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.
Timmy is a large brown mongrel with a long tail. Could he have been a significant part long haired Lurcher? The size, shaggy coat, "ridiculously long tail" (book 6) and intelligence all fit, it explains Timmy's love of chasing rabbits, and their lifespan of 12 to 15 years would be very handy.
If we place the adventures in sequential order this is what we get:
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, so let's see if we can avoid those problems by optimising the 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, the most serious of which is easily resolvable with a single-word
*We have to remember they're only kids' books. And it seems very likely
that she only intended to write the first six – in which they did age – but found she was onto
a good thing, so kept going.
George's birthday is apparently 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 as Anne's, between the Easter and summer holidays. However, that would mean that all spring/Easter adventures
(of which there are a lot) would 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. There is no way, with her personality, she would put up with it if Julian hadn't had a birthday as well. Also, in all the many spring and Easter adventures George never once mentions that she is the same age as Julian. This implies that Julian is around one full year
Since this timeline is an "optimised" timeline, some adventures
have been moved from their numerical order/sequential positions, and as many spaces in the timeline as possible have been eliminated. 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.
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 on which Easter can fall):
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.
Update 8-9 December 2020. A correspondent pointed out that Nobby mentions his age at the end of book 5, which prompted a little research on the UK school leaving age at the time. It's changed since the book was written. Also added a few notes on book 19, after having a look at a digital copy of the original edition.
Also updated the jeans info for book 3 and book 19; jeans are old. And there's a radiogram mentioned in book 8.
Sadly I've found a new problem while looking for a quote to support something I'd already noted. In book 3 Anne mentions they hadn't gone to Kirrin Island in the winter and Easter holidays because the weather was bad. But George says in book 6 that Anne knows how super Kirrin Island is at Eastertime.
It's unlikely the Five visited Kirrin Island (with no adventure) in the Easter holiday after getting back from Smuggler's Top. With the storm over they could have had some great weather, but book 4 implies they stay on at Smuggler's Top, the roof would have taken time to fix, and even staying on Kirrin Island would have been problematic.
Moving book 4 a year earlier, placing it before book 3, solves most of the problems. (Update: and causes others.) When the Five didn't get to Kirrin Island the previous winter they got snowed in, and at Easter a big storm toppled a tree into the roof. This leaves the Easter holiday between book 4 and book 6 wide open for the Five to visit Kirrin Island without having an adventure. It's easily the least awkward fix. (Update: not really.)
Finally, I've added a section at the bottom about how the Five are related to each other. This name thing needs to get sorted out.
Update 3-4 July 2023. Duh. I've finally moved book 4 back to the Easter just before book 5, Sooty and Marybelle getting a year older in the process. I've tried to sort out how Anne is supposed to know what Kirrin Island is like during Easter (book 6).
Further research on the law (at the time) concerning supply of tobacco to minors has revealed the issue in book 19 is apparently not a problem, and a realisation that Whitsun cannot be in June unless Easter is late has resulted in book 16 being moved a year earlier in all three optimised timelines. I've decided the black poodle in book 18 doesn't need to be placed before the black poodle in book 14 so in the optimised timeline I've removed the blue background from book 18 linking it to the Jo adventures.
I've moved quite a few paragraphs on this page around and done a bit of general editing. A few other small notes added in various places and added to the book references.
The Famous Five books in optimised order
Text in italics are necessary events, inferred not explicitly stated in the text.
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 yellowborder 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, and is fixed relative to the green background adventures.
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, and Anne is still a teenager.
There are still four problems. All have reasonably straight forward, sort of believable explanations, with the last two really not being problems at all.
In book 6 George says ‘You know how super Kirrin Island is at Eastertime – all primroses and gorse and baby rabbits. And you and Julian and Dick were coming to stay, and we haven't stayed together since last summer when we went caravanning.’
How does Anne know this? She appears not to have visited Kirrin Island at Easter. The Easter before book 3 is ruled out because of Anne's comment in that book that "The weather was too bad in the winter and Easter holidays."
The only Easter adventure up to this point was when they went to Smuggler's Top. The storm hit the night Julian and siblings arrived at Kirrin Cottage and they appear to have hung around the cottage during the following day instead of going to the Island; "Next morning the wind was still high".
