Novel Analysis : Spiderwick - The Field Guide

2/19/2011 11:36:00 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

This is my final assignment in Children Literature, well, I'd never guessed I'd had nice mark for this from my lecture. So, I just post this to help others who need it.

Fantasy Elements in ‘Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide’ and How It Influences in Characters’ Life

In this paper, I’m going to talk about fantasy in children literature. Fantasy is one of important elements in children literature. I think fantasy in children literature is important, because it can help child to imagine about the story. And it also can improve the ability of children’s thought and ideas.
In children literature, fantasy helps the child to develop imagination. The ability to imagine, to conceive of alternative ways of life, to entertain new ideas, to create strange new worlds, to dream dreams are all skills vital to survival of humankind (Charlotte S. Huck & Susan Hepler 1989) .It also helps children to be mature through the story. Because, the hidden message of the story can be found through their thoughts also with the help of parents. Fantasy is helpful for children to be more realized in real life. It is interesting to talk about fantasy in children literature; children can learn something through fantasy story. Usually, fantasy genre is more complex with the situation of the story which never imagined before by children. Children can create their own fantasy world in the story. However usually, the book which has illustration will help children to imagine the story easily, how it’s like, how it could be, and so on.
Almost in children literature, the fantasy appears in the stories whether it becomes magic, faeries, witch, utopian world, myth, future, and many more. Fantasy becomes interesting elements in the stories of children. Fantasy is defined as ‘an enormous and seductive subject. Its association with imagination and with desire has made it an area difficult to articulate or to define’ (Jackson 2001).This theory indicates that fantasy relates to imagination and desire to create amazing things in the story. Fantasy is really hard to define because of its wide space which is not limited to idea. According to Wikipedia, ‘fantasy is a genre that uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting. Fantasy is generally distinguished from science fiction in that it does not provide a logical (or pseudo logical) explanation for the scientifically impossible events that occur, though there is a great deal of overlap between the two (both are subgenres of speculative fiction).’[1]
Many writers today include fantasy elements for their stories to make the stories more exciting for readers. Fantasy has own characteristic in literature, so it makes itself unique and different from the others. Different with realistic story, in fantasy, writers can explore to many worlds whether it’s real or not.
Although, fantasy is still a general subject that has many kinds, such as modern fantasy, fairy tales, animal fantasy, high fantasy, science fiction and so on (Charlotte S. Huck & Susan Hepler 1989). I try to investigate fantasy in children life and how it influences in children life, because children are very associated with fantasy or imagination in their life. In this paper, I just want to investigate about high fantasy which usually appears in more complex child’s story. High fantasy is usually for children in 9 year-old or up to adult. Fantasy appears in the complex narratives and usually become sequels or chronicles in several books.
‘High fantasy is a complex narratives which the stories frequently take in created worlds and the characters may call on ancient and fundamental, powers for good or ill. Frequently, the protagonists of high fantasy have a quest to fulfill. The overall tone of high fantasy is serious, because its purpose is serious. High fantasy concerns itself with cosmic questions and ultimate values: goodness, truth, courage, and wisdom.’(Huck & Hepler 1989)
In this paper, I make a definition for fantasy. According to me, fantasy is a genre of idea which is not restricted and it has wide range, usually including traditional literature, it’s only restricted with the story and the characters itself. And in this paper, I will concern to high fantasy that appears in he first book of Spiderwick Chronicles. In the next part, I will discuss more about fantasy and also how fantasy influences in characters’ life.
For some children, challenge is the way to face what it is front. Through challenge, children will be more mature, wise, and brave. These discussions also will be presented by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black in their books, Spiderwick Chronicles. Although the settings of the story do not appear in the unknown world such as Lewis’ Narnia, Spiderwick setting is more realistic as the world now. But the appearances of fantasy creatures will differentiate it.
As what the above explained, in high fantasy, protagonists usually have a quest to fulfill. And so with the Spiderwick Chronilcles, it also has a quest to be fulfilled by the characters.
In the first book, The Field Guide, Jared Grace, a nine year-old boy, moved in to the new creepy house with his mom, twin-brother, and sister, after her mom divorced with his father. Jared Grace as the main character, described as a boy who getting very mad after their parents divorced. He was uncontrolled-self, messed up, he got fight with his school-mate, so his mom decided to move in from town to an old creepy house, belongs to his great grandmother, Aunt Lucinda. As the first day in his new house, Jared felt that it was not a house; it was more like a dozen shacks had been piled on top of one another (Black 2003) (pg. 2). The house was old and creepy, as it was described on the text:

The doors were a faded gray, worn with age. The only traces of paint were indeterminate cream, stuck deep in crevices and around the hinges. A rusted ram’s- head door knocker hung from a single, heavy nail at its center.
… The door opened into a dim hallway. The only window was halfway up the stairs, and its stained glass panes gave the walls an eerie, reddish glow.  (DiTerlizzi & Black 2003) (pg. 4)

From those sections, those were clues for readers that in the next part there
will be more mysterious appearances in the stories. These will make readers more curious about the stories they read. Generally, children are more curious about mystery, ghost, alien, and something like that. DiTerlizzi and Black make their story become mystery in the beginning so that the readers will be more interested and curious.

