The Underland Chronicles
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The cover of the first book.
|Genre||Adventure Fantasy Young adult Drama Science Fiction Epic|
|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 the "Underland", a subterranean world located under New York City. The Underland is inhabited by humans who traveled below hundreds of years ago, along with various giant versions of creatures like bats, cockroaches, and rats. According to the author, the series involves many topics relating to war, including biological warfare, genocide, and military intelligence. While not as well known as the author's subsequent Hunger Games trilogy, it has been reviewed favorably by many critics.
- 1 Books
- 2 Main characters
- 3 Symbolism
- 4 The Underland
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Gregor the Overlander
Eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister Boots fall through a vent in the their apartment basement and find themselves in a strange place called the Underland, inhabited by giant animals and pale humans. The Underlanders name Gregor "the warrior" and Boots the "princess" of a prophecy written hundreds of years ago by their founder, Bartholomew of Sandwich. Gregor must go on a quest mentioned in the prophecy to save his lost father, a PoW in a war between the humans and the "gnawers".
Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane
Gregor is caught up in one of Bartholomew of Sandwich's prophecies once again when Underlanders kidnap his baby sister for her protection, and he reluctantly returns to their subterranean world. The Regalians convince him to embark on a quest to kill a dangerous rat called the Bane whom both the rats and humans believe will lead the gnawers to conquer the Underland. Along the way, Gregor struggles to come to terms with the death of several friends; a newly discovered and very terrifying talent; and the morality of what the Underlanders have asked him to do.
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
A mysterious plague has broken out in the Underland, and yet another of Sandwich's prophecies leads the warm-blooded creatures of the realm to organize a quest for the cure, supposedly located in a dangerous underground Jungle. Gregor is terrified for his friends and more than willing to help, especially as his own mother and bond lie dying in the Regalian hospital. The more they learn about the plague and the political situation of the Underland, however, the more the quest group begins to fear something worse than a simple disease.
Gregor and the Marks of Secret
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
The uneasy peace between the humans and gnawers has finally been broken, and everyone expects Gregor to accept his role as "the warrior" and act on his decision to support the humans. He soon finds his entire family drawn into Sandwich's deadly Prophecy of Time, and events around him begin to climax towards a final confrontation with The Bane. Gregor must fight to eliminate this threat to the Underland—and even more terribly—decide what he is willing to give up in the process.
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. He dies in the fight against Bane. In the hospital, we see his claw is all that Gregor has left of him.
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 Underland. Vikus does not agree with Solovet on practically any issue, and he often referred to the Earl of Sandwich's prophecies. He was not killed in book five.
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The Holocaust and the Bane
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.
All of the bats' names were taken from Greek mythology. 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. He dies in Gregor and the Code of Claw.
- 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 Strategy.
- 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
- Tantalus, for whom the Arch of Tantalus is named, was a Greek king who was punished in the mythological afterlife for killing his son and feeding him to the gods.
- Hades, after whom the Hades Hall is named, was the Greek god that ruled the underworld.
- Garden of the Hesperides: In Greek mythology, the name of the nymphs who cared for a tree that bore golden apples capable of bestowing immortality 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.
The "Underland" is a subterranean realm populated by semi-albino humans and large, intelligent rodents, insects, and other creatures; though not all Underland creatures are sentient. It is located under New York, with most of its entrances leading out to what is now New York City. In the first novel, a character named Vikus tells Gregor (the protagonist) that the Underland humans are descended from a group of "Overlanders" who, led by a man named Bartholomew of Sandwich, settled underground over a period of some fifty years. Sandwich was a self-styled prophet who believed that a great tragedy would one day befall all those living on the surface, and convinced his devoted followers to establish an underground community long before the event could happen. Gregor never finds out exactly when this migration took place.
In Gregor and the Marks of Secret, Gregor discovers that Underland children know the old song "Bat, Bat, Come Under my Hat", suggesting that it was carried down by their Overland ancestors. This song is an actual poem, which some sources claim was developed by a group known as the Conch, who were early Bahamian settlers of Florida. Other sources state that it is an English folk rhyme, so old that its author is unknown. In any case, the rhyme has clearly been in existence since at least the mid-1700s, and thus gives a clue to the time period when the Underland was first settled by humans. It also provides clues as to how the first Underland humans were able to ally themselves so quickly with the fliers, as "Bat, Bat" portrays them in a positive light, though modern Overlanders do not necessarily picture bats in a positive way.
The creatures of the Underland are divided into many factions, which frequently clash with one another. In general, the humans are allied with the fliers (bats) and nibblers (mice); the gnawers (rats) are their mortal enemies. Aside from the cutters (ants who despise all warm-blooded creatures), most other species are neutral and keep to themselves. Non-human creatures tend to view humans in a negative light, because of their tendency to take what they want and apologize later. This behavior is exemplified by a story which Gregor learns of in the final book, detailing how the humans' first act in the Underland was to poison an entire species living on the land that would become Regalia. Gregor (and his little sister Boots) spends time with many different creatures over the course of the series, and comes to believe that the humans' xenophobia and unwavering trust in Sandwich's judgment are both wrong and dangerous to everyone in the Underland.
