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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 (2002)
  2. The Seeing Stone (2003)
  3. Lucinda's Secret (2003)
  4. The Ironwood Tree (2004)
  5. The Wrath of Mulgarath (2004)

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 (2007)
  2. A Giant Problem (2008)
  3. The Wyrm King (2009)

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

A streaming television adaptation, originally ordered by Disney+, will now make its debut on The Roku Channel.

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


The Spiderwick Chronicles provides examples of:

  • 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 predators with long, floppy ears and big, pointy noses. They prefer dark and cold environments due to the fact they turn to stone on exposure to sunlight and are generally characterized as ravenous brutes. Arthur Spiderwick strongly detests them as one killed and ate his brother.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Trolls again. In contrast to other fairies who work under Blue-and-Orange Morality, trolls are always cruel and vile to everything and everyone around them. Even Arthur Spiderwick himself, a man who doesn’t believe In evil, can’t find anything good to say about trolls. Same applies to goblins, which are usually portrayed as unintelligent, yet highly aggressive thugs with a big appetite.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Field Guide. When Arthur constructed the book, he had no idea what he had done until it was too late.
  • Basilisk and Cockatrice: The cockatrice looks like a cross between a chicken and a frilled lizard. It turns any animals that see it to stone (which makes you wonder what they eat), and also has venomous saliva. The Field Guide also mentions false cockatrices, magical creatures that resemble cockatrices but lack the deadly abilities of true cockatrices.
  • Binomium ridiculus: While they aren't straight up Dog Latin, some of the creatures have original genera, while others have genera that are ripped directly from existing taxonomies of creatures that couldn't possibly share any biological relation, from different families. Even putting the same genus in two families.
  • Bird vs. Serpent: The Wrath of Mulgarath involves a battle between the very bird-like griffin that the heroes befriended and the dragon supporting Mulgarath's forces. Tony Diterlizzi has said that he had this motif in mind when coming up with that scene.
  • 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.
  • Changeling Tale: The Field Guide details changelings. They're a form of faerie that assume the appearance of children while the original human is taken away to live among faeriekind. Due to their supernatural origins, they tend to have eccentric behaviors (such as eating very little or a lot, laughing inappropriately, or speaking entirely in riddles and song) and off-color appearances (having a tail, appearing wrinkled and gray, permanently messy hair, etc.). They usually eventually leave their human families after several years, but sometimes remain long enough that their faerie qualities fade away and they become fully human.
  • 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.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The Chronicles, and the companion Field Guide, are claimed by Black and DiTerlizzi to be actual events, with the Graces having written to them and told their story. The Field Guide itself was apparently sent to them as well, with DiTerlizzi taking on the task of restoring Arthur Spiderwick's creature paintings within. The sequel trilogy, Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles goes further with the protagonists having actually read the books and Field Guide, meeting up with the authors at a book signing for help in dealing with a problem with Giants as well as actually meeting Jared, who explains that their last names were changed in the books for privacy's sake.
  • Dumbwaiter Ride: In the first book, the Grace siblings find a dumbwaiter in the kitchen of their old family home and use it to try to chase an animal they can hear scrabbling in the walls. Because Mallory is too big to fit inside, Jared rides it and discovers a Secret Room containing mysterious riddles.
  • Eaten Alive: What Hogsqueal does to Mulgarath's crow form. It isn't Swallowed Whole either; he tears him limb from limb and downs the pieces.
  • 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 fey 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 ends up slapping her awake instead.)
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Mulgarath. It doesn't take much to see that Hogsqueal doesn't just stuff his crow form down, he rapidly dismembers him and eats the pieces.
  • Fiery Salamander: The Field Guide details salamanders, portraying them as tiny, multi-limbed reptiles that ignite their bodies as a defense mechanism. Arthur Spiderwick speculates them to be actually infant dragons, but the kids disprove this after encountering actual baby dragons.
  • Food Chains: Lucinda Spiderwick had made the mistake of eating Faerie Food, and is no longer able to eat human food. But that wasn't in the Faerie Realm. This is clearly the "tastes like dust" or "Impossibly Delicious Food" variety, though - the mere sight of it is enough to make one of the other human characters go into a trance-like state and muse "What's the harm in a single bite?"
  • The Full Name Adventures: "The Spiderwick Chronicles".
