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Research Topic: How old were the Famous Five?

By Ian Mander, 25 December 2005; updated 13 June 2006; updated 4 March 2009 including data and analysis of Timmy's age; updated 17 November 2010 including relocation of book 16 and the actual years added that the adventures occurred in; updated 15 May 2014 with book 2 notes and resulting changes; updated 19 November 2014 minor wording changes in article and change book notes to tabs; updated 22 November 2014 on dog aging; updated 2-3 March 2018 with more book 13 notes and other minor notes updates; updated 18 April 2018 due to a significant new ordering clue; updated 4-6 May 2018 due to Easter timings.

Other Famous Five pages:


Sequential Timeline | Optimised Timeline | Book References


Sequential Timeline

The Famous Five aged over the course of their adventures – the humans, at least – there's not much mention that Timmy aged at all once he got past the puppy stage, although he was affectionately referred to as "old Timmy" occasionally. Unfortunately if the adventures are in sequential order a lot of holidays are "wasted" and the "children" are decidedly adultish by the end of the series.

How old was Timmy?

When we are introduced to Timmy in book 1 he's apparently fully grown. George found him a year before that, and doesn't specify his age then other than him being "just a pup". Wikipedia says most dogs mature at 12-15 months.

How long do mongrels typically live? The answer is a little worrisome:

Life expectancy is based on averages. Actually the average lifespan of any dog whether purebred or of indetermin[ate] descent is between 10 to 12 years of age. However individual breeds may have shorter or longer average lifespans depending upon their breed.

However, some dogs have lived into their late teens or even twenties, especially if they have lots of exercise. Smaller dogs typically live longer than larger dogs. For more information see the Wikipedia article Aging in dogs:

According to the UC Davis Book of Dogs, small-breed dogs (such as small terriers) become geriatric at about 11 years; medium-breed dogs (such as larger spaniels) at 10 years; large-breed dogs (such as German Shepherd Dogs) at 8 years; and giant-breed dogs (such as Great Danes) at 7 years.

It's probably fair to assume that George gave Timmy lots of exercise (he often runs beside them while they're cycling) and not much chocolate (as she seems to do on page 34 of book 1 – chocolate can give dogs heart attacks), but Timmy's age by the last story may present a problem if the books are taken in sequential order, especially all the running around he would have had to do in the last few stories.

If we place the adventures in sequential order this is what we get:

Famous Five Sequential Timeline
Ages Spring/Easter Summer Autumn Winter/Christmas

Julian: 12
Dick/George: 11
Anne: 10

Timmy: 1

  1 - Treasure
Alf (James): 14
  2 - Tutor

Julian: 13
Dick/George: 12
Anne: 11

  3 - Run Away
Edgar Stick: 13-14
Jenny Armstrong: 8?
Alf (James): 15
   

Julian: 14
Dick/George: 13
Anne: 12

4 - Smugglers
Pierre "Sooty" Lenoir: 13
Marybelle Lenoir: 12
5 - Caravan
Nobby: 10?
   

Julian: 15
Dick/George: 14
Anne: 13

6 - Kirrin Island
James (Alf): 17
Martin Curton: 16
7 - Ghost Train
Jock, Cecil: 12
   

Julian: 16
Dick/George: 15
Anne: 14

8 - Owl's Dene
Richard Kent: 12 (oops)
9 - Red Tower
Jo: 13?
10 - Hike  

Julian: 17
Dick/George: 16
Anne: 15

11 - Circus Folk
Jo: 14?

12 - Cornwall Sea
Yan: 8-10?

   

Julian: 18
Dick/George: 17
Anne: 16

13 - Horses
Henrietta/Henry/Harry (Hairy?): 17
Sniffer: 10?
William: 11
Old Ben: 81+

14 - Berta/Leslie/Jane
Berta Lesley: 14?
James (Alf): 20
Jo: 15?

   

Julian: 19
Dick/George: 18
Anne: 17

  15 - Roman Camp
Guy & Harry Lawdler: 12-13
   

Julian: 20
Dick/George: 19
Anne: 18

Whitsun (June):
16 - Billycock Caves
Benny Thomas: 5
Toby Thomas: 19-20
    17 - Wales, Snow
Aily: 7?

Julian: 21
Dick/George: 20
Anne: 19

  18 - Finniston Farm
Henry & Harriet Philpot 10-12?
Junior Henning 11
   

Julian: 22
Dick/George: 21
Anne: 20

19 - Lighthouse
Tinker: 9
     

Julian: 23
Dick/George: 22
Anne: 21

Timmy: 12

20 - Whispering Island
Wilfred: 10
Boat-boy: 15

     

Julian: 24
Dick/George: 23
Anne: 22

Timmy: 13

21 - Tapper's Circus
Tinker Hayling: 11
Jeremy Tapper: 11

     

Obviously, this raises all sorts of questions, like why would young adults in their early twenties want to holiday with a nine year old in book 19? (Admittedly, a lighthouse is a pretty good reason!) How did a very old dog cope with the huge amount of running around with bicycles in the last couple of books? Why didn't Julian and Dick have at least one car between them when they seemed quite posh? These are issues that probably just won't ever have answers.


Sequential Timeline | Optimised Timeline | Book References


Optimised Timeline

Sometimes aging was expressed by Enid Blyton, most of the time it has to be inferred. If we assume the children did actually age*, we can take one of two views: Either Enid Blyton was rather careless with how the stories related to each other because it was too much trouble making sure the Five didn't get too old, or she was very clever, and omitted mentioning their ages but left important clues which allow us to place the Famous Five adventures in the "actual" order they happened, which means we can work out the "actual" ages of the children in each of the adventures. Surprisingly, they almost all fit, with very few significant contradictions, one of which is easily resolvable with a single-word text change.

*We have to remember they're only kids' books. And it seems very likely that she only intended to write the first six, but found she was onto a good thing, so kept going.

George's birthday is between the Christmas and Easter holidays (they have a three term year), so there's the implication the others had their birthdays at other times of the year. However, in book 2 (winter) they are all still the same age as book 1 (summer the same year), so their birthdays are all in the first half of the year.

It's desirable for Anne to be as young as possible in April (due to an irreconcilable contradiction with Richard's clearly stated age, where a minor correction becomes necessary), so I've arbitrarily decreed her birthday to be between the Easter and Summer holidays. Of course, this also slightly helps explain why she tends to be looked down on, and is often given special consideration by her brothers for being small and/or weak – she's a year and a few months younger than George.

