Study Guide

The Borrowers

By Mary Norton

The Borrowers Introduction

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.

What is The Borrowers About and 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.

The Borrowers Resources

Websites

The Secret World of Arrietty
Check out this amazing interactive Disney site based onour girl Arrietty from The Borrowers. We love the gallery of images where you can see Arrietty trying to carry a spoonful of sugar, which is a whole lot harder for her than it is for you.

Sequels
Here's a list of all the sequels to The Borrowers so you won't miss a single adventure. You know you wanna see Pod's balloon invention in action.

Articles and Interviews

Mary Norton's Obit
Learn about how this amazing author spins straw into gold in this obituary celebrating her life and work.

Interview with Robert Sheehan
What would happen if you put some rock 'n roll into The Borrowers? Find out in this interview with Robert Sheehan, who plays a character called Spiller in the most recent TV series— "kind of a James Dean / Danny Zuko [from Grease] rockabilly type character who apes this 'rebel without a cause' style and attitude. But in Borrower town, [he sticks] out like a sore thumb!"

The Secret World of Arrietty, Reviewed
94% on Rotten Tomatoes? Ain't too shabby, if we may say so. Check out a collection of reviews on your new favorite movie.

Movies or TV

1973 TV Movie
Nothing says 70s like colorful flared suits.

1992 TV Series
Our super-popular borrowers get their small screen debut in a 1992 TV series. Okay, so the clothes may be toned down a little, but this one stars Bilbo (a.k.a. Ian Holm) from The Lord of the Rings. Bonus!

The Return of the Borrowers, 1993
The Borrowers… um… return in this 1993 TV series.

John Goodman in The Borrowers
Good old Fred Flintstone (John Goodman) gives The Borrowers a whirl in this hilarious 1997 flick. Yabba-dabba-do watch it, please.

The Secret World of Arrietty, 2010
The Borrowers in an anime-style movie? Count us in.

TV Movie from 2011
The Borrowers star in a recent TV movie. This one is so British, you might need to watch it while drinking tea with your pinky up.

Video

John Goodman in The Borrowers
Get a taste for the flick with this trailer.

Pod's Adventure
Who knew a boring old house could be so exciting (and dangerous)? Check out this clip from the BBC series.

The Secret World of Arrietty Trailer, 2010
Arrietty's the star of the show, so why shouldn't her name be in the title?

Images

Cover Art
Here's one version of the oodles of covers The Borrowers has gotten over the years.

Arrietty and Homily at Home
An awesome illustration shows our tiny gals being all domestic.

Arrietty's Bedroom
Sneak a peek into Arrietty's tiny, tranquil boudoir. We love the safety pin décor.

Mrs. May and Kate
Chatting and crocheting. You know—the usual.

Family Room
Um, no offense, but they could do with clearing out some of the clutter.