It's extremely unlikely the Five returned to Kirrin after Smuggler's Top and visited the Island before they went back to school because of the damage done to the cottage, and the builders were expected to be there for weeks.
Solution: George knows Anne knows what Kirrin Island is like at Easter because George has told her – probably many times. It's inconceivable to George that Anne wouldn't know it after she has been told so many times. This fits with George's personality and is the simplest solution.
Solution: Dick was mistaken in book 5 when he told Nobby "Now, last hols we went to a place called Smuggler's Top – and, my word, the adventures we had there!" The last hols were Easter when the Five would have visited Kirrin Island but had no adventure, but if it was the Easter the year before that they went to Smuggler's Top – none of the others were there to correct him – then book 4 could be positioned right before book 3 and leave the Easter holiday in 1952 for a visit to Kirrin Island in the spring, without an adventure. This fits perfectly with Anne's comment in book 3 that "The weather was too bad in the winter and Easter holidays."
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.
Solution: It's just a typo and the sentence should read "not much younger". Huh, editors.
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 was worrying uneccessarily and she has a bad memory when it comes to Timmy's achievements. (Or maybe a good memory – in book 6 Timmy got up the tower "having managed the spiral stairs with difficulty." So George does have some reason to be slightly concerned.) Her worrying is simply part of her relationship with Timmy. It's a non-issue.
Solution: George knows something we don't. For example, she was concerned for an unstated reason such as Timmy getting old (he wasn't very old for this adventure in any of the timelines) or a recent injury. Or perhaps she knows that not all spiral staircases are as easy as others for dogs to climb. And let's face it – when it comes to Timmy, she's a worrier.
The late placement of book 19 in the timeline means Julian, Dick and George are all old enough to buy tobacco, so they could have taken it with them. Them not taking it implies they were too young to buy it at all.
I thought this might be the most serious problem yet found, but after further research I now think it's not a problem at all.
Solution: As far as Julian's age is concerned, quite simply, at the time the story is set it was legal for Julian to buy the tobacco, no matter how old he was at the time – especially in the way he did, leaving it for Jeremiah to collect. See the book 19 notes for more details. (The social acceptability of it now, 60+ years after it was written, is a separate topic.)
Solution: Regardless of Julian's age, getting Jeremiah to pick it up himself was simply the most practical way of doing it. Jeremiah could collect it at his leisure instead of the Five having to find him again, and being dependent on tides and weather getting from/to the lighthouse.
I've ruled out it being a later change from it originally written as being handed over in person; in the original Tom does keep it to hand over himself, but it's not stated or explained why. It could have been handled better.
The late placement of book 19 in the timeline means Tinker is considerably younger even than Anne.
I find it quite remarkable that the timeline can be optimised so that only two real problems remain – Richard Kent's age relative to Anne, and Tinker's age relative to the Five.
The real remaining problem
How are the Five related (at least, the four human ones)? This is not a timeline problem, so I haven't included it in the remaining problems section above.
Book 1: Julian, Dick and Anne's father is Quentin's brother.
Book 8: Quentin disowns his brother while implying Julian, Dick and Anne's mother is Fanny's sister.
The best I can think of is that Mrs B kept her maiden name when she got married, and Quentin in book 8 was being absent-minded, since he probably thinks that taking care of children is women's work. I've also heard that "Mrs Barnard" was changed to "Mrs Kirrin" in later editions.
The children are introduced as being 10 to 12
years old. How are they related?
It's right there in Chapter 1.
‘What about Quentin’s?’ suddenly said Daddy. Quentin was his brother, the children’s uncle.
But this is not what a later book says.
Their summer holiday dress code is also found chapter 1.
Mother nodded her head. ‘Yes’ she said, ‘there's nothing much to get ready for them – just bathing suits and jerseys and jeans. They all wear the same.’
‘How lovely it will be to wear jeans again,’ said Anne, dancing round.
So jeans were a popular thing in 1942, when this adventure was first published. See also the notes on book 3 and book 19.