To keep them all as young as possible (for those who wishfully think they never grew up) Julian's and Dick's birthdays might also occur at the same time of year, between the Easter and summer holidays. However, that would mean that all spring/Easter adventures (of which there are a lot) have George the same age as Julian – in whole years, anyway. This is very unlikely since Julian bosses George around quite a lot (mostly based on her being a girl, the male chauvinist pig) and George goes along with it, albeit angrily for the most part. In all the many spring and Easter adventures she never once mentions that she is the same age as Julian. This implies that Julian is a little more than a full year older. It's possible George's birthday was mentioned in book 11 simply because out of the four children she had the most recent birthday before that adventure.

Since this timeline is an "optimised" timeline, some adventures have been moved from their sequential positions. This optimisation of the timeline means the final story is three years earlier than it would be if all stories were in their numerical order, and subtle "clues" from the books are incorporated to eliminate contradictions. Extra characters have ages given or calculated where information is available from the books. The rest are just guesses.

Boxes with a green background are definite placements of the adventures in the timeline, with the caveat that it's possible there could be an extra year (and adventures) inserted between book 3 and book 4.

Boxes with  cyan  or  pink  or  yellow  backgrounds or  purple   border  are required placements of those adventures relative to each other of the same colour. They are in the required order but not necessarily the required spacing. The exception is book 18 which just needs to be before book 14, so it could be placed before book 9 (although the reason for book 18 being linked to book 14 is questionable and easily explained away).

Book 14 is their 14th adventure, and is signified with a  green border .

At present the problem of Richard Kent's age can be resolved by simply replacing the word "older" by "younger" and accepting that Anne's first impression was wrong. See the notes on book 8 below.

Update 13 June 2006: I've moved the placement of book 10 because of the requirement for book 14 to be the 14th adventure. It makes that year a very busy one.

Update 4 March 2009: Green boxes are now emphasised a little more, and the colour key above has been clarified. Also minor typos fixed, and an explanation added to the book 2 notes as to why that book in optimised position 2 doesn't have a background colour when there is probably ample evidence to firmly place it in the timeline. (Since rectified!) Also an extra note for book 15 about the minimum age for first aid courses.

Update 17 November 2010: The biggest change is moving book 16 to as early as possible – I think this is a better placement instead of after book 21 and before book 14; it means several adventures get renumbered, but significantly allows the years to be assigned! I've given book 14 a green border since it's a relative placement to the first few adventures. I've written a few extra comments on some of the books, including several confirming that book 19 isn't placed too early. Also, I checked the life span of monkeys. In the optimised order Mischief, Tinker's monkey, ages by four years instead of two years in the sequential order (since changed back to two years in the Optimised Timeline), but that isn't a problem as monkeys live much longer than that.

Update 18 April 2018: A correspondent has just pointed out that book 5 is straight after book 4 – see the chapter notes for why – which means the timeline has to be updated. Simply rearranging book 4, book 19 and book 21 puts book 4 into its new-found correct position in the timeline. Tinker's age in his second appearance reduces by three years, putting him at just a year older than his first appearance. Unfortunately this reintroduces the problem of the three oldest Five being old enough to buy tobacco.

Because book 21 moves one year later and must be in a year ending in 8, it takes its year with it. That shifts most of the other adventures one year earlier, putting book 16 in June 1954 – too early for the Five to have a portable transistor radio, since they first came out in November of that year. Hence book 16 must be moved at least a year later. For various reasons it's unlikely that all the adventures happened ten years later (in the 1960s), but just moving book 16 one year later appears to do the job.

Update 4-6 May 2018: Colour key clarified again and some more changes.

New information regarding more precise story Easter timings* implies book 8 should be one year earlier or two years later; 1954 or 1957, and book 19 should be one year earlier, to 1956. Both of these changes can easily be achieved by swapping book 21 and book 13 in the optimised timeline, and again moving book 16 one year later (so it stays in 1955). Various extra characters become a year younger in various books, and Tinker gets an extra year older in book 21 (so he's now 9 and 11 in his two adventures). Three adventures need renumbering.

* In case you're wondering, yes, this means I'm connecting the timing and sequencing of two of the Famous Five adventures to real-world Moon phases.

According to Wikipedia, Easter always falls on a Sunday between 22 March and 25 April. Elsewhere I found Easter Sunday dates for the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s (with those noted which fall relatively early or late, meaning within a week of the earliest or latest dates it can be):

  • 1940: 24 March (early).
  • 1941: 13 April.
  • 1942: 5 April.
  • 1943: 25 April (late).
  • 1944: 9 April.
  • 1945: 1 April.
  • 1946: 21 April (late).
  • 1947: 6 April.
  • 1948: 28 March (early).
  • 1949: 17 April.
  • 1950: 9 April.
  • 1951: 25 March (early).
  • 1952: 13 April.
  • 1953: 5 April.
  • 1954: 18 April (late).
  • 1955: 10 April.
  • 1956: 1 April.
  • 1957: 21 April (late).
  • 1958: 6 April.
  • 1959: 29 March (early).
  • 1960: 17 April.
  • 1961: 2 April.
  • 1962: 22 April (late).
  • 1963: 14 April.
  • 1964: 29 March (early).
  • 1965: 18 April (late).
  • 1966: 10 April.
  • 1967: 26 March (early).
  • 1968: 14 April.
  • 1969: 6 April.

However, the stories cannot be in the 1940s because of the technology – specifically a portable transistor radio in book 16 and mention of a Morris Minor in book 19. If they are set in the 1950s book 19 and book 21 must be two years apart to fit the dates of Easter for book 8 (1954) and book 19 (1956). If the adventures are in the 1960s (see separate 1960s Optimised Timeline) then book 19 and book 21 must be one year apart, with book 8 thus in 1965. That could be done simply by moving book 13 and book 15 to the year after book 21.

I've also tidied up the ages of a few of the extras. Some of those figures were beginning to look a bit hairy after all the recent shuffling.

There are still three problems. These adventures are shown in the timeline by boxes with a  red border . The first two problems can be reasonably easily attributed to a character in the book making a mistake. The last problem needs a little more work to find possible solutions.

