Literature / The Spiderwick Chronicles

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Their world is closer than you think.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a series of children's books by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. They chronicle the adventures of the Grace children, twins Simon and Jared and their older sister Mallory, after they move into Spiderwick Estate and discover a field guide, written by their great-great-uncle Arthur Spiderwick, detailing a world of faeries that they never knew existed.

It consists of the following books:
  1. The Field Guide
  2. The Seeing Stone
  3. Lucinda's Secret
  4. The Ironwood Tree
  5. The Wrath of Mulgarath

A sequel series, Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, has two step-siblings having to find a way to stop a rampage of fire breathing giants threatening the state of Florida.

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles consists of:
  1. The Nixie's Song
  2. A Giant Problem
  3. The Wyrm King

There are also some companion books, including a reproduction of the Field Guide itself.

The original series has a 2008 film, with the twins played by Freddie Highmore.

DiTerlizzi has also written a separate fantasy series called WondLa that has its own page.

The books provide examples of:

  • All-Loving Hero: Simon, to contrast Jared's Hurting Hero. There's not a single animal Simon wouldn't gladly pet, play with, or take home; whether normal or supernatural, organic or clockwork.
  • All Myths Are True: Alluded to by Arthur Spiderwick, who claims that there are faeries all over the world, but they vary by region, no doubt reflecting how different real-life cultures worldwide have their own versions of supernatural neighbors.
  • All There in the Manual: The Field Guide provides much information about the invisible world not covered in the series.
  • All Trolls Are Different: They're semi-aquatic with long floppy ears and point noses.
  • Always Identical Twins: Simon and Jared.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Field Guide. When Arthur constructed the book, he had no idea what he had done until it was too late.
  • Big Bad: The ogre Mulgarath.
  • Big Sister Bully: Downplayed. Mallory isn't overly mean to the twins, but she's pretty tough with them too.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Even the most well-meaning fay don't quite understand mortals' morality and needs.
  • Bluff the Impostor: When Mulgareth pretends to be the kids' missing dad, Jared sees right through it and tests him.
  • Broken Masquerade: Mulgarath's plan, for when he decides to Take Over the World. It is broken for their mother, but narrowly averted in full at the end.
  • Call Reception Area: The Spiderwick Estate and its surrounding grounds, where many faerie still dwell.
  • Captive Push: In the last book, Mallory and Jared allow themselves to fake being captives. Their hands are loosely tied, and a rope connects each of them to each other, as they are pushed along by Hogsqueal.
  • Cassandra Truth: Thimbletack warns the Grace children to get rid of Arthur's field guide at the end of the first book, since nothing but misfortune ever fell upon those who owned it. The children (mostly Jared) don't listen, much to their misery.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Hogsqueal in the last book. He betrays the kids for Mulgarath, yet he's the one who kills the ogre when he turns into a bird.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Hogsqueal.
  • Clockwork Creature: Dwarves have a passion for building these, wanting creatures as long lasting as they are.
  • Cutting the Knot: The Grace siblings do this on more than one occasion.
    • When Jared is held captive by the elves in exchange for the guide in Lucinda's Secret, rather than Mallory and Simon going through all the trouble of walking home, finding Thimbletack, cajoling him into giving them the guide, walking all the way back to the elves' realm in the woods, Jared just tricks them into agreeing to let him go with his siblings.
    • When Mallory is kidnapped by the dwarves in in exchange for the guide in The Ironwood Tree, the brothers don't even bother coming up with an excuse to their mom or go home to make a plan or find supplies. They just go straight to the quarry even though it's dark. When Simon accidentally drops the flashlight climbing down and suggests going back to get rope, Jared just jumps to the bottom of the quarry (scraping up his hands and knees in the process) so he can use the flashlight to help Simon climb the rest of the way down. Once they rescue her, they just keep walking in a straight line down the halls until they find the exit, not stopping to think of a plan or try to retrace their steps. Not glamorous, but it works.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • In The Ironwood Tree, Mallory is held hostage by the dwarves.
    • In The Wrath of Mulgarath, the kids' mother is held hostage by Mulgarath.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Part of why Jared is so taken with Arthur's field guide, despite his siblings being pretty indifferent. Since they both have identity-defining hobbies (Mallory with her fencing, Simon with his animals), Jared doesn't have any clear direction or sense of purpose, apart from studying and trying to expand on the faerie field guide. At the end of the series, it's implied he'll take up drawing.
  • Evil Gloating: Ogres are prone to this, and Mulgarath is no exception.
  • The Fair Folk: The Grace children learn the hard way that the faeries of Arthur's field guide are dangerous.
    • Brownies, while kind and well-meaning, will turn into a boggart and trash your house if you piss them off.
    • Goblins and trolls will gladly eat you alive if given the chance, and it will be a very Family-Unfriendly Death.
    • Sprites, while well-meaning, will offer you food that will taste so heavenly sweet that you'll never be able to stand human food again, and you'll crave faerie food for the rest of your life. If you don't get it, you'll starve to death.
    • Aunt Lucinda learned the hard way that some fay will gladly kidnap and torture you, and give you a hunchback for the rest of your life.
    • Arthur Spiderwick learned the hard way that elves will abduct you into their realm where time moves more slowly, and when you leave all the time that didn't affect you while in there will rush at you all at once. He dies in his elderly daughter's arms as a result.
  • Fairytale Motifs: All over the place, per Word of God.
    • The Grace kids were deliberately designed to look like the heroes of classic gothic fairy tales, with Raven Hair, Ivory Skin, and old-fashioned hair cuts and school uniforms that invoke a "classic American hero" look. Downplayed for Jared, who has more messy modern hair, and often wears jeans and hoodies.
