The Underland Chronicles

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The Underland Chronicles
The Underland Chronicles - Gregor the Overlander.jpg
The cover of the first book.
Author Suzanne Collins
Country United States
Language English
Genre Adventure Fantasy Young adult Drama Science Fiction Epic
Publisher Scholastic Corporation
Published 2003–2007
Media type Print (hardback and paperback)

The Underland Chronicles is a critically acclaimed series of five epic fantasy novels by Suzanne Collins, first published between 2003 and 2007. It tells the story of a boy named Gregor and his adventures in "Underland", a hidden land under New York City. The Underland is inhabited by humans, who live in the stone city of Regalia, along with various giant versions of such creatures as bats, snails, moles, scorpions, cockroaches, rats, lizards, mice, ants, snakes, fireflies, and spiders which they call fliers, slimers, diggers, stingers, crawlers, gnawers, hissers, nibblers, cutters, twisters, shiners, and spinners, respectively. According to the author, the series involves many topics relating to war, including biological warfare, genocide, and military intelligence.[1] While not as well known as The Hunger Games, it has been reviewed favorably by many critics.

Books[edit]

Gregor The Overlander[edit]

Main article: Gregor the Overlander

Eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister Boots fall through a vent in the basement of their apartment and find themselves in a strange place called the Underland, where they meet the people and creatures who live there. The Underlanders identify Gregor as the warrior of their prophecy, and Boots the "princess" that all crawlers worship. Gregor goes on a quest to save his lost father in the midst of a war between the Underlanders and the gnawers.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane[edit]

Gregor is the Overlander fated to fight the legendary giant white gnawer known as the Bane, a mythical hero and savior to the gnawers. Vikus and the others who rule Regalia ordered the crawlers to kidnap Boots, knowing she was no longer safe in the Overland, and knowing that Gregor would be forced to follow. Once he is in Regalia, they reveal the truth and convince Gregor that he must once again begin a quest to save the Underland. Gregor has no choice. Boots is the most important person in the world to him, and as long as Bane lives, she is in danger, in the Overland, and the Underland. So once more, he prepares for battle. In the end, he comes upon the Bane, who at this time, is only a pup, and his mother died to protect him from his father. While in the beginning, the Underlanders believe that the 'die the baby, die his heart' refers to Boots, in the end it turns out that it actually refers to the Bane, because if Gregor killed the Bane as a baby, he would then lose his most essential part, his morals and humanity. The gnawers, who treasure the Bane as a legendary leader and savior figure, would go to war in revenge, and would win because of the anger from the Bane's death and martyrdom, giving them their 'key to power.' Thus, at the end of the book, Gregor spares the Bane's life and gives the young pup to Ripred to raise.

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods[edit]

When Nerissa hands Gregor a new prophecy, he knows that he has to go back to the Underland. But that is certainly not okay with his mother. She decides to come with him. They go through the grate in the laundry room only to find that a plague has come into the Underland. His mom then becomes infected with the plague so she must be treated in the underland so Gregor and the Regalians must quest to find the cure. They go to find it in the Underland's jungle. At the entrance, they meet Hamnet, a man who left Regalia years ago after a great tragedy, Hazard, his Halflander son who can speak to animals, and Frill, their giant lizard friend. They head into the jungle that is full of flesh-eating plants, poisonous animals, and no fresh water for miles around. In the jungle, they find Queen Luxa, who was thought to be dead. She was helped by the nibblers. When the group finds the cure, it is destroyed by ants. The group finally realizes that they need to go back to Regalia because someone created the plague, intending to use it against the gnawers, but Ares the flier catches the disease.

Gregor and the Marks of Secret[edit]

The Bane takes control of the gnawers, and Gregor and his friends must fight to stop him. Gregor falls in love with Luxa. They sneak out of Regalia and find that the gnawers have driven the nibblers out of the jungle and the Fount. They follow a tunnel under the river to the Firelands, where the mice have been driven. But the air is toxic, there are dozens of volcanoes, and they soon find more giant creatures waiting to kill them. The prophecy is called The Prophecy Of Secrets because the marks of secrets led it to them.

Gregor and the Code of Claw[edit]

The prophecy in the story is the Prophecy of Time. It says that the Underlanders must break the cypher called the Code of Claw in order for humanity to survive. He also has to fight the fully grown Bane and loses his flier, Ares while defeating the gnawer. Gregor's attraction and consequent relationship to Luxa increases, going as far as them telling each other "I love you" and kissing.

