Artemis Fowl is a teen fantasy novel written by Irish author Eoin Colfer. It is the first book in the Artemis Fowl series, and is followed by Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident. Described by its author as "Die Hard with fairies", it follows the adventures of 12-year-old Artemis Fowl, a criminal mastermind.
Throughout the book, the third-person narration switches repeatedly from following the human characters to various fairy characters.
Twelve-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous--and extremely high-tech--fairies. He kidnaps one of them, Holly Short, and holds her for ransom in an effort to restore his family's fortune. But he may have underestimated the fairies' powers. Is he about to trigger a cross-species war?
Two years ago, Artemis Fowl I made an ill-fated investment in Russian railroads, and subsequently the Russian mafia destroyed his ship, the Fowl Star, with Artemis Fowl I aboard, presumed dead. Now his son, Artemis Fowl II, is determined to restore their lost billionaire status by blackmailing a secret society of fairies living beneath the world's crust.
Artemis and his bodyguard, Butler, go through many false calls before a contact in Vietnam brings them to an alcoholic sprite who will heal minor ills such as warts in exchange for wine. Artemis expertly outwits the sprite, offering her a wine tainted by holy water, a poison for her kind. In exchange for the antidote and medicine, the sprite lets Artemis photograph every page of her Book, a collection of rules and commandments for all the People. She does so in confidence that Artemis will not be able to understand any of it, as it is written in Gnommish.
Artemis and Butler return to Fowl Manor, located near Dublin, Ireland. Artemis manages to decode the Gnommish after noticing its similarity to Egyptian hieroglyphs. He carefully reads and studies each page, learning everything it can offer about the People. He devises a plan to capture a fairy and hold it hostage.
Captain Holly Short is an elf, and the first female member of the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance (LEPrecon) and is on the edge of demotion. Her commander, Julius Root, gives her one last chance to prove herself: scout out an escaped troll loose in Italy. Desperate, Holly does not tell him that she is low on magical strength because it has been four years since she last performed the magic replenishing Ritual.
After conversing with the centaur genius and inventor Foaly, Holly goes to the surface, where she finds the troll, driven crazy by its aversion to light, attacking a rural town. Unable to stand by as the troll slaughters and eats innocents, she takes a cry for help as the invitation a fairy needs to enter a human dwelling, and attacks the troll. Ultimately, she manages to knock it out by using the headlights in her helmet, saving human lives—but using up the last of her magic. She does not have enough magic to shield, causing her to be seen by humans.
Root, infuriated by her insubordination and outright lie about her magic status, orders her to complete the Ritual immediately before he decides what to do about her. Holly leaves for Ireland, her preferred place to perform the Ritual. The Ritual consists of taking an acorn from an ancient oak near the bend of a river and planting the acorn elsewhere.
When Holly arrives at her chosen oak, sheer luck saves her from a tranquilizer shot by Butler, who has been on stakeout with Artemis for four months searching for a fairy. Holly attempts to employ the mesmer against the humans, but to no avail; Artemis, anticipating that, had insisted that Butler wear reflective sunglasses.
They successfully take Holly hostage, and Artemis, fiddling around with her equipment, realizes there is a tracking device in the fairy's helmet. He manages to put a camera in it and instructs Butler to take it to a nearby whaler.
Aware of her kidnapping by transmissions from Holly's helmet, Root reinstates himself as an active officer to personally track Holly's locator to the whaler. Watching through a camera installed in a room, Artemis identifies the fairy by seeing disembodied breath crystals in the cold air. He tells Root his name and activates explosives to prove how serious he is. Root narrowly escapes the explosion with his life.
Foaly easily tracks Artemis's name to Fowl Manor, where Root sets up a time-stop. He sends in a 12-person recon team to snoop around. However, having read the Book, Artemis has guessed his plan. He checks a camera monitoring the room of his unstable mother and sees that her sleeping body has disappeared.
His theory confirmed, Artemis sends Butler to confront the team with Holly's fairy helmet, enabling him to see through the fairies' shields. Butler easily takes them out—though he leaves them unconscious instead of dead, at Artemis's request. He leaves Grub Kelp conscious, and sends him with instructions to have someone with enough political clout sent to negotiate with Artemis.
