Have you ever lost something that you knew was right there a minute ago? You know the feeling. We've all been there. You put your homework in your backpack the night before, but it somehow mysteriously disappears. Or you set your keys down to put the leash on your dog, only to lose them entirely in that endless stack of mail. And don't even get us started on finding the remote. Our latest theory is that the couch has a taste for AA batteries.
Or… is there something else afoot? Some wee little gremlins stirring up mischief, perhaps? If you've ever suspected that someone or something might be living in your house and stealing your stuff, we've got the final proof: The Borrowers, by Mary Norton. This classic tells the story of the adventures of a family of teeny tiny people called borrowers, who steal all your little household trinkets. Oh so that's where the remote went.
But wait. How did Norton even come up with such a fantastic fictional theory in the first place? And where did she come up with the idea for such an intricate world? As it turns out, it has everything to do with bad eyesight.
Author Mary Norton got her inspiration for The Borrowers because she couldn't see too well as a child, and as a result became a "gazer into banks and hedgerows . . . a rapt investigator of shallow pools," where she would imagine little creatures to live (source). Her imagination took ovat (and yours will too), when she looked at the world through a different set of eyes.
One thing's easy to see, though: The Borrowers and its colorful cast of characters, including the lovable Arrietty, the hilariously drunk Great-Aunt Sophy,and the brave "Every-Kid" just called "the boy" have stolen hearts for a half-century, and there's no end in sight.
In fact, this story has captured the world's imagination ever since it was published in 1953. The School Library Journal raves that "the magic and charm of the writing convince children and grown-ups, too, that Borrowers really do exist" (source.) It's no wonder then, that there are tons of sequels and boatloads of movies, including one starring John Goodman, and most recently, Disney's The Secret World of Arrietty, which you might have caught in theaters.
Why Should I Care?
At least once in our lives, we've all been wrong about somebody. We're talking really, really wrong. Like someone told you the new kid at school is a total nerd, and you believed him, but then you found out he was really pretty awesome. Remember that? Maybe he's your best friend now. Or maybe that kid was you.
It's hard to get beyond the things we've been told, especially when it's coming from a close friend or parent, but sometimes that kind of prejudice can close the door to some awesome opportunities—like a spectacular friendship with someone new—that you never thought would happen.
At its core, Mary Norton's The Borrowers is full of closed doors. That's because this is a story about getting over prejudice, and making your own decisions about the folks you meet. See, borrowers have been taught to fear and hate humans, and humans fear and hate borrowers. They misunderstand each other because what's "borrowing" in one world is called "stealing" in the other.
The unlikely friendship that develops between a young borrower named Arrietty and a young boy called—er—well, Boy, causes conflict in the novel, but it also changes the character's worldviews for the better. Their friendship stamps out decades of dusty old misunderstanding, and neither the human nor the borrower world will ever be the same.
Yours won't be either.