  • 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.
  • Hero of Another Story: Noseeum Jack.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Mulgarath, big time. After using his crow form against the protagonists again and again, he gets it used against himself - when Hogsqueal devours him, and kills what previously was an unkillable juggernaut.
  • House Fey: Brownies like Thimbletack are simple but amicable faeries who inhabit human dwellings and assist with tidying the homestead and protecting it from intruders. However, mistreating them will cause them to transform into boggarts, who delight in tormenting a household's residents.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every chapter begins with "In Which..."
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: All chapters of both series.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Chapter 7 of The Nixie's Song is titled "In Which We Nearly Break The Fourth Wall."
  • Leprechaun: According to The Field Guide, leprechauns are the craftspeople of faeriekind, with a particular specialty in shoemaking. As a result, they tend to earn a lot of gold from faeries commissioning their services, and they go great lengths to protect their gold stashes from humans.
  • 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 the 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.
  • Magic Kiss: Brought up in The Ironwood Tree, when the twins find an unconscious Mallory in a glass coffin. Simon wonders if they have to kiss her to wake her up. Jared protests "Gross," but tries kissing her cheek. It fails to do anything, and Simon slaps her awake instead.
  • Meaningful Name: Jack, who kills giants.
  • Mimic Species: The field guide mentions on the page for the cockatrice that "false cockatrices" exist as well, mimicking the much more dangerous species to deter predators.
  • 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.
  • No Immortal Inertia: People whose lifespans have been prolonged by elven magic (e.g. Arthur Spiderwick) will age and die as soon as their feet touch the ground outside the elven realm.
  • 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 Banshees Are Louder: In The Field Guide, banshees are detailed as nocturnal ghost-like beings that appear around specific households when a member is about to die, endlessly wailing in grief as they wash the bloodied clothes of the soon-to-be-dead.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Mulgarath's dragons are serpentine, multi-legged and venomous; these dragons are identified in The Field Guide as wyrms, with a traditional winged wyvern also being illustrated. Also of note is the Hydra of the sequel series, portrayed as numerous wyrms combined like a rat king, rather than a single creature with numerous heads.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Dwarves are the main antagonists of Book 4. They are master miners and metalworkers who inhabit deep mountain caverns. Unusually, they reproduce by carving statues of their kind that then come to life.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Elves play a major role in the series' plot, particularly regarding the fate of Arthur Spiderwick himself. They are portrayed as graceful humanoids with pointed ears and a capricious, carefree lifestyle that is mostly spent by idling and partying away under hills and in forests.
  • 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.
  • Our Gargoyles Rock: In The Feld Guide, gargoyles are a wingless, nocturnal, dwarf dragons that inhabit urban regions, hiding amongst the artificial gargoyles of buildings and jumping from rooftop to rooftop.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Giants play a major role in the sequel series, but are otherwise only in The Field Guide. Here, they're shown as hill-sized behemoths resembling a humanoid mix of a dinosaur and a hornless rhinoceros. They spend most of their adult lives hibernating for long periods of time, during which grass and sod grow on their backs, and are able to breathe fire by ingesting salamanders or baby dragons.
  • Our Goblins Are Different:
    • Goblins are the mooks of Big Bad Mulgarath, depicted as squat toad-like humanoids. They're stupid and prone to squabbling, but also cruel, vicious pack hunters (preferred foods are dogs, cats, and human children) that delight in sadistic pranks and enjoy scavenging through human garbage. Interestingly, they lack teeth, and instead place small sharp objects in their gums for the same effect.
    • Hobgoblins like Hogsqueal are close cousins of goblins that look more like wingless humanoid bats. They are much kinder and friendlier than goblins, but have an immense love of mischief, preferring annoying pranks like urinating in beds and drawing on bedroom walls. Also unlike goblins, they tend to be solitary, although they do share the toothless anatomy (they prefer to use the lost baby teeth of children left out for the tooth fairy).
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: Byron follows the typical eared variant of the classical gryphon body design, but has a more slender build and a beak with teeth/tooth like serrations. The movie makes him more like a regular gryphon. Griffins are also quite large — Byron is around the size of a bus — and mortal enemies of horses; because of this, the rare hybrid hippogriffs are considered to be a symbol of undying love.
  • Our Kelpies Are Different: As described in The Field Guide, Kelpies are malign water spirits in the form of horses, with seal-like skin, cloven hooves and manes always dripping with water. They entice people into riding them in order to drown them, but can be controlled if a prospective rider manages to slip a bridle over their heads.
  • Our Kobolds Are Different: Appear in Book 4 and The Field Guide under the name "knockers" (after a similar Welsh fairy; "kobold" is instead mentioned as another name for them). They appear as a mix of an albino frog and a wingless bat, with long fingers they use to tap on cavern walls to guide lost humans and warn them of impending threats.
  • Our Manticores Are Spinier: In The Field Guide, manticores are described as puma-sized carnivores with appearances combining traits from monkeys and cats. Their tails end in poisonous quills they hurl at their prey.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Merfolk play a major role in the sequel series, but are first detailed in The Field Guide. The book explains that merpeople dwell in great kingdoms in the ocean's depths, and while they don't trust humans, they often come ashore to satiate their curiosity (while they are able to breathe air, they will die if their skin dries out). Male merfolk are noted as being larger and rarer than females, but more bizarrely, merfolk are able to change sex in the same way many species of tropical fish do.
  • Our Nymphs Are Different: Treefolk, according to the Field Guide, are the humanoid avatars of individual trees that have acquired intelligence from living in faerie-touched territory. Different treefolk have different attitudes depending on the tree species they personify.
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Series Big Bad Mulgarath is one. Ogres in the series are hulking, horned scavengers who use their great strength and intelligence, as well as their magical powers, to coerce humans and other faeries into giving them what they want.
  • Our Pixies Are Different: According to The Field Guide, pixies are extraordinarily mischievous child-sized faeries who frolic in parks, gardens, and rural places. They enjoy playing ranks on humans and stealing objects that interest them, but are typically harmless and friendly as far as faeries go. Also detailed are sprites, which are insectoid faeries of diverse appearance and diminutive size.
  • The Phoenix: Present in The Field Guid, which explains it to be an extraordinarily rare species of bird that lives for centuries, and upon reaching the end of its lifespan, will build a funerary pyre to incinerate itself upon, leaving behind an egg that hatches a few days later.
  • Plot-Triggering Book: Arthur guide to the world of faeries is responsible for causing the various confrontations the Grace siblings have with the fae, especially Mulgarath, who wants to steal the book so he can use its knowledge to Take Over the World.
  • Sea Serpent: Detailed in The Field Guide, which includes an impressive four-page foldout illustration of a massive eel-like creature large enough to swallow a small boat whole. Arthur Spiderwick notes that the biggest individuals are as long as suspension bridges and able to create rogue waves or whirlpools as they swim.
  • See-Thru Specs: Looking through the Seeing Stone allows one to see the fairy world. Hobgoblin spit on the eyes acts as a permanent version.
  • 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.
  • Super Spit: Fairy spit (or at least hobgoblin spit) applied to the eyes will give a person True Sight.
  • Technicolor Fire: Apparently hobgoblin urine can turn fire green, as shown with Hogsqueal peeing on a fire in the second book.
  • 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.
  • True Sight: Needed to see the hidden world, unless a fairy decides to reveal themself. Can be achieved through fairy spit, a stone with a natural hole through it, and sometimes naturally appears in the seventh son of a seventh son or redheads.
  • Tuckerization: In this case, self-tuckerization (though not quite Self-Insert). The field guide briefly mentions a boggart troubling the Riggenbach family. "Riggenbach" is Holly Black's maiden name.
  • Unicorn: One appears in the third book, depicted as a highly elusive pony-sized creature able to cure any illness or poison with its horn.
  • Unicorns Prefer Virgins: In Lucinda's Secret, a unicorn grants Mallory a vision of one of its fellows being hunted by being lured by a young girl. When the animal-loving Simon is peeved that the unicorn is more interested in Mallory than himself, she points out that it's because she's a girl. The spinoff book Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You subverts this, however. It claims that the idea that unicorns are specifically attracted to virgins is a myth, and they will only approach those who are truly innocent with pure spirits, regardless of their gender.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Will-o'-the-Wisp: Detailed in The Field Guide, which depicts a rotund, insectoid creature with a glowing body. They inhabit desolate places, often inadvertently attracting the attention of lost travelers and getting them even more lost (usually resulting in their deaths).

 
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Freddie Highmore's accent.

As pointed out by Rebel Taxi, Freddie Highmore struggles to keep his British accent while playing an American kid in The Spiderwick Chronicles movie.

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