by Mary Norton
Meet Kate. She's "a wild, untidy, self-willed little girl who stared with angry eyes and was said to crunch her teeth" (1.1). She lives in London with her parents and is crocheting with Mrs. May when the older lady tells her the story of the borrowers.
Oh. And she's also the most likely candidate for our original narrator. The opening lines are:
"It was Mrs. May who first told me about them. No, not me. How could it have been me—a wild, untidy, self-willed little girl who stared with angry eyes and was said to crunch her teeth? Kate, she should have been called. Yes, that was it—Kate. Not that the name matters much either way: she barely comes into the story" (1.1).
Uh-huh, sure. We totally believe you, narrator-who-is-definitely-not-Kate. Why would the narrator protest so much that she was the actual girl in the story, unless there was some truth to it? And as we'll see later, this isn't the only time in the novel that the lines between people and characters are blurred. Check out our section on "Narrator Point of View" for more.
For most of the novel, Kate-the-character kind of fades into the background as we get to know Arrietty and the family. But Kate comes back again at the end of the story when she and Mrs. May use their imaginations to complete the tale of the borrowers.
Kate's sure the Borrowers have escaped to the fields (and she has been rooting for them for the length of the story). But Mrs. May isn't so sure. She treats her very gently—Kate is a child after all—but also lets her know of the possibility that we may never know what happened to the borrowers:
Kate sat silent, staring at Mrs. May. After a while she drew a long breath. "Then that proves it," she said finally, "underground chamber and all."
"Not quite," Mrs. May.
"Why not?" asked Kate.
"Arrietty used to make her 'e's' like little half-moons with a stroke in the middle—"
"Well?" said Kate.
Mrs. May laughed and took up her work again. "My brother did too," she said. (20.63-68)
By finding out that the whole story of the borrowers may just have been a fantasy, Kate the child is on her way to becoming Kate the adult.
And it also reveals a key to the novel: sometimes the line between fact and fiction, between character and storyteller is, well, more than a little blurry.