Monday, October 27, 2003

Fowl by name, foul by nature

Artemis Fowl, boy genius. A deviousness cool and calculated.

Touted as an antidote to Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl is obviously a complex character, but one who is barely hinted at. I've read only the first of Eoin Colfer's series, but I feel I hardly know this antihero. He appears in so few scenes, one might see this book as more about the fairy world he infiltrates.

The book has a modern texture, and offers full descriptions of fairy technology. The mood is more sci-fi than any other children's books I've read. (Harry Potter is mythological fantasy; Lemony Snicket is gothic satire.)

But the tantalizing hints as to the inner workings of the mind of the title character are never followed through.

Fowl's following, if one looks at online communities is small, but dedicated. And followers are relatively private. I searched with interest for the secret message — a code for readers to crack runs along the bottom of the pages of this book. Generally, fans are keeping it to themselves. (I can't imagine a Harry Potter fan keeping a secret like that.) Anyway, since I wasted many hours unraveling the message on my own, I feel compelled to post the decoded prophecy below, to vindicate my time misspent.

"The prophecies of Ohm, phlegm pot cleaner, to Frond, elfen king. I am Ohm, phlegm pot cleaner to the king. But I am much more than that for I see the future written in the phlegm. For centuries we pixies have read the phlegm, but I am the best there has ever been. My visions are generally of little importance. I foretell outbreaks of troll pox or gas spasms among elderly dwarfs, but sometimes even a poor pot cleaner can see wondrous things. A vision came to me two moons ago when I was gazing deep into his majesty's own phlegm pot. I was heating the pot over a flame when the sign appeared. This vision was more vivid and detailed than any I had previously seen. Because of its importance I decided to write it down for posterity. And so I can say I told you so. I saw an age when the People have been driven underground by the mud men. This is what the phlegm told me. In this time, one shall come among us. Fowl by name and foul by nature. A mud man unlike any other. He shall learn our secrets and use them against us. I see him as plain as day. His face is pale, he has dark eyes and raven hair. Yet it must be a mistake, for he seems a mere youth. Surely no mud boy could outwit the People. But now I see that the boy is not alone. He is aided by a formidable warrior scarred from a thousand battles. This Fowl shall hold the People to ransom for their most precious possession. Gold. And in spite of all our magic, there is a chance that he will prevail. For he has discovered how to escape the time field; unfortunately, how the story ends I cannot say. But there was more to see. There is another story to come. Someone will bring the People and the mud men together. The worst of both races. This fairy's goal is to grind all the creatures of the earth beneath his boot. And who is this traitor? It is not clear. But he shall start a war unlike anything the People have ever seen. Those who were enemies shall be united against him. And for the first time there will be mud men below ground. I have one clue to his identity — a riddle. Goblins shall rise and haven shall fall; a villainous elf is behind it all; to find the one who so disappoints look ye to where the finger points. Instead of one face, this elf has two. Both speak false and none speak truth. While publicly he lends a helping hand, his true aim is to seize command. I know. It's not very plain, is it? I don't understand either. But perhaps in the future all will become clear. Look for a power hungry elf who has a finger pointed at him during our tale. And so this is Ohm's legacy. A warning that may save the world from total destruction. There's not much to work with, I know. The details are a bit sketchy. My advice to you is to consult the phlegm. It may be that you are sensitive. I have buried this prophecy with my phlegm pot. If you are not fortunate enough to work as a pot cleaner, then there is usually a supply of phlegm every time you have a cold. There endeth the first prophecy of Ohm. But because of the importance of my visions I shall repeat the prophecies once more. If you have just began to understand the text then read on. If you have worked out the entire message then congratulations. Now go and save the world. The prophecies of Ohm..."

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