Just as he paused, something inside the wall rustled. He could hear it scrabbling upward until the sound disappeared past the ceiling. His heart beat hard against his chest. (Black 2003) (pg. 11)

As what children had, Jared also felt the same, he was afraid about something
in his house. Probably, Jared has thought it was a ghost for a moment. But then, he avoids his thought after seeing expression of his brother and sister. Actually, at the first, children are not afraid of ghost, strange creatures or else, even they will be curious what it will be like. But however, when somebody has told it is an eerie creature they will become afraid. The three characters in Spiderwick are brave children, so they try to find out something in their new house.

The three of them crept over to where the sound came from, just as the noise itself changed. Instead of hearing the clatter of little claws scrabbling on wood, they could clearly hear the scrape of nails on metal. (pg. 24)

But then, Jared finds a mysterious room, after his sister, Mallory, gets him
upstairs with a dumbwaiter.

Jared looked around the room. It was a smallish library, with one huge desk in the center. On it was an open book and a pair of old-fashioned, round glasses that caught the candlelight. Jared walked closer. The dim glow illuminated one title at a time as he scanned the shelves. They were all strange: A Historie of Scottish Dwarves, A Compendium of Brownie Visitations from Around the World, and Anatomy of Insect and Other Flying Creatures. (pg. 33)

These indicate, the characters will face the serious one. High fantasy is almost 
always the story of a search --- for treasure, justice, identity, understanding, --- and of a hero- figure who learns important lessons in the adventuring (Charlotte S. Huck & Susan Hepler 1989) (pg. 430).
Jared’ eyes fell on a note tossed on top of an open book, both coated in a thin layer of dust. The paper was yellowed with age, but handwritten on it was a strange little poem:
In a man’s torso you will find
My secret to all mankind
If false and true can be the same
You will soon know of my fame
Up and up and up again
Good Luck dear friend (pg. 34)

                With this poem, indirectly, Jared has a quest to be fulfilled. This poem is one of clue that will happen in next. And of course, it makes him more curious what actually presents in his house and around the house, what actually happen to Mr. Spiderwick, the owner of his house. Then, the strange creature starts to show him up.
There was a rustling behind him. Jared spun around. It came from the desk.
As he held up the makeshift lamp, Jared saw that something had been scrawled in the dust of the desk. Something that wasn’t there before.
Click clack, watch your back
… He stood in the darkness, so scared he could barely move. Something was here, in the room, and it could write! (pg. 37)

In this part, we know that the tone of the story start to grow up. Of course with
After this part, the character will meet a more serious part. It will make the characters become more aware and mature. Sometimes, something scary will make someone thinks to make that feeling disappear. To make it disappear is trying to find out how to face the scary thing. If we draw a graphic table, we’ll see the line of the graphic which represent of the maturity of characters’ thought will go high and higher. In the next part, we’ll see how the characters try to catch it.
                However, another mysterious event still happens in ordinary life. It happens to Mallory, Jared’s elder sister.

Long pieces of her hair had been knotted to the brass headboard. Her face was red, but the worst part was the strange pattern of bruises that decorated her arms. (pg. 43)

(An illustration of Mallory’s hair, pg. 42)

This mysterious event also has signed that other creatures are living in that house. It makes the characters more realize that they are not alone in the house. It is closer to reveal the mystery. The poem actually is the clue to reveal everything that happen. From the poem, Jared thinks about the words ‘up and up and up again’. It makes him curious about the attic, maybe he’ll find something there, and he tries to crack the riddles.
In the attic, he finds another staircase, a spiral staircase to upstairs. He finds another room that he finds a trunk. Jared doesn’t really understand in the line ‘In a man’s torso, you will find my secret to all mankind’. But all these riddles reveal after Jared find a square bundle, inside the chest. An old book title: Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. It means that this is a first attainment for Jared for his brilliant thought to solve the mysterious poem. The old book is a guide for Jared to face what might be happen soon. It means that Jared must prepare himself to face something that might be happen.
                From the title of the book that Jared finds, we might think, the fantastical creatures will appear soon. Jared begins to read book all night, because he is curious about what the book tells about. A curious thing can make him changes, the story tells that Jared usually doesn’t like to read, but his curiosity makes him want to read. It can be found in many children, they actually only want to read whatever makes them curious about or interested in. From this, we learn that books are really helpful for children when they are curious about something.
                Also from the fantastical book, Jared finds new description about fantastical creatures that live around them. He finds faerie in some kinds like brownie, boggart, pixie, nixie, and many more. With these fantastical creatures, children are demanded to have their own imagination about these creatures. With the help of illustration, it will help children to imagine about these. When we try to find out what actually all these creatures are, we may find in the dictionary if it possible or we may search on the internet. Actually, all the creatures what the writers include in their books are from the folklore in many countries, like England, Scotland, German, Greek, Norse, and so on. Actually, those creatures can be found in dictionary, but the writers also have described a creature that might be hard to explain.

