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Literature / The Ribbajack

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The Ribbajack and Other Curious Yarns is a 2004 anthology of six short horror stories by Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series.

Each of the stories tells a fantastical and frightening tale of some monster that found its way into the modern world, and the havoc it wreaks upon an encounter with a different child protagonist.

The Ribbajack provides examples of:

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    "The Ribbajack" 

  • Ace Pilot: Reverend Miller, a former soldier whose nickname is "the Sky Pilot."
  • Adults Are Useless: The headmaster Aubrey Plother and matron Mrs. Twogg (though not for lack of trying on the latter's part) are helpless to stop Smifft from tormenting the students and teachers of the school, day in and day out. Until the school chaplain, six-foot-tall and 250-pound Reverend Rodney "Dusty" Miller, arrives and shows Smifft that it'll take more than a few flies and wasps to scare the pants off him.
  • Asshole Victim: Needless to say, nobody wastes time shedding a tear for Smifft when he gets eaten (or...whatever) by his own Ribbajack. A few months after his abrupt departure, his roommates are much happier after not having to deal with him anymore, and the headmaster's only comment is that their joint security lockers in the Swiss Bank must be looking quite healthy, thanks to all those rubies from Smifft's parents.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Smifft did something horrible to the gardener's wife's four cats and a school mastiff.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Reverend Miller is a jolly old fellow who would love nothing more than to have a cup of tea with you and tell you stories of his adventures in Burma, but if you piss him off, make no mistake, he will swiftly show you why he's not to be trifled with. Even if you're Archibald Smifft.
  • Black Magic: Smifft's stock in trade, which he uses to summon swarms of insects to attack anyone who gets on his nerves or just poses an inconvenience to him. He eventually graduates to summoning a Ribbajack...which backfires horribly. For him, that is.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Duke Crostacious the Inviolate's Boarding School, but it's only a house of horrors because of one student. No prizes for guessing who it is.
  • Doorstop Baby: Archibald Smifft was left as a baby on the doorstep of Duke Crostacious the Inviolate's Boarding School, nestled in an outrageously expensive bassinet and clutching a bag of uncut rubies in his fat little hand.
  • Early Personality Signs: As a Doorstop Baby abandoned on the step of the boarding school, Archibald left a bite on the matron's finger "that a tiger shark would have envied."
  • Enfant Terrible: One only needs to read this entire folder to get a sense of what kind of vile person Archibald Smifft is.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Smifft gets killed by the Ribbajack he summoned when his would-be victim turns out to be wearing a medallion that compels a Ribbajack to end the life of the person who summoned it.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Unsurprisingly, Archibald Smifft is hideous on the outside as well as the inside.
    "A single glance at the boy in question would confirm the fears of even a stranger. Archibald Smifft was indeed the raw material from which nightmares were made. From the top of his scrofulous bullet-shaped head, with its jug-handle ears and ski-jump nose, the beady eyes (which had often been compared to those of an ill-tempered cobra) glaring out from the spotted moon crater of a face, right down from his rounded shoulders, pot belly and wart-scarred knees, to the fallen arches of his flat feet, the Smifft boy was the very portrait of villainy, viciousness and malicious intent."
  • Hated by All: Everyone, with no exceptions whatsoever, either wholeheartedly despises Archibald Smifft or lives in absolute terror of him, sometimes both. Even his parents, if the fact that they still keep sending bags of rubies to the school after his disappearance, ostensibly as a thank-you gift, is any indication.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Resident school terror and vile bully Archibald Smifft summons an Eldritch Abomination known as the Ribbajack and orders it to kill the school chaplain, Reverend Miller. Turns out, Rev. Miller is in possession of a magical silver medallion that not only prevents a Ribbajack from killing him, but compels it to instead kill the person who summoned it. Smifft is never seen again, And There Was Much Rejoicing.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Rev. Miller's anti-Ribbajack medallion is an ancient and powerful artifact, blessed by a Burmese holy man.
  • No Body Left Behind: Thanks to his Ribbajack, Smifft vanishes from the face of the earth, no clues to his disappearance aside from some crumpled bedsheets on the floor.
  • Noodle Incident: Over the past eleven years, Smifft has been responsible for numerous disasters at the boarding school, including (but in no way limited to) four teachers’ resignations (diagnosed as mentally traumatized), an explosion in the pupils’ chemistry laboratory, the disappearance of four cats belonging to the gardener’s wife, several major floods in the washrooms, a fire that destroyed the sports pavilion, and a school mastiff that disappeared without a trace.
  • The Power of Hate: The Ribbajack is a vile monster created from the depths of a person's mind, summoned by thinking really hard about the person they hate the most in the world.
  • Prematurely Grey-Haired: Wilton and Soames, Smifft's unlucky roommates, are so stressed out from having to live with him every single day that Wilton finds grey hairs in his scalp on his eleventh birthday.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who on earth are Archibald Smifft's unseen parent(s), only identified as "X Smifft"? They're incredibly rich, leaving an infant Archibald at the doorstep of a boarding school in an expensive bassinet and paying for his continued stay there with a bag of rubies each school term for 11 years. They also have terrible spelling skills, as seen by the barely-readable note they left in said bassinet (which is odd, because with that much money they should at least be able to afford a decent education). Clearly they're still alive and keeping an eye on Archibald in some manner, if they remember to send the school a sack of rubies every term to keep him there, but why couldn't or wouldn't they raise him themselves, and why did they never even bother to contact him?
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: No doubt Smifft would have been thrown out of the boarding school long, long ago if his unseen parent hadn't been paying the headmaster a fortune in rubies every term to keep him there.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: Before leaving Burma, Rev. Miller was given a silver medallion by his closest friend, Arif, who claimed it would protect him from the evil of a Ribbajack. And indeed, it does.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The Ribbajack is created when someone hates a person enough to bring the monster into existence. It will then seek out that person's worst enemy and kill them.