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
Have misplaced my copy, so I haven't been able to read it for positioning
Update: May 2014, a friend has supplied a copy!
commands Timmy to shake hands with the tutor, but Timmy refuses (page 31). So
Timmy at this point knows how to shake (and Julian knows it), but this isn't a spontaneous
offer to shake as he first does in book 16, so it
doesn't affect the timeline.
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, chapter 2.)
‘I wish we could have some more exciting adventures.’ (Page 21.) This isn't actually saying they have had multiple adventures. Dick was saying he wants multiple more adventures.
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, end of chapter 1).
Evidently finding the treasure was a Good Thing.
"He [Timmy] ran into the kitchen but soon came out again because someone new was there – Joanna the cook – a fat, panting person who eyed him with suspicion."
"They were very much of an age – Julian was twelve, George and Dick were eleven, and Anne was ten." (Page 21, chapter 2.) 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.
Other Aladdin movies came out in 1957, 1967, and 1970 (and others), none of which fit particularly well with any of the timelines.
The animated 1001 Arabian Knights came out in 1959, which is getting closer to working with the 1960s timeline (but is not great).
Anne (age 10, remember) plans to buy Mr Roland a packet of cigarettes as a Christmas present (page 62). But even in 1943 (when the book was published) 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.
I say, Anne wants to kill her tutor!
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?’ Note the plural adventures.
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?’
They all had [grown]. They were all a year older and a year bigger than when they had had their exciting adventures on Kirrin Island. Even Anne, the youngest, didn't look such a small girl now. Note the plural adventures.
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.
may imply they met up and had fun (but no adventure?) the Easter
before this adventure. But it doesn't say always, so at Easter they may not have met up at all.
It also means this book is not later in the same summer holiday as book 1. But we've already sorted out that detail.
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 ...’ and also (a few pages later in the same chapter) tells her cousins ‘... I haven't been able to go there yet, because my boat wasn't mended.’ So once again this adventure cannot be later in the same summer holiday as book 1, or any other book featuring a visit to Kirrin Island.
They did not go to Kirrin Island the previous Easter, as mentioned in chapter 1.
‘Shall we go to Kirrin Island, George?’ asked Anne. ‘Do let's! We haven't been there since last summer. The weather was too bad in the winter and Easter holidays. Now it's gorgeous.’
It's possible she meant Julian, Dick and her hadn't been, but even that would mean the Five hadn't been.
There's an implication it was the weather that stopped them, not that they were prevented by not meeting up.
If book 19 was inserted in that spot it was the two scientists at Kirrin Cottage that spelled doom for a trip to Kirrin Island – a sarcastic was of referring to the stormy mood in the house before they went to the lighthouse.
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? Actually yes. Is the mention of jeans just a change for the 1967 edition? No; a digital copy of the original edition has "jeans" in it.
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".
Putting this adventure after book 14 (their 14th adventure) would be tricky.
Could this story be set beforebook 3? This would fit perfectly with Anne's comment in book 3 that they weren't able to go to Kirrin Island because the weather was too bad – a storm topples a tree and wrecks the roof!
It would not fit with Dick's comment to Nobby in book 5 that they went to Smuggler's Top the last hols.
In book 6 George says Anne knows what Kirrin Island is like at Easter. Up until that point there has been no record of the Five going to Kirrin Island at Easter.
It appears there are no specific references to previous adventures, so it's also possible there may be a gap between book 3 and book 4.
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?
Or getting lots of exercise at school?
She does not say he has "gone tall" but
it could still be a growth spurt, and losing weight was simply more notable than gaining height because George also grew taller. Was Julian chubby before going through adolescence?
Or... has he been dieting since getting stuck in a passage, say, in book 15?
Is it simply that Julian is wearing less than he did when last seen in winter?
At the beginning of chapter 2 a local woman estimates "it'll take weeks to set that right".
This implies the Five would not be returning at the end of the holiday before heading back to school.
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 pre-teen 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.
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 hols we went to a place called Smuggler's Top – and, my word, the adventures we had there!"
The book was first published in 1946.
Pongo was the name of a chimpanzee which was the "star attraction in 1884 at the Zoological Park in Walton, Liverpool" according to Wikipedia.
