Literature / Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

For years, Jacob had delighted at his grandfather's tales of growing up during World War II in an orphanage run by Miss Peregrine and populated by children like himself. Well, not quite like himself. These children were peculiar. Very peculiar.

Today, Jacob is 16 and has outgrown these silly fairy stories… but when his grandfather is killed under strange circumstances, Jacob has only his grandfather's stories and a collection of strange photographs to follow as he finds himself delving deeper into his grandfather's past, where he learns that these silly fairy stories are neither silly nor fiction… and the peculiar children his grandfather spoke of might still be alive…

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is Ransom Riggs's debut novel, and mixes real antique snapshots with a haunting narrative to paint a world where peculiar children might conceivably exist.

The trilogy by Ransom Riggs:
  1. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
  2. Hollow City
  3. Library of Souls

A film adaptation of the first book, directed by Tim Burton, was released on September 30th 2016.

This page contains tropes (and spoilers!) for the whole trilogy.

The books contain examples of:

  • Addictive Magic: Jacob suspects the loops' magic works like this.
    It was as if just being here had some kind of narcotic effect on me; like the loop itself was a drug—a mood enhancer and a sedative combined—and if I stayed too long, I’d never want to leave.
    If that were true, I thought, it would explain a lot of things, like how people could live the same day over and over for decades without losing their minds.
  • Adult Fear:
    • A sinister group of once human monsters stalk a group of children with the intention of either experimenting on them or eating them. The more human ones have infiltrated pretty much every strata of human society that could help them, while the more abominable ones are super strong, high endurance giants that are invisible. Even if they knew what was going on, odds are Jacob's parents would be all but powerless to protect him.
    • Driven home with the case of Miss Avocet, whose loop was invaded and whose charges were used as hostages to force her to surrender to the wights. When she and her partner complied, the wights simply fed the children one by one to their hollowgasts.
  • Advertised Extra:
    • The girls in the pictures on the cover of the novels fit this trope to different extents. This seems to be a bit of an Enforced Trope; their characters correspond with particularly striking photographs:
    • Subverted with Olive, on the first book's cover. She's not on the same level of plot-relevance as Jacob or Emma, sure, but she's one of the most talkative and genuinely helpful members of the supporting peculiar cast. She also becomes more relevant in the second book.
    • Sam, the girl on Hollow City's cover, plays this completely straight, showing up for a single chapter that borders on a Shoot the Shaggy Dog/Bizarro Episode, as she has no relevance on anything before and is outright said to be a peculiar who was never saved and died during the Blitz.
    • The boy on the cover of Library of Souls doesn't actually appear in the book but was used as a propaganda poster by the Claywings
  • Alliterative Name
    • Bronwyn Bruntley
    • Fiona Frauenfeld
    • Bekhir Bekhmanatov
    • Melina Manon
  • Anachronism Stew: Many deliberate examples, including one instance of a scientist in a victorian-era laboratory singing a Fleetwood Mac song. Justified by the fact that many characters pass through different time periods using the time loops.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Jacob to Emma late in Hollow City.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Why Sam refuses to leave her normal sister behind and go with the peculiars.
  • Black Speech: The hollowgast's wheezes and snarls are actually their language. Jacob can understand it, speak it, and use it to control them.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Emma attempts this on Jacob to make him go back to his own time period where he'll be safe. It doesn't work. Mutually tried at the end of Library of Souls, and it still doesn't work,
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Ambrosia and peculiar sheep's wool in Library of Souls.
  • Circus Brats: All of the peculiars before Miss Peregrine established their loop.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For all the peculiar children, but particularly Jacob.
  • Creepy Twins: Dressed as clowns, no less, though they never actually show up.
    • In the sequel, Joel-and-Peter.
  • Cthulhumanoid: Hollows, with emphasis on the "Cthulhu" part. They've got a roughly humanoid frame, but their mass of Combat Tentacle tongues are so much stronger and longer than their limbs that they use them as substitutes for their arms and legs, which are functionally vestigial.
  • Deus ex Machina: In the first book, it's set up that the peculiar children, who've been living in a this loop for near a century, cannot leave it, or try will age forward and die. This creates a difficult situation for Jacob. But come Library of Souls, a plot device has reset everyone's age, and it's hand waved away.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Jacob's grandfather dies in his arms at the start of the book.
  • Eldritch Abomination: As weird as the kids are, they look positively normal next to the hollowgasts and wights...
