Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thursday's Children 11/8/12 Mary Norton

Guess I'm in a bit of a nostalgic mood this week. Or maybe trick or treating reminded me of childhood days...
I've already blogged about George S. MacDonald who was one of my favorite childhood authors.
Mary Norton (1903-1992) was another.

She wrote THE BORROWERS series in the 1950s and 60s.
I had long been obsessed with the idea of wee folk (pixies, brownies, faeries, and so on).
But Mary's characters were different. 
They were much more like us-with names ALMOST like ours. Take the Clock family for example: Homily. Pod. Arriety. Mary was brilliant.
They had no wings or magical powers. In fact, Borrowers were terrified of us, "human beans". Being "seen" by one of us was an event that could, and did, have catastrophic consequences.
They lived with us-only we didn't know it. Again, brilliant. 
They "borrowed" food, and other things too. Paper clips to use as grappling hooks, wooden spools to sit on, cigar boxes for beds. Arriety had to do her lessons with an ENORMOUS pencil.

For years I left items I thought might be useful beside a small hole in the hallway floor of our house.
Miniature marshmallows, safety pins, bits of yarn. 
They were always gone in the morning (thanks, Mom!).

THE BORROWERS had everything a wonderful (children's) book should have-
Great characters who are funny, lovable, interesting, scary
Enough danger and adventure to make "that's all for tonight" the worst words in the world
Series potential-although I have to say none of the books was as good as the first
A world the reader wants to be part of - and here the parallel world, in miniature, is such a great hook

It had great illustrations too, which were like doodles, and rewarded careful scrutiny. 
This is Pod paying a visit to Aunt Sophy, also known as "Her". She had a penchant for Madeira which made her believe Pod was a hallucination. When she was all liquored up, Pod could "borrow" whatever he liked, and not even worry about being "seen". Love the chamber pot under the bed.

THE BORROWERS was also responsible for my first bad boy crush. 
Spiller was the type of Borrower who lived outside, which was akin to living on the wrong side of the tracks. He was wild, and made his own rules.
He and Arriety had a bit of an adversarial relationship-but I think she liked the way he challenged her and persuaded her try new adventures.
Below is Robert Sheehan, who played Spiller in the movie version. If I'd been fourteen year old Arriety I would have totally gone for him.
Note to Self: Inspired by Bad Boys. Future Thursday's Children post.

And speaking of the movie version-the one with John Goodman.
Though unlike the book in significant ways. I enjoyed it anyway, but as its own thing.
It did provide a line that I'm quite fond of, (it was Pod's originally, his response to Arriety's plea to go "borrowing" with him).
Said with an English accent, à la Jim Broadbent, "No. No. And again. NO."

Here's our Theme Song...

Here's the code to the Linky to put on your own post.
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And Here's the Linky List! What inspires your writing?


  1. This is great! Did you see the animated movie, "The Secret Life of Arietty"? (I think that was the title. Japanese movie.)

  2. Inspired by The Borrowers, I once convinced my younger sister that our Barbie dolls were alive and living in the walls. Part of the baseboard was missing in our house and it looked just like a door. We stayed up all night watching for them and when she fell asleep, I screamed and yelled that one had just ran across the floor and right into the door. She didn't sleep for hours just waiting on a repeat performance. She actually believed that one for quite a long time. I remember wishing so much that it were true.

    1. That's funny-I was just reminding my older daughter that we used to tell her the blinking red lights on the tops of radio towers we saw on our Christmas Eve drive home from relatives was Rudolph the reindeer's nose. She'd get into a panic thinking we wouldn't get home before Santa arrived. LOL.

  3. Very fun to read! I'm too young for this one, and had actually never heard of this series. Sounds like a classic, and very imaginative, too.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Lots of the books I read as a child (or had read to me) were books that belonged to my mother or grandmother. Book-love is like an heirloom.

    2. I wonder if you're still passing them on subconsciously, in your writing?

    3. Absolutely. And consciously too-there's an element in TENDRIL that is "borrowed" from one of George S. MacDonald's books. For all I know he borrowed it from someone else!

    4. Haha. Don't worry. All stories are "borrowed" if you go far back enough. I think it's how we pass on messages over time, though we don't really think of it that way.

      We are all Borrowers!

  4. I loved The Borrowers, too, but that was a long time ago. I should reread them. :)

  5. If I had the time I'd like to read them too (the best children's books have stuff in them that go right over kids' heads). I checked out your writing tips-they were good ones!

  6. I *loved* The Barrowers so much. Those were some of my favorite books as a kid. At one point, the school librarian told me that I couldn't check them out any more because none of the other kids were getting a chance to read them. Oops...

    1. Oh, that is so cool. I bet Mary Norton would have loved to know that.

  7. I really like the organization of this post, btw. It's really clean and refreshing and engaging.

    Something I'll mimick in the future!

    ALSO, George MacDonald rocks.

  8. Thanks! Yes, GMacD does rock-I "borrowed" his word for his followers "Inklings", for my blog followers. So glad you joined us this week, I hope you'll make it a habit :)

  9. Gah! My comment went missing. Sorry, R! Loved your post ;-)