  1. In book 8 Richard Kent's age (a definite 12) is at least 9 or 10 months less than Anne's, not a little more.
    • Solution: Anne was simply mistaken due to his solid build, or besotted. More detail (maybe more than you really want) in the book 8 notes.
  2. In book 19 George is concerned about Timmy climbing the spiral staircase in the lighthouse, but Timmy has already climbed a spiral staircase in book 6.
    • Solution: George was simply mistaken. She's either a worrier or she has a bad memory when it comes to Timmy's achievements.
    • Solution: See the Alternate Optimised Timeline.
  3. In book 19 the new, late placement means Julian, Dick and George are all old enough to buy tobacco.
    • This might be the most serious problem yet found.
    • Solution: Julian didn't have any identification that showed he was old enough. (It is also possibly an editorial or later change and it was originally written as being handed over in person.)
    • Solution: See the Alternate Optimised Timeline.

The Famous Five books in optimised order:

Famous Five Optimised Timeline
Year Ages Spring/Easter Summer Ages Summer

Autumn &
Winter/Christmas

1950 Before Five first met.

Julian: 12
Dick/George: 11
Anne: 10

Timmy: 1

1: 1 - Treasure
Alf (James): 14
2: 2 - Tutor
1951 Julian: 13
Dick/George: 12
Anne: 10
Visited Kirrin Island and "had plenty of fun" but no adventure. Julian: 13
Dick/George: 12
Anne: 11
3: 3 - Run Away
Edgar Stick: 13-14
Jenny Armstrong: 8?
Alf (James): 15
Julian, Dick and Anne move out of London, do not visit Kirrin Island.
1952

Julian: 14
Dick/George: 13
Anne: 11

4: 4 - Smugglers
Pierre "Sooty" Lenoir: 13
Marybelle Lenoir: 11
Julian: 14
Dick/George: 13
Anne: 12
5: 5 - Caravans
Nobby: 10?
No adventures – Five did not get together.
1953

Julian: 15
Dick/George: 14
Anne: 12

6: 6 - Kirrin Island
James (Alf): 16-17
Martin Curton: 16

Julian: 15
Dick/George: 14
Anne: 13

7: 7 - Ghost Train
Jock, Cecil: 12
 
1954 Julian: 16
Dick/George: 15
Anne: 13
Mid April (a late Easter)
8: 8 - Owl's Dene
Richard Kent: 12 (oops!)
Julian: 16
Dick/George: 15
Anne: 14
2 September
9: 9 - Red Tower
Jo: 12?
 
1955 Julian: 17
Dick/George: 16
Anne: 14
10: 11 - Circus & Castle
Jo: 13?
Whitsun (June):
11: 16 - Billycock Caves
Benny Thomas: 5
Toby Thomas: 16-17
Julian: 17
Dick/George: 16
Anne: 15
12: 18 - Finniston Farm
Henry & Harriet Philpot 10-12?
Junior Henning 11
Great Grandad: 81+
 
1956 Julian: 18
Dick/George: 17
Anne: 15
Beginning of April
13: 19 - Lighthouse
Tinker: 9
Jeremiah Boogle: 85+
Julian: 18
Dick/George: 17
Anne: 16
14: 14 - Berta/Leslie/Jane
Berta Lesley: 14?
James (Alf): 20
Jo: 14?
Autumn (late October)
15: 10 - Hike
16: 17 - Wales, Snow
Aily: 7?
1957 Julian: 19
Dick/George: 18
Anne: 16
17: 13 - Horses
Henrietta/Henry/Harry (Hairy?): 18
Sniffer: 10?
William: 11
Old Ben: 81+
Julian: 19
Dick/George: 18
Anne: 17
18: 15 - Roman Camp
Guy & Harry Lawdler: 12-13
 
1958 Julian: 20
Dick/George: 19
Anne: 17
19: 21 - Tapper's Circus
Tinker Hayling: 11
Jeremy Tapper: 11
Julian: 20
Dick/George: 19
Anne: 18
20: 12 - Cornwall Sea
Yan: 8-10?
Grandad: 92+
 
1959

Julian: 21
Dick/George: 20
Anne: 18

Timmy: 9-10

21: 20 - Whispering Island
Wilfred: 10
Boat-boy: 15
That's all, folks.

This places Timmy at an old but still reasonable age for an easy life in retirement, before he gets too old to run next to a bike in the last story.


Sequential Timeline | Optimised Timeline | Book References


Book references

All page references are to the 1967-1971 Knight editions of the books. For synopses of the books see www.enidblyton.net/famous-five.

1. Five on a Treasure Island

  • The first adventure, the five first meet.
  • The children are introduced as being 10 to 12 years old.
  • George says she found Timmy "out on the moors when he was just a pup, a year ago" (page 30).
  • Alf (known in some later books as James) is described as being "about fourteen years old." (Page 40.)
  • Julian, Dick and Anne live in London, an 8 hour drive away from Kirrin Cottage.
    • It would surely take less than 8 hours these days.

2. Five Go Adventuring Again

  • Christmas holidays.
  • Have misplaced my copy, so I haven't been able to read it for positioning clues. :(
  • Nigel Rowe says Julian commands Timmy to shake hands with the tutor, but Timmy refuses. So Timmy at this point knows how to shake, but this isn't a spontaneous offer to shake as he first does in book 16, so it doesn't affect the timeline.
  • Update: May 2014, a friend has supplied a copy!
  • There are multiple references to adventures (plural) they have had, but never mention of any adventures since the summer.
    • "The three of them had stayed with George in the summer, and had had some exciting adventures together on the little island off the coast." (Page 13.)
    • "The two looked out to sea, where the old ruined castle stood on the little island of Kirrin – what adventures they had had there in the summer!" (Page 16.)
    • "'Do you remember our marvellous adventures in the summer?'" (Page 20.)
    • "'I wish we could have some more exciting adventures.'" (Page 21.)
  • It seems George had been homeschooled before going to Gaylands School (pages 11 & 17 – what a name!), placing this story early in the timeline, and the first one to mention her at or going to school.
  • Joan/Joanna the cook is new (page 18).
    • Evidently finding the treasure was a Good Thing.
  • "They were very much of an age – Julian was twelve, George and Dick were eleven, and Anne was ten." (Page 21.) This fixes the book in relation to book 1, and means they all have their birthdays in the first half of the year.
  • Dick mentions wanting to see "Aladdin and the Lamp, and the Circus" (page 21). It could be a reference to anything, but Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp was a 1939 short film with Popeye as Aladdin. This book was first published in 1943.
  • Tim doesn't shake hands with Mr Roland, the tutor (page 31).
  • Anne (age 10, remember) plans to buy Mr Roland a packet of cigarettes as a Christmas present (page 62). But even in 1943 she was too young, as it was illegal from 1933 to sell cigarettes to anyone under 16. For more on that see book 19 where Julian is apparently not old enough to buy tobacco.
  • Timmy hasn't seen snow before (page 123). He's about a year and a half old at this point.
    • Perhaps it was too warm to snow at Kirrin the previous year.