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Mr. White expresses his disgust at fellow wight soldier when said soldier begins sexually harassing Emma.
  • Extranormal Institute: Miss Peregrine's Home counts.
  • Eye Scream: Jacob kills a hollowgast this way.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Caul and his wight officers are often very polite and appear reasonable, but are unrelentingly cruel.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Jacob first manages near-total control over a hollowgast after spending an entire night's sleep commuting with it subconsciously. The trick to taking control over the entire herd of them is falling into a coma along with them.
    • Also, the crazy old man in Library of Souls counts big-time. Saying seemingly nonsense about dust-mothers (Mother Dust, who without Jacob would've died in Abaton.), damned librarians (could be seen as Jacob, or even better, Abe (or Abe's soul), in Abe's case stolen by Bentham), and blessed cartographers (Perplexus Anomaleus).
  • Generational Magic Decline: It is believed by some that the peculiars of the story are descended from a handful of peculiars who were extremely powerful and the size of giants. As they multiplied, their powers diluted, and as they became less powerful they shrank.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The nature of the time loops.
  • Healing Factor: Sam, can have entire chunks of her body completely torn apart without even a little bit of bleeding, and the wound completely heals up within a day or so. Millard believes that since she never lived in a loop, and such a profoundly powerful ability would have made her famous among peculiars, that she eventually took a wound she couldn't recover from during the Blitz and died.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Bentham, Miss Peregrine's brother, assists the children into infiltrating Caul's fortress, but later betrays them. However, in the climax, he pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to stop his brother.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Subverted. While normals in general do pose a real threat to peculiars, there are a number of examples of them being helpful. It is even implied that the governments of some nations are aware of the peculiars' existence and have cooperated with them to some extent in the past. Conversely, there are also instances of peculiars being cruel to normals.
  • An Ice Person: Althea has ice powers.
  • I Choose to Stay:
    • In the end, Jacob chooses to stay with the children in looking for surviving ymbrynes.
    • He comes very close to leaving in Hollow City, only for everything to go to hell when the wights capture everyone. He's not going anywhere.
  • The Infiltration: Caul is able to capture Jacob and the other peculiars by pretending to be Miss Peregrine in bird form
  • Island of Mystery: Cairnholm—it's got quasi-time travel, and an Extranormal Institute… as well as the much less glamorous trappings of a small remote Welsh island.
    It was my grandfather's island. Looming and bleak, folded in mist, guarded by a million screaming birds, it looked like some ancient fortress constructed by giants. As I gazed up at its sheer cliffs, tops disappearing into a reef of ghostly clouds, the idea that this was a magical place didn't seem so ridiculous.
  • Made of Plasticine: Sam, although it's justified since it's her peculiarity.
  • Master of Disguise: In the first book, the main wight dramatically reveals himself as having been the new-in-town "professional birdwatcher", as well as Jake's middle school bus driver, his grandfather's neighbor, his family's yard-worker, and his psychiatrist.
  • May–December Romance: Averted with Emma and Jacob. Even though Emma is technically in her eighties, living in the loop means she hasn't aged physically or emotionally in decades and is still essentially a teenager.
  • Meaningful Name: Miss Peregine, who can transform into a bird. It seems all ymbryne have these, such as Miss Finch, who can transform into a finch, and so on.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Jacob's father Franklin and his sister Susie always thought that their father was cheating on their mother with another woman because they found letters addressed to him from a woman who called herself "E." It turned out to be Emma, and he wasn't cheating on his wife with her.
  • Muggles: Called variously "normals", "non-peculiars", and "coerlfolc".
  • Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Jacob, who early in the novel is diagnosed with acute stress syndrome and suffers panic attacks, hallucinations, and possibly PTSD... Actually just can see hollowgasts, and his symptoms are him responding to their presence.
  • No Immortal Inertia: If a child leaves the loop for too long, time will catch up to them and they will rapidly age, to grisly effect. When the ymbrynes destroy the titular loop at the end of the third book, the rule is subverted; each person's age is reset to their loop age, allowing them to age forward at a normal speed when taken out.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The books offer no help as to how "ymbryne" is pronounced. The films make it "im-breen".
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Jacob regards most of his relatives as this. The only family members he's close to are his Grandad Abe and Aunt Susie.
  • Oh, Crap!: Once the children realize that the time loop is continuing past what it should, which means they're going to get bombed very soon.
