The Irish child prodigy Artemis Fowl is the central character in a series of children's books by Eoin Colfer. However, no character can exist in a vacuum, and every story has a context. Colfer has, therefore, created a world for Fowl, and, though this world intersects our own, it does so at right angles. Also, there is a cast of supporting characters who either help or hinder Fowl in the execution of his activities.
Many people form the background to Artemis's world. Some are human, and some are not. It is generally his adventures involving the fairy people that form the basis of the books, and so a few unusual recurring characters pop up.
Artemis Fowl II
The boy genius himself. He is a computer wizard, has beaten grandmasters at chess, has written articles for psychology journals (under a pseudonym, of course), and, at the start of the first book, is only 12 years old, although he seems to be ageing a year with each book1. However, it is Fowl's burgeoning career as a criminal mastermind that is the central thread of the stories. Following the disappearance (and presumed death) of his father (Artemis Fowl I), his family fortunes, which were once mind-bogglingly huge, have fallen to the extent that they are merely staggeringly large. Young Artemis is determined to rejuvenate his family's finances by any means necessary.
Butler is Artemis Fowl's butler, cook, bodyguard, surrogate father, and closest friend. He comes from a long line of Butlers; in fact his family have been in the service of the Fowl family since the Norman crusades. Each Butler is trained in fighting techniques, marksmanship, and battlefield strategy, in addition to information technology, expert childcare, and cordon bleu cookery. Any Butlers that are unneeded by the Fowl family are quickly hired by world leaders and corporate heads in order to head up their security teams. Since Butlers are assigned on the birth of a new Fowl, they usually spend the first few years of their service as a nursemaid and nanny. Artemis has known his Butler for all of his short life, and so Butler is the only person in whom he truly confides. His preferred weapon is a Sig Sauer gun.
Wife of Artemis Fowl I, mother of Artemis Fowl II, her mind was shattered when she lost her husband a year before the start of the first book. Since that day, she spends most of her time in a fantasy world, with only brief moments of lucidity in between. She recognises Artemis only occasionally. However, at the end of the first book, Artemis makes a deal with Captain Holly Short to heal his mother.
Commander Julius Root
Chief of the Lower Elements Police, Commander Root is a fairy who is used to giving orders. When things are not going well, or simply not going his way, he gets very irate and his face turns purple, gaining him the nickname 'Beetroot'. He appointed Holly Short as the first female captain of the LEPrecon2 unit, and has personally arrested the dwarf Mulch Diggums many times. Though he is very stiffly formal most of the time, he clearly has a great deal of affection for those he considers his friends, who include Holly, Mulch and Foaly the centaur, who is the technical brains behind the LEP's equipment.
Captain Holly Short
A mere 80 years old3, Holly is the first female captain of LEPrecon, the above-ground reconnaissance unit of the Lower Elements Police. Several worrying incidents have led to her position being very unstable, but Commander Root has tried to instil in her the determination to succeed, knowing that she is a test case and could become an example to other female fairies for the better or for the worse. While on a trip to Tara (see below) to renew her magical powers, Holly is kidnapped by Artemis and held to ransom for fairy gold. During the time of her incarceration she became weary of Fowl, and developed a mutual respect for Butler. Repeated contact resulted in Captain Short being the leading fairy authority on Artemis Fowl.
Foaly is the centaur who designs and maintains the equipment of the LEP. From the buzz-batons, which can render offenders unconscious, to the shuttles by which the fairies travel up to the surface of the world, Foaly worked on them all. Though still a civilian, he runs the technical department of the LEP. One of the very few people who can get away with being sarcastic to Commander Root, it appears that his interest in Captain Short is more than professional. After Holly was released by Fowl, Foaly continued to be suspicious of the only human to have discovered the secrets of the fairy realm, and left several surveillance devices around Fowl Manor to ensure Artemis would be no further threat.
