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File:TheBorrowersChildrensNovelCover 5258.jpg

A series of children's fantasy books by Mary Norton (who also wrote Bedknob and Broomstick).

Arrietty Clock lives with her parents under the floor in the house of a "human bean". They live by "borrowing" from the human beans (it's only "stealing" if you take things from another Borrower), but never anything that might be missed; a Borrower must never be seen by a human bean, or let a human bean in any way know they exist. Unfortunately, Arrietty is a little too curious for her own good, and ends up talking with a human boy. The boy ends up fetching little things that might help the Borrowers, things they couldn't get for themselves.

Arrietty's parents, Pod and Homily, are frightened and upset, but eventually (if somewhat stiffly) accept that the human boy is going to help them and not harm them. However, soon enough the adults see the Borrowers too, so the family hides and has to pack up and leave the house. They head out into the wild -- like Bilbo, they're not the adventurous type -- and try to make it to a house their relatives moved to years ago.

En route, they encounter Spiller, a loner who says little but sees much. He's a great hunter, and although their initial interaction is cool (as in "not quite frigid"), soon enough they warm to him. (At times it even looks like he and Arrietty might eventually get together, but this never happens within the series. She settles down with a guy called Peagreen who lives in a greenhouse.) He helps them out of a couple tight spots, including when they're captured by humans, and eventually even shows them a miniature village they can live in (crafted by a human, but they stay decently hidden so he doesn't see them).

Aside from the first minor "captured by humans" bit, they are captured one major time, when a human husband and wife decide to put the Borrowers on display in a glass house where they will not be allowed any privacy. Luckily, they manage to escape.

An enjoyable series that made for a pretty good couple of movies, starting with a 1973 made-for-TV Hallmark hall of fame movie. The 1997 film starring John Goodman takes a far more urban setup, overturns the idea that the Borrowers have a low population (the ending is rather like that of Toy Story), and in general is not as faithful to the books as the original movies were. It at least avoided being In Name Only by keeping the members of the Clock family more-or-less true to their book characterizations, although even there they recast Peagreen (a minor character in the books) as Arrietty's Annoying Younger Sibling. It also pretty much dropped the original plot in favor of one centering around the scheme of Goodman's Amoral Attorney villain to demolish the house where the Borrowers live. It also features a young Tom Felton.

A BBC TV movie adaptation was released for Christmas 2011, featuring Stephen Fry and Christopher Eccleston. It's even more of an In Name Only adaptation, taking place in a modern-day city, featuring a mostly original plot and drastically altered characters -- the most notable ones being Spiller, who's been changed from Noble Savage to a Troubled but Cute biker boy in a red leather jacket, and the human Mildeye, who's gone from an evil, brutal Rom to an evil-but-bumbling professor played by Stephen Fry. Like the 1997 movie, it completely goes away from the "borrowers as a dying race" idea; here there turns out to be enough of them in one place to populate an entire underground city (built on the platform and partly on the tracks of an abandoned railway station). The critics noted, though, that while the movie had very little to do with Mary Norton's books, it still stayed fairly true to the themes and spirit of them, making it more of a Pragmatic Adaptation. Extremely pragmatic.

The Beeb had previously run a couple of miniseries in the nineties that were more faithful adaptations of the books.

The first book has also been adapted into an animated movie by Studio Ghibli, titled The Borrower Arrietty (released in the US as The Secret World of Arrietty). And there was much rejoicing.


These books provide examples of:

  • Animated Adaptation: The Borrower Arrietty.
  • Bamboo Technology: Loads. Seems less evident in the Ghibli trailer, although Arrietty's sporting a nifty clamp as a hair clip.
  • Cultural Translation: Fairly minimal. In the 1997 movie, the human boy and the villain are both Americans, but everyone else is British. New York City is prominantly featured in the animated movie, although the Clocks are just visiting.
    • Also played straight in the anime adaptation: The anime version takes place in 2010 in Western Tokyo's neighborhood of Koganei which is also where Studio Ghibli happens to be located.
  • Dying Race: Arrietty is afraid that Borrowers may be this. In both the 1997 and 2011 live-action movies it gets disproved rather hard.
  • The Edwardian Era: Time period when the series is set.
  • Framing Device: The first and second books have framing stories of how the author, as a child, meets and talks to people who knew the Borrowers long ago.
  • Ill Boy: The human boy was in the house because he was recovering from rheumatic fever, which even to this day is considered a dangerous and chronic disease.
  • Insistent Terminology: The Borrowers aren't "thieves".
  • Lilliputians
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The story of the Borrowers is presented as something told to the author when she was a child (she gives her younger self the name "Kate," to distance herself from the "wild, untidy, self-willed little girl who stared with angry eyes and was said to crunch her teeth" she apparently was back then), and which she wrote down for her own children when she was an adult. This is most clear in the first two books, where the Framing Device is the story of how "Kate" meets and talks to old people who either met or were told of the Borrowers in their youths. The latter books (and almost all the adaptations) drop this device, but still include people who could conceivably have talked to "Kate" many years later and told her the story.
  • Mouse World
  • The Movie: By now, there are several, though it varies how true they stay to the source material.
  • No Name Given: The human boy who befriends the Clock family. In the early '90s films, he's called George, in the '97 film he's called Pete Lender, in the Ghibli film he's called Sho, and in the 2011 film he's called James. Only the '70s Hallmark Hall of Fame version kept him anonymous.
  • Posthumous Character: Within the Framing Device story, all of the major characters might be considered this, since the main story takes place so long ago -- though only the Boy (who was the younger brother of Mrs. May, who first tells "Kate" the story of the Borrowers) is actually confirmed to have died; the Borrowers themselves simply left and were never seen again.
    • Within the main story of the first book, several Borrower families are described -- all gone by now. The Posthumous Character who gets the most attention, however, is Arrietty's cousin Eggletina -- it was her death that caused Uncle Hendreary and his family to leave the house for good. However, this is Subverted in the second book, when Eggletina proves to be very much alive.