3. Five Run Away Together

  • Set in summer one year after book 1, so children must be one year older than in that book, ie 11 to 13 years old.
    • George (page 8): "Oh Tim – do you remember the adventures we had on Kirrin Island last summer?"
    • "Tim remembered quite well... He had been down in the dungeons of the castle with the others; he had helped to find the treasure there".
    • George again: "do you remember how Dick climbed down the deep well-shaft to rescue us?"
  • George has been by herself for the first three weeks of the summer holiday and Julian, Dick and Anne had gone away with their parents, so there are no adventures in this summer prior to this one.
  • Mentions (page 7) that "in the holidays ... [the Five] usually joined up together and had plenty of fun. Now it was the summer holidays, and already three weeks had gone by."
    • The "usually" implies they may have met up and had fun (but no adventure?) the Easter before this adventure.
    • It also implies this book is not later in the same summer holiday as book 1.
  • A more conclusive point (page 8) is George saying "I haven't been able to go to you [Kirrin Island] yet this summer, because my boat was being mended". So this adventure cannot be later in the same summer holiday as book 1, or any other book featuring a visit to Kirrin Island.
  • George's mother said two or three years ago that George could have Kirrin Island (page 9).
  • At the start of the story George is dressed in jeans (page 7).
    • "First published in 1944 ... This edition first published 1967 ... Eleventh impression 1975".
    • Were jeans a thing in 1944? It seems extremely unlikely. Is the mention of jeans just a change for the 1967 edition?
    • See book 19 for more notes on the history of jeans.
  • Do they have parental permission to go camping alone?
    • It doesn't sound like it (page 9): " 'I wish Mother would let us go and live on the island for a week,' thought George."
    • She raises the idea with her cousins (page 12): "We are older now, and I'm sure Mother would let us."
  • George drives a pony and trap to collect her cousins (page 10-11). No mention of a car.
  • Joan (Joanna) is not ill (page 13), but she "had to go and look after her mother, who broke her leg."
  • Edgar (page 16) "seemed about thirteen or fourteen, a stupid, yet sly-looking youth."
  • Julian calls Timmy "sir" (page 16). What a polite boy.
  • Jennifer Mary Armstrong is described as "a small girl" without any age given.
  • Jenny is old enough to recover quickly and for the Five to want to have around for a week on the Island after the adventure.
  • Alf/James still Alf.
  • Tinker is, um, a dog in this story. I prefer him as a boy, as in book 19 and book 21.
    • Why does Enid Blyton reuse so many names?

4. Five Go To Smuggler's Top

  • Starts "One fine day right at beginning of the Easter holidays" (page 7). Cold, windy; fishermen expecting a big storm.
  • The Five "haven't been [to Kirrin Island] since last summer" which isn't specifically mentioned in book 15 (they camp on the moor) but is in book 14.
  • Anne says Dick's book can't be as exciting as "some of the adventures we've had!" (page 8, emphasis in original).
  • George says Julian has "gone thin" (page 8) – a growth spurt in his early teens? Or just not eating enough at school?
    • She doesn't say he has "gone tall" but it could still be a growth spurt. Was Julian chubby before going through adolescence?
    • Or... has he been dieting since getting stuck in a passage, say, in book 15?
  • Marybelle is "a girl of about Anne's age" and Sooty is "a boy of Dick's age" (page 35).
  • "George found herself twinkling at him [Sooty] in a way quite strange to her" (page 35). I have no idea what that's supposed to mean (and don't think I want to know), but I suspect it must be her teenage hormones finally kicking in.
  • Timmy offers his paw to Mr Lenoir (page 181), but it was not spontaneously; it was prompted by George.
    • This has no positioning requirements relative to book 16 which according to George is the first time Timmy does it spontaneously.
  • It appears there are no specific references to previous adventures, so it's possible there may be a gap between book 3 and book 4.

5. Five Go Off in a Caravan

  • August, first week of summer holidays, so cannot be set in any earlier year, as it can't be before book 3.
  • Dick rules out cycling as an option because Anne couldn't ride as fast as the others (page 9), so Anne is still quite young.
  • They have a horse, Dobby, which has the implication that Julian, Dick and Anne no longer live in London. This places the move quite early in the timeline. They also live out of London in book 19 and up.
  • A correspondent has pointed out a problem with the optimised order as I then had it. In book 5 in the middle of chapter 17 (page 137) Dick points out the previous adventure was book 4, when they went to Smuggler's Top. This will change things.
    • Dick says "Now, last holls we went to a place called Smuggler's Top – and, my word, the adventures we had there!"
  • Pongo was the name of a chimpanzee which was the "star attraction in 1884 at the Zoological Park in Walton, Liverpool" according to Wikipedia.
    • The book was first published in 1946.
    • Pongo is also the genus name of orangutans.

