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Colin: Are you making this Magic?

Mary: No. You are.
The Secret Garden 1993 movie, which really sums it all up.

First published in 1911, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, is a children's novel and has since been adapted into several television and movie versions, as well as a musical and an anime series.

The central narrative follows a young girl named Mary Lennox, who, at the beginning of the story, has been raised entirely by servants in India; her neglectful parents are too self-absorbed to even notice her, and she's grown into a major Spoiled Brat. When a freak accident -- originally a cholera epidemic but an earthquake in some adaptations -- orphans her, she is sent off to England to live with her reclusive, mysterious uncle, Archibald Craven. Little does anybody know that her presence will transform the place, and it, in turn, will transform her.

The book is in the Public Domain and available for legal download. There is even a free Audiobook available at Librivox.


The various adaptations have included:

  • The Secret Garden (1919), starring Lila Lee.
    • Very little is known about this film, as it's thought to be lost.
  • The Secret Garden (1949), starring Margaret O'Brien (whom you'll recall as Beth from the Little Women first film).
    • Interestingly, this film was done mostly in black-and-white, but made use of Technicolor for the garden segments, in a move similar to The Wizard of Oz.
  • The Secret Garden (1975), a TV series starring Sarah Hollis Andrews.
    • This series remained extremely faithful to the source material, and kept most of the characters and plot threads that other adaptations tend to excise, most prominently Susan Sowerby and her children.
  • The Secret Garden (1987), an episode of the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV series starring Gennie James.
    • Notorious because, in a twist that no other version has, it kills off Dickon. No, really!
  • The Secret Garden (1991), a musical version that premiered on Broadway.
    • This version placed more emphasis on the adults, with much of the plot being narrated by a ghostly chorus of "Dreamers". It also expands the plot considerably, up to adding in a primary conflict in the form of Archibald Craven's brother Dr. Neville Craven, who was in a love triangle with his own brother and Lillias, and is charged with both keeping Colin healthy and keeping the estate in order while Archibald is away.
  • Himitsu no Hanazono (1992-1993), an anime series starring Mina Tominaga as Mary as well as several other well known seiyuu.
    • Like the musical version it expands the story quite a bit, focusing a lot on four elements: the Sowerby family (and not only Susan, but also her youngest kids); Lillias Craven's personality and her influence around those who surrounded her; Colin's notoriously frailer-than-in-other-adaptations health, and his long and difficult way to physical recovery with Dickon and Mary's help; and the Canon Foreigners Camilla (a Roma young woman who acts as Mary's Cool Big Sis and was involved in the accident that caused Lillias's death), and Maximilian "Max" Hawkins (an accountant who used to work for the Cravens and was wrongfully accused of fraud, upon an horrible misunderstanding.)
  • The Secret Garden (1993), starring Kate Maberly and directed by Agniezska Holland.

This book contain examples of the following tropes:

Its various adaptations contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The 1993 movie takes every event from the first half or so of the book (taking place over months) and jams them all together to take place in a matter of days or weeks, removing some character depth and growth in the process. Of course, this being a film, the time line is a bit fuzzy.
  • Break the Cutie: In the anime version, Camilla and Max Hawkins were horribly broken in their backstories, which also influences Max in his revenge quest against Archibald. Not to mention, we get to see exactly how badly Lillias's Death by Childbirth broke Mr. Craven himself...
  • Break the Haughty: In the 1993 version, Mrs. Medlock, after Archibald Craven gives her a verbal smackdown near the end. Not only does she break down in a sobbing heap on the steps, but she offers to resign as well.
  • British Accents: The original book features a number of them, ranging from Yorkshire to RP. The various adaptations tend to be hit and miss with regards to accurately conveying the required accents.
  • The Caretaker: Mrs. Medlock, who in the 1993 version takes it to a Knight Templar extreme.
  • Death by Adaptation: Dickon, in the 1987 film version.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the anime, when it seems he's gonna lose the manor to Hawkins and be economically ruined, Archibald Craven makes arrangements for Mary and Colin's caretaking and gets ready to blow his brains off with a gun while staring at a picture of his dear Lillias. He backs off at the last moment.
  • ~Hey, It's That Guy!~:
    • The 1987 version is rife with this, featuring Julian Glover as Colonel McGraw, Colin Firth as the grown-up version of Colin, and Derek Jacobi as Archibald Craven.
    • Dame Maggie Smith plays Mrs. Medlock in the 1993 version.
  • Ill Boy: Colin Craven, especially in the anime series where he almost dies.
  • Love Hurts: In the anime, and how. Not only Archibald almost crossed the Despair Event Horizon when Lillias died, but Camilla and Max Hawkins become Star-Crossed Lovers few afterwards.
  • May-December Romance: In the anime series it's all but stated that Lillias was much younger than Archibald, yet they still adored each other. It would explain a lot about how hard he took her death.
  • Missing Mom: Mary might as well not have had a father for all she remembers him. OTOH, she does think of her mom.
    • The 1993 movie plays this aspect way up for both Colin and Mary.
    • Also very cranked up in the anime series, where Colin's mom Lillias is painted as The Messiah and things got worse in the manor immediately after she died. Also, at the start Mary is seen singing a song and then thinking of both her mother and her nanny, but not about her dad.
  • Motifs:
    • The 1987 film particularly likes Flower Motifs.
    • The 1993 film likes playing with these.
  • Names to Know In Anime: The anime series had several very well known seiyuu: Mina Tominaga as Mary, Chika Sakamoto as Martha, Mayumi Tanaka as Dickon, Minami Takayama as Colin, Akio Ohtsuka as the Canon Foreigner Hawkins, and You Inoue as Camilla.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Mary, rather jarringly, has a Texan American accent in the 1987 version. Occasionally she can be heard trying for a British accent, but it just doesn't work. There's also that one scene where she attempts a Yorkshire accent...
    • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In the Broadway Recording, you can tell that the actors tried really hard with their Yorkshire and RP accents, but they're still pretty cringeworthy.
  • Rain, Rain, Go Away
  • Subtext: The 1993 film plays with this, particularly as it applies to the relationships between the three children in the story.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Dickon and Martha's youngest siblings in the anime series.
  • Symbol Motif Clothing: Mary is often given dresses that have floral patterns.
  • Tall, Dark and Bishoujo: Camilla from the anime series.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The 1987 Hallmark adaptation invoked this by killing off Dickon!
    • And Lillias, in the anime series.
  • Woman in White: Mary. As mentioned above, Colin's father finds black too much for a child, and this is the only alternative, since she is in mourning for her mother.
    • And in the 1993 film, Mary's mother in a Dream Sequence.
    • And in the musical, the entire ensemble of Dreamers are this.
    • Averted in the anime: Mary wears black at first, but later she puts on a light blue dress.
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