Though the Underlanders have many peculiar mannerisms and traditions, they are very similar to their counterparts who live above. The humans speak a dialect of English, raise crops and livestock, and even hold sporting events. Their physical appearance, culture, and level of technology are the main differences from Overlanders. Underland humans are a necessarily warlike race, but their fighting methods are most similar to those of the Medieval Ages due to an inability to mass-produce explosive material, like gunpowder. However, they are fairly advanced in other areas, such as the field of medicine. Regalian culture revolves around defending their "light", both literally and figuratively, as they use the word "light" as an idiom for "life". Underland humans and their bonds are always prepared for a fight, and rarely host cultural events unrelated to their continued survival.
Underland humans developed the tradition known as "bonding" shortly after their arrival in the Underland, and have put it into constant use since then (primarily with fliers). When two creatures bond, they are bound together forever through a formal promise to defend the other. In the dangerous environment of the Underland, this is a coveted and extremely serious relationship. The punishment for forsaking a bondmate—referred to as one's "bond"—is banishment alone in the Dead Lands, which means almost certain death.
Very rarely, one can be bonded to more than one creature - in Luxa's case, she was able to bond to both Ripred the gnawer and Aurora the flier. Each of a pair of bonding creatures must recite an oath in front of an official gathering, which is often followed by a celebration. The oath goes as follows:
(Bondmate's name) the (species name), 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.
Tree of Transmission
The "Tree of Transmission" is a visual representation of the Underland equivalent of Morse code, i.e. a method of transmitting information over long distances using repeating patterns. The code has no official name, as it is the only code to have been created by humans, rats, mice, spiders, crawlers, and bats together. It is very similar to Morse code, but with a few important differences. The first is that it is only transmitted with sound, usually through the stone of underground tunnels, while Morse code can also be used by switching a source of light or electricity on and off. This is because of the code's use of three distinct sounds (a "click", a "scratch", and a "tap"), while Morse code differentiates symbols only through the length of transmission. The other main difference from the Overland code is the lack of number symbols.
The Tree of Transmission is so named because of one of the humans' ways of representing it. In the code room of the Regalian palace, there is a wall carving showing the letters of the alphabet as "branches" off of each of the three main sounds. For example, if one heard a scratch (by itself, the letter A) followed by a tap; one would start at A and then move to the right on the chart to reach the letter D, and so forth. If one heard a scratch and then a click, on the other hand; one would start at A and move left to reach B. When viewed from a distance, the chart looks somewhat like a tree—hence the name. The code can also be represented more like a traditional Morse code chart, and is carved like this onto the floor of the code room. This form of the chart is reproduced below.
B | \
C | |
D | /
F | | \
G | | |
|H | | /
J | \ \
K | \ |
L | \ /
M | / \
N | / |
|O | / /
P \ \
Q \ |
R \ /
S / \
T / |
U / /
|V | | \ \
W | | / /
X | | | \
Y | | | /
Z | | | |
The Code of Claw
During the fifth book, the gnawers develop something called the "Code of Claw". This code is not the same one referred to by the Tree of Transmission, though it is usually transmitted using the Underlanders' version of Morse Code. The gnawer's is actually a cipher which uses an anagram of the word "Gregor", "Gorger", or "Gore"—each easily remembered by the rat armies—to make it more difficult to crack. In this code, each letter is "shifted" one over in the alphabet, except for the letters in the secret word, which stay the same. A becomes B, B becomes C, C becomes D, and so on. G, O, R, and E remain the same. This code is of great importance to the plot of Gregor and the Code of Claw because of its mention in the Prophecy of Gray and its usefulness to the human war effort.
- Regalia - the human city founded by Bartholomew of Sandwich. The city's location is highly coveted for its strategic value and natural resources, and was first won by the humans in a war against the diggers (moles). The city consists of numerous stone buildings covered in intricate carvings; a series of fields lit by natural gas lamps; an arena for training and sports; and a palace.
- The Palace - a stronghold within the city of Regalia which houses the royal family, government officials and their meeting chambers, an armory, a museum of Overland artifacts, a "code room", and the city hospital. The palace is equipped with hot and cold running water and is accessible to both bats and humans. It is used as a last resort stronghold during times of attack. It is also implied that children from throughout the city gather there for tutoring.
- The Arena - a stadium-like structure consisting of a moss-covered field surrounded by rows of stone seats. There is a pair of extremely heavy stone doors on one side of the arena, and the entrances to some tunnels on the other. Both exits are "guarded" by clouds of moths; human and bat sentries are trained to detect changes in the insects' flight pattern which indicate that something has passed through them. The arena is used mainly as a place to gather large numbers of creatures, and also for training and games.
- The Fount - the humans' other main stronghold, governed by York. The Fount houses a hospital and a colony of nibblers, and is hinted to border a large water source of some kind.
