The Borrowers Afield is the second book in the Borrowers series, and was published in 1955. It recounts the adventures of the Clock family after they were forced to flee their home at the old house at Firbank. They’re making for the home of their relatives, the Hendrearys, who emigrated to a badger’s set in a nearby field. But when the Clocks arrive (after an arduous journey over the field), there is no one there, and they have to fall back on their own ingenuity to make a place to live.
This story introduces the character of Spiller, a wild outdoors borrower who happens on the Clocks in their boot in the field. We also meet Mild-Eye the Gypsy, a wonderfully ominous character who shows up in the third book as well.
The humor is quite good, and is mostly provided by Homily’s little exclamations about their home, the boot, when Mild-Eye is wearing it. She also gives me quite a giggle when she is talking about “the ethic”: namely, that borrowers never borrow from other borrowers. Norton also indulges in a little name-humor, juxtaposing the characters of Tom “Goodenough” and Mr. “Beguid” (pronounced “be-good”). It’s also quite funny to learn how Spiller got his name (“you’re a Dreadful Spiller, you are!”).
I love the frame story, of old Tom Goodenough telling young Kate about the borrowers. Tom was the boy with the ferret in the first book, and he caught a glimpse of the Clocks escaping. He plays rather a big part in this story too, rescuing them from the clutches of Mild-Eye and bringing them to a safe home.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the brilliant illustrations by Beth and Joe Krush. With just a few sweeps of the pen, they are able to create fantastic scenes and capture each character’s unique pesonality. No matter what film adaptations I see, the Krushes’ interpretation of the characters is what I will always envision the borrowers to look like.
This is another classic story that seems almost a part of me, so long have I loved it. Highly recommended!