    • The Spiderwick Estate looks like a classic Victorian mansion. Justified, in that there are many of those still around in New England.
    • In Lucinda's Secret, the kids get lost in the woods and come across as trickster phooka that speaks in riddles, which is very reminiscent of Alice encountering the Cheshire Cat in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
    • Invoked in The Ironwood Tree, where the dwarves put an unconscious Mallory in a glass coffin, and medieval white gossamer gown. They also give her makeup to emphasize her ebony-black hair, snow-white skin, and rose-red lips. The twins even wonder if they have to kiss her to wake her up. Simon slaps her awake instead.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Simon manages to (mostly) tame a full-grown griffon. He's unable to tame the dragons in the last book, unfortunately.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Simon, who loves all animals, great and small. Even Clockwork Creatures.
  • The Full Name Adventures: "The Spiderwick Chronicles".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Quite literally in the first series, to the point that "crap" almost becomes Mallory's catchphrase. The second series turned this Up to Eleven with use of "What the hell" and Jared calling Nicolas a "lard-ass"! The Moral Guardians weren't happy.
    • There's also this exchange in The Ironwood Tree where Jared notices that Mallory's fencing armor makes her chest look big:
    Jared: "Looks like you've got..."
    Mallory: "Shut up!"
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: The Seeing Stone — a flat stone with a hole through its middle that allows humans to see magical beings — ends up being mounted in an eyepiece, so that the characters can see the creatures they interact with without constantly having to hold the stone up to their eye.
  • Go Out with a Smile/Died in Your Arms Tonight: Arthur Spiderwick at the very end of the Spiderwick Chronicles. Being told all the time withheld from him in the fairy realm will come rushing back the second he steps on mortal ground, he decides to Face Death with Dignity, steps off Byron the Gryphon into Lucinda's arms, and crumbles to dust in the air.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Jared has had rage issues since his parents' divorce.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every chapter begins with "In Which..."
  • I Gave My Word: The elves. They consider it a point of pride that when they give their word, they always keep it, no matter how distasteful it is to them. (That said, be careful what you make them promise and/or how they word their promise, because they're not above a little Loophole Abuse.)
  • I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: Simon to every animal he finds. He even smuggles a full-grown griffon in the old horse stable. (He also would have gladly taken home the Clockwork Creatures in the dwarves' quarry.)
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: All chapters of both series.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: Thimbletack the friendly, helpful brownie vs. Thimbletack the house-trashing, prank-pulling boggart.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Simon, who's much nicer than Jared, and often taking in stray kittens and cats he finds.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Chapter 7 of The Nixie's Song is titled "In Which We Nearly Break The Fourth Wall."
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: It's said the authors took the real stories of the Grace children (and changed their names for privacy's sake) as well as reproduced the Field Guide. The sequel series has a character that's read the previous books and the field guide and they even try getting the help of the authors at a book signing.
  • Loophole Abuse: In Lucinda's Secret, the elves hold Jared prisoner and threaten to keep him forever unless his siblings bring the guide, which they don't have. Jared tricks them into thinking he's Simon, and makes them swear to let Mallory and "Jared" go free. As soon as they're safely out of sight, Jared reveals that he's not Simon, so the elves are honor-bound to let him go. Which they do, very grudgingly.
    • This nearly comes back to bite Grace kids in The Wrath of Mulgarath, in which the elves reveal that if the siblings hadn't brought the guide like they promised, the elves would have just held Simon prisoner to force their hand, since they never swore not to hold him prisoner.
    • In The Ironwood Tree, the dwarves kidnap Mallory to trade for the guide. The twins make them promise to give her back to them if they hand it over. The dwarves give her back... and then immediately proceed to lock all three up in a dungeon. What? They never said they'd let the kids go free after returning the sister to her brothers.
  • Mad Lib Fantasy Title: The title of each chapter. "In which [something related to the fay activity of this chapter]"
  • Made of Indestructium: The Field Guide cannot be destroyed no matter what. This and its knowledge of every creature makes it incredibly dangerous to hold on to.
  • Meaningful Name: Jack, who kills giants.
  • Missing Mom: Nick's mom died prior to the beginning of Beyond.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The faeries seen throughout the series borrow many traits from various plants and animals. Word of God has said that, seeing as faeries are the spirits of nature, it would make sense for them to appear this way.
  • Motif: Spider motifs appear throughout the first series, the most obvious being the Spiderwick name. Other notables include the web-like design of the estate gate, and Arthur Spiderwhick's handwriting which is described as spidery.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Fighting the Giants in the second series resulted in the Wyrms being able to run rampant.
    • Jared reading the book in the first place.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Surprisingly averted in "Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles" where one of the mermaids has clearly visible nipples.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Thimbletack's boggart form and the troll's full out-of-water appearance are never shown in illustrations, nor fully described in the text. The Completely Fantastical Edition reveals that DiTerlizzi made complete sketches, but he and Holly Black felt that leaving it to the readers' imagination would be far scarier than any drawing or description they could make.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Mulgarath's dragons are serpentine, multi-legged and venomous. The Hydra is numerous wryms combined like a rat king, rather than a single creature with numerous heads.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Mostly averted, but given how homogynous more dwarves appear in most fairy tales anyway... They're small and thin, with puffy beards that cover most of their bodies, and noses that cover most of their faces. They're master stone and metal craftsmen that can make intricate metalwork trees and leaves as beautiful as the real thing, and clockwork animals that're as lifelike as organic ones. They're also completely immortal, and want to replace the decaying, dying organic world with their own stone and metal creations of everlasting beauty.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: Boy, are they ever! Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black explain in The Completely Fantastical Edition that they tried to make the faerie species all slightly different from the ones we've seen millions of times before, but still sound like they'd belong in a classic fairy tale.
