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We could try to describe Artemis, but let's be honest—there's no one quite like him. He is, as we like to say when we're feeling fancy and lofty and literary, what you might call an enigma. So one of the best ways to tackle Artemis as a character, in fact, is actually to look at how he relates to a few of the other major players (which is usually not well).
Butler gets his own analysis elsewhere in this section, but for now let's focus on the parts where he and Artemis interact. Let's start at the beginning (or, if you'd like a musical interlude, please feel free to start with the end instead):
Artemis was the closest thing Butler had to a friend, and Butler was the closest Artemis had to a father, albeit one who obeyed orders. (1.129)
Butler is really the only person Artemis has left around him to provide stability and moral guidance, and even though he mostly does all the dirty work for Artemis's plans, he also makes sure there's a line Artemis won't cross.
One of Artemis's few good qualities is his complete faith in Butler, because it shows that even though Artemis is smarter than everyone and mostly aloof, he can still recognize the value of a relationship based on mutual trust.
That being said, Artemis seems pretty comfortable with letting Butler do all sorts of really dangerous things. Obviously Butler can take care of himself, but Artemis doesn't seem to react very strongly to pretty major things like Butler almost getting killed by a troll. When Butler returns after this particular incident, he tells Artemis that he was "in trouble for a moment there" and that Holly's the reason he's alive—and all Artemis gives him in response is a nod and a "Yes. I saw. […] I wonder why she did it" (9.34). Way to stay cool, Artemis. A little too cool.
We get that Artemis is an unusual kid, and that he tends to freak people out with his emotionless vampire face, but with Butler? This is the guy that "always intervened before punches landed" (8.157), the guy who has been there for Artemis for so long that he can actually get the genius to open up a little about his fears and worries. You'd think Artemis would be a little more concerned when Butler almost dies. But no.
We also get a tense moment when Artemis drugs Butler and Juliet and Butler thinks how "he would have had ample time to snap Artemis Fowl's neck" (9.261). As much as Artemis might feel like Butler is a father figure, Butler always makes decisions in Juliet's interests first, which tells us that Artemis and Butler are still a step below family. And that means that Artemis is pretty much family-less in this book.
Angeline (a.k.a. Artemis's mom) doesn't do a whole lot in this story except be crazy, but she still makes certain things pretty clear about her son. For instance, the fact that Artemis doesn't have a caretaker for his mother even though she's difficult to deal with suggests that he enjoys the lack of authority figures hanging around his house—but that he also periodically takes the time to go see her, and has to blink back "a few rebellious tears" when he realizes she doesn't recognize him (2.46), also suggests that he misses his mom at least a little bit.
Of course, Dr. Argon warns us in the epilogue that "the fact that he used his wish to heal his mother is not a sign of affection" (10.2), but what else could have motivated Artemis to give up millions in exchange for a single wish he doesn't even use on himself? Perhaps later books in the series will reveal hideous motives, but for the time being, it's hard not to think that Artemis makes this wish because he's just a twelve-year-old kid who wants his mom back.
Then again, there's a whole lot of creepiness in the relationship between Artemis and his mom. Remember the "Mam Cam" (6.412)? Artemis has a security camera exclusively devoted to watching his mother's room, even though half the time he has her knocked out with sleeping pills. We're not sure what, exactly, this shows us about Artemis, but one thing's for certain: it's majorly creepy.
And what about when he walks in on his mom sitting with "a facsimile of his father, constructed from the morning suit he'd worn […] padded with tissue, and atop the dress shirt was a stuffed pillowcase with lipstick features" (6.36)? At first Mom brings the creep factor—hey there, ventriloquist dummy of Artemis's father—but then Artemis brings his own dose of weirdness to the situation.
He plays along for a bit to make his mom happy, but then he just sort of… leaves. As our narrator tells us, "There were things to be done" and Artemis "had no time for his mother's fantasy world" (6.46). Artemis's priorities remind us that this is one seriously cold-hearted kid.
We know what you're thinking—Artemis was probably just focused on the end goal of getting the gold and healing his mother, right? Except he really wasn't. We don't get any hints that he's thinking about healing her mind with fairy magic at all, until Holly practically begs him to take a wish in exchange for the gold, and thus keep the fairies from using the bio-bomb (9.173). So though Artemis is floored when he and his mom are reunited at the end, we're not sure whether this is because he's happy to see her well, or because he's twelve and she's expected to be around.
There's no doubt here that Artemis creates a mortal enemy for himself when he kidnaps Holly Short. So why is it that "for some reason, she mourned his passing" (9.268) when the bio-bomb detonates? What is it about Holly that makes Artemis say, "Never again. We shall restrict ourselves to more tasteful ventures in the future" (9.380)? Aside from the fact that Holly's probably the only person to ever punch Artemis, their relationship has a profound and lasting effect on the boy that isn't actually made clear by the time the book closes. (Did somebody say sequel?)
What we do know is that through Holly and Artemis's relationship, the origin of the name Artemis really comes into play. It's not just that Artemis is the goddess of the hunt—though Artemis (the Fowl one) does call fairies "Animals to be hunted" (6.3) at one point—she's also the goddess of a bunch of different things, like the wilderness which fit nicely with Artemis's peculiar brand of morality (he really hates whaling ships, for instance).
There's a key tension between Artemis and his namesake, though, which Holly illuminates: Artemis the goddess is a fierce protector of girls, while Artemis Fowl kidnaps a girl—Holly—in the woods, and locks her up. This is a pretty significant difference between Artemis Fowl and his mythological namesake, and he's lucky she's not around to intervene.
Because Artemis the goddess would totally intervene—and this goddess is crazy dangerous and completely willing to kill a guy just for looking at her the wrong way (ask Actaeon if you don't believe us), never mind kidnapping an innocent lady like Holly.
Of course, Artemis Fowl absolutely has a dangerous and unpredictable streak too—just like his namesake—and he proves over and over again that he's willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants, including making Holly "believe that she had betrayed her own people" (6.87). But as we compare his fondness for danger to the goddess's willingness to use violence, the boy's lack of moral logic becomes clear through its alignment with the goddess's steadfast sense of right and wrong.