Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl Summary and Analysis of Chapter 3: Holly


Chapter 3 begins by introducing us to a new character, Holly Short. She is a fairy who lives underground with the rest of the fairy population. There are many different types of fairies; Holly is an elf. She is also a leprechaun, but that term only describes her job as an officer for the LEPrecons—the official fairy task force. At the beginning of Chapter 3, Holly wakes in an irritable mood because her boss, Commander Root, has been giving her a hard time for being the first female officer in Recon. She is also irritable because it has been a while since she has completed the Ritual—a process by which fairies restore their magical powers—meaning that she is low on her magical ability. When Holly arrives at work, Commander Root gives her a hard time for being a few minutes late. She asks him why he singles her out when there are other officers who have not shown up to work yet. He tells her it is because she is the first female officer ever, which means there are many eyes on her and there is a lot riding on her performance. He also reminds Holly that she does not have the best track record: recently, one of her perps escaped her grasp and went aboveground to try to bargain for safety with humans. This resulted in a headache for Commander Root, who had to call in a Retrieval Squad, stop time, and wipe the memory of four humans. Commander Root tells her that he has decided to demote her to Traffic duty and replace her with Corporal Frond.

Holly calmly pleads to Commander Root to give her one more chance. While she is still in Root's office, he gets the notification that a wayward troll is on the loose, wreaking havoc in the human world. Root tells Holly that this is her second chance and asks her if she is "running hot," meaning if she has her full magical powers (39). Holly lies to him and tells him that she does, believing that she would lose her job if she tells Root the truth. Root tells her to go get a sidearm and do some reconnaissance on the troll. He explicitly forbids her from trying to retrieve the troll herself, and Holly readily agrees—trolls are extremely dangerous and she would be unable to safely subdue one on her own. Immediately after talking to Root, Holly heads to the chutes—the only means of travel from the underground to the human realm. She passes by Foaly, a paranoid centaur who manages most of the technology, surveillance, and transportation for the Lower Elements Police. He updates Holly on the situation aboveground and outfits her for her mission. To make it aboveground, Holly rides in a titanium egg powered by gaseous columns vented from the earth's core. Foaly places her in a titanium egg that is nearly 50 years old and seems to be in a state of disrepair, causing Holly a fair bit of anxiety. However, she safely makes it to the earth's surface and sets off towards the troll.

Holly takes a moment to appreciate the crisp air on the surface before strapping on a pair of mechanical wings. She can see on her locator that the troll is approaching the walls of a town, which is recipe for disaster. Holly gets closer to the troll, following the trail of destruction it has left in its wake. Holly notices when she switches on her shield that it takes more out of her than usual, probably due to the fact that she hasn't completed the Ritual in a while. Holly finally catches up to the troll and sees that he is pounding on the town wall. She informs Control of the situation and Root tells her over her communication line that it will take five minutes for the retrieval squad to arrive. Holly tells Root that in 10 seconds the situation will be critical, and she has no choice but to go in. Root tells her not to. Holly considers her options for a moment until a child's cry for help pierces through the air and her mind is made up. Holly follows the troll into a restaurant where a group of humans are looking at it thrash around on the floor in stunned silence. Holly believes her shield is in place, but recognizes her mistake when the troll throws a table straight at his head. Holly fights back, but the troll captures her in one of his fists and squeezes her in a vice grip.

As a last-ditch solution, Holly tuns the high beams on her helmet on, momentarily blinding the troll. The troll is overwhelmed by the situation and calms down, taking a seat on the floor of the restaurant and falling asleep. Once the troll is subdued, Holly turns her attention to the humans and has them look at a silver ball which puts them all to sleep. Holly is so exhausted that she falls asleep as well. When she wakes up, Commander Root's angry face is staring down at her. While she was asleep, the Retrieval team had prepared the humans for a memory swipe and had set up a hologram to cover the gaping hole on the wall. A toddler that the Retrieval team had missed during their initial sweep comes out of the bathroom, and Commander Root orders everyone to put up their shields. However, Holly is unable to do so—her magic is completely gone. Root commands her to go complete the Ritual tonight, and before she leaves, he tells her it was a job well done considering the circumstances.