Pongo is also the genus name of orangutans.
Nobby is 14 but looks 12.
Thanks to correspondent PC for pointing this out.
Right in the middle of chapter 23 (spanning pages 185-186 in my copy) the police inspector asks Nobby how old he is, and whether he should be going to school.
‘Never been in my life, mister,’ said Nobby. ‘I’m just over fourteen, so I reckon I never will go now!’
He grinned. He didn’t look fourteen. He seemed more like twelve by his size. Then he looked solemn again.
Why did Nobby think he wouldn't need to go to school? At the time the book was written, most children did leave school at 14.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_of_school_leaving_age_in_England_and_Wales The year 1918 saw the introduction of the Education Act 1918, often known as the Fisher Act because it was devised by Herbert Fisher. The Act enforced compulsory education from 5–14 years, but also included provision for compulsory part-time education for all 14-to-18-year-olds.
In 1944, Rab Butler introduced the Education Act 1944, which raised the school leaving age to 15... The Act should have been brought into effect as from September 1939, but it was not implemented because of the effects of World War II: it was eventually enforced from April 1947.
Changes in government approaches towards education meant that it was no longer regarded as adequate for a child to leave education aged 14, as that is the age when they were seen to really understand and appreciate the value of education, as well as being the period when adolescence was at its height. It was beginning to be seen as the worst age for a sudden switch from education to employment, with around 80% of children in 1938 leaving education at this age, many having only had primary-school level education.
In 1964, preparations began to raise the school leaving age to 16. These were delayed in 1968, and eventually the decision was taken in 1971 that the new upper age limit be enforced from 1 September 1972 onwards.
George thinks Anne already knows what Kirrin Island is like at Easter
Chapter 1: ‘You know how super Kirrin Island is at Eastertime – all primroses and gorse and baby rabbits. And you and Julian and Dick were coming to stay, and we haven't stayed together since last summer when we went caravanning.’
There's no question mark in that first sentence, so it's unlikely that George was meaning it as a way of telling Anne how super it is. In other words, George probably did not mean something different, such as "You know how super Kirrin Island is like at Easter? I'll tell you how super Kirrin Island is like at Easter!"
There's simply no room to fit an Easter visit to Kirrin Island into the timeline, so Anne must know this simply from what George has told her.
Unless there's simply an empty year early in the timeline.
The only Easter adventure written prior to this one was book 4 when they
went to Smuggler's Top. It starts right at the start of the Easter holiday and they never got to
Kirrin Island before heading away to Smuggler's Top.
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", although Anne specifically says they did not go to Kirrin the Easter before book 3 because the weather was too bad.
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).
George is known for worrying about Timmy. In chapter 2 Dick talks about Timmy having his head out the train window and the chance of him getting a grit in his eye. ‘Then George would go quite mad with grief and think you're going blind!’
Timmy went up the tower (page 38, chapter 4) having managed the spiral
stairs with difficulty.
However, on his way down (page 40) Timmy pushed
passed Anne and disappeared below at a remarkably fast pace.
This was 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 has difficulty with.
We read that Martin Curton looks about 16 and the coastguard tells
Julian that Martin is "about your age, I should think." (Page
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 (she did).
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. Julian looking older than he is would contribute to other people thinking he is mature.
In chapter 2 Aunt Fanny says to Julian, about Quentin, "He seems to listen to you now." Julian must be getting old!
Trivia, book sales:
After the first six books started selling so incredibly well Enid Blyton 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. No supporting link is provided for the claim.
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.
The Guardian, in an article from 2010, stated Hodder sells more than half a million copies of the Famous Five books a year.
Trivia, English primrose:
Pale yellow flower found in open woods, shaded hedgerows, near streams... none of which sounds like Kirrin Island.
Scientific name primula vulgaris, primula meaning prime, because it's among the first flowers to appear in spring, and vulgaris meaning common, or widespread.
As of the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it's illegal in the UK to pick wild primroses or remove primrose plants, in order to prevent excessive damage to the species.
Anne mentions atom bombs in chapter 1, while discussing with George what George's father is doing on Kirrin Island.
