Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Silver Crown

Go To
All that glitters...

"It lay beside her on the pillow, shinier than silver, glowing softly, with twinkling blue stones set all around... It did not occur to her to wonder from whom it had come; she was merely aware that it was hers by right."
— Robert C. O'Brien

A novel for young adults/children by Robert C. O'Brien, author of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and Z for Zachariah. First published in the UK in 1968 (with slight edits made to subsequent printings and the US version that changed the final chapter).

Ellen Carroll awakens on her tenth birthday to find a mysterious silver crown on her pillow. Delighted with the present, she sets off for the local park to play pretend as a queen, but on return she finds her house has burned down and her family is gone. Frightened and alone, Ellen decides the only course of action is to make her way to her Aunt Sarah's home in Kentucky — four hundred miles of mountainous terrain away.

With few other options, Ellen tries to hitchhike. The kindly driver who offers her a ride turns out to by a maniac who wants to kidnap her for unknown reasons. Fleeing from him on foot she meets Otto, a mischievous young boy who joins her on her quest to reach Aunt Sarah's home. But their journey is fraught with peril, as they encounter a strange hidden castle inhabited by evil minds and a vile force to which all who enter the castle fall prey — all, except for Ellen. It's up to Ellen to harness the power of her silver crown, conquer the evil force within the castle, and rescue its hapless victims before it's too late.

The Silver Crown contains examples of:

  • Birthday Beginning: The story starts as Ellen receives a mysterious silver crown on her tenth birthday.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The victims of the Hieronymous Machine.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: The Call not only knew where the heroine lived, it firebombed it. Ellen goes out on an early morning stroll and returns to find her house has burned down, prompting her to set off on an adventure across the mountains.
  • Call to Adventure: The titular silver crown that shows up in Ellen's room.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Ellen's family supposedly dying in the early chapters is what allows the plot to happen, so she can travel to find her Aunt Sarah. It's later revealed that they had been imprisoned in the castle dungeons. Ellen frees them after taking control of the Hieronymous Machine.
  • Cool Crown: It's a gorgeous silver crown with blue gems and semi-magical powers... what's not to love?
    "And although it looked hard and solid, when she touched it she discovered that the silvery metal was actually a finely spun fabric, strong but soft as silk, so that if she wanted to, she could fold the whole crown in the palm of her hand and tuck it in her pocket."
  • Dark Is Evil: The black crown is an Artefact of Doom, in contrast to the silver crown.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: The crown is described as "shinier than silver" and full of beautiful blue gemstones.
  • Fell Off the Back of a Truck: Many of the objects in Otto's "mother's" house really did fall off the back of a truck, as there's a sharp turn nearby that often leads to trucks driving into a ditch. Of course, if someone wasn't covering up the warning sign, it probably wouldn't happen nearly as often...
  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: Only a wearer with a certain kind of mind can use the silver crown to control the Hieronymous Machine. Ellen, who is unaffected by the hypnotism, has that kind of mind.
  • Hat of Power: The eponymous silver crown. It allows a wearer with a certain kind of mind to control the Hieronymous Machine.
  • Hostile Hitchhiker: Inverted — Ellen tries to hitchhike to her aunt's house, but the driver turns out to be a murderer intent on kidnapping Ellen.
  • Hypnotize the Captive: The black metal is being used to brainwash just about everyone, but it only applies so long as you're near the stuff. Ellen is apparently immune. She breaks into the fortress to free Otto, and manages to escape with both Otto and Genevieve, a girl who's also apparently immune. But when they get back to the location where Ellen hid the silver crown, Otto turns traitor. He was wearing a belt with a buckle made of the black metal and calls in the enemies to capture them all. Ellen breaks the spell by tearing the belt off, but by then it's too late.
  • Kid Hero: Ellen is ten years old when a magic piece of headgear shows up in her room and sets off a chain of events that include her house burning down, being stalked by a man in a dark uniform, hitchhiking to Kentucky, escaping from a murderer, and a slew of other dangerous and exciting activities. Otto is eight when he joins her on the adventure.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: The silver crown is more powerful than the black crown.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: When Ellen and Otto go on the run, Otto suggests Ellen cut her hair to look like a boy so as to fool anyone looking for her (since they'll be looking for a girl and not a boy). All Otto has to cut her hair is a switchblade knife, so Ellen refuses.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: With the aid of the silver crown, Ellen takes control of the Hieronymous Machine and becomes the ruler of the brainwashed residents of the castle. Not long after, she destroys the machine so it can never be used again.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: A girl at the school introduces herself as Genevieve, but is later called Jenny by the staff, and the narration switches to calling her that too.
  • Police Are Useless: When Ellen returns to her home and finds that it has burned down, she walks up to a police officer and tells him it was her house that burned and she can't find her mother or father. Officer Drogue's first response is to ask the traumatized, recently orphaned 10 year old girl if she has an ID that can prove her claim. Ellen produces Aunt Sarah's letter and her monogramed pocket book. The officer promises to take her to the precinct, but warns her she better not be pulling a "kid trick." They never make it to the precinct — Ellen and Officer Drogue witness a green-hooded assassin kill a shopkeeper and Officer Drogue runs off in pursuit, leaving her alone.
  • Science Fantasy: The plot involves a magic machine that brainwashes children to train them as assassins and arsonists. The titular crown is the only artefact that can overpower it.
  • School for Scheming: A secret school that brainwashes children and trains them as assassins and arsonists through the magic of the Hieronymous Machine.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: The silver crown is a Hat of Power that allows Ellen to control the Heironymous Machine.
  • There Are No Adults: Ellen's family disappears early in the story, leaving her to fend for herself. Likewise, Otto's "mother" sends them off on their own, and any other adult characters that appear are usually revealed to be evil.
  • Tyke Bomb: The children brainwashed by the Hieronymous Machine become arsonists and assassins.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Otto's "mother" discovers that the boy is cutting down branches to cover a warning sign for a sharp turn on the road near their house, because he's convinced that she needs items from trucks that drive into a ditch. She uses this as justification to send him off with Ellen, as she doesn't need his help, like he thinks she does.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The revised ending turns Aunt Sarah into this. She saw the silver crown in a shop and sent it to Ellen for her birthday, not knowing what would unfold as a result.