    • Brownies are no bigger than your hand, have faces round and wrinkled like walnuts, and like to dress in musty old doll's clothes.
    • The elves are beautiful, haughty, immortal, and in sync with nature. However, their regality, Blue and Orange Morality, and tendency to hold mortals in their realm where it's a Year Outside, Hour Inside makes them most like the The Fair Folk of English folklore, or the beautiful and godlike Tuatha de Danann of Irish mythology.
    • Sprites are most like the classic "tiny, friendly, insect-winged pixie" variety of Victorian faeries, often dressed in little leaves and bits of fruit. However, even they can accidentally ruin a human's life without meaning to by offering their heavenly faerie food, which, to them, is just regular food.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: They're only vaguely humanoid, being hulking, troll-like and apelike beings with heads jutting directly forward from their shoulders and no brain capacity to speak of. They also have seven fingers and hibernate for long periods of time, during which grass and sod grow on their backs. They can also breathe fire, although they need to ingest salamanders first.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: They look like they're part toad, part angler-fish, and part bat. They're about the size of small dogs, but run and hunt in packs of ten or less. They're not particularly intelligent and prone to squabbling, but are adept at hunting small animals, particularly dogs, cats, and even human children. They don't have any teeth, and substitute with sharp rocks and bits of glass they find lying around. They're kind of the vermin of the faerie world, but unlike the rest of the fay they're able to thrive in our modern world by sorting through our refuse.
    • Hogsqueal the Hobgoblin looks like a cross between a toad and a leaf-nosed bat. Like the goblins, he doesn't have teeth, but seems to prefer to use human baby teeth he steals from under pillows. His appearance still invokes "creature of the night" like regular goblins, but he isn't as scary or feral.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: Byron follows the typical classical gryphon body design, but the head is quite different, having a slender beak with teeth/tooth like serrations and ears more similar to those of lions than of the typical griffin ears. The movie made him a regular gryphon though.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Thimbletack the brownie rhymes at almost all times.
  • Scavenged Punk: Thimbletack provides the page image. As a brownie, he lives in the walls and steals human items for his home. Drawn by Tony DiTerlizzi, it looks very cool.
  • See-Thru Specs: The Seeing Stone. Hobgoblin spit acts as a permanent version.
  • Selective Obliviousness: When Jared finally meets Arthur Spiderwick, the man insists Jared can't be his great nephew since he's only been with the elves for several months, and his daughter isn't old enough to have children his age. Jared half-suspects that Arthur is choosing not to connect the dots because facing the fact that it's really been decades since he was imprisoned by the elves, and his daughter has become an old woman would be more than he could bear.
  • Shapeshifter Guilt Trip: Mulgarath takes the form of the kids' dad to try to trick them into giving him the book. Not quite a straight example, as they don't know it's him.
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song: Averted. Hogsqueal eats Mulgarath in bird form, and he doesn't change back to his native form — rather fortunately for Hogsqueal!
  • Shown Their Work: DiTerlizzi and Black's knowledge of fay for this series is textbook thorough.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Inverted. In ''The Wrath of Mulgarath, when the Grace siblings encounter their father imprisoned beside their mother, he declares that he never should have left and all he wants is to be a family again. Jared realizes it isn't his dad because, much as he wishes it were otherwise, he knows it's something his real dad would never say.
  • Storming the Castle: In the books. The movie has the fight arriving on the doorsteps of the house.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Mallory hates dresses and loves fencing, but she has long hair that she pins back with barrettes, and she's implied to wear a padded bra during a fencing competition to impress a boy she likes.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Averted, but Jared's mom is often tricked by the fay into thinking this of him. Particularly in The Field Guide, when she thinks Jared killed his brother's mice and froze his tadpoles in ice (it was really boggart Thimbletack), and in The Ironwood Tree, when Mulgarath tricks her and the school officials into thinking he pulled a knife on another student.
  • The Unreveal: The kids wonder at a few points why so many fay want the field guide so bad, and why Mulgarath in particular needs it to Take Over the World. They never really find out why by the end. A Lost Chapter reveals that while most fay know about their own strengths and weaknesses, they don't know much about each other's. However, since the fay often fight for dominance among each other, many would literally kill for that book. It's also why Mulgarath needs it to ensure his "enslave all other fay and mortals alike" scheme.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In the books, Hogsqueal is prone to using these.
  • Urban Fantasy: The story takes place in a small, modern New England town, where some of the last batches of faeries still reside, hidden in plain sight.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Implied in the last book, when Jared reflects that his dad was always too busy talking about himself and his movies to think about or spend any time with his family. It's implied to be why the Graces divorced, and Jared is filled with anger issues. It's also why he's able to realize his "dad" in Mulgarath's lair is a fake. Much as he wishes his dad would say that he wants nothing more than to be a family, he knows it's something he'd never actually say.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: The elves' realm, much to Arthur and Lucinda's grief.