    "A Smile and a Wave" 

  • Evil Smells Bad: Even before seeing Leah's ghost, Maggie can smell the heavy, cloying scent of long-dead roses that heralds her presence.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: One possible interpretation of why Leah appears to Maggie in the library, smiling and waving at her, albeit in a creepy manner.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Leah's parents were prominent socialites and travelers who had little time for her, and she was said to be a loner who other children were scared of.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: Despite scaring the daylights out of Maggie, Leah doesn't do anything to hurt her or even stop her from leaving the school, just waves at her and gives her a terrifying Slasher Smile.
  • Noodle Incident: When she was alive, Leah was tutored by a private governess, who left within six months of taking up the job and was never replaced.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Leah was found dead at the age of 14, hidden behind a bookcase in her family home, holding a rose in one hand. Her death was never solved; all the servants swore they had not seen her for several days and assumed she went off to stay with relatives. Some locals believe she poisoned herself.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: The apparition of Leah that appears to Maggie in the school's library.

    "The All Ireland Champion Versus the Nye Add" 

  • Accidental Murder: Not exactly murder, but the Kelpie apparently isn't aware that humans need oxygen to breathe, and holds Roddy underwater while playing with him, before her mother saves him and throws him back ashore. He survives, but with permanent brain damage severe enough to turn him into a vegetable.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: The narrator turns out to be a 74-year-old Mickey Hennessy.
  • Asshole Victim: Not to the extent of Archibald Smifft, but it's easy to not feel much sympathy for Roddy Mooney's fate, given that he was a lazy asshole who never helped his widowed mother.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Roddy Mooney is the best fisherman in all of Ireland, no contest, but never lifts a finger to help his mother around the house.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Roddy gets too close to a Kelpie, gets trapped underwater and sustains brain damage that puts him in a permanent coma. At last count, he's been like that for 65 years.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Mickey has twelve brothers and sisters. Twelve!
  • Oddball in the Series: The only story in the anthology where the main character is an adult rather than a child.

    "The Mystery of Huma D'Este" 

  • Asshole Victim: Yes, another one. School bully Jason gets turned into a marble statue with no one ever finding out what happened to him.
  • The Bully: Jason's favorite pastime is making fun of other students while his cronies laugh at everything he says.
  • Even Evil Can Be Loved: Jason's parents are devastated by his disappearance and try their best to find him, but to no avail.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Jason might feel secure in his assholery because everyone goes along with what he says, but the moment he's dethroned by Huma, they take the first opportunity to abandon him. Even years later, Carlene thinks to herself that she and Mal never really liked him anyway.
  • Happily Married: In the future, Jason's friends Carlene and Mal grow up, get married, and have children and grandchildren of their own.
  • It's Probably Nothing: In her old age, sailing on a cruise with her husband Mal, Carlene notices that one of the Greek statues in the museum looks quite a lot like her old schoolmate Jason, but decides in the end that it doesn't really look like him after all.
  • Red Right Hand: Huma looks like a normal person, aside from the mildly hypnotic effect of her cold grey eyes.
  • Significant Anagram: As Huma herself proclaims, her full name, Huma D'Este, can be rearranged to spell "The Medusa".
  • Taken for Granite: Like the Medusa of ancient myth, Huma can turn anyone into stone with her gaze, and does so to Jason. However, she has complete control over her ability and can use it when she pleases, as opposed to automatically petrifying anyone who looks at her face.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The story ends with an elderly Carlene coming across the statue of Jason in a museum, but Huma's current whereabouts are unspecified. Presumably she's still out there, pretending to be an Ordinary High-School Student.

    "Miggy Mags and the Malabar Sailor" 

  • Breather Episode: Compared to the other stories, this one has less horror in it and feels more like a standard adventure story, complete with a happy ending.
  • Cool Pet: Miggy's father brings her a Malabar Egyptian mongoose, a brave, curious and affectionate little beast she names Sailor.
  • Evil Uncle: Uncle Eric, Miggy's uncle who makes her do all the work in the tavern while he drinks all day with his cronies in the Maid of Erin. When he's in a bad mood, he comes into her sleeping quarters and yells at her, calling her an idle little mare who's eating him out of home and business.
  • Gargle Blaster: When Uncle Eric is having a bad belly, he sends Miggy off to the bar for four pennies worth of dark Jamaica rum. Atty comments that only a fool would drink that for a sick belly; it burns holes in a man's gut.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Miggy's only friend is Atty Lok, the jolly Siamese cook who works at her uncle's tavern.
  • Plucky Girl: Despite her unfortunate circumstances, Miggy is a cheerful, hard-working soul who can bring a smile to anyone's face. Except Uncle Eric, that is.


    "Rosie's Pet" 

  • Enfant Terrible: Rosie is only eight years old and an uncontrollable little hellion who terrorizes everyone in town and makes her family miserable. Her older brother moved far away and her father chose to work long hours so they can avoid dealing with her as much as they have to.
  • Noodle Incident: Rosie's father is still paying damages to the National Heritage Trust for damages his daughter caused to the Tower of London.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Charlie can change into wolf form at will, and bestow the same ability upon anyone he wants.
  • Pushover Parents: Rosie's mother is utterly incapable of reining her in. She's grounded her "more times than a wingless plane", but it doesn't appear to have had any effect on her behavior.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: Apparently, Rosie and Archibald Smifft share the same penchant for terrible spelling.
  • Werewolf Theme Naming: Charlie Lupus, whose last name is Latin for wolf.

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