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Literature / The Borrible Trilogy

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The Borrible Trilogy is a series of three Young Adult novels by British author Michael de Larrabeiti (1934-2008), set in London and comprised of The Borribles (1976; also known as The Borribles: The Great Rumble Hunt), The Borribles Go For Broke (1981), and The Borribles: Across the Dark Metropolis (1986).

Borribles are runaway children who are transformed by obscure means, gaining pointed ears and ceasing to age — unless and until their ears are clipped by their various malevolent enemies, who despise their freedom. They may be intended as a savage satire of The Borrowers; their antagonists in the first novel, the rat-like, fascistic Rumbles, are certainly a clear parody of The Wombles.

These books provide examples of:

  • The Ageless: As long as they keep their ears.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Dewdrop's a nasty piece of work, as his son, but his death scene, stunned by a shot in the forehead with a sling-shot marble, forced to watch his son killed before his eyes, and dispatched while still weeping over him and begging him to wake up, is damned hard to read.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Borribles value freedom and independence above all else, and disdain money and (even worse) work. Theft is much more honorable in their eyes.
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  • Brats with Slingshots: Slingshots are the Borribles' most common weapon.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Clipping a Borrible's ears turns them into a normal human child. After years, perhaps decades of freedom and adventure, this is an incredibly traumatic experience.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Artful Dodger and Kid Hero tropes. A Borrible's life may be free, but it's also dangerous and difficult. They tend to be savage little brats as a result, and kill their enemies without remorse.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: "It is better to die young than to be caught."
  • Earn Your Title: The only way for a Borrible to get any kind of name: until you've earned a name by an impressive feat of daring such as assassinating a leader of a rival gang, the best you can expect is to be referred to as "hey, you!" The plot of the first novel is driven by the protagonist's desire to get a second name (which is not unprecedented; one of his associates has several names, each commemorating some memorable deed).
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  • Fell Off the Back of a Truck: A phrase used with much irony by the thieving Borribles.
  • Hobbits as a trope are subverted by Borribles, as they are urbanized, adventurous, scruffy, and tough. They do share stereotypical hobbits' small size, stealthiness, distaste for authority, compassion for animals, and tendency to steal whatever's not nailed down, though.
  • Immortal Immaturity: Played with. Borribles are essentially ageless children, but their harsh lives have affected their outlook.
  • King of the Homeless: As a rule Borribles don't have leaders, but sometimes one (such as Spliff) may gain a level of power and influence that makes them a de facto one of these.
  • Older Than They Look: That ten-year old kid might actually be over a hundred.
  • Pointy Ears: The easiest way to tell Borribles from actual children.
  • Puppy Love: Being children, any relationships between Borribles amount to this.
  • Right Under Their Noses: One of the recruits for a new adventure is noted for the clever place he's made his hideout, to avoid the Borrible-hunting police: he lives in a disused basement underneath the police station.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: Rumbles are described as rat-like, and are the size of human children.
  • Street Urchin: Successful street urchins may transform into Borribles, retaining many features of the trope.
  • Take That!: With various targets
    • The Rumbles are a vicious parody of the Wombles.
    • Dewdrop and his son are an equally-cruel parody of the central characters of Steptoe and Son.
  • Wainscot Society: The Borribles live on the fringes of London's urban society. The Rumbles too have a hidden society of their own.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Borribles start out as children who were exceptionally bright and independent for their age.

Alternative Title(s): Borribles