Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Borrowers

Have you ever wondered where all those safety-pins that you had brought have gone? The little things in your home that suddenly disappear all on a sudden and never reappear- a doll and its set of accessories, pins, match-boxes and stamps.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton gives a fantastic picture of what happens to these small items. They are borrowed by small people who are smaller than Tom Thumb or Thumbelina. They use these small items in their day-to-day life. A piece of blotting paper can carpet the entire floor of their home, a stamp can act as a wall-paper, a wad of cotton can be a stool for Arriety Pod, the heroine of the book.

Arriety Clock lives with her father Pod and mother Homily under the floorboards of the kitchen of a large house. Pod is "seen" by a human "bean" and the parents are troubled. To prevent emigration, they introduce Arriety to the concept of borrowing. Pod takes her with him and she meets a small boy who is on vacation from India. They become friends and she reads stories to him.

Strange fact is that there are class-divisions even among these small people. The Clocks are a respectable lot who live next to the clock and whose house has all middle-class luxuries though they are sad that they don't have anyone to appreciate or envy them. The boy lavishes gifts on them- more carpets, more tea-sets and furniture until somebody finds out the truth.

The story is interesting in that Mary Norton creates a world that is small and believable. It fills you with awe in a way no other book does because even a mile's walk is a long journey for a Borrower because of the small size. The humans have conquered many of these limitations through advances in science and technology; so it is a relief to feel that this world is unreal and only in books. Otherwise a lot of our basic beliefs would be destroyed if such a world exists for humans as well. No wonder, Mary Norton's The Borrowers won the Carnegie Medal for the best children's book in 1952.

No comments: