The Borrowers by Mary Norton

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About The Borrowers by Mary Norton: The Borrowers are tiny people hidden away in houses and safe places, living off what they borrow from human Beans. Pod and Homily want daughter Arriety to be safe, never seen, but she feels lonely and trapped. The Boy visiting Great Aunt Sophy brings doll furniture in exchange for Arriety reading, until mean housekeeper Mrs Driver calls the rat-catcher.

My thoughts

The book in one sentence: Our heroine borrower Arrietty Clock has befriended a human boy ... and nothing good ever comes out of befriending "human beans!"


I have always loved The Borrowers. I grew up with that sixth sense that they existed. (Well, I was pretty sure fairies were real too.) Unconvinced? The proof is obvious: everyone loses small things (pins, needles, scraps of paper and other whatnot), and if you are like me, you would swear that you knew exactly where you placed it, and yet ... it's missing. So where is it? It's probably made it's way into the hands of a Borrowers.

The Borrowers are teeny tiny people who inhabit small spaces in our homes and whose elusiveness make us "human beans" wonder if they even exist. They are called Borrowers because they "borrow" human things and make use of these things to survive.

This first book of the series introduces us to a Borrower family, the Clocks - Pod, his wife Homily and their spirited daughter Arrietty. They, along with many other Borrower families (the Overmantels, the Harpischords) have lived in the house for ages ... but their race seems to be dying out. Arrietty has been very much sheltered from the realities of the borrowing life.

Pod returns from one of his borrowing trips and shakily tells them that he has been seen by a "human bean." Arrietty then hears horror stories of how being "seen" by humans results cats being brought in, missing Borrowers, or Borrowers venturing out beyond the house to "immigrate" and yet never to be seen again. In the bid to train Arrietty to be more self-sufficient, Pod allows her to join him in next borrowing trip - to Arrietty's utter delight, as she is becoming more and more unhappy living under those floorboards with no light and little freedom.

Her adventure begins when she steps out of those floorboards. She revels in the sun, the garden, the hugeness of the world outside. She inadvertently runs into the young human boy from India who has been living in the house. And being the friendly and rather naive young Borrower she is, she befriends him. What develops is a lovely friendship, not without its own idiosyncrasies, yet putting the Borrowers into much danger.

Another world ...

What strikes me about The Borrowers is its imaginativeness. I accept the whole notion of the Borrowers because Mary Norton has so convincingly created and painted their world to me. From the description of Arrietty's cigar box room, to how Pod ingeniously uses hat pins for getting down curtains, to how Homily loves blotting paper for easier clean-ups, and how they stock up on sugar cubes ... it is these small details that makes this miniature world much more realistic.

But even better is the characters. I love the characters because although they are small, they are still very much human! I can relate to Arrietty's desire for freedom. I can relate to Homily's strong sense of protectiveness towards Arrietty. And I can relate to Pod's desire to keep his family safe. And I certainly admire their resourcefulness and ingenuity in surviving the human world.

The collision between their world and the human world is also highly credible. I often wonder how I would react if I were to meet a Borrower - would I freak out or not? And on the flip side, if I were a Borrower, what would I think of these giants - big and friendly, or potentially an enemy? The Borrowers explores both sides and there is no good or bad guy -- it just is.

Verdict: Highly imaginative and charming series for your youngsters! Be sure to have the next books on hand pretty soon! Enjoy!


  1. I have a first edition of The Borrowers Afloat :)

    Oh, and have you heard, Studio Ghibli is doing a Borrowers animated film! *Squee*

  2. blooey, can i say *jealous.* :) as for the film, i will keep that one on my radar!

  3. It's been ages since I read The Borrowers :-) I too am looking forward to the Ghibli version!!

  4. i want this book,too... T__T


© guiltless readingMaira Gall