Sunday, 21 September 2014

Fun with The Famous Five

My little girl brought home some Famous Five books from the school library. I quite liked reading them as a child, so I read a few again to see if they as bad as the literary snobs say.

They are.

Here's a classic bit of muddled English from "Five Go Off In A Caravan", page 95:

"We don't want to come back and find the caravans damaged or half our things stolen" said George.

"I should think not!" said Dick. "… I think we ought to leave Timmy on guard, don't you, Ju?" said Dick.

"Yes I do," said Julian at once, "These caravans are too valuable to leave at the mercy of any passing tramp - though I suppose we could lock them up."

What strikes you most is that the books turn the traditional crime novel plot back to front. In the Famous Five books, the children identify the suspects first, then wait for the inevitable crime to be committed, then pin the crime on the suspects and then have them arrested.

Isn't the crime supposed to happen first and then the master detective works out who the suspects are and narrows the field down to the actual perpetrator?

Inspector Barnaby adopts the latter approach, but doesn't bother eliminating suspects using logic, he just waits for them to be murdered one by one, and whoever is the last suspect to remain alive is the one who did it.


Furor Teutonicus said...

My favourite Blyton quote comes from Five go to smugglers top;

There is, horror of horrors a pickeninny in the school, and they invite him on holiday wit them.

(Julian, IIRC) to Uncle Quentin;

"We call him sooty.

That's not nice. It is not his fault he is black, replied Uncle Quentin."

Mark Wadsworth said...

FT, she's got that one as well.

I quote from page 7:

"Sooty! Now why do you call him that?" said Uncle Quentin. "It's seems a silly name for a boy."

"If you saw him you wouldn't think so," said Dick, with a laugh. "He's awfully dark. Hair as black as soot, eyes like bits of coal, eyebrows that look as if they've been put in with charcoal! And his name means 'The Black One', doesn't it? Le-Noir - that's French for black".

Do you see how she neatly sidesteps the racism thing by saying that he's called Sooty because of his name and not because he looks like a foreigner?

The racism in Caravan is much closer to the surface.

Furor Teutonicus said...

It may say that NOW.

But I am quoting from the first edition from 1945, that I still have around somewhere. And the same from a 1953 <> edition.

Mark Wadsworth said...

FT, please dig out the original version and tell us the exact wording!.

I've noticed other bits which have clearly been re-written, but with no clue as to the original wording.

Furor Teutonicus said...

I have around 4,500 books in three different houses, but I will see what I can do.

There was a big row about the re-writting in the media about ten years ago.

But that was not the first rewrite. Around 20 years ago, Radio 4 had a programme about how Enid Blyton was being re written, and if it would change the context.

The Stigler said...

Viz used to have fun with this sort of thing, a 1950s style boy and his dog which signalled who the evil-doers were. Normally, the "crimes" they were committing were things like having a supermarket outside the village where they could buy cheap lager, and the punishment ridiculously harsh.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, yes Jack Black And His Dog Silver boiled the Famous Five down to its basic elements.

Furor Teutonicus said...

MW, from the 97 version;


quentin suddenly asked, taking a letter from his pocket.
‘I believe he goes to your school and Dick’s,
‘Pierre Lenoir – oh you mean old Sooty,’ said
‘Yes – he’s in Dick’s form. Mad as a hatter.’
‘Sooty! Now why do you call him that?’ said Uncle
quentin. ‘It seems a silly name for a boy.’
‘If you saw him you wouldn’t think so,’ said Dick, with
a laugh. ‘He’s awfully dark! Hair as black as soot, eyes
like bits of coal, eyebrows that look as if they’ve been put
in with charcoal."

But that is after this row about the rewrite, and the accusations that Blyton was racist.

At the time of the Radio 4 programme, I believe some librarys, and schools had pulled the books because of it.

A K Haart said...

She also played tennis in the nude. Not sure if she was any good though.

Matthew said...

Contains some interesting bits


Mark Wadsworth said...

AKH, nothing wrong with that, as long as your opponent doesn't mind.

M, excellent, thanks. "Enid Blyton is nothing if not formulaic…". Excellent.