Nguyen was by now thoroughly spooked. Artemis generally had that effect on people. A pale adolescent speaking with the authority and vocabulary of a powerful adult. Nguyen had heard the name Fowl before—who hadn't in the international underworld?—but he'd assumed he'd be dealing with Artemis senior, not this boy. Though the word "boy" hardly seemed to do this gaunt individual justice.
This quote, from early in the text, gives us more insight into the character of Artemis Fowl. It is written from Nguyen's point-of-view, which gives us the opportunity to see how other people see Artemis. Artemis sticks out: it is not every day that you see a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. Nguyen knows that Artemis is an incredibly powerful individual. He has already heard of the Fowls through the criminal underworld, which gives Artemis's actions context and connects him to the power of his family name. The way that Artemis holds himself communicates this power—his confidence in this situation discourages Nguyen from second-guessing him, despite his age. Nguyen is seemingly unable to categorize Artemis: he is a "boy" and an intimidating "gaunt individual" at the same time. As a result, Nguyen is "spooked."
The language in the second sentence of this passage communicates Nguyen's confusion regarding Artemis: "A pale adolescent speaking with the authority and vocabulary of a powerful adult." In this sentence, there are many "p" and "a" sounds: "A," "pale," "adolescent," "authority," "and," "vocabulary," "a," "powerful," and "adult." This heavy alliteration emphasizes the confusion in Nguyen's brain. Additionally, the "p" sounds are paired with "a" sounds in a way that highlights the contradictions in Artemis's character—"pale adolescent" is mirrored with "powerful adult." These phrases seem to be the complete opposite of each other; yet, somehow, they are both embodied in Artemis.
Artemis believed that with today's technology the Book could be translated. And with this translation you could begin to exploit a whole new group of creatures. . . .
Artemis was perhaps the only person alive who could take full advantage of his recent acquisition. He still retained a childlike belief in magic, tempered by an adult determination to exploit it. If there was anybody capable of relieving the fairies of some of their magical gold, it was Artemis Fowl the second.
This passage gives us important insight into Artemis's character and how he sets the story into motion. In order for Artemis to be able to exploit the fairies, Artemis must first translate the Book he got from the sprite in Ho Chi Minh City—a feat which has never been completed before by any human. In fact, the only human alive who can complete this mission is Artemis himself. Because he is a genius with unlimited resources at his disposal, he is intelligent enough to figure out how to translate the Book. However, it is only because he is still a child and "retain[s] a childlike belief in magic" that he is able to find the Book in the first place and understand what it means.
Artemis has modern technology at his disposal, which helps him greatly in the process of translating the Book. Ultimately, as we find out later in the chapter, Artemis uses a computer program to translate the Book, though he first must find human equivalents to the Gnommish characters. The fact that Artemis uses technology to translate the fairy Book and thus "exploit" an entirely new race of characters suggests that there is a conflict between technology and nature within the text. The People are much more in tune with nature than humans (who they call "Mud People"), and while they have extensive fairy technology at their disposal, they use it to maintain a peaceful existence. In contrast, human technology has led to pollution and the destruction of many animal species. Here, human technology is going to allow Artemis to "exploit" the fairies for his own personal gain, like many humans before him who have hunted wild animals (and even sometimes driven them to extinction) for monetary gain.
The tension between technology and nature can also be understood as a tension between technology and ancient history or tradition. Once Artemis succeeds in translating the book, he allows himself a moment of celebration: "Artemis could hear the blood pumping in his ears. He had them. They would be as ants beneath his feet. Their every secret would be laid bare by technology" (28). Here, Artemis credits technology for his success rather than his own intellectual prowess. However, it is technology and Artemis's genius working hand-in-hand that allow Artemis this success—a success which will have disastrous consequences for the People.