Mr Curton (Martin's father) mentions near the start of chapter 7 that they have "a fine television set" which in chapter 9 they watch a show on. It was only in 1946 that BBC television reopened after the war.
This book first published in 1947.
How on Earth are the secret tunnels from Kirrin Island to the mainland not always submerged? Them being accessible at low tide implies they are above low tide, meaning there should be a visible causeway to the island – which could be used to access the island by walking along the top of it. This doesn't cause a problem with the timeline, but is significantly problematic for other reasons.
Quentin says ‘... I wanted water round me and above me.’``
Book starts with planning the trip, six days before they leave for
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.
Chapter 19 is definitely politically incorrect these days, with its first description of George covered in soot.
8. Five Get Into Trouble
Set at Easter, which is late this year, meaning mid April.
Julian says (page 28) "it's only mid-April!"
Aunt Fanny says to Quentin ‘Really, 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 already spent more than one Easter at Kirrin.
Best options for Easter Sunday are 1954 (18 April) or 1957 (21 April), but 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.
Never mind what was said in book 1, the children have a weird family tree.
Quentin, chapter 1: ‘Well, Fanny dear—how can I possibly be expected to remember exactly when the children’s holidays come, and if they are going to be here with us or with your sister? ...’
This is the first time they go camping after book 7.
As camping plans are made for their new Christmas present tents (page 12).
‘It’s grand weather now—we could have fine fun,’ said Dick. ‘After all, you must have meant us to use the tents, Aunt Fanny! Here’s our chance!’
‘I meant you to use them in the garden, or on the beach,’ said Aunt Fanny. ‘Last time you went camping you had Mr. Luffy with you to look after you. I don’t think I like the idea of you going off by yourselves with tents.’
‘Oh, Fanny, if Julian can’t look after the others he must be a pretty feeble specimen,’ said her husband, sounding impatient. ‘Let them go! I’d bank on Julian any time to keep the others in order and see they were all safe and sound.’
He really wants to get rid of them!
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.
A radiogram gets a mention at the end of chapter 12. Wikipedia says radiograms in the 1940s and 1950s were considered by many manufacturers to be more important than televisions. This book was first published in 1949, and the technology fits very nicely in 1954 in the optimised timeline.
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 than 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 sound big, not wind Anne up, when he says (page 38, chapter 4) ‘... 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 a little 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! How frustrating!
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.
Sounds like she's not that much smaller than George.
‘Yah, coward!’ said the boy [Jo], holding his chin tenderly. ‘Hitting someone smaller than yourself! I’ll fight that first boy [George], but I won’t fight you.’
What is it about these Kirrin parents? No sooner do the Five get together but George's parents are off to Spain. At least Joan's still around.
10. Five on a Hike Together
October, mid-term break.
This is the only Famous Five adventure set at this time of year.
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, and the Kirrin Station porter is named Peters) 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.
In the Optimised Timeline, placing this hike a couple of years later than it would fall by numerical order helps explain Miss Peters' lack of surprise. Of course, the earlier the book is positioned, the better, in order to keep the Five as young as possible for as many adventures as possible.
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 a little support for placing this story later in the timeline when they're in their late teens.
11. Five Have a Wonderful Time
It's implied that it is the first hols since George's birthday.
Julian, chapter 2: ‘I hope George brings the field-glasses she had for her birthday. ...’
There's no mention that
they've all had a birthday since the previous hols, or an implication that George has had her birthday the most recent of the three older ones. It was simply because the birthday present would be useful.
The name Tinker pops up again, with a reference to Tinker's Green in chapter 7.
Jo is back, making her first appearance in chapter 9.
Previous adventure with Jo (book 9) was "the
year before" as mentioned in chapter 10.
... Dick, who had already had a little experience of Jo’s wild tongue the year before.
It doesn't say what adventure that was. Could this adventure actually be the third one to feature Jo, coming after book 14?
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".
If we assume that he would have to be 4 or older to clearly remember the wreckers' lights, and that "near 90 years ago" means at least 87 years ago, he would be at least 91 now.
That would place Yan at a maximum of 10, and probably a fair bit younger.
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.
Near the end of chapter 1 an American ruffles George's curly hair, so she can't be too old.