                “This Arthur guy says it’s a boggart. See, brownies are these helpful guys, but then if you make them mad, they go crazy. They start doing all these bad things and you can’t stop them. Then they become boggarts. That’s what I think we have” (pg. 66)
(A picture of household boggart, pg 69)

In that part, writers give the information about what boggart is. There is also the creature called brownie. According to Encarta Dictionaries, brownie is a helpful elf or goblin; in folklore, a small supernatural being believed to do helpful work at night. There is also an illustration of boggart in the book. It makes children easily to imagine it. Brownie also has different form with boggart. Brownie is nicer, but when it gets mad, it becomes a boggart.
From the book, Jared finds himself to be braver than before. When the book tells about how boggart is and how to find it, Jared directly do what the book says, because he believes what the book says.

Scattering sugar or flour on the floor is one way of obtaining footprints. (pg. 72)

This sentence is a suggestion from the book if the reader wants to prove that the faerie is existed. It’s also like the quest for Jared to fulfill. But honestly, when he tries to prove that boggart is existed, he is interrupted by his mother. His mother never believes him after he got fight with his classmate. His mother is very angry actually after the kitchen is messed up. Mother thinks that it was Jared who did the mess thing in the kitchen. He actually was sleeping in his bedroom. Then, he finds small tracks in the flour. After seeing those tracks, he is sure the book isn’t telling a lie. But his sister and mother do not believe in him. Simon, his twin brother, believes in Jared.
Next, Jared’s idea about making a new house for boggart after observing the things that he found inside the wall yesterday. His creativity appears here, he makes a new house or like a trap for boggart. His work begin succeed, especially after his brother and sister begin to trust him when they get into a secret library that Jared had told about. An unbelievable thing is done by Grace’s children; they write a note to boggart (a creature that they never meet before and an unknown creature that the existence is questioned) and say sorry for breaking its first house. An unpredictable thing appears over the next week after that. The note’s gone, and something appears in front of them.

There was the loud sound of a throat being cleared, and the three turned toward desk. Standing on it, in worn overalls and a wide-brimmed hat, was a little man about the size of a pencil. His eyes were as black as beetles, his nose was large and red, and he looked very like the illustration from the Guide. He was holding a pair of leashes that attached to two gray mice that were sniffing the edge of the desk. (pg. 103)
(A picture of Thimbletack, brownie in house, pg. 105)

The appearance of Thimbletack, the house boggart, makes Jared, Simon, and Mallory realize that all the things in the book are real. Jared only read the beginning in the book, which he know about boggart or brownie which they just meet now, and there are still many things which isn’t read yet in the book. And it’s like foreshadow for the readers that there are still many things in the book which will appear especially in the next book. The adventures of Grace’s children begin on the ending of the first book.
                From the story of the first book of Spiderwick Chronicles, I assume that fantasy elements in this story influence the Grace’s children lives indirectly. Fantasy makes them think to be clever to face something. In this story also, fantasy makes them to trust each other, especially, because they are one family. Fantasy also makes them brave to face the unknown before. Fantasy makes them realized that they are not living alone in this world, there are still many things live around them. It can be considered by us in the reality that we also do not live alone our world, there are many unseen creatures live around us. Fantasy in Spiderwick also makes the characters become mature to face the problems; it can be seen if we read the whole five books, the maturity of the characters’ increase. The relationship among the three also becomes stronger, because they need each other to complete the tasks. In the next books of Spiderwick, the high fantasy increase, we can find the struggle of good and evil and also the difficulties of the quest. In the next books, the readers will find many strange creatures especially who live in the forest. The adventures of the Grace’s children become more strained. The readers will not patiently read the next books.
                For some parents, fantasy might be thought as not good thing for children. But actually, this perception is wrong enough. As I explained above, fantasy will help children to develop their imagination. From imagination, they will think deeply and not simply. Maybe some people think that there is a little moral issue that we can get from fantasy story. But actually, fantasy literature is morally allegorical in nature. Fantasy literature is based upon morality. Fantasy stories employ metaphorical creatures and epic situations as a tool to instruct children in morals.[2]
For me, fantasy is actually useful for helping children in developing their thought, because children live with fantasy in their other lives.

References :

Black, Holly & DiTerlizzi, Tony. (2003). Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide. London, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Charlotte S. Huck & Susan Hepler, J. H. (1989). Children Literature in the Elementary School: Chapter 7: Modern Fantasy. T. Buchholz. Orlando, Harcourt Brace & Company.
Jackson, R. (2001). Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. London and New York, Routledge.
       (Dec, 13th 2010, Monday, 8:27)

(Dec, 13th 2010. Monday, 9:22)