How had the People ever left the surface? Sometimes she wished that her ancestors had stayed to fight it out with the Mud People. But there were too many of them. Unlike fairies who could produce only a single child every twenty years, Mud People bred like rodents. Numbers would subdue even magic. Although she was enjoying the night air, Holly could taste traces of pollutants. The Mud People destroyed everything they came into contact with. Of course they didn't live in the mud anymore. Not in this country, at least. Oh no. Big fancy dwellings with rooms for everything—rooms for sleeping, rooms for eating, even a room to go to the toilet! Indoors! Holly shuddered. Imagine going to the toilet inside your own house. Disgusting!
This quote offers our first look into the relationship between fairies and humans in Artemis Fowl. In Chapter 3, we discover that the fairy population (who call themselves "the People") lives underground; they believe that their entire existence depends upon humans not knowing about their existence. They have lived separately from the humans (who they call "Mud People") for hundreds of years. The People have a much more harmonious relationship with nature and with the earth, and they are disgusted at how the Mud People treat nature. In this passage, Holly is even disgusted by the fact that humans go to the bathroom indoors. "The only good thing about going to the toilet was the minerals being returned to the earth, but the Mud People had even managed to botch that up by treating the . . . stuff . . . with bottles of blue chemicals," she asserts. "If anyone had told her a hundred years ago that humans would be taking the fertile out of fertilizer, she would have told them to get some air holes drilled in their skull" (50).
Because fairies live for much longer than humans—Holly herself is already a few centuries old—they see first-hand how industrialization and modern technology have abused the earth. Humans live under the impression that they are the only intelligent beings in existence, and they abuse the earth's bounty and the animals for their own personal gain. The fairies, as a result, are forced underground. They cannot reproduce as fast as humans can, and so their population is much smaller. Unlike humans, they are in tune with the natural world, and can sense human pollutants without specialized equipment. In this passage, Holly can taste how polluted the air is simply by breathing it in. Later in the novel, she will fly over a pod of dolphins at night and will be able to see with her eyes how the pollutants have harmed their skin. It's no wonder why the People are so mistrustful of Mud People. They have watched the Mud People destroy the earth over a relatively short period of time.
Finally the coast loomed ahead of her. The old country. Éiriú, the land where time began. The most magical place on the planet. It was here, ten thousand years ago, that the ancient fairy race, the Dé Danann, had battled against the demon Fomorians, carving the famous Giants' Causeway with the strength of their magical blasts. It was here that the Lia Fáil stood, the rock at the center of the universe, where the fairy kings and later the human Ard Rí were crowned. And it was also here, unfortunately, that the Mud People were the most in tune with magic, which resulted in a far higher People-sighting rate than you got anywhere else on the planet. Thankfully the rest of the world assumed that the Irish were crazy, a theory that the Irish themselves did nothing to debunk. . .
But in spite of all that, if there was one race the People felt an affinity for it was the Irish. Perhaps it was their eccentricity, perhaps their dedication to the craic, as they called it. And if the People were actually related to humans, as another theory had it, odds are that the Emerald Isle was where it started.
In this passage, Eoin Colfer references some of the Irish mythology that he used to build the modernized fairy world we find in Artemis Fowl. It also explains why the story is set in Ireland—Artemis finds a way to exploit the fairies partly because of his location. He probably grew up hearing stories about fairies, like many Irish children.
Holly's term for Ireland, "Éiriú," comes from ancient Irish mythology. According to mythology, Éiriú is the matron goddess of Ireland. In fact, Ireland's name comes from her name—"Ireland" is a joining for "Éiriú" and "land." Holly believes that Ireland is the most magical place on the planet, partly because the fairy mythology has originated from there.
The People's predecessors, the Dé Danann, also appear in Irish mythology. They were the main deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland. Like the People, the Dé Danann lived separately from humans (what they called the "Celtic Otherworld"). Their mythical enemies, the Fomorians, generally represent the harmful and destructive elements of nature.
Today, you can visit the Giant's Causeway on the northern coast of modern-day Northern Ireland. It is on the Emerald Isle, but Northern Ireland has technically been part of the United Kingdom since 1922. Holly does not mention this recent geopolitical history, possibly because it doesn't concern her. She does not have much patience for human affairs.