Main characters[edit]

Gregor: Gregor is a twelve-year-old Overlander (11 years old in books one through three) who fell into the Underland while chasing his sister Boots. He is the "warrior" described in Bartholomew of Sandwich's prophecies. Although he is reluctant, Gregor eventually accepted his duties to the Underland. In the Underland, Gregor's appearance is markedly different from that of the Underlanders. Gregor's little sister, Boots, is noted to have dark skin, which requires "much light." However, an Underlander remarked on this, and since they have translucent skin( Gregor described Luxa as a "walking circulatory system"), we don't know how dark Gregor's skin really is. Over the year that he has spent in the Underland, he has bonded with his own flier and fulfilled several prophecies. He is a rager, someone whose senses become chronically acute in battle, while his mind becomes oblivious to anything except himself and his target (over time, he gains more control over his senses). Ripred, also a rager, helps Gregor to accept his gift and learn how to control them better in the third book. In the fifth book, Gregor learns echolocation, a valuable skill for fighting in the dark. Although he states that he hates fighting, Luxa saw him smiling during a fight with twisters, which was likely a side effect of his rager reaction to battle. Gregor is in love with Luxa, his feelings beginning to surface in the end of the fourth book, Marks of Secret. When returning to the Overland at the end of the Code of Claw, he swears never to forget her.

Luxa: Luxa is the future ruling queen of Regalia. She is the same age as Gregor and will assume full royal powers when she becomes sixteen years old. Until then, Regalia is led by a regency council, referred to simply as "the council". Having lived in the Underland her whole life, Luxa's skin is so pale as to be nearly translucent, her hair is silver in color, and she has violet eyes, like all Underland humans. Luxa is incredibly stubborn and rebellious, rarely obeying the council and, in Ripred's words, "impossible to lead anywhere." In book three, however, Gregor said that she was the bravest person he'd ever known. Luxa is a wise leader, but can be sharp-tongued towards others. This changes, however, after the conclusion of Gregor the Overlander, when she took a more positive attitude to her companions. She feels indebted to the nibblers for the hospitality they showed her when they found her lost in the middle of the jungle. She has vowed to protect the nibblers, even going as far as declaring war on the gnawers. In the final book, she brings peace between the gnawers and the humans by bonding with Ripred, the representative for the gnawers at the time; essentially swearing to protect the gnawers. Ripred swears likewise to Luxa to protect the humans. Luxa is in love with Gregor, starting most likely at the middle of Marks of Secret. The two shared their first kiss in the museum in the last book, from which Gregor retrieves things he may need, such as flashlights, when they say goodbye. To keep her safe during the war of time, Gregor throws her in the dungeon because she was trying to go back to battle. The books also mentions Luxa's parents being killed by the late gnawer king Gorger, resulting in Luxa's insecurity on the ground, and her bonding with Aurora when she was very young. Her name is possibly derived from the word 'lux', which means light in Latin.

Ares: Introduced as the bondmate of Henry, Luxa's royal cousin he chooses to save Gregor over Henry in face of Henry's betrayal in the first book. He is put on trial in Regalia for betraying (choosing to save Gregor instead of Henry) his bondmate, and Gregor bonds with him because he knew that Ares had not known anything about Henry's conspiracy to seize power. In the remaining books, Ares is thought of lowly by many Regalians. In the third book, he is a victim of an artificial plague, but begins to heal after receiving the cure. He was likely the strongest flier in the Underland, possibly lending to his name, referring the Greek god of war. He has admitted that he sometimes doubts the truth in the prophecies which form a central thread of the plot, on the grounds that they are "full of doom and only terrorize the Underlanders into killing each other", as revealed in the final book, Code of Claw. Also, he dies by the Bane biting into his neck.

Ripred: Ripred is a gnawer who is one of the few of his species on the side of Regalia and peace. He speaks with a biting wit and a world-weary air. Although many creatures resent him for this, Ripred shows much wisdom in times of need. In the first book, Gregor the Overlander, Vikus told Gregor that he had "wisdom unique in any creature." He is a great fighter, and, like Gregor, is a rager, but has a tighter rein on his "powers." He gives Gregor lessons on echolocation to learn to fight in the dark. Ripred's highest moral value is mutual need. In the first book, he told Gregor, "Mutual need is a strong bond. Stronger than friendship, stronger than love." . He receives a scar from Solovet (see below) before his decision that the war between humans and gnawers must end.

Howard: Howard is Luxa's older cousin from the Fount. He is about sixteen years old. His father is ruler of the Fount. He was introduced to Gregor in the second book with his younger siblings, Stellovet, Kent, Hero, and Chim. Luxa originally dislikes the entire family, but eventually realizes that Howard is a great comrade and handy medic. Howard was infected and later cured of the "Curse of the Warmbloods". He later joined Gregor and Luxa on their quest to learn the truth of the nibblers' destiny. It is speculated that Howard might bond to Nike. During the fourth book, Howard expresses interest in becoming a doctor, and can actually treat minor to medium wounds, such as broken legs and arms, and some cuts. He is also very skilled with sedatives. Under possibly the guidance of another doctor, he helps Gregor when Gregor's lower left back ribs are thrown out of place. He also disapproves of Gregor and Luxa's relationship at first, but warms up to it in the fifth book when he finds a picture of Luxa and Gregor in Gregor's pocket.

