Worth the Candle

The Borrowers Cover Image
By Mary Norton, Beth Krush (Illustrator), Joe Krush (Illustrator)
$6.99
ISBN: 9780152047375
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Odyssey Classics - April 1st, 2003

There’s an adjective for writing like this:

Panting a little, Arrietty gazed about her. She saw great chair legs rearing up into sunlight; she saw the shadowed undersides of their seats spread above her like canopies; she saw the nails and the strapping and the odd tags of silk and string; she saw the terraced cliffs of the stairs, mounting up into the distance, up and up . . . she saw carved table legs and a cavern under the chest. And all the time, in the stillness, the clock spoke-measuring out the seconds, spreading its layers of calm.

Ah, that’s cinematic. And anyone who gives themselves over to Mary Norton’s The Borrowers is bound to feel a bit like a genius movie director, endlessly searching for the unexpected view. To know that Arrietty is a Borrower (one of the tiny people who live under the floorboards of a grand house) and to look with her eyes up the chair legs or over the terraced stairs is to feel like Orson Welles or David Lean.

Mary Norton’s book and its sequels are classics, and we have little to say that hasn’t been better said by better critics. (Not to mention how often The Borrowers has been borrowed by other authors.) But Worth the Candle wants to remind you of the book so that you can appreciate it anew before The Secret World of Arrietty debuts at a movie theater near you.

As a movie from the celebrated Studio Ghibli in Japan, this animated feature promises to be a thing of beauty. And the transposition of The Borrowers into a Japanese cultural context promises to create a fresh experience for new generations without crimping it for former ones. But a film version of a book, no matter how well done, tends to overwrite the book-and this seems especially likely with The Borrowers, which isn’t especially plot heavy. Readers tend to love the book because it seeds so much imagining in readers’ minds. The glory of The Borrowers often is not what’s on the page, but the transformation you see when you look away from the page-how all the detritus of daily life seems transformed now that you’re feeling only inches high, but incredibly resourceful. You might want to have some of that experience first-hand before you give yourself over to the movie’s director-even if he turns out to be a genius.