Things We Learned from The Famous Five

Things We Learned from the Famous Five

When I was a child, I was addicted to The Famous Five books, by Enid Blyton. To this day, I cannot drink ginger beer or explore a network of secret underground passages without thinking about good old Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog. I loved Enid Blyton’s other books, too (The Adventure Series was my favourite, although there is also a special place in my heart for The Magic Faraway Tree) and, to the horror of my friends and family, I will occasionally re-read these books if it’s been a particularly long, hard winter and I’m in need of some comfort reading. I recommend it. Not only will you be swept away into a world of crazy smugglers and sinister old castles, but you will also learn some important life lessons, such as:

1. All underground caves have a stream running through them. If you find yourself trapped in one (by smugglers, natch), all you have to do is follow the stream to the place where it breaks ground, and you will be freed.

2. You will almost always end up trapped in an underground cave during the “hols”, so you better have been paying attention to point 1.

3. Don’t worry, though – your faithful dog or other animal friend will guide you through the dark, winding tunnels to safety if the underground stream thing doesn’t work out.

4. If you don’t have a handy animal, the circus folk camping near you will lend you one.

5. There will always be circus folk camping near you.

6. Some of them will secretly be smugglers, though.

7. About those tunnels… If your animal friend has been, say, poisoned by the smugglers/circus folk, you should unwind a ball of string or make chalk markings on the walls as you walk, so that you can find your way out again.

8. You will use your torch to see these chalk markings/bits of string

9. You do HAVE a torch on you at all times, don’t you?

10. While escaping from the smugglers, remember to always observe regular meal times, even if you are underground/in grave danger.

11. It’s OK: you will always discover a bag of Barley Sugar and some potted meat sandwiches in your pocket.

12. Right next to the notebook and pencil that you carry with you AT ALL TIMES.

13. Friendly farm folks that you meet on your travels will supply the barely sugar, potted meat and also: ginger beer. You’ll have to supply the pencil and notebook yourself, though.

14. Ginger beer cures almost every ill.

15. And while we’re on the subject: food that you eat outdoors always tastes SO MUCH BETTER, don’t you think?

16. If the people you meet along the way have slightly ridiculous names, they can probably be trusted. Examples: Nobby, Fanny, Dimmy. (No offence to anyone called Nobby or Fanny, by the way. If your first name is ‘Dimmy’, though, well, good luck to you.)

17. If the people you meet along the way are crazy old men who warn you to NEVER GO NEAR THE OLD CASTLE AT NIGHTFALL, you should wait until nightfall and then go there immediately.

18. Not if you’re a girl, though. If you’re a girl you should remain at home, preparing a slap up dinner for the hungry adventurers, with lashings and lashings of ginger beer and some delicious ices for afters. Remember: you may like to think that you’re “as good as a boy” any day, but you’re really not.

19. But back to those smugglers…

20. Don’t worry too much about the smugglers, because most arch villains are relatively harmless.

21. I mean, they may tie you up and leave you in an underground cave (in fact, they almost certainly will), but they will not otherwise lay a finger on you.

22. You’ll be able to use your penknife to cut the ropes that bind you and escape by the light of your torch, though.

23. What do you mean, there’s no room for a penknife in your pocket, what with all the ginger beer, torches, notebooks and barley sugars?

24. OK, the monkey will carry the penknife for you.

25. You WILL encounter a monkey at some point in your adventure.

26. Thank goodness all monkeys are friendly, eh?

27. Also: all dogs can climb ladders. Which is lucky, because how else will you get down into the caves?

28. All islands and castles have a dark secret.

29. It normally involves smugglers.

30. As soon as you arrive at the sinister old castle you will be holidaying at, you should seek out the secret passage. This will save you a lot of time later.

31. The secret passage is located behind a sliding panel which you will find either in your bedroom or in the library

32. Every building has a secret passage. And a library, come to think of it.

33. The secret passage leads to underground caves.

34. Which are used by smugglers.

35. So you better have paid attention to point 1, eh?

(P.S. I know this entry will only make sense to fellow Enid Blyton fans, and to Erin, who inspired it, but if you are one, this is the funniest article ever….)


  • Orla says:

    This is absolutely bloody hilarious, even for someone who only has a vague sense of the Enid Blyton books she once read.

    Really, you should do a guide to living by Nancy Drew books next…. she's described as 'titian haired' in the first paragraph of EVERY BLOODY BOOK! Never in my life before or since have i heard the word titian.

  • Amber says:

    Orla – hee! I loved Nancy Drew, too, and in fact found a Nancy Drew three-books-in-one in a charity shop last year, which naturally I had to buy, so she is still fresh in my mind, that titian haired super-sleuth!

    Also: I'm sure Fergie used to always describe her hair as "titian". That's Fergie, Duchess of York, by the Way, Not Fergie, Black Eyed of Pea.

  • Rachel says:

    I loved Nancy Drew too…I don't remember nearly as much details about the books, but I remember staying up and reading them as a young girl.

  • Fran says:

    That was hysterical! I never read the Famous Five, but I loved the Secret Seven. I'm tempted to read one of the former now though!

    I adored the Far Away Tree, Mr Pinkwhistle and the Book of the Brownies.

  • Steph says:

    I bounced up and down squealing whilst reading this, which, as you can imagine, made the actual reading pretty difficult. I adored Enid Blyton books as a kid, and the Adventure series was always my favourite too. I constantly lamented the fact that there was no 'Bill the smuggler' figure in my childhood. And I never had a series of helpful animal friends.

    I never read much Famous Five, but I did have an old FF text-based adventure game on my Amiga, which invariably ended with a GAME OVER – either through catching a bad cold and being sent home, or kicking Uncle Quentin (yes, you actually got the option of doing that) and being returned to our parents. Fun times.

  • Steph says:

    Oh, I forgot to add, I hate the way the books are being reprinted with different character names. There is absolutely no point at all to growng up, if not to laugh like a small schoolboy at Dick and Fanny.

    And I have never gotten over my desire to one day eat hard-boiled eggs with a small dish of salt to dip them in.

    Did anyone ever read The Secret Island? It was like a nice version of the Lord of the Flies, and probably my favourite ever Enid Blyton book. I genuinely wanted to run my own small self-sufficient island. Maybe I should join a group of like-minded individuals and should start a commune?

  • Amber says:

    Rachel – Me too! It's the mark of a truly great book when you want to sit up and read it…

    Fran – you should totally try The Famous Five -the Secret Seven were but pale imitations :)

    Steph – You got to kick Uncle Quentin? I would have *loved* to kick Uncle Quentin. Also: YES! The Secret Island is one of my favourites too, and actually quite disturbing in a way given that it's aimed at children. The 'Secret' series is great – I also love the Secret Mountain, in which the children get lost inside an, er, secret Mountain (yes, there is an underground stream) and the local savages try to sacrifice Prince Paul to the Sun Gods. Brilliant stuff.

  • Caroline says:

    Oh, I LOVED Enid Blyton – and this is genius! Can you do Swallows and Amazons next? Pirates and cannibals and getting stranded on islands… surely everyone sent their summers this way?!

  • Angela says:

    I was more of a Bobbsey Twins/Trixie Belden/Nancy Drew girl myself, but The Famous Five seem like they would have been right up my alley! Although I'm not sure I could have handled the animal friends being poisoned. That's a bit too tragic!

  • Honey says:

    I had ONE famous five book when I was a kid. Loved the hell out of it, though.

  • Mum says:

    So funny, I laughed out loud. When you re-read them do you still make comments in the margins when the boys go off to have an adventure and leave the girls behind to make the food?

  • Erin says:

    Amber! We're not alone! Yahooooooo!

    I will never stop loving Enid Blyton. I don't care how camp, old-fashioned, anti-feminist she is, I love love love her!

    Oh! And while I do not have a torch in my pocket, I now have a GPS-enabled phone, so I can find my way out of anywhere! :))))

  • Fi says:

    I had totally forgotten about the Far Away Tree books until I read this. I used to love them and read them over and over when I was a child. I liked the Famous Five and Secret Seven too. One of my particular favourites was the standalone Mr Galliano's Circus – anyone else remember that one?

  • Amber says:

    Angela – don't worry, the animal friends were never seriously harmed. One of the other things we can learn from the Famous Five is that if your dog attacks an arch villain, even if the villlain is carrying a gun, the most he will do is knock the dog on the head and lock it in a cave. The dog will recover quickly and the villian will bring it dog biscuits and water, so all will be well!

    Mum – I manage to restrain myself these days because I somehow don't find Anne as annoying as I used to. George is still the best, though.

    Fi – I haven't read that one, but I'm totally going to buy it now :)

    Caroline – I haven't read Swallows and Amazons either, which is surprising because it sounds like it would be right up my secret underground street. Going to add them to my reading list, too.