6. Five on Kirrin Island Again

  • Easter the year after book 5.
  • George thinks Anne already knows what Kirrin Island is like at Easter – how? The only Easter adventure written at this point was when they went to Smuggler's Top, book 4 – they never got to Kirrin Island then.
    • No other book set at Easter includes visiting Kirrin Island, as they're all set somewhere else.
    • However, book 3 (page 7) mentions that the Five "usually joined up together and had plenty of fun."
    • The easiest solution is they had fun on Kirrin Island but no adventure the Easter preceeding (or immediately after) book 3.
  • The Five have not stayed together since they went caravanning in book 5 – ie, no adventures can be squeezed in there.
  • George has Timmy at school (page 12 et al).
  • Timmy went up the tower (page 38) "having managed the spiral stairs with difficulty." On his way down (page 40) Timmy pushed passed Anne and "disappeared below her at a remarkably fast pace."
    • No trouble going down just one page later (page 39 was a full page illustration) – almost as though it took a while to remember how to do it.
    • Or maybe he's just having a problem with gravity – weighed down on the way up and mostly out of control on the "weigh" down.
    • See book 19 for another spiral staircase he learns to climb, according to George for the first time.
  • We read that Martin Curton looks about 16 and the coastguard tells Julian that Martin is "about your age, I should think." (Page 55.)
    • Enid Blyton obviously meant for the children to get older if Julian is looking this old already. However, aging at this rate is another indication that the adventures (especially the later ones) are not all in sequential order (or that she only intended to write the first six).
    • After the first six books started selling so incredibly well she started writing more of them. Wikipedia says By the end of 1953 more than six million copies had been sold. Today, more than two million copies of the books are sold each year, making them one of the biggest-selling series for children ever written. Over a hundred million books have been sold.
    • Wikipedia also points out Blyton's publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, first used the term "The Famous Five" in 1951, after nine books in the series had been published. Before this, the series was referred to as The 'Fives' Books.
    • Julian might look a little older than he is – 15 at this stage – but if an extra year could be squeezed between book 3 and book 4 Julian would actually be 16.

7. Five Go Off To Camp

  • Set in summer, one year after book 5.
  • Book starts with planning the trip, six days before they leave for the moors.
  • As Nigel Rowe points out, they are being allowed to go camping "in spite of the terrific adventure we had last summer, when we went off in caravans". No mention of the shenanigans on Kirrin Island at Easter here, though, or of any other adventures.

8. Five Get Into Trouble

  • Easter, which is late this year, meaning mid April.
    • Julian says (page 28) "it's only mid-April!"
    • Aunt Fanny says to Quentin "have you forgotten how we discussed having Julian, Dick and Anne here these Easter holidays because they all enjoy Kirrin and the sea so much at this time of the year? ... you know Easter came late this year" (page 10). That present tense "enjoy" (instead of "enjoyed") implies they have spent more than one Easter at Kirrin.
    • Best options for Easter Sunday are 1954 (18 April) or 1957 (21 April); 1957 would make it hard for book 21 to be in a year ending in 8.
    • Poor options for Easter Sunday are 1955 (10 April), 1956 (1 April) – too early, not suitable.
  • The first time they go camping after book 7.
    • As camping plans are made for their new Christmas present tents (page 12) Dicks points out "It's grand weather now".
  • Anne must be older now because she can keep up with the others cycling (see book 5).
    • However (page 30), "Anne fell asleep first. She was the smallest and was more easily tired with long walks and rides than the others, though she always kept up with them valiantly."
  • How old is Richard Thurlow Kent?
    • Richard has a "golden head" (page 33).
    • His main description (page 34) is from Anne's point of view: "He was not much older that she was, and not as big as Julian or Dick, but he was sturdily made, and had laughing blue eyes she liked." He was also shirtless, having just emerged from the pond.
    • Richard is probably just trying to wind Anne up when he says (page 38) "just as if I was a kid like Anne here."
    • The radio news (page 159): "Missing from home since Wednesday, Richard Thurlow Kent, a boy of twelve, well-built, fair hair, blue eyes, wearing grey shorts and grey jersey. Probably on a bicycle."
  • Problem: Richard Thurlow Kent being "not much older than [Anne]" (page 34) is one of the few even slightly serious boo-boo on Enid's part in the whole timeline (apart from them still being referred to as children when they're into their twenties!). However, the description is clearly incorporated as part of Anne's first impression of him, so needn't be strictly accurate.
  • We know when this story is set relative to book 5, and that's OK as it allows Anne to grow up a bit to be able to cope with the cycling (which she wasn't able to do then), but book 5 couldn't itself be any earlier because it can't be the same summer as book 3 (or book 1, obviously). In other words, Anne is a minimum of 13 years old in Five Get Into Trouble, a few months short of 14.
  • Richard Kent is thus at least nine or ten months younger than Anne; hence the line should read "not much younger than Anne".
  • As an aside:
    • Describing Richard as "not much older than Anne" is a bit hopeful anyway, really. Does he look a very similar age? It's not like all children look exactly the age they are, so the "not much" can only be a very loose comparison.
    • Why not describe his age in relation to Dick? Something like "a little younger than Dick" – which being both boys might make more sense, but he was described from Anne's point of view. (It does say he was "not as big as Julian or Dick".) It may lend weight to the idea that Anne is more than a year younger than Dick and George.
    • My conclusion is that if Anne thought Richard looked older than her it's probable that Richard looks older than he is – helped, no doubt, by him being "sturdily made" and "well built" – but could still be short for his age, especially compared to Julian and Dick. Or that she developed an instant crush on his "laughing blue eyes" and his "sturdily made" bare chest and thus simply got it wrong (especially since being a very demure girl would have wanted her "man" to be older and thus more authoritative than her). So the description isn't a death blow for the optimised timeline.

9. Five Fall Into Adventure

  • Starts on 2 September! Last two weeks of eight week (!) summer break.
  • Julian and Dick have been in France for the first six weeks, so no adventures can be squeezed into the first part of these hols.
    • How inefficient!
  • First appearance of Jo.
    • Introducing younger characters without any reference to the Five's ages was a clever way of keeping the stories relatable for young readers, who were free to assume any age for the Five they wanted.

10. Five on a Hike Together

  • October, mid-term break.
    • It would be hard to do these days, with late October being right in the middle of Cambridge exams.
  • Miss Peters (a name that seems very familiar – one of the Secret Seven was Peter) isn't at all surprised or worried in the slightest by the idea of them going off by themselves for a weekend, so even Anne must be quite old by this time.
  • George has Timmy at school.
  • The Five are old enough to have "coffee and cream" for breakfast in a village.
    • Maybe in 1951 (when it was first published) children did that sort of thing, but it lends support for placing this story late in the timeline when they're in their late teens.

11. Five Have a Wonderful Time

  • April.
  • First hols since George's birthday, implying that the others have their birthdays at some other time of year – there's no mention that they've all had a birthday since the previous hols.
    • It's more likely she just has her birthday the latest of the three older ones. This would fit with the idea she's a little over one year younger than Julian (an idea explored in the above notes just before the optimised timeline).
  • Previous adventure with Jo (book 9) was "the year before".