- The Swag - a passage under the Waterway which connects Hades Hall (and thus the Firelands) to the Fount. It is filled with water after an earthquake in Gregor and the Marks of Secret.
- The Firelands - an area filled with numerous active volcanoes. Much of the rock there is volcanic, and the air is often filled with poisonous gases and/or ash; the rats take advantage of these natural features to punish their prisoners. For example, Ripred is imprisoned in an obsidian pit too slick to escape, and the entire population of the Jungle nibbler colony is executed by apparent carbon monoxide poisoning near to one of the volcanoes.
- Hades Hall - a "long passageway that goes very deep into the earth", which connects the Firelands to the Swag (and thus the Fount). The shiners' colony is located within, near to the Swag, as well as a series of tunnels which serve to channel the "currents": unusual wind currents which, in moderation, allow Overlanders to arrive safely in Regalia but also pose a serious threat to bats at full force.
- The Waterway - an enormous underground ocean into which all other Underland water sources lead. The water there is salty and the waves and wind currents produce a breeze which is enough to propel sailing ships.
- The Tankard - a deep, water-filled chasm where the serpents hibernate in preparation for their mating season. It borders the Labyrinth.
- The Dead Land - land currently controlled by the gnawers. It consists primarily of a series of tunnels, caverns, and cliffs and is almost entirely devoid of life. It is said that very few creatures can survive alone in this hostile environment. Ripred's nest is located somewhere near to or within the Dead Land, and is where the rat Twitchtip is first discovered.
- The Labyrinth - a huge maze of tunnels controlled by the rats. Though it is technically their territory, few rats venture in because of its general lack of resources and confusing terrain, making it a safe haven of sorts for outcasts like Twitchtip and an excellent hiding place for the Bane.
- The Jungle - an expanse of vines and other plants which grow above a series of streams lit by volcanic vents. These vents provide light for plants and heat for cold-blooded creatures such as hissers and twisters, though they also make nearly all water in the Jungle unfit to drink. A colony of nibblers (mice) resides in a small section near a clean spring where the plants are harmless; a large group of twisters (snakes) takes over this land when the nibblers are driven out by the gnawers (rats).
- The Arch of Tantalus - an entrance to the Jungle, where the characters Frill, Hamnet, and Hazard are first encountered. It is known for the large number of skeletons that collect inexplicably in the vicinity, and is named for the mythological figure Tantalus.
- The Vineyard of Eyes - an extremely dangerous section of the Jungle where the plants have evolved special perfumes and other physical characteristics to lure in passersby. Travelers report seeing eyes blinking at them from among the vines, though it is unclear whether these belong to the plants themselves.
- Queenshead - a rock formation which looks vaguely like the head of a woman wearing a crown. It is west of Regalia and serves as one of the humans' territory boundaries.
- The Garden of the Hesperides - a plain of soil made highly fertile by the regular flooding of a local river and named for the mythological garden of the same name. Bartholomew of Sandwich planted golden apple trees there which spread and remained healthy for generations. During a time of peace, the humans gifted this orchard to the rats, and it became a sort-of vacation spot for them and their pups. Much later, under the orders of Solovet, a force of human soldiers led by Hamnet attempted to retake the garden. The rats fought back, which led the humans to open a nearby dam so their enemies would have to swim; the ancient structure could not take the water's weight and crumbled instead, and the resulting flood drowned hundreds of rats, humans, and bats. Among the dead were Hamnet's bond and Ripred's mate and pups.
- Tartarus - the darkest part of the Underland, named for the Ancient Greek mythological abyss and primordial being Tartarus.
- The Uncharted Lands - a part of the Underland that is almost entirely unexplored by any species, because of its distance, danger, and lack of resources. During times of war, it has generally been the goal of each aggressor species to drive the others into this area.
- Collins, Suzanne. "The Works of Suzanne Collins". SuzanneCollinsBooks.com. Suzanne Collins. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
- Springen, Karen (September 5, 2008). "This Isn't Child's Play". Newsweek. Retrieved October 21, 2008.
- Collins, Suzanne (2003). Gregor the Overlander. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN 978-0-439-67813-1.
- Collins, Suzanne (2004). Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN 978-0-439-65076-2.
- Collins, Suzanne (2005). Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN 978-0-439-65624-5.
- Collins, Suzanne (2006). Gregor and the Marks of Secret. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN 978-0-439-79146-5.
- Collins, Suzanne (2007). Gregor and the Code of Claw. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN 978-0-439-79144-1.
- "Bat, Bat Come Under My Hat". Audio recordings. The Library of Congress. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
- "Bat! Bat! Come Un'er My Hat". International Music and Culture. Mama Lisa's World. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
- The Illustrated London Almanac: 1847. The Illustrated London News. 1851. p. 42. ISBN 978-1130446326.
- Dingley, John (Spring 2005). "Taboo or Not Taboo: Bat naming in Europe". BATS Magazine 23 (1).