In Chapter 3, we are transported to the fairy world through the eyes of Holly Short, our second protagonist. The fairies live underground in order to avoid humans: "Underground. The last human-free zone" (32). If you feel a bit lost at all the new terminology that is being thrown at you in these pages, don't fret. The following paragraphs will try to help you sort out any confusion you might feel. First, it's important to know that the fairies refer to themselves as the People and to humans as the Mud People. This might be counter-intuitive for a reader who thinks of the word "people" and immediately associates that word with "humans," but the novel repeats it enough times that you will quickly get used to this kind of terminology. We can recognize many of the words that fairies use to describe their way of life, even if Colfer uses them in surprising ways. For example, Holly is a fairy (which is a general term used to describe every magical being that lives underground), an elf (which is her species), and a leprechaun (which is her job). Holly explains where the word "leprechaun" comes from: "If the Mud People knew that the word 'leprechaun' actually originated from LEPrecon, an elite branch of the Lower Elements Police, they'd probably take steps to stamp them out. Better to stay inconspicuous and let humans have their stereotypes" (33). There are other kinds of creatures that live underground, including dwarves, gnomes (like Mulch Diggums, who will appear later), swearing toads, centaurs, and trolls. This latter creature is perhaps the least intelligent of the entire fairy population and the most dangerous—in Chapter 3, Holly is sent aboveground in a last-minute mission to try to recover a loose troll that is wreaking havoc in the human world.

Along with giving us a little bit of insight into the fairy world, Chapter 3 also explains fairy magic. As Holly explains, "A lot of the magic attributed to the People is just superstition. But they do have certain powers. Healing, the mesmer, and shielding among them. Shielding is really a misnomer. What fairies actually do is to vibrate at such a high frequency that they are never in one place long enough to be seen. Humans might notice a slight shimmer in the air if they are playing close attention—which they rarely are. And even then the shimmer is generally attributed to evaporation. Typical of Mud People to invent a complicated explanation for such a simple phenomenon" (52). The mesmer, mentioned in the passage above, is the ability to exert mind control on others. There are limits to all of these fairy powers, as we will soon see when Artemis and the fairies finally come into contact. The largest limit is the fact that fairies must complete a Ritual every few years or their magic will be depleted. As Holly's luck has it, she has not completed the Ritual in a very long time and her magic is running out. By the end of Chapter 3, her magic is completely depleted.

As the passage above suggests to us, humans are a constant threat to the fairy's way of life. Despite the fact that the fairies have magical abilities, the People are forced into hiding because humans outnumber them and don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to sharing the earth with other living beings. Holly muses on fairy history in Chapter 3: "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" (49). One of the main reasons why fairies despise humans is because humans abuse the environment. When Holly goes above ground in Chapter 3, she can sense the ways in which humans have affected the environment for the worse: "Although she was enjoying the night air, Holly could taste traces of pollutants. The Mud People destroyed everything they came into contact with," (49). In contrast to the Mud People, the People are in tune with the environment and live in harmony with all creatures. For example, when Holly makes it aboveground, she revels in the nature that surrounds her: "The Italian night sky was crisp and brisk, infused with olives and vine. Crickets clicked in the rough grass, and moths fluttered in the starlight. Holly couldn't stop herself smiling. It was worth the risk, every bit of it" (51).

In the same ways that fairies are foreign to humans, humans are foreign and hard to understand to the fairy race. Even the concept of bathrooms is disgusting to Holly: "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! 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" (49-50). The theme of environmentalism—including the People's hatred of the Mud People for destroying the planet—extends throughout the novel, and we will point out notable examples of this theme as they come. Artemis Fowl was first published in 2001, nearly 20 years ago, but this is a timely and culturally resonant theme today. As you read, think about what kind of statement Colfer might be making about climate change and our relationship with the environment as humans. Is he suggesting an alternative lifestyle for the human race, one that lives in harmony with nature? Is he indicting humanity for all of the harm we have already caused? Are there any lessons that we can learn from Holly and the rest of the People?