With­in the annals of children’s lit­er­a­ture, few books have man­aged to cap­ture the vivid­ness of the imag­i­na­tion quite like Mary Nor­ton’s clas­sic tale, The Bor­row­ers. First pub­lished in 1952, it has since become a beloved trea­sure for gen­er­a­tions of young read­ers. A recent reread­ing, how­ev­er, has revealed that Norton’s mas­ter­ful sto­ry­telling tran­scends age, mak­ing it a joy for the young at heart as well. The Bor­row­ers revolves around the lives of tiny peo­ple who live unseen beneath the floor­boards, bor­row­ing items from the world of human beings to fur­nish their own minus­cule exis­tences. In this review, we delve into the minia­ture uni­verse Nor­ton so bril­liant­ly crafts, as well as the themes and char­ac­ters that give this sto­ry its endur­ing appeal.

At the heart of The Bor­row­ers are the Clock fam­i­ly, com­posed of Pod, Homi­ly, and their teenage daugh­ter Arri­et­ty. They reside beneath the kitchen floor of an old coun­try house in Eng­land, hid­den away from the pry­ing eyes of humans. The Clocks are bor­row­ers, a secre­tive race of tiny peo­ple who live off the detri­tus of the larg­er world. They scav­enge and repur­pose human items, trans­form­ing them into the neces­si­ties of life. Thim­bles become teacups, postage stamps adorn their walls as fine art, and nee­dles serve as swords for pro­tec­tion.

Norton’s world-build­ing is noth­ing short of extra­or­di­nary. With a keen eye for detail, she trans­ports read­ers into the secret lives of the bor­row­ers, a realm where the mun­dane becomes extra­or­di­nary. The sto­ry unfolds at a leisure­ly pace, invit­ing read­ers to ful­ly immerse them­selves in the rich­ly imag­ined, yet hum­ble world of the Clock fam­i­ly. It is a tes­ta­ment to Norton’s skill that she is able to make the ordi­nary trap­pings of human life appear won­drous and nov­el through the eyes of the bor­row­ers.

The char­ac­ters them­selves are also rich­ly drawn and deeply human, despite their diminu­tive size. Pod is a cau­tious, respon­si­ble, and skilled bor­row­er who takes pride in his abil­i­ty to pro­vide for his fam­i­ly. Homi­ly, his wife, is a wor­ri­er who frets about their safe­ty, often bemoan­ing their lot in life. And then there’s Arri­et­ty, their adven­tur­ous and curi­ous daugh­ter. She yearns for com­pan­ion­ship and a life beyond the con­fines of their home beneath the floor­boards.

The story’s con­flict aris­es when Arri­et­ty, against the wish­es of her pro­tec­tive par­ents, befriends a human boy named “the Boy” who lives in the house above. As Arrietty’s friend­ship with the Boy blos­soms, it brings about unfore­seen con­se­quences that threat­en the Clocks’ very exis­tence. The nov­el explores themes of curios­i­ty, friend­ship, and courage, as well as the del­i­cate bal­ance between the worlds of the bor­row­ers and humans.

One of the most strik­ing aspects of The Bor­row­ers is its abil­i­ty to spark the imag­i­na­tion of its read­ers. It invites us to pon­der the hid­den worlds that may exist right under our noses, stir­ring with­in us a sense of won­der for the seem­ing­ly ordi­nary. Norton’s tale encour­ages us to look close­ly at our sur­round­ings, and per­haps even empathize with the lives of those who dwell in the mar­gins.

The book also rais­es ques­tions about the nature of bor­row­ing and own­er­ship. The bor­row­ers do not see them­selves as thieves, but rather as resource­ful sur­vivors. They take only what they need, and what they believe will not be missed. Through this lens, we are asked to con­sid­er the line between neces­si­ty and excess, between what is bor­rowed and what is stolen.

Norton’s prose is ele­gant, with a touch of humour that keeps the sto­ry engag­ing with­out dilut­ing its more seri­ous themes. The dia­logue is nat­ur­al and well-craft­ed, giv­ing each char­ac­ter a dis­tinc­tive voice. The descrip­tions of the Clock

family’s home and their dai­ly lives are intri­cate and evoca­tive, imbu­ing the nov­el with a sense of mag­ic and won­der. Read­ers will find them­selves trans­port­ed into the minus­cule world of the bor­row­ers, delight­ing in the inge­nu­ity with which they repur­pose every­day objects and nav­i­gate their pre­car­i­ous exis­tence.

The illus­tra­tions by Beth and Joe Krush, which grace both the orig­i­nal and sub­se­quent edi­tions, add anoth­er lay­er of charm to the sto­ry. Their black-and-white draw­ings beau­ti­ful­ly cap­ture the spir­it of Norton’s text, pro­vid­ing visu­al cues that make the world of the bor­row­ers all the more tan­gi­ble. The atten­tion to detail in these illus­tra­tions is remark­able, allow­ing read­ers to ful­ly appre­ci­ate the clever ways in which bor­row­ers adapt their sur­round­ings to suit their needs.

The Bor­row­ers is not with­out its dark­er moments, how­ev­er. The sense of impend­ing dan­ger that looms over the Clock fam­i­ly is pal­pa­ble, as they grap­ple with the poten­tial dis­cov­ery of their secret world. Nor­ton does not shy away from the harsh real­i­ties that the bor­row­ers face, and her depic­tions of the tri­als and tribu­la­tions they encounter lend the sto­ry depth and emo­tion­al res­o­nance. The nov­el serves as a reminder that the world can be a cru­el and unfor­giv­ing place, even for those who inhab­it the fringes of our own lives.

Despite the chal­lenges they face, the Clock family’s resilience and resource­ful­ness are inspir­ing. Nor­ton adept­ly con­veys the strength of the bonds that unite the fam­i­ly, as well as the pow­er of friend­ship to tran­scend the bound­aries of size, cul­ture, and cir­cum­stance. These themes are woven through­out the nar­ra­tive, cul­mi­nat­ing in a finale that is both heart-warm­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing.

In con­clu­sion, Mary Norton’s The Bor­row­ers is a time­less tale that con­tin­ues to enchant and cap­ti­vate read­ers of all ages. Its rich­ly detailed world, engag­ing char­ac­ters, and explo­ration of themes such as curios­i­ty, friend­ship, and the del­i­cate bal­ance between the world of bor­row­ers and humans make it a clas­sic work of children’s lit­er­a­ture. It serves as a pow­er­ful reminder that even the small­est lives have val­ue and that the unseen worlds around us may be far more com­plex and mag­i­cal than we ever imag­ined.

Over the years, The Bor­row­ers has inspired a suc­cess­ful film adap­ta­tion, sequels, and count­less young read­ers to seek out the hid­den won­ders in their own lives. It is a tes­ta­ment to Norton’s sto­ry­telling prowess that her nov­el remains a beloved trea­sure, more than sev­en decades after its ini­tial pub­li­ca­tion. This enchant­i­ng tale is a must-read for any­one who has ever won­dered about the secret lives of the tiny peo­ple who might just be liv­ing right under our floor­boards.

📚 Cross-pub­lished to my Goodreads.

Gepubliceerd door Stijn Vogels

Natural born probleemoplosser met een oog voor usability, design, trends en details. Professioneel bezig met letterwoorden als SEO, SEA, SMO, DIY en CYA.