12. Five Go Down to the Sea

  • Summer, very hot.
  • Yan is more than 80 years younger than his great grandfather, who first saw the wreckers' light "near 90 years ago".
  • Yan gets unceremonially dunked in a tub to be bathed, so is probably quite young, and/or rather slight of frame.
  • At the end of the story Julian and Dick are presented with Clopper, but the suit is never mentioned again in any other book, even book 21 when Tinker wishes he had one. Hence book 21 is most likely before this one.

13. Five Go to Mystery Moor

  • April (page 12, page 190).
  • Is anyone not yet tired of girls trying to look like boys?
    • "Henry's real name was Henrietta, but she would only answer to Henry, or Harry to her very best friends." (Page 10.)
    • "She was about as old as George" (page 10).
  • Anne is still at school (page 9), while Julian and Dick have gone camping with their school (page 10). It is not mentioned or implied that George is still at school.
  • There are several clues that the Five and Henrietta are "older" – perhaps in their mid teens.
    • William is first described as "a small boy" (page 15). Henrietta says he is "only eleven" (page 167), as if she's much older than that.
    • Henrietta refers (page 24) to "rather a lot of small kids at the stables" – William is one of these – implying that Julian and Dick are not small.
  • Without a second thought Julian stands up to Sniffer's father when he tries to take his lame horse Clip in the middle of the night, preventing him doing so (page 46). This is beyond standing up to the Sticks in book 3 because Clip is Sniffer's father's horse. Sounds like Julian must be pretty old now.
  • Timmy apparently has trouble recognising another dog, Liz (page 64-66). Sounds like Timmy is getting senile in his old age.
    • A dog not knowing what another dog is – whatever it looks like – is really really dumb. (Timmy gets walloped on the head in this story, but that's not until later.)
  • An old story-teller is included in the form of the blacksmith.
    • "Old Ben was a mighty figure of a man, even though he was over eighty." (Page 80.)

14. Five Have Plenty of Fun

  • Summer, hot, three weeks left of holiday.
  • Boys have been abroad for the first four weeks of this holiday while Anne had been to camp and had a friend stay (page 17) so can't fit any other adventures in the same holiday.
  • Fanny mentions George first met her cousins "a few years ago" (page 55).
  • Dick mentions it's their 14th adventure and refers to two previous adventures with Jo (book 9 and book 11).
  • Adventure includes a trip to Kirrin Island.
  • Timmy is straight away great friends with a black poodle (page 51) might place this story after book 18 where he possibly meets a black poodle for the first time.

15. Five on a Secret Trail

  • August, hot at night, different hols from book 14.
    • Aunt Fanny to Anne (page 16): 'Will they [Julian and Dick] be coming down at all these holidays?' 'I don't know,' said Anne. 'They're still in France, you know, on a school-boys' tour.'
  • A particularly big gorse bush (page 108) has "a few yellow blooms on it still" possibly implying late summer, although Wikipedia says common gorse is thought to be always in bloom.
  • Julian ("like everybody else") is old enough to have done his First Aid Training (with capital initials).
    • A quick web search indicates 16 is the present minimum age for first aid courses in Britain, which is great, as the present optimised placement of this book has even Anne age 17.
    • The alternate timeline puts them at just 12 to 14 years old. Perhaps in the decade after the war... but there's no need!
    • www.sja.org.uk/sja/training-courses/courses-for-the-general-public/essential-first-aid-all-ages.aspx shows there's no problem at all: We welcome young people from the age of 12 onto all our community first aid courses. If under the age of 16, you must attend with a responsible adult member of the family or guardian (two young people per adult).
  • Julian gets stuck in the tunnel but Harry has no trouble, implying that Julian is much bigger (and older) than Harry.
    • Wild theory: Julian has put on a lot of weight. If this adventure is before book 4 George's comment in that adventure that Julian has "gone thin" means him getting stuck prompted him to start dieting. Makes perfect sense.

16. Five Go to Billycock Hill

  • Whitsun (seven weeks after Easter).
  • "The may was over now ..." Huh? Does that mean it's June?
  • A big gorse bush in this book also has a few yellow blooms on it still (see book 15). Wikipedia says common gorse is thought to be always in bloom.
  • Timmy spontaneously offers his paw to someone (Cousin Jeff), supposedly for the first time – 'Timmy's never done that before!' said George (page 73).
    • He also does it in book 17, implying that adventure is later than this one.
  • Toby is a friend from school (page 9), so is about Julian and Dick's age.
  • Toby's little brother Benny "didn't look more than five years old" (page 25).
  • There are a few implications this adventure is set quite early.
    • Anne doesn't consider the kids grown up yet (page 14).
    • The boys are still small enough to be easily held by the men at the Butterfly Farm. It must not have anything to do with Julian's height, because he's tall even in book 3. It could be all relative, or maybe the men were quite determined.
    • Strange noises are enough to make them run out of the caves.
    • Julian is normally ever-so-mature, but Toby convinces him to ignore a Keep Out sign to go swimming.
  • It must be at least a few years after the war, because they're allowed to camp near the airfield.
    • Perhaps the war should just be ignored in this timeline and/or the Blyton Universe, but the presence of a small airfield may be a clue that it's not decades after the war.
  • They have a small wireless radio, which were first developed in 1954 (this book was first published in 1957) but it wasn't until November 1954 that the first one was for sale. February 1955 saw a much better model released, albeit very expensive for children to have on a camping trip. However, being repeatedly referred to as posh children, it's quite believable for the Five to be early adopters of the new technology. This means 1955 is the earliest year this adventure could have taken place. Placing this adventure reasonably early in the timeline thus gives an earliest possible year for book 21.
    • This is also a good indication that Enid Blyton was happy to keep her characters up to date with technology. If she were writing now I'm sure she would embrace cellphones, GPS, video surveillance and the Internet in her stories – where such tech fit her plot, at least.
    • For an example of a present day writer very nicely incorporating modern tech into a story I strongly recommend The 1000 Year Old Boy.

17. Five Get Into a Fix

  • Christmas holidays, winter, one week before school is due to start again.
  • Must be after book 16, as Timmy spontaneously offers his paw to Mrs Jones (page 28).
  • It really stretches credibility to think that the Five (Julian in particular) would think that Morgan was a baddie after their lesson from misjudging Mr Penruthlan in book 12. Since they had evidence that Mr Penruthlan really wasn't on the level (eg, going through pockets, lying to his wife, etc) it's probable that this story is before that one.
  • Arguably the lamest story because the Five don't solve the crime, and only get in the way as they try to figure out what's going on. But they have lots of snow fun in the process.
  • Problem: Julian, Dick and Anne's mother is Mrs Barnard. The children are introduced as Kirrins in book 16. There's no mention of her ever remarrying...

18. Five on Finniston Farm

  • Summer, hot.
  • It's twice mentioned (in separate locations) that there are fields of corn waving in the breeze – mid to late summer?
  • Timmy apparently doesn't know what on earth a black poodle is (page 29), which would place this story before book 14 where Timmy is great friends with that black poodle straight away (page 51), but it cannot be in the first half of the same summer holiday as that adventure.
      • "He [Timmy] stood still and stared. What in the wide world was that funny little black creature? He gave another loud bark and shot over towards the poodle" (page 29).
    • A dog not knowing what another dog is – whatever it looks like – is really really dumb. (We know that Timmy was drugged in at least one story, and bashed on the head in another.)
    • This poodle issue is the only point that places it relative to the three Jo adventures.
    • What other reasons could Timmy have for being befuzzled? Was the poodle on heat? No, Snippet was a boy dog. Had it just been shampooed within an inch of its life and didn't smell like a dog anymore?
    • I've decided I'm reading too much into this. Timmy had just arrived in the dimly lit barn after being outside in the bright sunshine, and Snippet was across the other side of the barn. Timmy was simply dazzled, and took a moment to recognise that Snippet was a dog of a type he know he would be great friends with, so he ran to meet him.
    • Hence this adventure has no timeline links to other adventures.
    • I have to admit that a poodle is not the first breed of dog I'd pick for a farm.
  • The twins (described as "children" on page 17) must be quite pre-adolescent to look remotely like each other since they are fraternal, boy-girl twins. Yet even their mother can't tell them apart at times (page 21).
  • The four human Five seem to be given the OK to drive the tractor and the Land Rover (page 33), so even Anne must be reasonably old and mature.
  • Janie, the ten year old girl in the shop, is "small" (page 12) and "little" (page 14). These size descriptions are possibly compared to the four Five.
  • Janie's mother says [Great] Grandad [Finniston] is "over 80" (page 15).

19. Five Go To Demon's Rocks

  • George says "it's only the beginning of April" (page 31).
    • The "still too cold to sleep outside in a tent" (page 22) also makes it sound like it's quite early in the year; when they went camping in book 8 Easter was late that year.
    • George realises (page 31) it's "far too cold" to takes tents to Kirrin Island, and her mother says the weather forecast is "Rain, rain, nothing but rain."
  • It cannot be set just before book 6 in the same holiday as in that adventure they hadn't stayed together since they went caravanning in book 5.
  • As the story starts George has been staying with Julian, Dick and Anne and they are all due at Kirrin that day (page 8).
    • If they spent Easter weekend at Julian, Dick and Anne's home and it's still early April when they get to Kirrin, Easter must be reasonably early this year.
    • In 1953 Easter Sunday was on 5 April, and in 1956 on 1 April – both early enough to be nice options for fitting with the time of month, although 1953 means five years until their next Tinker adventure.
  • Julian, Dick and Anne now live within cycling distance of Kirrin (page 15), instead of the 8 hour drive from London in book 1.
    • They also clearly live out of London in book 5.
  • The story must be placed in 1949 or later.
    • Joan makes a reference to Tinker being a Morris Minor (page 24), a car introduced on 20 September 1948. If book 21 was in 1948, Joan would have to have known about the future release at least year and a half beforehand, in April 1947 at the latest, making Joan not only a car nut, but a car industry insider. But Tinker wasn't, so mention of a Morris Minor in 1947 or earlier wouldn't make any sense to him.
    • Even being a car nut, Tinker doesn't know cars with power windows have driver's controls (page 60), implying power windows are still very uncommon. In sedans they were available in high-end models from about 1948 and Wikipedia says "Ford also introduced full four-door power windows in sedans in 1954."
  • The lighthouse is only "About 10 miles along this coast to the west" and still has the old lamp (page 33).
    • Tinker says "Wreckers used to work along that coast" (page 35). So close, but it's a different bit of coast from the Kirrin Coast?
    • Julian explains that by sea it's not far "But by road it's a very long way" (page 46). Does that mean Kirrin itself is very remote? Or that there just aren't many roads around that bit of coast?
    • And yet the drive is "mostly round the coast, and very little inland" (page 61). Are they driving around a big harbour? Or driving really slowly on a really rough road?
    • They stop for lunch along the way and while eating the driver says "We'll be there in another hour or so" (page 61).
    • Book 20 features a harbour they may have had to drive around to get to the lighthouse. This would explain the long trip, and Julian may have mentioned it (but misunderstood it) when looking at the map: "cut across this bay" (page 46).
  • When was the lighthouse built and when did the wreckers operate?
    • On the way to the lighthouse (page 62) the driver (George Jackson) tells them about the lighthouse and the wreckers. "My word – the stories he used to tell me of that old light-house – and how the wreckers got into it one night and grabbed the keeper there, and doused the light, so that a great ship might go on the rocks."
    • Julian talking to Jeremiah (page 90) says "Jackson said you could tell us ... about the wreckers that lived here before the lighthouse was built." Emphasis added. But that's not what the driver said.
    • Tom the Tobacconist has a different story (page 101). "It's nigh on seventy years since all that happened. Why, that light-house yonder was built over sixty years ago – after that wrecking business went on."
    • The official sign on the cliff (page 103): "In the old days a lamp shone from this spot to give the ships warning, and later a small light-house was built out on Demon's Rocks. It is still in existence, but is no longer in use." Emphasis added.
    • Who's right? Jeremiah (page 90): "Pah! That young George Jackson is a ninny!"
  • Joan does cleaning and cooking.
    • Introduced in book 2.
    • Joan uses a carpet-sweeper not a vacuum cleaner (somewhat limiting how late a decade the story could be placed in) and made cakes the day before (page 8).
    • "Joan and cook" arrive from upstairs (page 17), but Joan is the cook.
    • "Joan did an enormous amount of cooking" (page 22) and (for example) rolls out pastry (page 37).
  • Professor Hayling has stayed at Kirrin Cottage years before (pages 7, 11).
  • Tinker is "about 9" (page 11) and is "a small boy" (several times on pages 16-17), perhaps compared to George and Julian.
    • Apparently named after a little smelly mangy dog in book 3.
    • Julian calls Tinker "old son" and even thinks of him as a small boy (page 17).
    • Appears to be a bit younger than the others; Jeremiah pokes him (page 91), saying "a boy not much older than this here youngster".
    • If the story is placed quite early (between book 3 and book 4 is the only option now), Tinker, at 9 years old, is only a couple of years younger than Anne. This is tricky to do, though.
  • Jeremiah must be in his mid eighties.
    • Tom the Tobacconist says (page 99) Jeremiah "Never forgets a thing, even if it happened eighty or more years ago!"
  • George is apparently a teenager.
    • She is still at school (page 34).
    • "She [George] dug her hands deep down in the pockets of her jeans" (page 50).
      • Did the original text say jeans? My version has text copyright 1961, this edition first published 1970, sixth impression 1975. What was changed for the 1970 edition?
      • Apparently after Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953) and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) jeans became a symbol of youth rebellion in the 1950s US, then became more acceptable during the 1960s, and became general fashion in the US in the 1970s.
  • Julian is old.
    • He makes all the travel arrangements himself (pages 49-50).
      • It's unclear who pays for them. The man at the garage knows Mr (Quentin) Kirrin so the garage man may have just sent a bill later.
    • A policeman repeatedly addresses Julian as "sir" (page 109, 110, 118, 119, 121) and "young man" (page 182).
    • Keith Robinson points out "he [Julian] frequently puts on his "most grown-up voice" to cower the bad guys, such as in the nineteenth book, Five Go to Demon's Rocks." (Julian also gets very back-chatty with adults in book 3 and very authoritative with adults in book 8, so it seems to be just something he does – along with his male chauvinism.)
  • Julian is young.
    • He does not lock up his own house (page 9) and cannot go home because it is "all shut up now" (page 19). Too young to have a key?
    • More importantly, Julian was not old enough to buy tobacco. The Five just paid for it, leaving Jeremiah to pick it up later. (A wording change between editions has added to the confusion, changing the tobacco to sweets, but it wasn't a clean edit, leaving the shopkeeper keeping the sweets but the Five also giving them to Jeremiah themselves.)
    • In 1933 the Children’s Act was repealed and replaced by the Children and Young Persons Act. Under Section 7 of the Act it was made illegal to sell cigarettes to children under 16. (From this PDF.) This is the law which would have been in effect when the story was set.
    • In April 1986 the Protection of Children (Tobacco) Act was passed which made it illegal to sell any tobacco product to children aged under 16. Previously the law applied only to smoking tobacco. (Ibid.) So products like chewing tobacco were also covered from this time.
    • In March 1992 the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991 came into force, which tightened up existing legislation on the sale of cigarettes to children under 16. (Ibid.)
    • Prior to 1 October 2007 the UK had a purchase age of 16; it was 18 from that date onward. If it hadn't changed since 1961 when this book was published, this adventure could not be placed any later in the order because that would double up in a holiday with another adventure.
  • Problem: George doesn't know if Timmy will be able to climb the spiral staircase in the lighthouse (page 45).
    • This would either mean the story is set before book 6, or George was concerned because of Timmy's age. Or maybe George is just a worrier, or really forgetful about Timmy's accomplishments.
  • Problem: Julian, Dick and George would all have been old enough to buy the tobacco.
    • I bet Julian didn't have any identification showing his age. He didn't even have a key for his own home! The others would have deferred to him because he was the leader.
    • Jeremiah seems to know they are old enough: "he'll give you what I like" (page 96). And Tom the Tobacconist appears to (page 99): "There you are, young sir!"
    • Is Tom's last line (page 102) a later insertion? "I'll give Jeremiah the baccy when he calls in."
    • When they meet up with Jeremiah again (page 129) they could easily have handed over the tobacco with very little change in the wording: " 'Good-morning, Jeremiah,' said Dick, politely. 'I hope we bought the right tobacco for you from Tom.' "
    • My copy: "Text copyright 1961... This edition first published in 1970". Was any text changed for that edition?

