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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The Borrowers

On Boxing Day the whole family sat round to watch The Borrowers. This is the latest TV retelling of the charming tale of the two inch tall people who live under floorboards, scavenging from us big people for food and other useful items.

Much of the plot of this version revolves around a professor played by Stephen Fry who captures some of the little people, wants to show them off to the world as an amazing new discovery of natural history and (and this is where it gets far fetched) threatens to dissect them. So the little people spend their entire time avoiding the big people and escaping from them. Which is my problem with The Borrowers.

It is typical of the misanthropy of the mainstream creative arts. Evil humans only want to dissect and eradicate little people. What should happen is that Stephen Fry reveals the little people to the world, and so begins a new age of emancipation for them. There is no question of dissecting them: the human rights activists would not stand for it. And think of the advantages of trade. No more hiding under floorboards and scavenging; the little people get all the benefits of big people technology and big people get all the benefits of little people labour. Not only could they do useful work in confined spaces, but they seem to have human equivalent intelligence so we could run our call centres and get our computer programming done in exchange for fewer resources.

It’s a win win, which supposedly doesn’t make for good drama.

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11 comments to The Borrowers

  • Hmm

    The idea of emancipating them is a good idea… It would open up a whole new dimension to the story.

    Why not send in a suggestion to the show… or write up a script and send it in?

    It would be nice if the script writers would write more 3 dimensional characters, where the humans could be intelligent, bad/good and stupid all in a general mix like the vast normality of people really are. Characters that make mistakes and learn are the best, especially if they learn at right angles to the storyline.

  • Myno

    Oh, let there be evil bureaucrats and socialists who “know best” what horrors to subject their latest little subjects to…

  • Just John

    I recall hearing a quote about killing “cryptids” like Bigfoot, which went something like: the first person who shoots a sasquatch and displays him to the world would be a hero, as he would have proven what was previously unknown; the second person who shoots a sasquatch is a monster himself. In the case of Borrowers, I’d suggest waiting for one to die of natural causes and then asking permission to dissect him.

    Then again, considering the mistreatment of man by man over the centuries – slavery, torture, etc. – I think there would be a few Borrower deaths, barring special abilities on their part. Though treating them with respect would also be difficult – I can imagine a silly child who grabs one and tries to dress it up in doll clothes.

  • Monique

    With modern medical imaging technology, it is now possible to see the inner workings of a live subject without the need to dissect. A more interesting plot would be the societal implications of humans and borrowers learning to live in a mutually aware environment, and all the good and bad that comes with it.

    Tangentially related… I do online RP with some net buddies, and one of the scenarios we played out was humans coming into contact with a world like (Pixar’s) Cars. This time, humans were in the position of being small, delicate creatures faced with the challenge of coexisting with living, sapient vehicles appearing to come right out of a kids’ storybook; HOWEVER… dealing with self-directed and not always predictable machine-beings who weighed a ton or more had its risks. There were some accidents and injuries, not to mention a lot of ducking and dodging, until each of the races got used to being around the other.

  • guy herbert

    In this case I think misanthropy is realistic. The history of human treatment of other humans from culturally or physically distinctive groups by more powerful ones is not a good one, even in very recent times.

    It being fiction, and children’s fiction at that, “threatens to dissect them” gets by. But in real life, he would probably just get on with it. Threats seek compliance. They are not used by those who have certain power.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Has anyone else read T. H. White’s charming fantasy Mistress Masham’s Repose?

    A magnificent, largely abandoned 18th century manorial estate called “Malplaquet” is home to a secret colony of transplanted Lilliputians, about 6″ tall. At the end, the young heroine has a great inheritance restored to her, enough to maintain the estate, including the colony.

    But I used to wonder how the Lilliputians could support themselves. Lilliputian labor specialities could be very remunerative.

  • bobby b

    Please, please, no.

    If two-inch beings are admitted into society, then it will be simply a matter of time until we are forced by government regulation to adapt all of our staircases to a 1/4″ riser height. Do you have any idea how long it will take to get to an upstairs bathroom if you have to go up six hundred or more steps to get there? And hat racks – hat racks will have to be adapted for use by such people, along with shower controls and light switches and those little buttons that big stores put around that you use to call for help . . .

    No, far better to dissect one and let the rest know about it.

  • Hat racks? Who’s wearing hats these days?

  • Alisa: hipsters, mainly. That gives us an interesting take on the Borrowers.

  • Michael: I know, but they don’t count, because they do not tend to take their hats off (unless they are in a shower or in bed, one would hope). IOW, these are not the kind of hats that hat racks imply. But I’ll still take your interesting take on the Borrowers, regardless:-)

  • M. Thompson

    Interestingly enough, when I was at a local movie theater a few weeks ago, I saw a promotion for an Anime adaption of the same story.