show up throughout the series? They never had any long-term sidekicks, no Robin, no Samwise Gamgee or Watson, but in several stories they had friends who tagged along and helped out (in the subservient sort of way that denotes them as sidekicks and not equals).
They met a lot of other children during the 21 adventures but not all of them are worthy of sidekick status. Some are enemies like Edgar Stick, others are merely rescued by the Five, like Mary Armstrong of the same book.
I will look at the genuine sidekicks first, and perhaps revisit the topic for the hangers-on. In order for me to count them as a sidekick the child must: have some sort of purpose within the story, take part in some or all of the adventure, be accepted however temporarily into the friendship group of the Five.
The repeat offenders
A couple of sidekicks appeared more than once – Jo the gypsy girl and Tinker Hayling.
Jo the gypsy girl
Appearances – Five Fall Into Adventure, Five Have a Wonderful Time and Five Have Plenty of Fun.
The Five first meet Jo on Kirrin beach when she steals George’s sand hole to sit in. At first they want nothing to do with such a dirty little urchin, but when Dick hits her and finds out she’s a girl he is impressed by her pluck. Dick is the only one Jo likes at first, and he is the only reason she helps them track down a kidnapped George – even though it was her who helped with the kidnapping by luring Timmy to eat drugged meat. She shows true bravery by the end of Five Fall Into Adventure, climbing an ivy-covered tower to swap places with George as they look quite alike. In the end she does not return to her father as he is locked up for his part in the kidnap, instead she goes to stay with Joan’s cousin.
She appears again in Five Have a Wonderful Time, just in time to resolve a feud between the Five and some fair-folk some of whom she just so happens to be related to. She then joins in on the attempted rescue of the missing scientist Derek Terry-Kane, but then ends up helping rescuing the Five as well, after getting temporarily tied up herself.
Her last appearance is a brief one in Five Have Plenty of Fun, when she visits Kirrin Cottage at night and finds out that George has been kidnapped (again). Having been told not to take Julian’s bike she takes Dick’s instead and rides off to a fair where she knows people. Later she brings a friend from the fair to speak to the remaining members of the Five as he may have information about George.
Appearances – Five Go to Demon’s Rocks and Five Are Together Again
Tinker is – I assume – several years younger than the Five as he behaves like a car. By that I mean he makes car engine noises and requests petrol top ups in the kitchen. Despite being quite annoying due to his car obsession, he has two interesting aspects. The first is he owns a monkey called Mischief, and secondly, he owns a lighthouse. The lighthouse becomes the setting for Five Go to Demon’s Rocks and Tinker is involved in the adventure, though his usefulness doesn’t go much beyond having supplied the lighthouse. I don’t mean that he is useless or causes difficulties, but he as a sidekick he doesn’t really shine. Mischief comes in useful, at least, as she finds some very old coins indicating that the old treasure is in the underground caves somewhere.
When Tinker appears two books later he is still making car noises, but at least with reduced frequency. He has again provided accommodation for the Five, this time at his home at Big Hollow, where of course a mystery occurs.
The one book wonders
The first sidekick to appear in any Five book is Pierre ‘Sooty’ Lenoir, in Five Go to Smuggler’s Top.
Sooty is a school friend of Dick and Julian’s, and the Five go to stay with him at his home, Smuggler’s Top on Castaway Hill. Sooty, at school, is apparently a big joker and always in trouble for playing tricks. At home he is a bit of an inventor, having rigged up a sort of alarm system to warn him if anyone approaches his bedroom. He takes on the task of hiding Timmy in the secret passages of Smuggler’s Top (his step-father hates dogs and won’t have them in the house), he takes the Five on a tour through the catacombs in the hill, and he stands up to Block, his step-father’s creepy man-servant. He even pretends to have bitten Block on the leg to cover for the fact that Timmy nipped him during a skirmish one evening. He even has the dubious honour of being kidnapped, and spends quite a while wandering an unfamiliar area of catacombs with Uncle Quentin before Timmy comes along.
The next sidekick comes in the following book – Five Go Off in a Caravan – and is a circus boy. Nobby loves animals, having two dogs of his own, Barker and Growler, and he has a strong friendship with the chimp Pongo, too. He loves to work with the horses, and helps out whenever the horse trainer allows him to.
He has no parents and lives at the circus with his ‘uncle’ Dan, known as Tiger Dan on account of his furious temper. Nobby bravely ignores his uncle’s threats and warnings and to spend time with the Five, and shows them around the circus camp. Having lived a circus life he is very impressed with the Five’s fancy modern caravans and is keen to make a good impression on these posh kids by putting on his best manners.
He gets embroiled in their inevitable adventure, and is lucky to end up free of his cruel uncle and goes to work on a farm near where the Five had been camping.
Jock – a good Scottish name and given a Scottish accent in the audiobooks, so I’m claiming him as Scottish – appears in Five Go Off to Camp. He lives on the farm which supplies the Five with copious amounts of food and drink, both take-away and sit in. He is a cheerful, good-natured boy who quickly becomes friends with the Five, showing them around the farm, visiting their camp and accompanying the boys on a middle-of-the-night visit to see the spook trains. He’s not able to join them for their second night-time trip – he’s unfortunate to have a nasty step-father who is trying to keep him away from the Five – but he joins the boys for the final excitement, though, getting himself held prisoner along with Dick and Julian.
I was of two minds about calling Richard a sidekick. He certainly appears in a significant portion of Five Get Into Trouble, though for a lot of that he’s more of an antagonist than a sidekick.
He meets the Five while they are camping and insists on joining them on their bike tour, even though they find him a bit annoying. He lies that he has permission to ride with them as far as his aunt’s house, but when he gets there his aunt is out, and he runs into Rooky, an ex-employee of his father’s, who has a grudge against him. He brings all this trouble straight to the Five, whereby Dick is kidnapped having been mistaken for Richard.
Richard is not the bravest at this point – he is terrified of Rooky and only accompanies the Five to rescue Dick because he’s too afraid to try to make his own way home alone. At least he makes up for his earlier shortcomings by being the one to hide in the boot of a car being driven by the enemy so that he can summon help.
Toby is another farm boy, this time appearing in Five Go to Billycock Hill. It’s his mother’s task to feed the Five while they camp and so Toby, who already knows Julian and Dick from school, is a natural addition to the group. He gets them into trouble by showing them an off-limit pool which they bathe in, but when his cousin Jeff is believed to have stolen a new plane and then died in a crash he shows his backbone. He refuses to believe it and along with the Five investigate the suspicious goings-on at the nearby butterfly farm, ending up in them finding and rescuing Jeff and another pilot.
The Two Harrys
Harry (Henry) and Harry (Harriet) are twins in the Philpot Family. The Five stay at the Philpots’ Farm, Finniston Farm in the aptly named Five on Finniston Farm. The twins are plucky and hard-working, doing all they can to help their over-worked mother. They gain respect for the Five when they pitch in too, and together they work to uncover a centuries-lost treasure.
Wilfrid is a curious boy. Like Philip Mannering he has a way with animals, though he plays a little pipe to lure them to him. He is not so good with people, which is why Mrs Layman – his aunt – has asked the Five to stay and try to keep him company while she is away. He is not impressed with having to share the cottage with others, but as he takes a liking to Timmy he lets the others stay as well. When the Five manage to strand themselves on the mysterious Whispering Island, Wilfrid is brave enough to row across to attempt a rescue.
Who was your favourite sidekick?
Next post: The Famous Five’s other companions