Julius Root, unarmed in a show of faith except for a secret finger gun and an iris cam, goes to Fowl Manor. He is invited inside by Artemis, who tells Root that he wants one metric ton of 24-karat gold in exchange for Holly. Root tells Artemis that Artemis is in no position to negotiate—Fowl Manor is trapped in the time-stop, so Artemis would be unable to escape a bio-bomb. Artemis tells Root that he knows how to escape the time-stop, and as he escorts Root out, he tells Root that as long as he, Artemis lives, no fairy has permission to enter Fowl Manor.
Root decides to take an unorthodox step. He calls in the kleptomaniac dwarf Mulch Diggums, an expert thief who has long since lost his magic in order to steal from human dwellings. Though Fowl Manor is built on lime stone, Artemis had overlooked the wine cellar, and it from there that Mulch infiltrates the manor. Mulch manages to find and crack a secret safe, discovering a photo-copy of the Book.
In order to let Mulch sneak around, Foaly hacks into the camera security system and runs a loop, lulling Artemis into a false sense of security. However, Artemis discovers the loop and realizes there must be an intruder; he sends Butler running to the safe room, where Butler is taken out by an accidental, explosive burst of flatulence from Mulch.
Artemis also sends Butler's younger sister, Juliet, to check on Holly's cell, but belatedly realizes that Holly's persistent banging of the bed post into the floor was not a sign of frustration, but instead an attempt at reaching earth to plant her smuggled acorn in. He tries to contact Juliet but is too late, as Holly has used her restored magic to hypnotize Juliet and escape her cell. However, Holly is still trapped in the manor because she is magically bound to Artemis's word, and he had ordered her to not leave the manor.
Holly briefly meets with Mulch, who is on his way out, before she goes to Artemis's control room. She retrieves her gear and punches Artemis in the face, stunning him. She exits the room and finds Butler facing down a troll sent by Lieutenant Briar Cudgeon, an ambitious friend of Root's who has backstabbed him in a grab for promotion, putting himself in-charge of the entire rescue operation.
Butler is attacked by the Troll and sustains a fatal wound but Holly interferes, facing the same troll for the second time. This time she comes out the worse for it, and, badly wounded, falls to the ground beside Butler. One of her hands touches his arm and her reflexive healing magic heals his wounds as well as hers.
Butler, finding himself hale and hearty, puts on medieval armor and uses a mace to methodically attack the troll, breaking it's limbs and appendages, leaving it completely immobile. In doing so, and defeating the Troll, he becomes the first creature (other than trolls themselves) who has actually beaten a troll in Fairy history. Holly, telling him that he owes her, convinces him to leave the troll alive and return it to the fairy forces.
Outside Fowl Manor, Briar Cudgeon, sensing his chances for promotion sinking to nil, tries to interfere with Root's command authority; Root "forgets" that he's wearing the finger gun and shoots him with tranquilizer, rendering him unconscious. Root get re-instated by the fairy council and proceeds to send in all of the fairy gold with the intention of using a bio-bomb after Holly has been retrieved; after all, the "slip" of Artemis's tongue had invited all fairies to his manor after his death.
However, now that the time to return to her people has come, Holly finds herself reluctant to leave—she doesn't want an innocent like Juliet to die because of Artemis's arrogance. Before she leaves, Artemis gives her half the gold back in exchange for a magic wish. After Holly's departure, Artemis gets out three drinks and has himself, Butler, and Juliet consume them, falling asleep under the influence of his mother's sleeping pills.
With Holly safe and sound, Root activates the bio-bomb. Then he sends in a team to get back the rest of the gold; however, with the exception of Holly, the team becomes violently ill, and they realize that Artemis Fowl is not dead—he has indeed escaped the time-stop. And, due to the laws of the Book, once a human has beaten them, he must keep the gold he had procured.
While everyone is preoccupied with this, the thief Mulch Diggums—who had faked his death by transferring the iris cam monitoring his vitals to a dying rabbit and then causing a cave-in—steals a dozen ingots of gold.
