by Mary Norton
illustrated by Diana Stanley
Week of August 16, 2009
While lying in the grass amongst the primroses, Arrietty suddenly sees an “eye”. It is clear and bright like the color of the sky, an eye like her own but enormous. She sits up in fear and starts to move aside amongst the grass stems, but a hushed voice says, “Don’t move.” Arrietty realizes she has been “seen.” “So, this is it, the worst and most terrible thing of all.” Whatever happened to Eggletina is now going to happen to her.
The voice asked her if she came from the house and she said she did, but she refused to say where in the house. The voice threatens her with the ash stick but she stands up and says to go ahead and hit her.
Suddenly there was an earthquake in the grass and he sat up, “a great mountain in a green jersey.” So this was “the boy”. She guessed him to be about 9. Arrietty is 14. The boy asked her if she could read and when she tells him that, of course, she can read he explains that he cannot read well. He has just come from India and when you are born in India you are bilingual. If you are bilingual, you can’t read well. He asks Arrietty to wait while he runs upstairs to get a book.
They have a discussion about fairies. Arrietty doesn’t believe in them. Her mother does though and believes she once saw one. He asks her if she saw a little man, about as tall as a pencil with a blue patch in his trousers, “would you say it was a fairy?” “No,” said Arrietty. “I’d say it was my father.”
The boy asked if there were more like her and she said there were many more small big than big people. She had seen the big chairs in the house, and if they had to make big chairs for all those big people . . . and the stuff for their clothes . . . there would be miles and miles of it. Their great houses, their great beds, the food they eat, . . . That is why her father says it’s a good thing they are dying out . . . just a few is all we need to “keep us.”
I think the boy is as afraid of Arrietty as she is afraid of him. I’m glad for Arrietty’s sake that he is a nice boy. The book could have taken a whole new direction if the boy had been a bully. Her father and mother are going to be apoplectic when they find out she has been hanging out in the grass with a “human bean”. Will she tell them?
I wonder if it’s true that if you are bilingual, you can’t read as well in all languages. It must be harder, for sure, as one is learning more than one language. The boy is only nine years old.
Interesting that Arrietty thinks there are many more small people in
the world than large people. Imagine her plunked down into the middle of London.
She would come to think of things a lot differently. Living in a house with
four humans probably feels like there aren’t many big people left in the
If I were Arrietty, I would be inclined to keep it a secret, but she is such an honest little soul--I think she will have to let them know. There will be sparks over that!
I've never heard that about being bilingual, but it is interesting!
I can see why she would think that. She may never have seen any other
Borrowers, but she hears tales of them all the time. As for human beans, she
can count on one hand the number she has heard about--and probably the boy is
the only one she has ever seen.
In this chapter we learn that Arrietty will be fourteen next June.
No wonder she wants to escape the indoor world she is in. She thinks the boy
is nine but he is ten. The boy asks her if she can fly, he seems to think she
is a fairy.
It must be so confusing on both their sides. The Boy has no experience with the Borrowers--so no wonder he thinks she might be a fairy. He is trying to fit her in with whatever he might have heard in stories, etc.
As for Arrietty, she has heard of Human Beans, but the boy doesn't
seem to fit what she has heard either. I love their exchange!
Imagine being fourteen and spending all those years in the apartment under the kitchen, with only the grating to look through to the outside world. And then there wasn’t much to see outside the grating, just grass, some flowers, a little sky, some trees, but not much else. Better than nothing, but still.
I wonder if Homily ever got out much. I don’t recall reading that she was bored and longed to be in the outside world. She certainly was aware of the danger of the outside world. There is mention in the next chapter that Pod took her out at least once on one of his borrowing missions. They used to visit in the old days with other Borrowers, but life must seem really quiet to her now. She must wonder what happened to all those families---the Overmantels, the Harpsichords, Rain-Barrels, Linen-Presses, Boot-Racks, the Stove-Pipes, the Bell-Pulls, the John Studdingtons, the stable families; however, she does seem fairly content to stay put in the apartment and go about her daily business.
It’s kind of hard to imagine Arrietty being older than the boy. Maybe it’s the size difference. Maybe in terms of innocence (hers of the outside world – his because he is only 9 and a child) they are more like the same age.
Eggletina is mentioned again as Arrietty ponders her fate after being
seen. I sure hope we find later on that Eggletina is alive, happy, and well!!
I can't imagine it. Was it worse for Eggletina, to think the boards were the sky, and then to find out there was a whole new world out there (in which we are told she may have been eaten by a cat) or to be Arrietty, and to see the world but not be able to get to it?
haha--Homily NEVER wants to leave the safety of her home, as far as
I can tell!