Also supporting this (if Julian isn't being sarcastic), in chapter 21: “You’re a good kid, George,” said Julian, and slapped her gently on the back. “A – very – good – kid. I’m jolly proud of you. There’s nobody like our George!” “Don’t be a fathead” said George, but she was very pleased all the same.
Fanny mentions George first met her cousins "a few years ago"
Adventure includes a trip to Kirrin Island.
George says they (the Five) go there so often the rabbits are tame(ish).
“... They [the rabbits] know us – we’ve so often been here.”
Dick mentions it's their 14th adventure.
At the end of the book: “Rather!” said Dick. “Our fourteenth adventure – and may we have many more! ...”
Joan mentions other adventure/s with Jo.
“I know where we could hide her!” she said. “You remember Jo – the little gypsy girl you’ve had one or two adventures with?”
This doesn't mean this adventure is the third one with Jo, since book 2 at least twice referred to the "adventures" on Kirrin Island in the summer.
Thus the possibility that book 11 is the third Jo adventure is left open.
Timmy is straight away great friends with a black poodle (page 51) which
might place this story after book 18 where he possibly
meets a black poodle for the first time. It's a very weak relationship.
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 at 17 years old.
The alternate timeline placing book 19 early in the timeline also puts this story very early, with the four children at just 12 to 14 years old. Perhaps in the decade after the war... but there's no need!
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 and he got stuck because he's fat. If this adventure is before book 4 George's comment in that adventure that Julian has "gone thin" means this adventure prompted him to start dieting. Makes perfect sense. Yep.
16. Five Go to Billycock Hill
Whitsun (aka Pentecost), seven weeks after Easter. One week holiday.
For Whitsun to fall in June requires a late Easter.
Chapter 2: The may was over now ... Huh? Does that mean it's June?
Update: a correspondent at the beginning of this month (March 2022) pointed out it "refers to the hawthorn blossom, which flowers April-June." This means it probably is 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.
Chapter 2: It really was lovely cycling through the June countryside ... Yep, it's June.
Was Whitsun still a holiday in 1965?
I think so, but it appears to have been one of the last. UK Parliament written answers, 12 August 1966: "As announced on 3rd June, 1965, and confirmed by Royal Proclamation on 28th July, 1966, the spring Bank Holiday in 1967 will be the last Monday in May."
Timmy spontaneously offers his paw to someone (Cousin Jeff), supposedly
for the first time – 'Timmy's never done that before!' said George
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.
Technology, transistor radio.
They have a small wireless radio, which were first developed in 1954 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.
This book was first published in 1957.
17. Five Get Into a Fix
Christmas holidays, winter, one week before school is due to start
George doesn't seem at all worried by there being seven farm dogs. Normally she'd be very worried by just one. Is she on calming drugs?
Must be after book 16, as Timmy spontaneously offers
his paw to Mrs Jones (page 28). The first time Timmy did that spontaneausly was in book 16 (to Cousin Jeff).
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 (chapter 1, talking to the doctor). The children are introduced
as Kirrins in book 16 and Julian introduces themselves as the Kirrins in book 18. There's no mention of her
ever remarrying, so did she keep her maiden name? That wouldn't be a problem at all without what Quentin said in book 8 about her being Fanny's sister. Would the two young Kirrin men (the fathers) really have married sisters?
18. Five on Finniston Farm
It's twice mentioned (in separate locations) that there are fields
of corn waving in the breeze – mid to late summer?
At the start of chapter 2 Anne thinks it's strange the antique shop proprietor has the same name as the village (Finniston). A few paragraphs later at Finneston Farm Julian introduces the group as the Kirrins. I guess Anne just forgot George Kirrin is from Kirrin Village.
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
Chapter 3 (page 29): Timmy began to bark, and she stopped. He had caught sight of Snippet sniffing behind the sacks, still hunting for the cheeky jackdaw. He 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, who gave a terrified yelp and leapt into the arms of one of the twins.
Leaping into the arms of a small child, we can safely assume Snippet is a toy poodle. Full size poodles are quite big.
