Borribles are generally skinny and have pointed ears which give them a slightly satanic appearance. They are pretty tough-looking and always scruffy, with their arses hanging out of their trousers. Apart from that they look just like normal children, although legions of them have been Borribles for more than a lifetime – as long as a Borrible remains at liberty he or she will never age.They don’t get on with adults at all, or anyone who isn’t Borrible, and they see no reason why they should. Nobody has ever tried to get on with them, quite the contrary. They are ignored and that suits them down to the ground because that way they can do what they want to do in their own quiet and crafty way.
Most of them have sharp faces with eyes that are burning-bright, noticing everything and missing nothing. They are proud of their quickness of wit. In fact it is impossible to be dull and a Borrible because a Borrible is bright by definition. Not that they know lots of useless facts; it’s just that their minds work well and they tend to dislike anyone who is a bit slow.
The only people likely to get close to Borribles are ordinary children, because Borribles mix with them to escape detection by ‘the authorities’ who are always trying to catch them. Any child may have sat next to a Borrible or even talked to one and never noticed the ears for the simple reason that Borribles wear hats, woollen ones, pulled down over their heads, and they sometimes grow their hair long, hanging to their shoulders.
Normal kids are turned into Borribles very slowly, almost without being aware of it; but one day they wake up and there it is. It doesn’t matter where they come from as long as they’ve had what is called a bad start. A child disappears and the word goes round that he was ‘unmanageable’; the chances are he’s off managing by himself. Sometimes it’s given out that a kid down the street has been put into care: the truth is that he’s been Borribled and is caring for himself someplace. One day a shout might be heard in a supermarket and a kid with the goods on him is hoisted out by a store detective. If that kid gets away he’ll become a Borrible and make sure he isn’t caught again. Being caught is the end of the free life for a Borrible: once in custody his ears are clipped by the police surgeon and he begins to grow into a malevolent and adventureless adulthood, like any ordinary child.
So Borribles are outcasts, but unlike most outcasts they enjoy themselves and wouldn’t be anything else. They delight in feeling independent and it is this feeling that is most important to them. Consequently they have no real leaders, though someone may rise into prominence from time to time, but on the whole they manage without authority and they get on well enough together, though like everybody, they quarrel.
—From The Borribles, Chapter 1
Selections from The Borrible Book of Proverbs
That which falls off a lorry belongs to he who follows the lorry.The shadow cast by a Wendle is twice as long as his body.
That which is found has never been lost.
It is impossible to lose that which does not belong to you.
No name earns itself.
Remember today and forget tomorrow.
A Borrible who has no tricks is no Borrible. (German Borribles)
If you're my friend, follow me round the bend.
Fruit of the barrow is enough for a Borrible.
Never stand behind a door when there's someone coming through the other side. (Tooting)
It is sad to pass through life without one good Adventure.
It is better to die young than to be caught.
It is madness to quarrel with a madman.
Bad times need jokes though never so bad.
—Quoted in The Borribles
To keep a bad promise does not make it good.The Borrible who doesn't quarrel is no Borrible.
One good name is enough if the name is good enough.
The only gift given to a Borrible is the one he takes.
If a Borrible don't look alive, he's very soon dead.
There's a time for fingers crossed and mouths shut.
—Quoted in The Borribles Go For Broke
A Borrible who does not live like a Borrible is not a Borrible.Never trust anyone until you have to, and then not much.
Better a day without grub than a life without ears.
The Borrible who ain't suspicious long ain't long a Borrible.
Dead-ends tend to get you dead, in the end.
Nothing is nowhere near as good as a feast.
The Borrible who keeps his head down keeps his ears on.
If they won't let you fight a fair fight, don't fight fair.
Don't scratch where it don't itch.
Anyone who's that good can't be that good. (Wendle)
There's no meeting without leaving.
If "almost" was "everything", fruit would grow on lamp-posts.
A Borrible who lets grass grow under his feet will soon have it growing over his head.
—Quoted in The Borribles: Across The Dark Metropolis