I was always fascinated by the Famous Five stories that involved caves in some way or another when I read them as a child and again as an adult. And I wasn’t the only one – I used to work as a cave guide (my childhood catching up with me?) and a colleague and fellow Blyton enthusiast remarked on how many of her books featured caves.
I could think of a couple, but he went on to list at least six others and he was sure there were more than that. And that was before we even looked at her other series, such as the Adventurous Four, the Adventure series and even the Faraway Tree.
I decided to go through the list and found that sixteen of the Famous Five books featured caves (including the first seven books). For argument’s sake I decided to include secret passages if they went underground:
Five on a Treasure Island (#1)– right from the beginning of the series, we see the children and Timmy heading underground. This time it’s exploring the dungeons of Kirrin Island, described by George as the most rambling spread-out maze of caves I’ve ever known.
Five Go Adventuring Again (#2) – after spending a good part of the book searching for the secret way, the Five set off down it. It’s never mentioned whether the rocky, narrow passage is natural or was made by someone long ago, one of George’s ancestors perhaps, but I’ll count it for now.
Five Run Away Together (#3) – the Five return to Kirrin Island and this time, along with the spooky dungeons, there’s a cave near the sea that they’re using as a hidey-hole. Even though it’s one of ones that’s the most exposed to daylight, it’s still one of my favourites – it sounded like the perfect camping spot to me
Five Go to Smuggler’s Top (#4) – the hill below Smuggler’s Top is riddled with tunnels that people have been lost in and never heard of again. So of course the children, Timmy and even Uncle Quentin end up down there.
Five Go Off in a Caravan (#5) – I didn’t remember the cave in this one at first, but there’s a mysterious hole under a caravan that leads to an immense cave. I won’t mention what’s in the cave in case anyone hasn’t read it.
Five on Kirrin Island Again (#6) – almost every trip to the island seems to involve the dungeons in one way or another (I think the only exceptions are the quick visits in Five Have Plenty of Fun and Five Are Together Again). And this time there’s a new entrance to be explored.
Five Go Off to Camp (#7) – Anne’s ‘volcano’ turns out to be related to the train tunnels that run underneath the moor… and the spook trains that run through them. Train tunnels are a bit of a stretch, but they’re still underground.
Five Fall Into Adventure (#9) – this was another one where I didn’t remember the existence of a cave in the cliffs Jo leads the boys to. It doesn’t play a huge role in the book, but it does deserve to be included on the list.
Five Go Down to the Sea (#12)– when the Five go to see where a strange light is coming from, they find their way into a secret wrecker’s passage and end up locked in a cave. Natural or man-made, they seem to make excellent prisons.
Five Go to Mystery Moor (#13) – after getting lost on the moor, Anne and George are caught and held prisoner in a cave. Luckily Timmy is around, as he is often the only one who can safely find the way in and out.
Five on a Secret Trail (#15) – not far from Kirrin Cottage is another network of tunnels, caves and underground streams; these ones might have even been used back in Roman times.
Five Go to Billycock Hill (#16) – this is one of the first Famous Five books my friend mentioned with reference to caves; these ones have roped ways and warning signs about losing your way in the unroped tunnels.
Five Get Into a Fix (#17) – this is one of the more dangerous caves that the Five venture into, not because of the risk of losing their way but the underground river. The easiest way in is via a pot-hole on the moors, known to their friend Aily.
Five on Finniston Farm (#18) – there’s another secret passage in this book, running between the cellars of an old castle (which is long since gone, leaving almost no trace) and the old chapel. Natural or man-made? Hard to tell.
Five Go to Demon’s Rocks (#19)– this was another of the caves I remembered well; the network of caves running under Demon’s Rocks that were once used by smugglers and are extremely dangerous when the tide starts to come in.
Five Have a Mystery to Solve (#20) – the first sign of the underground caves on Whispering Island is when Dick looks through a small window in the well. Then the Five and Wilfred find their way to the bottom of the Wailing Cliffs and into the caves and underground rooms.
Sixteen books that feature caves and underground passages! That’s certainly more than either of us remembered – or any of my family guessed when I told them I was counting.
Maybe it goes some way towards explaining why people find caves so exciting and mysterious.