Many women readers of today will have fond memories of locking themselves into their bedrooms as young teens, voraciously consuming the newest edition of the Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden mystery series, all the while wishing that their young and uneventful lives could have been just a bit more exciting like that of Nancy and Trixie. Both series of books focus on the title characters finding themselves in the middle of a mystery and, aided by an assortment of friends and family and their incredibly intuitive sleuthing skills, they manage to masterfully draw their readers into their fictional worlds as they go about their quest to solve the elusive “whodunit”. But that’s really where all similarities between the characters end.
Nancy Drew is a teenage sleuth whose character first appeared in the year 1930. The Nancy Drew mystery series have been ghostwritten by a number of authors and are published under the collective pseudonym, Carolyn Keene. Over the decades, the character has evolved in response to changes in U.S. culture and tastes but has remained a popular staple with young girls around the world. In 1959, the books began an extensive revision, mostly to eliminate racist stereotyping. In the original version of the series, Nancy was a 16-year-old high school graduate, and, in later versions, her character changes to that of an 18-year-old high school graduate and amateur detective. In the series, Nancy Drew lives in the fictional town of River Heights with her father, attorney Carson Drew and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. Nancy is often assisted in solving mysteries by her two closest friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, and also occasionally assisted by her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson and his two friends, all of them college students.
The Trixie Belden series was created by Julie Campbell Tatham (1908–1999), who wrote the first six books. The series was continued by various in-house writers from Western Publishing Company under the pseudonym, Kathryn Kenney, and was published from 1948 to 1986 under the Whitman and Golden divisions. Western Publishing Company wanted to compete with the popular comic book market and was looking for writers to create fast-moving stories which could be published inexpensively by their Whitman division. In the early books, Trixie Belden is a 13-year-old student who later has her fourteenth birthday. Trixie, her brothers Brian and Mart, her best friend Honey Wheeler, and Honey’s adopted brother, Jim, as well as friend Diana Lynch, all attend school in Sleepyside-on-the-Hudson in New York State. The characters are the best of friends and are all members of a club called the Bob-Whites of the Glen whose motto it is to help others whenever possible. Trixie seems to stumble into mysteries on a regular basis and the Bob-Whites often find themselves helping Trixie solve mysteries or helping her out of precarious predicaments as a result of her incessant sleuthing. At some point during the author’s life, Julie Campbell Tatham moved to a country place named Wolf Hollow, located in the Hudson River Valley in Westchester County. By all accounts, Trixie’s home, Crabapple Farm, is modeled after Wolf Hollow.
While some young teens (of yesteryear and today) will tell you that they love both characters, most have taken a hard line, indicating that they prefer one character over the other. Nancy Drew lives in a seemingly perfect world where money is never an issue, her father being the successful attorney, Carson Drew. Trixie Belden, on the other hand, lives in a world where she’s required to do housework, gardening as well as babysitting her younger brother, Bobby, in order to earn money for a trip or clothes or something else of dire importance. She’s teased relentlessly by her brothers, has trouble with math and has to be tutored while Nancy doesn’t seem to have trouble with very much at all. In a nutshell, both characters are polar opposites. Some teens prefer Nancy Drew because she possesses a self-confidence most can only dream of and an agenda for exotic adventures to places most readers will never get to go to in their lives.However, the vast majority of young readers tend to identify with the down-to-earth Trixie, a girl with chores, money problems, pesky big brothers and a never-ending supply of math homework.
Love’em or hate’em – you decide. The worldwide web is full of fan sites, mystery pages and official sites lovingly devoted to both girl sleuths.One thing is clear, however.The lines are drawn and as long as both series of books continue to be discovered by new generations of readers, there will always be a Nancy versus Trixie.