    Honey – read more! You will love them!

    Erin – Lol! I'd imagine it would have been much more difficult for Enid to write her books in the modern world. It just wouldn't have been the same if the Five could have whgipped out their mobiles and called for help. Mind you, they probably wouldn't have, because only children can defeat smugglers, as we know. Does GPS work in secret passages under the sea?

  • Camilla says:

    Brilliant! I'm glad I'm not the only one who still reads kids books. I loved The Secret Island and my son got all the Adventure series for Christmas.

  • Chica says:

    This is beyond awesome! I was a huge fan of them when I was younger, i think my work colleagues think i'm insane now, nearly choked on 27 – i could never work out why our dog couldn't climb up the steps on our slide :o)

  • Veronika says:

    awww I love those books!:)

  • Jessica says:

    OMG this is hilarious!! Simply the best list I’ve ever encountered!

    May I add another lesson which I think is important for everyone out there to know?
    If you stick to hard-boiled-egg-ginger-beer-potted meat-and-tomatoes-sandwich diet, puberty will never come.

  • Brent says:

    Cool blog. Thought the secret island had more in common with Huckle-berry Finn actually.

  • Selina says:

    And Anne needs to stop washing dishes

  • Elizabeth says:

    Things I learned from the Enid Blyton school books:
    1. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your parents send you to an expensive private school to learn things, they send you there to build character.
    2. The best way to build character is to play tricks and have midnight feasts.
    3. If you want to play tricks on somebody try a French teacher- they will always fall for it.
    4. They will also always see the funny side of a joke.
    5. No good trick is complete without meticulous planning- this isn’t amateur hour here.
    6. The best tricks involve complicated springs or chemicals that you have made in your shed.
    7. Being a girl you won’t be able to think up tricks on your own- so make sure you write to your older brothers to help you.
    8. If somebody is doing something wrong it is almost always because they are going mad from overwork.
    9. Or are too poor to afford things.
    10. Or are just simply awful human beings.
    11. If people don’t like sports it is always because there is some fatal flaw in their character.
    12. Unless they have some medical problem- at which point they will befriend one of the horrible, soulless, sport hating people.
    13. Until they are cured at which point they will develop a passion for sport.
    14. Especially lacrosse.
    15. Everybody knows what lacrosse is- so there is no reason to explain it. Ever.
    16. Sometimes a perfectly nice person may not like sports.
    17. They will be French.
    18. The French have no sense of honour.
    19. Which explains why they don’t like sports.
    20. The Americans are all obsessed with make-up and movie stars.
    21. They also can’t talk properly.
    22. They also dislike sports.
    23. The Spanish like sports- but will constantly interupt the game to go and slap someone.
    24. This is because they were brought up in a circus.
    25. The violence is worth putting up with because they will later amuse you with gymnastics and horse riding.
    26. Spanish people will eventually be able to fit in with British society.
    27. The French might be able to, but they will always be strange and unusual and the Americans will never last longer than a term.
    28. Because they hate sports.
    29. Always spend at least two weeks planning a midnight feast to make sureyou get the right food.
    30. Unfortunately this will never work and you will always end up eating birthday cake and pilchards in condensed milk.
    31. Why wouldn’t you bring pilchards and condensed milk to a party?
    32. You will also bring ginger beer.
    33. This will be amazing fun but will leave you feeling ill in the morning.
    34. Making me wonder if it’s just ginger beer in that bottle.
    35. At some point one of those horrible sport hating people will ruin it for you.
    36. They will fail.
    37. Being sent to Coventry is the worst punishment ever.
    38. Despite the fact that it only happens to people that nobody talks to anyway.
    39. If it happens to a popular person then it is a mistake.
    40. Because popular people can do no wrong.
    41. Popular people will always have a quick temper and can often be violent.
    42. But that’s okay because they apologise straight afterwards.
    43. And they like sports.
    44. Teachers will rarely be told about problems in school.
    45. Until the end of term.
    46. When they will suddenly find everything out.
    47. Because of an amazing dramatic event that will happen.
    48. Nicknames like ‘the stuck up twins’ and ‘the naughtiest girl’ are considered clever.
    49. And will be remembered.
    50. Long after the subjects personality has changed so the name no longer makes sense.
    51. Because basic character descriptions in up to five word are catchy.
    52. Apparently.

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