Borribles are small, looking like children apart from the fact that they have pointed ears, but they may be hundreds of years old, for they can live forever, unless they are caught and get their ears clipped. If that happens they will turn into regular children and will be doomed into growing up into boring, adventureless adults.
The trilogy begins with the story of the great Rumble Hunt, where nine Borribles go on a mission to stop the Rumbles invading their manors. Eight are nameless adventurerers out to earn a name, while the ninth, Knocker goes as their historian, but has another aim as well. He wants to get a second name, for all Borribles must earn their names, and no Borrible can go adventuring once he has a name. This may be his chance.
De Larrabeiti uses the streets of London as his setting, and they really do come alive in these three stories, as do the characters. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the SBG (Special Borrible Group) officers; The DAC, for example has shoes that
“shone so brilliantly that it was impossible to tell what colour they were.”
while inspecter Sussworth’s
“face was like a three-fingered signpost, turned by mischievous hands so that everything pointed down the wrong road…He kicked the ground when he was annoyed, he did a little three-step dance when he was pleased. He was stubborn and he was proud; his blood bubbled with a lunatic zeal, he was an evangelist for rectitude and decorum, an enforcer of law and order.”
But it is the Borribles who are the heroes and they who more than entertain with their adventures and attempts to evade the SBG, as well as rescue the horse Sam who saved them on the Great Rumble Hunt.
This may be part of children’s literature but it is very far from the world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. The London of the Borribles is described in wonderfully grimy detail while the open spaces of the parks and fields are regarded with trepidation by the Borribles, after all there is nothing to steal there, nowhere to kip and nowhere to hide.
These stories have been out of print for years, but I for one am glad that they have been reissued. I didn’t read them when I was young, but I would recommend them, especially for non-fans of the Wombles. For they, although altered, are the basis of the Rumbles of Rumbledon. Although the Rumbles are far more violent, using their sticks as weapons rathar than for picking up litter.
Darkly entertaining stories