  • Older Than They Look: Anyone who has lived inside a loop for an extended period of time.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Sam reacts this way to being impaled. Apparently, it's happened before. Millard thinks that in the end, she suffered a wound too severe to shrug off.
  • Only Child Syndrome: Except for Emma and Sam who both have sisters there's no mention whether Miss Peregrine's wards had any brothers or sisters
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: In order to keep the children safe, Miss Peregrine has hidden them away in a little pocket of time where it has been September 3rd, 1940 ever since… September 3rd, 1940. She makes sure the time loop resets just before the Germans bomb the everloving crap out of the Home, and the children have not aged since that day, though they remember each iteration of the day. It is mentioned that other ymbrynes have created similar time loops as refuges for other groups of peculiars.
  • Parental Substitute: Miss Peregrine for the children. Particularly Emma, who outright calls her the only real mother she's ever known—she even celebrates her birthday on the day she met Miss Peregrine; the day her real mother got her.
  • Posthumous Character: Victor, who's long dead before the events of the first book and is never shown alive on-screen.
  • Prophet Eyes: The wights, who have returned almost perfectly to their human forms, but with this as the exception.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Played straight with Jacob's doctor in Library of Souls. For one thing, he's a wight.
  • Secret Legacy: Grandpa Portman left some pretty big shoes for Jacob to fill.
  • Series Continuity Error
    • In the show the peculiars put on for Jacob in the first book, it's stated that Miss Peregrine's clothes don't shape-shift with her. Not true by the final book.
    • In Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children Horace says he's 83. But in Hollow City, he says he wants to live to see his 105th birthday, implying he's 104.
    • In the first book, Jacob takes an apple from the loop and puts in on his bedside table. In the morning—maybe 10 hours later—it has aged forward. But by books two and three, it's possible to spend a 2 or 3 days outside a loop.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Peter-and-Joel; it's one of their peculiarities.
  • Soul-Sucking Retail Job: Jacob was stuck working in a grocery store at the beginning of the story, and he desperately wanted out. He lost it after his grandfather died, and said that his "only job was getting better."
  • Spooky Photographs: Used as spectacle and illustration throughout the books. And the best part is that they are all real antique photos collected by the author (and several of his friends and fellow hobbyists) before he ever started writing the story.
  • Team Mom: Emma and Bronwyn tend to take these roles.
  • Theme Naming: The ymbrynes are all named after birds. Which makes sense, considering they can turn into them.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted in the first book, where they're used for plot reasons instead. When Jacob is traumatized and having nightmares, his parents send him to a competent, professional, realistic-sounding therapist to deal with the grief and trauma.
  • Those Two Guys: A pair of twins constantly shows up in photographs, but we never get to actually meet them.
  • Time Master: The ymbrynes, which have the power to manipulate time.
  • Time Travel Romance: A major problem in Emma and Jacob's relationship.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • A lot of the peculiar children in Hollow City, once they start using their abilities to fight the hollowgast and the wights. Special mention goes to:
    • Emma, for burning a hollowgast's tongue off
    • Hugh, for summoning an army of bees to kill the wights that had taken the others captive
    • Jacob, whose ability develops over the course of the story to not only seeing the hollowgast, but also being able to sense them, speak their language, and ultimately control them.
    • An interesting inversion of this trope occurs with the hollows. When they "level up" into wights, they actually become less powerful, losing their massive strength and invisibility. They still view this as a plus, however, because becoming a wight allows them to pass as human and (in their view, at least) be one step closer to the possibility of becoming immortal.
  • Trapped in the Past: Jacob, in Hollow City.
  • The Mole: Jacob's psychiatrist, Dr. Golan, was a wight. Jacob told him everything he knew about the children, apparently.
  • The Shadow Knows: A hollow is invisible to common people until it's about to eat. (Read: "Until it's too late.") However, its shadow is always visible.
  • The Tunguska Event: Comes up as a plot point. It was apparently caused by the attempt of renegade peculiars and their allies to gain eternal youth without being confined to loops, utilizing the site of a long-disused time loop in the Siberian tundra for their experiment.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifter: Miss Peregrine (and others like her, called ymbrynes) can turn into birds. The reason given is that only birds can master the time loops.
  • Wham Line: When Jacob asks Emma what made his grandfather peculiar:
    Emma: He could see the monsters.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Before Jacob joins the other peculiars on their journey at the end of the first book, Emma warns him that the time loop will close once they leave it, and it will be very difficult for Jacob to return to his own time again, if he even can. He nonetheless agrees to go with them after going back to say goodbye to his father.

