Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Norton, Mary

(1903-1992) UK children's author and former actress, born Mary Pearson (married 1926), best-known for her series of stories about The Borrowers but also noted for her early work, which formed the basis for the Disney movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). Her first children's book, The Magic Bed-Knob (1943 US), tells of Miss Price, a spinster who is learning to be a Witch. After an accident with her broomstick, she transfers the Spell to an old bedknob, which enables her and three children to go wherever they wish. This book and its sequel, Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947) – assembled as Bedknob and Broomstick (omni 1957) – is much in the style of E Nesbit, though MN is as much interested in the effects of Magic as in the adventures.

The Borrowers (1952) is one of the modern classics of Children's Fantasy. The definitive Wainscot novel, it tells of a race of little people who live beneath the floors of old houses and survive by "borrowing". The Borrowers have become depleted over the centuries (> Thinning), and this story concentrates on one family, the Clocks (their home is beneath a grandfather clock), whose discovery means they have to flee and face the perils of the outside world. The later novels in the series trace their various adventures and fight for survival: The Borrowers Afield (1955), The Borrowers Afloat (1959), The Borrowers Aloft (1961) – the first four assembled as The Borrowers Omnibus (omni 1966; vt The Complete Adventures of the Borrowers 1967 US) – and The Borrowers Avenged (1982). MN also wrote the related Poor Stainless (1966; 1971 chap; vt The Last Borrowers' Story 1994 chap). The Borrowers Omnibus was expanded in 1983 to include The Borrowers Avenged and Poor Stainless and retitled The Complete Borrowers. A movie – The Borrowers (1973 tvm) – has been based on the books, as was the BBC tv 6-part serial (1992), adapted by Richard Carpenter from the first two novels and starring Ian Holm as Pod, Penelope Wilton as Homily and Rebecca Callard as Arrietty.

MN's only other novel is Are All the Giants Dead? (1975), a delightful flight of fancy in which a rationalist studious boy finds himself in a world where all the characters of Fairytales live in bored retirement. [MA]

Mary Norton


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.