The Lia Fáil is an ancient stone and ceremonial burial site that can be found on the Hill of Tara, near the Eastern Coast of Ireland. According to tradition, every Irish king was crowned there up until Muirchertach mac Ercae, around 500 AD. According to Holly, fairy kinds preceded the human kinds, and they were crowned there until the first human king (called "Ard Rí" in Irish).
Finally, "craic" is an Irish term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. It has great cultural significance in Ireland, as Irish people pride themselves on being friendly and outgoing towards others.
Colfer himself is Irish, which leads to a humorous attitude towards Irish people in the text. Nevertheless, Irish mythology has spread across the world; now, everyone knows about leprechauns and the pot of gold that supposedly can be found beneath the rainbow. As Colfer notes, Irish people are globally renowned for being a bit "crazy," friendly, and hospitable towards others. Every year, in March, St. Patrick's day festivities happen all over the world, showing just how much influence the small country of Ireland has made on the global scale.
Root tilted his polymer wings, hugging the underside of a fogbank. There was no need to be careful. With his shield activated, he was invisible to the human eye. Even on stealth-sensitive radar he would be no more than a barely perceptible distortion. The commander swooped low to the gunwales. It was an ugly craft, this one. The smell of death and pain lingered in the blood swabbed decks. Many noble creatures had died here, died and been dissected for a few bars of soap and some heating oil. Root shook his head. Humans were such barbarians.
In this scene, Commander Root is tracking Holly's field locator to an abandoned whaling ship. The reader knows that Holly is not actually on the ship; Artemis has left the locator there on their way back to Fowl Manor. This is an example of dramatic irony—when the reader knows something that a character does not.
As Root approaches the whaling ship, he is disgusted by the ship's history. It has been used to hunt and kill whales, and Root can smell "the smell of death and pain" (102). As we have seen in other passages, the fairy world has a much more harmonious and intimate relationship with nature and they have more powerful senses than humans. Because of this, Holly can taste the pollution in the air when she first makes it aboveground, and Root can smell "death and pain" aboard the whaling ship (102). Root is disgusted with the ship's history, and, as a result, disgusted with humans. He calls the human race "barbarians," which is interesting because that word is generally used to describe an uncivilized person—it comes from Ancient Greece when their foreign enemies would speak other languages than themselves and were thus seen as lesser. In this passage, the human "barbarians" stand in contrast with the "noble creatures" of the whales. This turns traditional notions of human supremacy on its head. While humans may believe that they are the most advanced, most intelligent, or most "civilized" species, they are in fact below the nobility of the whales, in Root's eyes. Throughout Artemis Fowl, humans are portrayed as murderous creatures who have little regard for mother nature or animal kind.
Surprisingly, however, Artemis expresses a similar sentiment to Root when his diversion succeeds. After he talks to Root through a camera-speaker embedded into Holly's locator and blows up the whaler, he feels pride in himself: "Perfect. That little explosion should cure those fairies of their cavalier attitude. Plus there was one less whaler in the world. Artemis Fowl did not like whalers. There were less objectionable ways to produce oil by-products" (109). As discussed in the "Summary and Analysis" sections, Colfer goes to great lengths in pointing out the differences between the fairy and human populations. However, as the novel progresses, those distinctions are blurred, and we learn that anyone on either side can be good or bad—it is simply up to the individual.
"Fowl," she said with feeling. "You have no idea what you've done. Bringing the worlds together like this could mean disaster for us all."
Artemis shrugged. "I am not concerned with us all, just myself. And believe me, I shall be perfectly fine. Now, sit, please."
Holly sat, never taking her hazel eyes from the diminutive monster before her.
"So what is this master plan, Fowl? Let me guess—world domination?"
"Nothing so melodramatic," chuckled Artemis. "Just riches."
"A thief!" spat Holly. "You're just a thief!"
Annoyance flashed across Artemis's features, only to be replaced by his customary sardonic grin.