The film contains examples of:
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Miss Peregrine was a bit more matronly in the books, though not ugly. Here, she's rather clearly a stunning woman.
  • Adaptational Modesty: In the books, when ymbrynes transform into birds, they don't take their clothes with them. This was changed for the film. Justified in that, while Eva Green often gets naked in her movies, this is a family-oriented film.
  • Adaptation Name Change: An extremely minor case, but Jacob, who never went by Jake in the books, always does in the film.
  • Adaptational Superpower Change:
    • Emma's character now has Olive's peculiarity with wind elementalism on top of it, and Olive now has Emma's pyrokinesis.
    • In addition to the Prophetic Dream ability he has in the books, the film version of Horace can project the images from his dreams into the air through his right eye using a special lens.
    • At one point in the book whilst explaining to Jacob about Wights, Miss Peregrine states they don’t have any peculiarities. In contrast the Wights shown in the film still have their powers from when they were Peculiars; specifically Mr. Barron is a Shapeshifter and two Canon Foreigner Wights include a Cryo-kinetic man and a half-rat woman.
    • The method by which the Hollows become Wights is different. In the books it’s achieved by absorbing a Peculiars’ soul, in the film it’s by consuming a Peculiars’ eyes.
      • A visual metaphor for devouring souls, since eyes are often referred to as "windows to the soul".
    • Jake can see hollows, but considering the very different and more happy ending, it's left unclear whether his more developed ability to communicate with and control them exists in this version.
  • Age Lift: In addition to changing Olive's power from floating to fire, the film also ages her up to be of an age with Emma and Jake, while simultaneously aging down Bronwyn to be a small girl. Enoch was also much younger in the original book, and Fiona, Millard, and Hugh are also younger than the book portrays them.
  • All There in the Manual: The wights are never named as such in the film; you'd have to have read the books to know their title.
  • Ambiguous Gender: The twins, who never speak, wear full-body costumes that cover their faces, and whose faces don't indicate anything when seen. They're never referred to by pronouns, and it's further complicated by Jacob seeing them as boys in the book, yet their Gorgon nature could indicate they're female given that the most famous ones are.
  • Ascended Extra: The masked twins. They only feature in a couple of photographs in the book, which give no clear indication of their peculiarity, and they are never seen in person. Here, they're under Miss Peregrine's care and they're gorgons.
  • Benevolent Boss: Jacob's manager, Stacy, not only drives Jacob to his grandfather's home when Abe's own son couldn't be bothered, but she backed him up with a 0.357 when Jacob cried out that intruders had broken into Abe's home.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Abe's stories about the Hollows, the wights, or any of the Peculiars. His own son even leaves him completely defenseless by stealing the key to his gun safe, to catastrophic results.
  • Composite Character:
    • Whilst Mr. Barron is the film counterpart of the unnamed Wight who killed Abraham Portman and stalked and manipulated his Grandson Jacob in the form of psychiatrist Dr. Golan, his position as leader of the Wights and Faux Affably Evil nature are taken from Miss Peregrine's evil brother; Caul Bentham.
    • The twins are based on the clownish ballerinas in the book, with more generic costumes, yet their source of oddity seem to take the "eerily hidden faces" aspect from a photo in the book of two girls with their backs to the camera.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Tim Burton cameos as a confused fairground-goer during the battle between the Hollowgasts and Enoch's skeletons.
  • Death by Adaptation: Miss Avocet is killed by a Hollowgast, while she survives in the book.
  • Evil Is Hammy: As Barron, Samuel L. Jackson did a very good job in making Barron as much of a Large Ham as he can.
  • Exotic Eye Designs: The wights in the film have white eyes, but they have pupils unlike the book version, which adds a deranged and piercing quality to them. Oddly, the recreated creepy photos in the credits sequences have blank eyes like the book.
  • Gender Flip:
    • Jacob’s male phychiastrist Dr. Golan from the novel is played by actress Allison Janney in the film, subverted in that like in the book Dr Golan turns out to be the false identity of a male Wight- here, he can shapeshift.
    • The very fact that female wights exist in this version is one. In the books, they (and by extension, hollowghasts) are exclusively male for a very well-defined reason. Specifically, they were jealous of ymbrynes, who could only be female, which is what led them to conduct the ritual.
  • Idiot Ball: Granted, Jacob would have never found Abe's body and heard Abe's last words if he had stayed on the porch like Stacy asked, but the way he went to investigate was exceptionally foolish. He went to a mangled fence, in the middle of the night, picked up a flashlight with fresh blood on it, thus contaminating forensic evidence, and then went through the mangled open hole to look around in a place with thick underbrush and many closely packed large trees. He could have been easily ambushed and killed.