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 dog's don't have good eyesight anyway – and took a moment to recognise that Snippet was a dog of a type he knew he would be great friends with, so he ran to meet him.
Hence this adventure has no known (serious) 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 poodle may also have issues picked up from the over-protective twins.
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 "about ten" year old girl in the shop, is "small" (page
12) and "little" (page 14). These size descriptions are possibly compared
to the four human Five.
Finishes with "Enjoy the rest of your adventures, ..." so really cannot be placed last.
19. Five Go To Demon's Rocks
Tinker is "about nine" years old. He's introduced in chapter 1.
And by him [Prof Hayling] was a boy of about nine, with a face a little like that of the monkey now on his shoulder!
‘This is Tinker, my son,’ said Professor Hayling, clapping the boy on the back, and almost knocking him over. ‘I always forget what his real name is — we call him Tinker because he’s always tinkering with cars — mad on them, you know! Shake hands, Tinker. Where’s Mischief?’
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."
This fits perfectly with Anne's comment in book 3 that they couldn't get to Kirrin Island the previous Easter because the weather was too bad.
George claims Timmy to be the ‘the best dog in the Kingdom!’ in chapter 3.
The crowning of Queen Elizabeth II was 2 June 1953. An early placement of book 19 in the timeline puts it in April 1953, meaning... absolutely nothing. It was still a kingdom under QE2.
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.
Mrs Kirrin is told over the phone that the Five have already left on bikes (chapter 1), and they cycle along lanes with Timmy loping along (chapter 2).
Technology: 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 an industry insider, 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 story was first published in 1961.
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 lengthy inlet? 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). This is a long trip for only about 10 miles along the coast!
Book 20 features a harbour they may have had to drive around to get to the lighthouse. This might explain the long trip, and Julian may have mentioned it (but misunderstood it) when looking at the map: ‘See—that’s the way to go,’ said Julian. ‘It really wouldn’t be far by sea – look, round the coast here, cut across this bay, round the headland – and just there are the rocks on which the old light-house stands. But by road it’s a very long way.’ (page 46, chapter 6).
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!"
How does Julian get back to the lighthouse after heading to the village with the policeman in chapter ?
Last page: "The boys went off with Jeremiah, the doctor and Constable Sharp, rowing over the rocks to the jetty." Ow. Poor boat.
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, chapter 2), 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.
Mother died when he was born.
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, chapter 12), 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, as shown on the Alternate Timeline page), 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, start of chapter 13) 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, two thirds of the way through chapter 6).
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? It looks not – it's in a digital copy I've seen of the original 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.
Even in 1935 some jeans were being deliberately distressed to make them more fashionable.
Dick was at school the previous term and (at least) Anne is returning to school.
In chapter 14, looking at the plan of the lighthouse: ‘Great tall buildings like this always have deep, strong foundations,’ said Dick. ‘Last term at school we studied how ...’ ‘Let’s not talk of school,’ said Anne. ‘It’s already looming in the distance! Tinker—can anyone get down into this foundation place?’
A policeman calls Dick "sir" (chapter 15).
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, chapter 15) 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 – a neighbour does it (page 9, chapter 1) – and cannot go home because it is "all shut up now" (page 19). Too young to have a key?
More importantly, Julian was apparently 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.)
1908 – Children’s Act bans the sale of tobacco to children under 16.
1930s – UK has the highest lung cancer rate in the world.
In 1933 the Children’s Act was repealed and replaced by the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Under Section 7 of the Act it was made illegal to sell tobacco and cigarette papers to children under 16. This is the law which would have been in effect when the story was set, whichever years the books are set in out of the possible options.
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. 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.
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.
Link to Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (PDF). The relevant section is on pages 14 and 15. Basically, it was illegal to sell any tobacco or cigaretted papers to anyone apparently under 16, whether for his (sic) own use or not, unless the seller "did not know and had no reason to believe that the tobacco was for the use of the person to whom it was sold". (Paragraph 4 also excludes guilt for selling tobacco and cigarette papers to employees or messenger boys of tobacco-trading companies.)
To conclude, Julian was old enough, however old he was, as he specifically bought tobacco for a well-known local character, not for himself – and even let the guy collect it himself, meaning it would definitely not be used by Julian – so it was quite legal.