Mulch is a dwarf and a thief. Outcast from the dwarf community because of his criminal activities, Mulch has become tricky and elusive, but also been of use to Commander Root in desperate situations. When Holly was abducted by Artemis, Diggums was asked to break into Fowl Manor and help Holly to escape, on the promise of a reduced sentence for his latest crime spree. In practice, it was more of a tunnel in than a break in as dwarves are natural tunnellers. He discovered that Fowl has a copy of The Book, a tome that every fairy carries, and which contains all the secrets of the fairy world. Though he was discovered by Butler, he escaped from Fowl Manor, and escaped from Root as well, and enjoyed quite a good life (of crime) in Beverly Hills for a while, until he was recaptured.
Artemis Fowl is truly a citizen of the world. During his adventures he has travelled to Ho Chi Minh City, Beverly Hills, Murmansk, and the fairy city of Haven. However, the place where he actually lives is Fowl Manor.
The ancestral set of the Fowl family, this is a large rambling manor in the Irish countryside. It is here that Artemis keeps the majority of his computers, and his secrets. While his mother was ill, Fowl was able to operate out of the manor with impunity, and he kept Captain Short in its cellar when he was ransoming her for fairy gold. However, since her recovery, his mother has sent him away to a boarding school, St Bartleby's School for Young Gentlemen, and so Artemis must be more circumspect in his dealings with the underworld.
The most magical place on Earth. Though fairies are intrinsically magical, their magical powers can run down from time to time. At such times they must return to Tara, take an acorn from the tree that grows there, and place the acorn in the ground somewhere else. This will restore their magic. It was while Captain Short was engaged in this activity that Artemis and Butler detained her. It is also the location of the magically-hidden chute terminal E1, where fairies can disembark from shuttles and proceed to the tree.
The capital city of the Lower Elements. Fairies were once able to walk the Earth with no fear or worries, but, when humanity began to expand, they found that they were being squeezed out, and so moved underground. They hollowed out a vast cave system and called it the Lower Elements. In the largest cave of all they built Haven, and made the city their capital. Within the city are the council buildings for the rulers of the fairies, and the Police Plaza, from which Commander Root runs the LEP.
Throughout the Lower Elements, chutes lead up to the surface, emerging at chute terminals dotted around the globe. Magma flares from the molten core of the Earth shoot up these chutes, and can, to an extent, be ridden up to the surface (as long as you are in a shielded shuttle). Chute E1 leads to Tara, chute E7 terminates near Brindisi, chute E37 goes to Paris, chute E93 comes up in the Arctic, and chute E116 has also appeared in the stories, but its destination is, so far, unknown. The fact that all the chutes that have been identified terminate in Europe may account for the 'E' designation, in which case there could easily be thousands of chute terminals around the globe.
More Essential Colfer Reading
What follows is a short précis of other Eoin Colfer books that continue the story of Artemis Fowl. Colfer has also written The Wish List, The Supernaturalist and Half Moon Investigations, and for young children he has written 'The Benny Books'.
The Arctic Incident
In this book Artemis Fowl's father has been caught by the Russian Mafia and is being held at ransom. But there's another problem coming Artemis's way that's not of his making. Yes, the fairies think that 13-year-old Artemis has been supplying human power sources to goblins. Classified by the Lower Elements Police as Class-A illegal power sources, this is a serious issue for the LEP. The fairies bring Artemis underground where they live and interrogate him, using the Ret imager, which is one of Foal's devices. Artemis isn't the one responsible, it is actually pixie genius Opal Koboi that is behind the plan. Artemis agrees to help the fairies if they help him get his father back. A deal is struck and they set out to solve both of the problems.
Artemis ends up shooting his own father and nearly gets killed himself after crawling through plasma to stop the problem getting out of hand. This chapter of Artemis's life involves a betrayal and a nuclear train.