  • Implausible Deniability: People bought the cover story, hook, line and sinker, that feral dogs ripped down the screen door to Abe's home from above head height, and mangled a rather sturdy steel fence, not to mention ate Abe's eyes while leaving the rest of his corpse unmolested.
    "Dogs always go for the soft parts first."
  • Karmic Death: Mr. Barron is killed having his eyes devoured by a Hollowgast; the same thing he did to countless Peculiar Children over the years.
  • Large Ham: Mr. Barron, once he reveals himself, especially when he thinks his plan is going swimmingly, just loves to talk in loud, wildly exaggerated ways, with much Milking the Giant Cow.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The wight who had been stalking Jacob throughout most of his life goes unnamed in the book, but uses several aliases. These including "Mr. Barron" when posing as Jacob's fifth grade bus-driver and "Dr Golan" as Jacob's psychiatrist; the later of which the other characters continue to refer to him as, even after The Reveal. The film uses the former alias as the wight's actual name.
  • Parental Abandonment: While Jacob's dad is physically present, he is so wildly irresponsible, and detached, that Jacob gains absolutely no benefit from him being nearby. In fact, the few times Jacob's father actually pays any attention to his son, it's always in a way to serve as The Millstone, as well as utterly insulting him and Abe.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The ending and the events leading up to it are much different than in the first book, as well as having several characters acting somewhat differently and/or being vastly different characters than in the book. These changes can be explained by the filmmakers wanting a more action-packed finale and to avoid tying the film's story to a sequel that may never surface. The changes work to make the film work ether as a standalone piece or as part of a series.
  • Race Lift: Whilst his race is never explicitly mentioned in the novel, but based on both the photograph the character was based on that was included in the book and he fact that Wights are stated to be so indistinctive that they can look like anyone else with simple prosthetics; it can be assumed that the Wight who stalked the Portmans is Caucasian. In the film, his counterpart Mr. Barron is played by African-American actor Samuel L. Jackson.
  • Reality Ensues: Despite Mr. Barron's taunts, Jacob's accuracy with Ms. Perrigrine's crossbow is actually pretty good. Crossbows are notorious for being easy to use and learn, but difficult to aim. Despite that, Jacob does manage to hit Hollows with difficult shots on numerous occasions, even once shooting around Enoch to hit the Hollow that was trying to kill him, wounding that same Hollow numerous times while running from it, and sliding down the roof, and while he did miss Mr, Barron, the misses were very, very close, only an inch or two would have made the difference.
  • Running Gag: Jacob trying to hit the Wights like Ms. Peregrine, and missing literally every time. Lampshaded by Mr. Barron.
  • Shout-Out: The hollowgasts look like Slender Man.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Miss Avocet is suddenly killed by a Hollowgast in a middle of a speech.
  • Taken for Granite: Combined with Literally Shattered Lives. The twins are revealed to be gorgons. They petrify one of the wights and once she becomes a statue, she falls to her death, shattering into pieces... perhaps to ensure we know she won't be trapped as a statue forever. Apparently that would be too cruel, even for a wight.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Downplayed, but present. At the start of the movie, Jacob's school mates respond to seeing him work at a retail establishment by taking an item from the display he's setting up, and then throwing it back, ruining the display before walking out of the store, laughing. Later in the movie, when Jacob is looking for the children's home, his father pays two teen-age complete strangers to "guide" him there, and they direct Jacob through a bog while laughing at him from the safety of a paved road, and then later tell him, to his face, that they would only be willing to spend time with him when they're paid. Then there's Eunoch, although in his case, it's more of being a Crazy Jealous Guy to Olive. Eunoch does get better about it though.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: How the loops work, at least in the movie. At first when Jake enters and leaves the Loop, the same amount of time seems to have passed on both sides (excepting for the reset within the Loop). If anyone from within the Loop spends too long in Jake's time (2016, when the Loop is stuck in 1943), they will rapidly age until they are the age they would have been in 2016 (as shown with a flower). When the Loop collapses, anyone inside is returned to moment the Loop was created. But then when the wight who killed Jake's grandfather dies in a Loop months before that happened, and the Loop collapses, Abe was never killed even though it was in the personal past of both Jake and the wight. Despite the aging effect of leaving a Loop in the future from said Loop, doing it in the past does not seem to have a de-aging effect. And then at the end Jake is somehow able to go from 2016 back to 1942 by navigating Loops (presumably without making them collapse, which their ymbrynes would not have agreed to). Confused yet?

Alternative Title(s): Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children