When one first thinks of Ireland, images of lush green hills, and tiny dancing faeries come to mind. While looking for an Irish children’s novel, it seems pertinent that these pint sized magical creatures be included. Although faeries and Ireland may go hand in hand, there are other important traditions to keep in mind while reading an Irish novel. According to Celtic tradition, there are six values that are highly important. These values include honor, loyalty, hospitality, honesty, justice, and courage. One such novel from Irish author, Eoin Colfer, is Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian. In his novel, Colfer does a beautiful job of intertwining these values into a story that will appeal to children.
Artemis Fowl is a young teen genius and the protagonist in the novel. As I was reading, I first thought Artemis’ education and scholarly vocabulary were quite advanced for children of ten, but as I continued, I came to the decision that it would not hinder a child’s joy for reading this book. I imagine it would motivate current and future students to take their school work more seriously. From my experience as an avid reader now and as a child, I enjoyed the challenge when coming across difficult words I did not understand. Artemis can be seen as a scholarly hero, inspiring future generations.
Now to get to those Celtic values that are so important not only to the Irish culture, but to the storyline of this novel. I will address three of the six; courage, loyalty, and hospitality.
First we’ll address courage, which in Celtic origin is known as “meisnech.” Courage is found in many of the characters in the novel, but is best represented in Artemis towards the end of this novel. [Spoiler Alert]. Artemis decides to save his friends and family while sacrificing something of great importance, his life. (Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the story…yet.) Artemis’ sacrifice and courage is summed up perfectly in his own words, “It has to be me, Holly. If the second lock is opened, then I will die, but if my plan succeeds, then all fairy souls inside the magical corona will be drawn to the afterlife…My soul is human.” As you can see, Artemis is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his loved ones, but of course there is a twist (So, buy the book and find out what it is!). This self sacrificing love, portrayed through the value of courage, teaches children the importance of standing up for what you believe in and being there for your loved ones.
The next value I will cover is loyalty. The Celtic word for this is “tairise,” translated as steadfastness. Artemis and his two closest friends, Holly and Butler, are all extremely loyal to one another. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for one another and have each other’s backs in rough times. Artemis, Holly, and Butler trust one another and are completely steadfast in their trust, even if one of their ideas seems completely outrageous. For example, Artemis is determined to attempt to fight an army of faery’s both living and dead, even though his army consists of himself, Holly, Butler, and a dwarf. These don’t seem like great odds when fighting against magical beings. The friend’s loyalty for one another is a great example for kids to read about; teaching them how a few good friends can get you through rough times, even if the odds are against you.
The last Celtic value I will address, but certainly not the last found in the novel, is that of hospitality. In early Irish the word for hospitality is “ogidecht.” This is hilariously represented with the dwarf, Gruff. While Gruff tries to maintain his “gruffness” throughout the novel, he opens up his underground home to Artemis and his friends, when they need a place to escape from evil Opal and her army. Gruff’s home just so happens to be under Artemis’ family’s house. Through Gruff’s story, children are presented with the idea that whether they relate most to Artemis, one of his sidekicks (Holly and Butler), or Gruff, there is a place in life for everyone. While hero’s may get the most acknowledgement, Artemis and his friends would not have made it to the end of the story without Gruff’s hospitality.
If you are looking for a fun, intelligent, layered, novel for your child, or even yourself, (I enjoyed it immensely), Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian is a must. Artemis and his friends lead the reader on a journey full of faeries, magic, and lessons. This novel doesn’t disappoint and will leave the reader with a greater appreciation for the technology of the modern world and a better understanding of Irish values and how they are still important today.