Enid Blyton is one of the most recognised and beloved children’s authors to have ever existed, and has given the world hugely popular and well know series like Noddy, The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, and more. Since publishing her first book in 1922 she has gone on to sell more than 600 million copies, and has been translated into 90 languages across the world. And one of her most beloved series are the adventure books of The Famous Five, who made their first appearance in September 1942 in Five on a Treasure Island.
Five on a Treasure Island tells the story of three siblings, Julian, Dick, and Anne, who go to spend their summer holiday with their aunt and uncle in the small coastal town of Kerrin. Arriving at Kerrin Cottage, the three of them meet their cousin, George, and her dog Timothy. The five spend time exploring Kerrin island, where George shows them an old shipwreck that her great-great-great grandfather sailed on decades before. According to legend, the ship was transporting gold when it was wrecked on Kerrin Island, and that the gold was never recovered.
The five investigate the shipwreck when they end up getting stuck on the island in a huge storm, and discover an old chest containing an old map that shows the resting place of the gold in the island’s old castle. However, they run into trouble when the map is sold by Uncle Quentin to an antique collector. Believing that the collector is actually a treasure hunter, the five set out to Kerrin Island to try and find the gold before it’s too late; a quest that will see them fall afoul of criminals out for the treasure.
Five on a Treasure Island became instantly popular with young readers when it was first published, and Blyton was asked to write more books starring the central quintet. And whilst Blyton was happy to do so she only planned to only write another half a dozen books, but as the series went on it only grew in popularity, and Blyton would go on to write 21 books in The Famous Five series. The formula proved to be one that Blyton so enjoyed writing that she would go on to create other series that followed groups of crime solving children on holiday.
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Whilst there are some similarities between this series and other popular children’s books as the time, such as The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, The Famous Five stood out as it was one of the few series where the initial author would write every entry in the series, as Blyton refused to use ghostwriters. In many ways, Blyton was the R.L. Stine of her day, as she created a hugely popular kids’ book series that she would write herself, able to produce a book a week when needed.
The characters of Five on a Treasure Island would go on to be some of Blyton’s most popular, and would appear in a number of books and adaptations even beyond The Famous Five title. One of the more stand out characters in the series is George. George is described as being a tomboy in the text, but over the years another interpretation of the character has found popularity: that George is a trans boy. For a start, George refuses to use his birth name, and insists that people use male pronouns for him. He also only wears boys’ clothing, and insists on boy haircuts. But perhaps one of the best pieces of evidence is in one of the later books, where his father hugs him and calls him ‘my boy’, a moment that is never corrected or made mention of. So whilst I’m sure there will be some folks very angry at this interpretation, we’re claiming George as a trans character now.
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Over the years the series would go on to be adapted many times, with several films having been made, with one of Five on a Treasure Island released in 1957. There have also been a number of popular television adaptations, with series made in the 1970s, 1990s, and the 2000s. There have been audio drama releases of the stories, theatre adaptations, comics, and choose your own adventure books. This is on top of the dozens (if not more) parodies and homages made to the series over the last eight decades. And it all began with this one story.
The Famous Five holds a very special place in the hearts of many readers, and has endured for generations thanks to its simplicity, its engaging plots, and enjoyable characters. And it’s likely to last for many more decades to come.