20. Five Have A Mystery To Solve

  • Starts on first day of one month long April holiday.
    • Having this adventure in 1959 implies Friday 27 March with Easter Sunday on 29 March. Most of the holiday would be in April.
  • I have to wonder why the Five have never heard of the island if it's just a little down the coast.
  • Why has George not heard of the tides in the harbour. If it's in cycling distance it's surely within sailing distance.
  • Was this the harbour they had to drive around in book 19?
  • Julian, Dick & Anne live within easy cycling distance of both Kirrin (George's home) and the cottage where they stay in this adventure.
  • End with "Good-bye, Five – it was fun sharing in your grand adventure." It obviously refers to just this book, but unlike many, it doesn't end with any mention of waiting for their next adventure.

21. Five Are Together Again

  • Starts on first day of Easter holiday.
  • Julian, Dick & Anne live within easy cycling distance of Kirrin.
  • Mischief and Timmy recognise each other immediately, implying not much time has passed.
    • With the close professional relationship of Quentin Kirrin and Prof Hayling perhaps the two animals have often seen each other at other times in the intervening year or two.
  • Tinker appears to have not aged much: " 'Tinker – do you mean to say you're still being fat-headed enough to pretend to be cars and bicycles and tractors and lorries,' demanded Julian." (Page 36.)
    • Julian would not have seen Tinker as much as George has.
  • Jeremy Tapper is "A boy of about Tinker's age" (page 49).
  • If there has been a circus in the field every ten years since 1648 (pages 49 and 54) the present year must end in an 8. 1948? 1958? 1968?
    • It cannot be 1948 because this story is at least one year after book 19 in which the Morris Minor is mentioned, a car which was released in September 1948. It's quite unlikely Joan the cook would have known about it a year and a half before it was released (April 1947).
    • There are problems raised by having it in 1968 or later, not least the lack of cars owned by the Kirrins – they have to get a carrier to transport the tents from Kirrin to the Haylings' (pages 41, 42 and 60).
    • It was first published in 1963. If book 16 was in 1955 (just after portable transistor radios became available) this adventure could be 1958.
  • A two-person donkey suit makes an appearance (page 88) but even when Tinker wishes he had one Julian and Dick don't mention that they got one in book 12. That places book 12 after this one.
  • Finishes with "Hurry up and fall into another adventure... Good-bye for now..." Makes it sound very much like it's not the last adventure.

 

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