The film provides examples of:

  • Angel Face, Demon Face: Thimbletack is normally a brownie, which is a small, pink little thing. He turns into a more muscular, green, mini-troll like thing, known as a boggart, when he's mad.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The film uses "Checkmate" by Yuugin as its theme song in Japan.
  • Ascended Extra: Red Cap was originally just a Goblin that appeared in the final book of the original, who looked important, and gave only a few orders to the captured protagonist. In the movie he's The Dragon, given intelligence by the Big Bad.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Thimbletack, thanks to his love of honey, is easily distracted from anger. Hogsqueal and birds too.
  • Brick Joke: Hogsqueal and his appetite for birds. It gets dropped on Mulgarath's head like a ten-ton anvil.
  • Brooklyn Rage: The "New Yorkers are tough" variant. When preparing to Hold the Line at the end of the movie, Jared gives his mother two kitchen knives to fight with.
    Jared: "Steel. Cuts and burns."
    Helen (still rather confused): "Well, thank goodness we're New Yorkers."
  • Car Fu
  • Curse Cut Short: Red Cap the lead goblin mumbles "Oh, sh-" as the stove full of tomato sauce explodes.
  • Disappeared Dad: The dad in question not only left the family, but is lying to Jared about coming to see him. He can't, because he's found another woman.
    • The same applies to Lucinda Spiderwick's father, Arthur Spiderwick, the creator of the book. She witnessed him being carried away by fairies after she wandered outside of the protective circle around their house and was attacked by goblins. No one believed her when she told people about what happened to him for obvious reasons.
  • Forbidden Fruit: In the words of Mallory, "you found a book that says 'do not read', and you read it?"
  • Hold the Line: The Grace family defends their house against Mulgarath and the Goblins.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: British Joan Plowright as the older Lucinda Spiderwick. Especially notable since we hear her 8-year-old self speaking with an American accent.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the books, Arthur dies at the end. In the movie, he stays with the Sylphs, but his daughter also comes with him, and reverts to the same age she was when he was taken away.
  • Tricking the Shapeshifter: Jared throws the book into the air, forcing Mulgarath to take on a crow form to grab it. Shortly thereafter he runs into a very hungry Hogsqueal, much to his detriment.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Tomato Sauce, vinegar and salt are effective at hurting goblins.

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