"Yes. A thief if you like. Hardly just a thief, though. The world's first cross-species thief."
Captain Short snorted. "First cross-species thief? Mud People have been stealing from us for millennia. Why do you think we live underground?"
This passage is the first full conversation between Holly and Artemis. Holly tries to warn Artemis that bringing the fairy and human races together is a disastrous idea. One can see why it would mean trouble for the fairies: they would lose their secret hiding places and be flushed out by the humans, who would probably incite a cross-species war with them. Fairy technology is highly advanced; it would be a deadly and devastating fight for both sides.
Artemis's response to her warning gets at the heart of his character: "'I am not concerned with us all, just myself.'" Here, Artemis shows himself to be an insensitive individual who only cares about personal gain. The collective's well-being does not concern him in the slightest, and if he must set off an inter-species war, he will do so if he can stand to gain from it. This is perhaps the first time in the novel that the reader truly understands the depth of Artemis's corruption. Many readers sympathize with Artemis because he clearly cares about his family and the Butlers, but it is hard to sympathize with someone who only cares about himself.
Holly's response to Artemis's admission that he simply wants fairy gold gets at Artemis. She calls him "just a thief"—a particularly damaging insult to someone who believes themselves superior to everyone else (116). Artemis corrects her, telling her that he will be the first human to ever steal fairy gold. Holly's response is vital to many of the themes of the book: "Mud People have been stealing from us for millennia." To truly understand the LEP's response to Artemis and their clashes through the rest of the novel, one must keep in mind that the People have been living in fear from the Mud People (i.e. humans) for thousands of years. They have been pushed underground, forced to live in hiding, because the Mud People understand the earth as belonging to themselves. The theme of environmentalism arises here—humans believe that the earth is theirs, rather than belonging to all living things. Because of this misconception, humans abuse the earth and big corporations pollute it.
What the passage above tells us is that in many ways, Artemis's schemes are not innovative, genius, or original. He is simply doing what all humans have been doing since the beginning of time. This is quite a depressing thought; one which is hard to reckon with, particularly if you are as big-headed as Artemis Fowl.
Root stalked down the hallway, glaring back at the oil paintings. Better to leave now and process this new information. The Fowl boy was indeed a slippery opponent. But he was making one basic mistake—the assumption that Root would play by the rules. However, Julius Root hadn't gotten his commander's stripes by following any rule book. Time for a bit of unorthodox action.
This passage appears right after Root negotiates with Artemis in the Fowl Manor. As he leaves, he glares at the portraits hanging in the hallway. They are a reminder of Artemis's lineage, which is filled with criminals and con-men. Artemis's ancestors endow him with power—he uses his world-renowned last name and vast inherited wealth to his every advantage. Root's glaring at the portraits mirrors Holly's reaction to them; right before she leaves the manor, she considers returning to burn them down.
As Root leaves the conversation with Artemis, he picks up on several things. First, he realizes not to underestimate Artemis: "the Fowl boy was indeed a slippery opponent." It is important for Root to understand the kind of person he is dealing with when it comes to Artemis Fowl; only then will he be able to begin to understand how to properly go toe-to-toe with him. Root decides that he's going to proceed with the Recon mission in an unorthodox fashion in an attempt to surprise the young Artemis. To do so, he will call upon a notorious criminal, Mulch Diggums, who will break into Artemis's house. Artemis told Root that no fairies were allowed in his house while he was still alive. If fairies enter a human's home without an invitation, they run the risk of losing their magic. However, Mulch has already lost his magical powers a long time ago due to his criminal enterprises.
That Root decides to go the unorthodox route suggests a similarity between himself and Holly. Even though the novel opens with Root being angry at Holly for her unorthodox lifestyle (for example, that she is a girl in Recon, that she often enters situations without thinking through the full consequences), he and Holly think in similar ways. They both employ "judicious risk-taking" when in the field (104). Perhaps this means that Root will give Holly less of a hard time in later books, though any major change in his character is doubtful.
