The Borrowers – Mary Norton

After a trip to the cinema to watch the new anime film Arrietty I had to pick up my old copy of The Borrowers which was one of my favourite childhood books. The anime is only loosely based on the book, more using the main concept of the book than trying to remain true to the original, which means that they managed to make a film with worked well.

A story within a story, it is told in such a way as to make it unclear whether the borrowers really exist to the people of the book or are just a flight of fancy of a small boy But it is impossible not to love the idea of the house being full of little people who live by borrowing all those things which go missing in a house: sugar cubes, safety pins, water and hair grips.

My Puffin Modern Classics copy of this book has endearing images of the world that Norton describes, showing how the borrowers would interact with normal household objects. The BBC did try to show this in their dramatisation, but struggled as they used actors. The anime by Studio Ghibli worked much better as they could show the behaviour of physics at that scale, with details like insects and drops of water which just didn’t work in the BBC adaptation.

I also prefered Shō to George in the book, as Shō never tries to hurt the borrowers and is much more impressed by the existance of these little people. This could just be the shift in narration however, as it is much easier for the narrator to think that they behaved well then for their little brother to have done so. The adult behaviour makes more sense in the book however, with the adult characters all behaving in accordance with their own best interest or moral frameworks reasonably conistently. The little story of Pod entertaining a bedridden drunken human in the book was very touching.

The anime’s soundtrack is also beautiful and I intent to try to source a CD of it.

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