The Famous Five (characters)

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: General Literature

The Famous Five is a fictional group of child detectives, composed of four children ( Julian, Dick, Anne and George and their dog Timothy, created by Enid Blyton.

Blyton created several such groups for her detective series, including The Secret Seven and the curiously titled Five Find-Outers and Dog, but the Famous Five are the best-known and most popular of these.

All the "Famous Five" books have been adapted for television at some stage.


The first books in the series were written during the 1940s, and some of the basic concepts can now seem extremely outdated. Three of the children, Julian, Dick and Anne, are siblings. During their holidays, they are regularly sent to stay with their Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin, whose daughter, Georgina, is a tomboy always known as George.

Every time they come together, they find themselves obliged to solve a mystery which usually, but not always, has a criminal behind it. The location of the adventure varies from book to book. Sometimes it will happen close to George's home, and "Kirrin Island", a private island, presents many opportunities for such activities. On other occasions, the children may go camping or hiking or be sent on holiday together elsewhere, but they are always accompanied by George's dog, Timothy, affectionately known to the children as Timmy.

Blyton always said that George was based on a real girl she had once known: in her later life, she admitted that that girl was herself.


  • George (Georgina) Kirrin: Georgina is a tomboy, demanding that people call her George. She cuts her hair very short and dresses like a boy. She is headstrong by nature and, like her father, Quentin, has a fiery temper.
  • Julian: The eldest of the five, cousin to George and older brother to Dick and Anne. He is an intelligent boy and a natural leader whose cleverness and reliability is often noted by Aunt Fanny.
  • Dick (Richard): George's cousin, and brother of Julian and Anne, sometimes mistaken for George because of his behaviour and dark hair. Dick is the joker of the group, but also very thoughtful.
  • Anne: The youngest in the group, and written by Blyton as girlish, with a natural instinct to mother the others. She famously dislikes the adventures the Five constantly encounter, but soldiers on loyally.
  • Timmy: George's dog and the unofficial mascot for the group, who is available to attack unwanted people on George's command. Timmy is like a cute and cuddly toy that will be kind and gentle but when made angry he will attack.
  • Fanny Kirrin: George's mother, and aunt to Dick, Julian and Anne. Aunt Fanny is married to Uncle Quentin, and is, through most of Blyton's Famous Five novels, the principal maternal figure in the lives of the children. (Julian, Dick and Anne's parents are very rarely seen, and rarely mentioned, as most of their adventures take place on school holidays while visiting the village of Kirrin.)
  • Quentin Kirrin: George's father, and a famous inventor and scientist. His temper is infamous, and he has little tolerance for children, particularly during school holidays. In the first book of the series, it is established that he is the brother of Julian, Dick and Anne's father.

Note - There is debate about whether Julian, Dick and Anne share George's surname of Kirrin (as shown in Five on Finniston Farm), which would imply that their father was brother to Uncle Quentin, or whether their surname is Barnard (as their mother is referred to as "Mrs Barnard" in Five Get into a Fix).

Television series

1978 series

The Famous Five 1978 television series was produced by Southern Television for the ITV network in the UK, in 26 episodes of thirty minutes. It starred Michelle Gallagher as Georgina, Marcus Harris as Julian, Jennifer Thanisch as Anne, Gary Russell as Dick, Toddy Woodgate as Timmy, Michael Hinz as Uncle Quentin and Sue Best as Aunt Fanny. It also starred Ronald Fraser, John Carson, James Villiers, Cyril Luckham and Brian Glover.

The screenplays were written by Gloria Tors, Gail Renard, Richard Carpenter and Richard Sparks. The episodes were directed by Peter Duffell, Don Leaver, James Gatward and Mike Connor. The series was produced by Don Leaver.

The setting was contemporary (that is, the series was set in 1978.)

One of its most memorable aspects was the theme tune.

Intro song lyrics:

   Wherever there's adventure to be found
   Just a clue or a secret message bring the Famous Five around
   Whenever there's a mystery to be solved
   Up in the ruined castle or down in Smuggler's Top
   (Chorus:) We are the Famous Five
   Julian, Dick and Anne, George and Timmy the dog
   We are the Famous Five
   We're coming back to you, whenever there's time, time after time

Ending song lyrics:

   Whatever awaits behind closed doors
   Strange noises in the cellar or the sound of creaky floors
   We'll never let a mystery pass us by
   Just leave a clue and leave the rest to the Famous Five
   (Chorus:) We are the Famous Five
   Julian, Dick and Anne, George and Timmy the dog
   We are the Famous Five
   We're coming back to you whenever there's time
   Coming back to you, time after time, after time

Finnish punk rock band Widows (of Helsinki) made three different cover versions of the theme song, first one in early 1979.

All the books apart from Five on a Treasure Island, Five Have a Mystery to Solve and Five Have Plenty of Fun were dramatised; the first two were excluded because the Children's Film Foundation still had the film and TV rights to the books (see below), and the third because it could not fit in the production schedule. Plans to make a third series which would have included this story plus new ones written purely for television were abandoned after the Blyton estate exercised its veto.

1996 series

A later TV series was produced around 1996, a co-production between a number of companies including HTV, Zenith North and the German channel ZDF; this was also shown on ITV in the UK. Unlike the previous series, this was a period piece, set in 1953, and also unlike the previous series it dramatised all the original books. Of the juvenile actors the best-known is probably Jemima Rooper, who played George. In this series, to fit in with modern changes to Blyton's books and the fact that "Fanny" now has other meanings, Aunt Fanny was known as Aunt Frances.

Video and DVD

The 1978 series was released on video with reasonable regularity between 1983 and 1999, many of which are still easy to find second-hand, although the sound and picture quality is not always what it could be.

A four-disc DVD collection, containing 23 of the 26 episodes produced for the 1978 series (and two episodes from the 1996 series) was released in region 4 (Australia and New Zealand) in 2005. The box and disc art identify it as a release of 1996 series. (The distributor had licenced the 1996 series but due to an administrative glitch, it was supplied with master tapes and artwork for the 1978 series.) The error was corrected in a later release.

The 1996 series was released in its entirety on video; only the adaptation of Five On A Treasure Island seems to have been released on DVD in the UK, although there are apparently some rare mainland European DVD releases of the series, available via certain websites in the UK (these are, of course, Region 2 DVDs).

A three-disc DVD collection, containing 13 of the 26 episodes of the 1996 series, was released in Australia and New Zealand in 2005 (these are region 4 DVDs). This release followed the erroneous release of the 1978 series with 1996 artwork, and is marked "Revised Edition" to avoid confusion.

There are also two Children's Film Foundation films of the Famous Five books - Five On A Treasure Island, made in 1957, and Five Have A Mystery To Solve, produced in 1963 - plus other film adaptations of the books made in countries such as Denmark.


Two of the Famous Five stories by Enid Blyton have been filmed by Danish director Katrine Hedman. The cast consisted of Danish actors and the movie was originally released in Danish. Ove Sprogøe stars as Uncle Quentin. The movies are: De 5 og spionerne (Five and the Spies) (1969) and De 5 i fedtefadet (Famous Five Get in Trouble) (1970).

Computer Game

In 1990 an interactive fiction computer game based on the first of the books, Five On A Treasure Island, was released. It was programmed by Colin Jordan and first released for the little known SAM Coupé by Enigma Variations.

He originally started coding the game on the ZX Spectrum using his own "worldscape" technique. When the SAM Coupé was launched, he switched to it as the target platform while still hosting the code on the ZX Spectrum. He later ported it to the Amstrad CPC and completed the ZX Spectrum version. The game was also ported to the Commodore 64, Amiga and Atari ST by others.


The Five also inspired the Comic Strip parody Five Go Mad in Dorset and its sequel Five Go Mad On Mescalin, in which the characters express sympathies with Nazi Germany and opposition to the Welfare State, homosexuals, immigrants and Jews, in an extremely broad parody not so much of Blyton but of wider perceived 1950s prejudices. The parodies were deliberately set towards the end of the original Famous Five "era" ( 1942- 1963) so as to make the point that the books were already becoming outmoded while they were still being written, although the continuing popularity of the books even in the 21st Century may be seen to suggest otherwise.

A story in The Guardian's G2 supplement also parodies the Famous Five. It argues that Anne, Dick, George and Julian are caricatures rather than characters, portraying Anne as having no life outside of domestic labour. It highlights what the writer, Lucy Mangan, considers to the power struggle between Dick, George and Julian while Anne is sidelined. It also suggests that the lives of the children are ideological rather than realistic, referring to a "delicious fruit cake they had bought from the local paedophile - sorry, red-cheeked farmer and his wife - that morning".

New Series

In 2005 Chorion announced the production of a new animated series based on the books, to be broadcast on British television in 2007.

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