Solovet: Solovet is a war-mongering leader of Regalia and Luxa's [see above] grandmother. She is married to Vikus [see below] and is a major believer in the war between the gnawers and the humans. In book three, she causes the "Curse of the Warmbloods" by having a disease genetically engineered and was supposed to be spread to the gnawers when it was accidentally spread to Ares [see above]. She dies in the fifth book in a gnawer ambush.

Vikus: Vikus is the more peace-loving leader of Regalia and Luxa's grandfather. He is married to Solovet and just wants all of the fighting to stop and to have peace in the Underworld. Vikus does not agree with Solovet on practically any issues, and he often referred to the Earl of Sandwich's prophecies. He was not killed in book five and may come back if there is a sixth book. (We can hope).

Symbolism[edit]

The Holocaust and the Bane[edit]

In the fourth book, Gregor and the Marks of Secret, the Bane parallels Adolf Hitler in the sense that they are both charismatic speakers who are intent on genocide; for Hitler it was Jews and for The Bane it was nibblers. In addition to that, both the Bane and Hitler were able to rally full support for their cause by blaming the wrongs done to them on their selected victims.

Another link between the content of Gregor and the Marks of Secret and Nazi Germany is the method of killing their victims used by both the gnawers and the Nazis. Both the gnawers and Nazis used poisonous gases to their advantage; for the Nazis it was in concentration camps and for the gnawers it was in the Firelands.

Even with these shared characteristics between the Bane and Hitler, the Bane was given the name "Pearlpelt" by his mother. This name reflects his coat's white color and the way other colors can be seen in the light in it, but it may also be word play by the author on Pol Pot.

Greek mythology[edit]

Bat names[edit]

All of the bats' names were taken from Greek mythology (Similar to Kenneth Oppel's bats). Many of the names are relevant to the bats position or importance.

  • Hermes, the messenger flier, named for the Greek messenger god.
  • Nike, the fliers' princess. Nike is also the winged Greek goddess of victory. In later books, she becomes close to Howard and a potential bond after Pandora.
  • Euripides, Vikus' bond, Greek tragedian.
  • Pandora, Howard's first bond, named for the Greek figure blamed for the release of misery into the world. Both paid for their curiosity.
  • Ares, Gregor's bond, is an enormous bat with a talent for fighting, named for the Greek god of war. Originally, he was Henry's bond until Henry's death.
  • Aurora, Luxa's bond, ancient Roman Goddess of the Dawn
  • Andromeda, Mareth's bond, figure of Greek Myth rescued by Perseus.
  • Ajax, Solovet's bond, Greek hero, character in Homer's Iliad.
  • Athena, Queen of the fliers, Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Battle Plans
  • Thalia, Hazard's would-be bond and lover of jokes, Greek muse of Comedy.
  • Icarus, Greek figure of Myth, attached feathers to his back with hot wax but flew too close to the sun. At this, the wax melted, and he drowned in the ocean. The flier Icarus fell from the sky with the plague into the arena and was killed upon impact.
  • Daedalus, a member of the code-breaking team. In Greek Mythology, a skilled artisan and father of Icarus. Also a very intelligent human-being, capable of building many things, or destroying many things.

Other Greek associations[edit]

  • Tantalus, for whom is named the Arch of Tantalus was a Greek king who was punished in the mythological afterlife for killing his son.
  • Hades, after whom is named the Hades Hall, was the Greek god that ruled the underworld.
  • Garden of the Hesperides: In (Greek mythology) the name of the nymphs who cared for a garden in the corner of the earth.
  • Tartarus, the location of the final battle between the killers (humans) and the gnawers, is a name for the darkest depths of the Underworld.

Bonding[edit]

In the Underland, two creatures can "bond". When a human bonds with a flier, they are together forever. They promise that they will defend each other to the death. The punishment for forsaking a bond is banishment to be thrown into the Dead Lands alone which means almost certain death. To bond with one another, the human and flier must recite a poem pledging their promise, while holding hand in claw. This is done in a large scale process.

The human says: (flier’s name) the flier, I bond to you.

Our life and death are one, we two.

In dark, in flame, in war, in strife

I save you as I save my life.

The bat then says: (Human’s name) the human, I bond to you.

Our life and death are one, we two.

In dark, in flame, in war, in strife

I save you as I save my life.

However, bonding doesn't always have to be with fliers. It can be with any creature, but it is mainly only fliers that the Underlanders bond to. One can be bonded to more than one creature - in Luxa's (the princess's) case, she was able to bond to both Ripred the Gnawer and Aurora the Flier.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Springen, Karen (September 5, 2008). "This Isn't Child's Play". Newsweek. Retrieved October 21, 2008. 

External links[edit]