Wednesday 9 November 2016

The Borrowers

I just finished a re-read of The Borrowers, and enjoyed it just as much as I remembered it. Mary Norton's classic story came out in 1952. I first read it as an adult, only about 5-10 years ago I think. I remembered that the Borrowers were a family of tiny folk that lived hidden away in a grand house and “borrowed” the things that they’d needed from the house, but I wasn’t able to really remember any of the specifics. I remembered that I’d liked it, and was happy to find that I really liked it again on this rereading.

The basic setup feels quite a lot like The Secret Garden (see my review), where a lonely child who grew up in India is rattling round a big old country house. But this is where the similarities end, and here one day the boy finds a family of small people who live under the floor boards, the Clocks. But the child is not the hero here, it is the Borrower daughter, Arrietty, a lonely girl who is the only child of the solitary family of Borrowers left in the house. 

'Oh, I know papa is a wonderful Borrower. I know we've managed to stay when all the others have gone. But what has it done for us, in the end? I don't think it's so great to live on alone, for ever and ever, in a great, big, half-empty house; under the floor, with no one to talk to, no one to play with, nothing to see but dust and passages, no light but candlelight and firelight and what comes through the cracks.'

Arrietty's father, Pod, is the Borrower for the family, and he generally has the run of the place because there are only three humans inhabiting the house- Great Aunt Sophy a bedridden invalid who likes to partake of a decanter of Madeira each night, Mrs Driver the cook and Crampfurl (a most splendid name) the gardener. That is until the boy comes to stay, and Arrietty’s father Pod is "seen".

The Borrowers is such a wonderful, make believe world, vividly told, it makes me wish that there were little people living under my floor borrowing from my possessions to survive. 

There have been a number of film versions of The Borrowers over the years. All seem to need to update and modify the original story in some way. A 1997 movie has John Goodman as a developer looking to knock down a Borrower house. A 2011 BBC telemovie starring Stephen Fry and Christopher Eccleston is a Christmas themed adaptation. Happily I found it lurking unwatched on my hard drive recorder the other day. I've watched it now, and even better I find it is available on youtube complet en francais! 


Brona said...

I'm not sure how it happened, but I've never read The Borrowers, although I think it is lurking on my bookshelf somewhere.

I love it when a childhood (or younger adult) favourite holds up with an adult read :-)

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I'm glad I finally read this book. Small worlds are magical to me. You could do so many wonderful things if you were small.