When Artemis awakens, he is confronted by Butler. Artemis explains that while scouring the Book, he had come across a references to San D'Klass, a fairy who had believed that human greed could be satisfied by giving out presents, so on the twenty-fifth of each December he would use time-stops to deliver them. Artemis had hypothesized that if you are wake up or fall asleep during a time stop, your body exits the time stop; it is only your consciousness that traps you there. Butler, satisfied with the explanation, forgives Artemis for endangering his sister.
Artemis's mother descends the stairs, her sanity fully restored thanks to Artemis's wish, and reminds them that it is Christmas Day and she hasn't gotten a present for Artemis yet. Artemis, though, internally disagrees: he has indeed received a great gift this day, and even though having his mother peering over his shoulder will make his criminal schemes more difficult, Artemis is glad for it.
At the bottom of each page of the book, a string of symbols appear. These symbols are supposedly Gnommish, but are really part of a substitution cipher which when decoded reveals a message. The message runs throughout the book's pages. It can be deciphered using a section of the book's text which gives a passage in Gnommish from The Book of the People, and then its English translation, or by downloading the Artemis font from the Artemis Fowl website, which contains the Gnommish letters as capital letters, and English as lowercase. The passage speaks of the storyline of this book, and its sequel. The Gnommish cipher key can be found in The Artemis Fowl Files. Strangely, the first book in the series references a small humanoid figure similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics. However, in the Gnommish alphabet, there is no such figure. Actually, the passage speaks only of book 1, and of an odd prophecy, that seems to have been resolved.
There are actually two different translations which are the original and the rewrite. They are as follows.
I am Ohm, phlegm pot cleaner to the king. But, I am 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 dwarves. 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 majesties 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 phelgm 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 now 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 tell. But there was more to see. There is another story to come. Someone will bring the people and 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 true
While publicly he lends a helping hand
His true aim is to seize command"
I know. Its 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 story. 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. Here ends the first prophecies of Ohm. But, because of the importance of my visions I shall repeat the prophecies once more. If you have just begun to understand the text then read on. If you have worked out the entire message then congratulations. Now go and save the world.
The first reference to Artemis Fowl in the human media is in a newspaper article from the Dublin Chronicle. Artemis made the paper by solving the riddle of the Mayor of Dublin's chains.
The mayor held a press conference to appeal for help after the city's priceless chains of office were stolen. Artemis managed to persuade his bodyguard to bring him along. when the reporters had finished asking their questions, Artemis raised his hand. The mayor allowed the small boy to ask his question expecting something simple and childlike. Instead Artemis asked him to name three kinds of butterfly.
When the mayor could not answer Artemis stood on his chair and addressed the journalists present. He told them that in his opinion the mayoral chains could not have been stolen from the secure vault or taken from around the mayor's neck without his knowledge. So this man could not be the mayor, he must be an impostor. The proof of this was that the real mayor was a keen butterfly collector and would most certainly have been able to answer Artemis's question. Most journalists laughed but one did not. He suggested that the mayor allow himself to be fingerprinted. The man calling himself mayor panicked and ran.
It was later discovered that this man was indeed an impostor. He was the mayor's own twin brother. The real mayor was being held in a warehouse in the south of the city. The plan was to hold him for a week while his twin's gang looted the mayoral mansion and cashed the insurance cheque for the ceremonial chains.
Artemis Fowl was six years old when he foiled this plan.
"I don't like lollipops." -Artemis Fowl II
'But even though there were plenty of teeth in the grin, there was no heart.'
"If I win I'm prodigy. If I lose I'm mad. That's the way history is written." -Artemis Fowl II
Artemis Fowl was first published in April, 2001 by Viking Children's Books. It was released as a hardcover book in England and Ireland with ISBN 067091133X.
It was first released in the USA as a hardcover in May 2001 by Miramax before a paperback edition was released in September 2001 in England and Ireland, and then later in the US.
A tie-in edition for the film release with photos was published on April 14, 2020. The film is based largely on events from this novel, but also incorporates material from the sequel Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incidnet.
Gallery of Covers