I'd rather trust a bunch of humans not to hunt a species to extinction than to trust an LEP consultant, thought Mulch.
In this passage, Mulch is revealing his true feelings about the LEP officers who recruited him on the mission to rescue Holly. What he says is rather shocking, on several levels. It has already been established throughout the novel that fairies deeply dislike the human race: they blame humans for the destruction of the world and for forcing them to live in secrecy. For Mulch to (in theory) trust humans to be kind to the earth and animals over an LEP officer shows just how much he dislikes Root and his team. Humans have hunted many species to extinction in the past—Wooly Mammoths and Caspian Tigers are only two examples of a long list. It is shocking, therefore, that Mulch would trust the human race to not do something which they have already done over Foaly and Root. It shows just how little regard Mulch holds for the LEP team.
At the end of the day, Mulch sees the gray areas between "humans" and "fairies" and hates the LEP just as much as he hates humans. In fact, Mulch's ultimate goal after stealing some of the LEP's ransom is to disguise himself as a rich human and live among them in New York City. When Root asks him if he has "civic pride"—in other words, if he cares about the fairy race's continued wellbeing—Mulch replies that he couldn't care less because it does not affect his individual circumstances. Root asks him, "'Don't you have any civic pride? Our entire way of life is on the line here.'" To this, Mulch responds, "'Not my way of life. Fairy prison, human prison. It's all the same to me'" (164).
Butler took the stairs four at a time. It was possibly the first time he had ever abandoned Master Artemis in a time of crisis. But Juliet was family, and there was obviously something seriously wrong with his baby sister. That fairy had said something to her, and now she was just sitting in the cell giggling. Butler feared the worst. If anything were to happen to Juliet, he didn't know how he'd live with himself.
This passage appears right at the climax of the novel: the LEP team has just released a deadly troll into Fowl Manor, Holly has finally gotten her magic powers back and has released the cell, and Juliet is in immediate danger. It is a notable passage because it shows us some complexity in Butler's character. Before, we have simply seen Butler as a loyal servant to Artemis; he does what Artemis tells him to do without thinking about it first. However, when his sister's life is on the line, Butler turns his back on his master—a decision that cannot be weighed lightly. The Butler family has been serving the Fowl family for many, many generations. For his entire life, Butler has been molded into the perfect servant. However, this does not mean that he is not a human being with relationships of his own. In this way, Butler comes to life in this scene. He is no longer a one-dimensional character and is instead an individual with his own interior world. We learn that he loves his sister deeply and she is more important to him than his duties. Eventually, we understand that Butler made the right decision to leave Artemis behind in his study. If he hadn't, Juliet would have surely been killed by the troll.
Artemis paused, his gaze tugged momentarily upstairs to the converted loft. Perhaps, he thought. Do I really need all this gold? And was his conscience not needling him, leaching some of the sweetness from his victory? He shook himself. Stick to the plan. Stick to the plan. No emotion.
In this passage, Artemis (not for the first time) is experiencing misgivings about his evil plan. However, like every time that doubts appeared before, he suppresses them because the potential reward is too great. In the end, Artemis's final plan to sedate himself, Butler, and Juliet in order to evade the blue rinse is a gamble. He does not know if it will work, and if it doesn't, all three of them will die. Artemis knows the weight of this moment: Butler told him that he trusted Artemis. But Butler also loves Juliet dearly and is afraid to risk her life. The fact that Artemis is experiencing doubt in this moment shows that his character is complex and three-dimensional. He is an evil mastermind and is also aware of all the risks that come with going through with his criminal endeavors.
At this point in the novel, you may have felt a twinge of sympathy for Artemis. In the end, he is just a 12-year-old boy, and crime is what his family has done for generations. However, moments like these also show us that Artemis does know what the right thing to do would be and nevertheless suppresses those thoughts. He is first and foremost interested in the success of his plan, nothing else. It is a hard decision to make, because he is not only gambling with his own life but Butler and Juliet's lives as well.
Artemis Fowl Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Artemis Fowl is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.