Julian became a lawyer when he grew up.
Problem: George doesn't know if Timmy will be able to climb the spiral staircase
in the lighthouse (page 45, at the start of chapter 6).
‘It sounds smashing,’ said George. ‘What about Timmy, though? Can he climb up a spiral stairway?’
This would either mean the story is set before book
6, or George was concerned because of Timmy's age or a recent injury. Or maybe George is just a worrier, or really forgetful about Timmy's accomplishments.
Problem: In the optimised timeline 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 think they are old enough (page 96, chapter 12): ‘... And if you’ve a nice bit of baccy you don’t have no use for, you think of me, see?’
‘We’ll go and buy you some straightaway,’ said Julian. He couldn’t help laughing. ‘What tobacco do you smoke?’
‘Oh you tell Tom the Tobacconist it’s for old Jeremiah Boogle – he’ll give you what I like,’ said the old man.
There's no hint that responsible Julian is horrified by the thought of being asked to buy tobacco when he's under 16.
There's no hint that Jeremiah thought Tom wouldn't sell it to them.
Tom the Tobacconist appears to give it to them (page 99): ‘I want some tobacco for Jeremiah Boogle, please,’ said Julian. ‘I think you know the kind he wants.’ ‘I do that!’ said Tom, scrabbling about on a shelf. ‘The amount that old Jeremiah has smoked since I’ve been here would keep a bonfire going for years. There you are, young sir!’
Is Tom's last line (page 102) a later insertion? ‘... Good-day to you! I’ll give Jeremiah the baccy when he calls in.’ No, it's in the original. The story did not provide any specific reason for this line. One explanation is that the children were obviously too young, but it's a poor one given the other considerations.
When they meet up with Jeremiah again, I think the next day (page 129, chapter 16), they could easily have handed over the tobacco with very little change in the existing wording: ‘Good-morning, Jeremiah,’ said Dick, politely. ‘I hope we bought the right tobacco for you from Tom.’
However, it's clear Jeremiah got his tobacco sooner by collecting it himself. It was a simple practical reason that wasn't explicitly mentioned in the story.
My copy: "Text copyright 1961... This edition first published in 1970". Was any text changed for that edition? Apparently not (at least, nothing that I've noticed).
It could be argued that the balance of evidence appears to point at the Five being older in this story, but there's nothing definite, and an early placement certainly isn't ruled out.
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 it is likely the two animals have often seen each other at other times in the intervening year/s.
Julian in chapter 3 sounds like he now thinks he lives at Kirrin Cottage.
‘But sir – don’t you really know us?’ said Julian, very startled. ‘You came to stay at our house, you know, and ...’
‘Stuff and nonsense! I haven’t been away for years!’ shouted the Professor.
This fits with his visit to Kirrin Cottage being years before.
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, chapter 4.)
Julian would probably not have seen Tinker as much as George has, but the conversation continues, and Tinker explains why he makes the noises. It's worth a read.
I haven't found anything specific about Tinker's age in this book, meaning the two stories featuring Tinker do not need a fixed amount of time between them.
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 or later (just after portable transistor radios became available) this adventure could
Appearing in the field every ten years, if Tinker is older than about 11 he might remember the previous time the circus was there, but there's not even a hint he had any idea it would be there.
This implies no more than about two years between book 19 and book 21.
If this adventure is set in 1958, the previous time the circus appeared in the field would have been 1948, the three hundredth anniversary of the 1648 declaration announcing the circus had the continued right to be there.
Is Tinker as forgetful as his father? In book 19 when the professor introduced Tinker he admitted he cannot remember Tinker's actual name.
Were they not living there ten years earlier? Unlikely – the field has been owned by the Hayling family for hundreds of years.
Was Tinker in care for the first few years of his life? His father would have been quite unable to care for him.
Jenny the maid points out (chapter 4) it's hot weather, thus suitable for Tinker and company to camp in the field.
She seems oblivious to the idea of a circus arriving. It seems no one at all was expecting it. (Not like it's a big deal or anything, eh.)
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. (There's no "Do you know what? We have one we don't use...") 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.