Study Guide

Dan Cahill in The Maze of Bones (The 39 Clues)

By Rick Riordan

Dan Cahill

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

Amy's younger brother, Dan, is such a stereotypical boy (in contrast to Amy's anxiety-ridden, book-loving, stereotypical girl) he might as well be made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails. He collects baseball cards, likes to play pranks, and is described by Amy as acting "like a doofus most of the time" (8.39). But he's good at math, something his sister, a girl, isn't. (Don't tell Danica McKellar.) He keeps his emotions to himself, like when he loses his parents' photo in the subway, and he bounces back from stress so fast it makes poor, harried Amy envious.

Oh, and he wants to eat a lot. While trailing Irina Spasky, Dan "wondered if [Rue de Rivoli] meant 'the Street of Ravioli'" (12.1). But in Paris, surrounded by delicious food, we can't blame him for getting a little distracted. Our stomachs are grumbling already.

With all the dangerous situations these kids get themselves in, it's easy to forget that Amy and Dan are kids and not Angelina Jolie and Nicolas Cage on a wild globetrotting quest to save humanity. But Dan's playful nature serves to remind us that he's just eleven. He may be capable of pulling off some amazing feats, but sometimes he just wants to be a kid. And that's totally fine by Shmoop.

Pulling His Own Weight

Early on, Dan seems like little more than a rambunctious brat, someone who sets fires and pranks teachers. But he never displays any of these traits while on the hunt with Amy. Perhaps Amy, or the excitement of the hunt, bring out the best in Dan. In fact, he's an invaluable member of the team, helping to solve puzzles and get them out of life threatening situations, like when he "hit[s] the ground like it was a waterslide, slipping under the bars" (12.86). Amy, not knowing a thing about baseball, has a little difficulty with this maneuver. His interest in graveyards and tombstone rubbings also conveniently comes in handy as the story takes him to a couple of different cemeteries. In that sense, his skills complement Amy's perfectly. Her faults are his strengths and vice versa.

The main place where Dan picks up the slack is when it comes to financing the trip. A lot of the quotes on the theme of "Sacrifice" deal with this, so you can read more about it there. But we do want to say that Dan gives up a lot to go on this trip. For one thing, he gives up a million dollars (that could buy a lot of rare baseball cards). He not only leaves his collection behind, he sells it to make money for plane tickets. And the one sentimental item he brings with him—the only photo of his parents he has—is lost forever in the tunnels of the Paris subway system.

Amy? Well, she sells some of Grace's jewelry that she had for all of twelve minutes. (We exaggerate, but really, she had it for less than a day.) And... that's it. Grace's jade dragon, that might be worth as much as the rest of the jewelry put together, is the one item that Amy keeps, despite repeated efforts to get her to sell it. This item is too special and cherished to not be a plot point in a later book, but at the moment it just serves as a contrast to Dan's selflessness. How many eleven year olds do you know who are as generous and self-sacrificing as Dan?

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