Study Guide

Butler in Artemis Fowl

By Eoin Colfer

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Before we dig into Butler, we'd like to present you with a bit of context on how he came to find himself more or less attached at the hip to Artemis. Check it out: 

The Butlers had been serving the Fowls for centuries. It had always been that way. [...] At the age of ten, Butler children were sent to a private training center in Israel, where they were taught the specialized skills necessary to guard the latest in the Fowl line. (1.126-127) 

In other words, Butler was born into this position. It was his lot before he was even born, and the only way through life he's ever known to be possible. In short, only one option's ever been presented to Butler. 

The Butler Family

Because of his job and his training, Butler only really has two relationships in his life—Artemis and his sister, Juliet. Though he is responsible for Artemis's safety, Juliet is and always will be his number one priority. That's not an exaggeration, either. When Artemis drugs Juliet, Butler seriously considers breaking his neck—and the only reason he doesn't, is that he doesn't want Juliet to be "distressed in her final moments" (9.261). Yup—Juliet is first in his mind. 

He even takes on a fully-grown troll, gets nearly killed, and wakes back up to do it all again—though this time in a medieval suit of armor—all because he wants to show the troll "what happens when someone lays a hand on [his] sister" (8.315). In case it wasn't abundantly clear to you yet, it's probably not a good idea to mess with Juliet. 

Butler's sister brings out an oddly sensitive side in him that extends beyond needing to protect her, though—and by sensitive, we mean about himself. 

When Artemis gives them the run-down on how to kidnap a fairy, he finds out that Juliet doesn't know anything about the plans because Butler never told her since "Juliet was the only person alive who laughed at him with embarrassing regularity" (4.19). Here is a guy who can kill someone in a hundred different ways, and yet he's afraid of being laughed at by his sixteen year-old-sister. Looks like someone's not quite as tough as they'd like everyone to believe. 

Violence, the Butler Way

We get that violence is a big part of Butler's job—he works for one of the top Irish crime families, after all, and his employer gets into trouble on a regular basis. The "specialized skills" he has include a "customized blend of martial arts, emergency medicine, and information technology" (1.127), all of which have likely been used to keep Artemis safe at various points. That being said, there are some moments in the book where it gets a little disturbing that Butler's so good at his job. 

When Butler fights the troll the second time (in the suit of armor), even the fairies watching via surveillance camera are completely mesmerized, because no human should be able to take on a troll and live—few fairies are able to do this, and their weapons are way more advanced. 

It's when the fight is almost over, though, that it starts to get gross. Butler beats up the troll with an old-timey mace (which, if you've never seen one, looks something like this), and then takes "careful aim and deliver[s] a series of crippling blows to the stricken creature" (8.333). Butler's super precise about the whole murdering the troll thing, to the point where he is actually going to shoot it up through the chin/neck area even though it is already totally defeated. It's gruesome and thorough in a way that goes above and beyond duty. 

And that's an important thing to understand about Butler: While most of his violent acts are done to defend Artemis, he does them so well that it's hard not to sense a rather disturbing investment in his work. 

Butler's Goal

This isn't to say that Butler isn't a "man of honor" (9.40) though, because he totally is. In fact, he prefers attacking people from a distance without close physical contact, and he has a rather large problem with kidnapping Holly once he realizes fairies are a lot like humans. Part of his sense of honor binds him to Artemis, though, so while he takes issue with kidnapping Holly, he doesn't stop Artemis from doing so—even though he absolutely could. 

Butler has other seemingly contradictory moments in the book, too. For instance, he takes out an entire squadron of Retrieval officers—and then allows them to bring in medics to carry off the wounded. When we consider the thoughtfulness he brings to his violent acts (as with the troll), Butler becomes kind of a hot mess of morality. 

Deep down though, it looks like Butler's motivation is primarily to see Artemis able to be a kid again—he watches from the side while the lines around Artemis's eyes get more pronounced, and worries constantly about Artemis's happiness. When Artemis gives up on the search for his father, Butler "took the liberty of patting his employer gently on the shoulder, just once, before returning to work" (2.82)—a move Butler apparently does often enough that Artemis starts to think of it as a "familiar hand on his shoulder" (9.177). It almost makes us go aw… almost.

Though Butler might not really consider Artemis on the same level as his sister because Artemis is more of an employer/friend than a family member (and a pretty messed up one at that), he's definitely there as a stable presence in Artemis's life, and usually has the boy's well-being at the forefront of his mind.

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