Tropes exclusive to the 1997 film:

 Arrietty: Peagreen, try to understand, there won't be a "here" unless we get this will to Pete before that nasty, cheating, thieving, evil, greedy, vicious, ugly bean destroys our house.

Potter: Ugly? Who they calling ugly?

  • Large Ham: John Goodman. Why are we not suprised?
  • MacGuffin: A Will which entitles the Lenders to the house and thus stands in the way of Potter's scheme to replace it with condos.
  • Meaningful Name: The last name of the human family who owns the house where the Clock family lives? The Lenders.
  • The Millstone: Peagreen's two main functions in the movie is to be sarcastic and to get into trouble so the others will need to rescue him.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Ruby Wax as the City Hall receptionist.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Exterminator Jeff is a rather nice, friendly man who's fascinated by the Borrowers and is only helping Potter because he's been hired as a pest exterminator.
  • Retro Universe: Seems to be set in one, complete with Zeppelins from Another World visible in the sky.
  • Shout-Out: The exterminator's appearance is not only a tribute to Ghostbusters, but also to Arachnophobia, which featured John Goodman as an exterminator.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Mr. Potter's starts early, but it never ends. By the end of the film, he seems to care about nothing except killing those Borrowers at any cost.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The film's setting contains elements of the US and the UK with the use of both American and British actors adding to the ambiguity of it all.
  • You Can't Miss It: John Goodman's character rudely asked a receptionist for directions to a room in the building and she replied by giving him a lot of complicated instructions, ending with "walk quickly". Later on, the Kid Hero politely asked for the same thing and this time she said "take the elevator to the top and walk straight ahead - "You can't miss it".

Tropes exclusive to the 2011 BBC film:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Neither Homily nor Pod were described as very good-looking in the books. In this movie they're played by Sharon Horgan and Christopher Eccleston.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Spiller tries to invoke this with Arrietty. Not played completely straight, though; she's enticed by him but quickly begins finding him annoying.
  • The Atoner: Pod, or at least he feels so. The Borrowers view him as a hero, since he several years ago saved them from being discovered by humans and killed -- but Pod never got over the one little girl he couldn't save, his niece Eggletina. Her death is the reason why he's now being overprotective towards Arrietty.
  • Big Damn Heroes:

 Homily: I don't know how much more I can take of this.

Pod: It's gonna be all right.

Homily: How? How is it gonna be all right, how can you say that?!

Pod: Because Arrietty's just about to save us.

  • Death by Adaptation: Eggletina, who is set up as a Posthumous Character in the books, but is later revealed to be alive. In the film, there seems to be little doubt that she died.
  • Gilded Cage: Arrietty lives in luxury, with her father bringing her anything she could want, but is kept completely cut off from the outside world.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Borderline case with Mildeye; he is a genuine threat to the Borrowers largely because he's so much bigger than them, but he bumbles so much that you almost have to feel sorry for him when he loses out and makes a fool of himself. It helps that he's played by Stephen Fry, no doubt.
    • Subverted with his assistant Jenny, who at first seems like a shy and awkward, but harmless girl -- only to reveal a rather disturbing sadistic streak later on.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Spiller. With a side-order of Handsome Lech.
  • Hollywood Tone Deaf: Spiller, when trying to sing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.
  • Large Ham: Stephen Fry is about as hammy in this movie as John Goodman was in the 1997 one.
  • Missing Mom: James's mother is recently dead.
  • Race Lift: Professor Mildeye. In the books, Mildeye was a villainous Rom. In the movie he's a pompous scientist played by Stephen Fry. Basically the two characters have nothing in common apart from the name and the role as antagonist.
  • Screening the Call: Arrietty is stated to have inherited a natural gift and thirst for adventure from her father. Pod, however, refuses to let her go out Borrowing, and unlike his book counterpart won't let himself be talked into it. He turns out to have his reasons.
  • Soft Spoken Sadist: While she at first just seems to be a socially-awkward Stoic, Jenny reveals herself to be one. While Mildeye is simply interested in catching the Borrowers For Science! (and for personal glory), Jenny wants to kill and cut them up for the hell of it.

 Jenny: (pulling out a scalpel) Does this mean I get to dissect the little skebangas?

Mildeye: (looking at the scalpel) I have to say I find it a little disconcerting that you had that quite so readily to hand.

  • Stepford Smiler: Homily in the early parts of the movie; she's keeping up a happy facade for Arrietty's benefit but only really manages to come off as delusional.
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