Artemis Fowl and The Eternity Code
In this book, Artemis has made a 'supercomputer' out of old fairy technology. This little computer is 50 years ahead of current human development and so is worth a fortune. Artemis wants to sell the computer to an American businessman with a shady side and Mafia connections. Halfway through the meeting they hit a snag and the meeting goes pear-shaped. This time Butler is in serious trouble and he's about to get older very quickly indeed.
Artemis Fowl and The Opal Deception
Opal Koboi is back and this time it's all or nothing. Opal plans to make the fairy world make contact with the humans which would completely destroy the fairy way of life. Commander Root is dead, Captain Holly Short having shot him, while trying to save him. Artemis is also in trouble because the last time the fairies met they had him 'mind-wiped'. Artemis now can't remember who or what the fairies really are. Could this be the end of the fairy world?
Artemis Fowl and The Lost Colony
Another child genius has found out about the fairies, and wants to capture a demon, the most powerful fairy warlocks that live. Artemis and the other fairies have to convince the child genius to abandon the plan and to save the whole of the fairy race. It won't be easy especially as puberty is kicking in for Artemis.
The Wish List
If you sin in life then hell, if you’re good in life you go to heaven. Simple. Not for Meg Finn, she’s 50:50: half good, half bad. So she has to go back to the person she sinned against and put things right. Meg however isn't alive; she's a ghost-like creature that only the person she sinned against can see. Meg also has to deal with her father and some other personal problems.
A futuristic society, advanced technology, spooky blue creatures, a band of teenagers and Cosmo Hill. Cosmo is found on Cosmonaut Hill and is sent to the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys. For the next 14 years medical experiments will be tested on him and other orphans. The average life for an orphan is 14; if Cosmo doesn't break out he will die. However no-one said that life outside would be any healthier than inside the institute. Can Cosmo survive and save his new friends lives?
Half Moon Investigations
Fletcher Moon is known 'Half-Moon' because of his size. Size never stopped anyone though and Fletcher has already qualified as a Private Eye after completing Internet classes. Fletcher has stuck to the playground so far using his skills to solve petty crimes with the reward of candy. Fletcher's first case is to find out who stole a superstar's lock of hair that April Deveraux bought on eBay. It looks like head of criminal family Red Sharkey is the culprit.
Sooner or later though something bigger happens, and it involves Fletcher and his skills. There's a conspiracy where Fletcher lives involving a local criminal family, a group of girls, a school talent show and various crimes such as arson, theft and assault. Fletcher finds himself blamed for arson and so flees custody with a known delinquent, who may be more than he seems.
Benny and Omar
Benny Shaw's father has a new job, in Africa, so Benny has to move. 12-year-old Benny, moves to Tunisia where no one has heard of curling, and no one appreciates Benny's sense of humour and sarcasm. That is no-one appreciates Benny's sense of humour until Omar comes along. Omar only speaks English that he has learnt from the TV and lives on his wits. Omar is an orphan and his sister is in a mental hospital and he is determined to get her out with Benny's help. The two become great friends.
Benny and Babe
In Tunisia Benny's adventures have given him the confidence to take on the world. Omar suffers a blow to his pride however when he meets Babe. Benny is with his grandfather and finds that being a 'townie' makes him the target of teasing by the locals. Babe is the tomboy of the village and runs a business that collects the lost lures and flies that visiting fisherman have lost, selling them on. Babe and Omar might just be starting to get on, but as usual something happens. Things become difficult when Furty Howlin turns up wanting a slice of the action. However at a disco babe becomes a real girl; but can Babe and Omar still get on?
A Message at the Bottom
While not necessarily part of Artemis's world, an important part of the books are the codes that are written at the foot of the page throughout the story. In Artemis Fowl the code is written in Gnommish, the fairy language, and some clues to the translation of the script into English are given in the story. The message in the symbols in this book contains a prophecy concerning the future of Artemis Fowl4, and several elements of this prophecy come to pass in the second book. The code in that book, Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, is written in Centaurian (or rather Foaly's computerised adaptation of Centaurian), and though clues are given in the story for solving this code also, they are not really needed, as it is considerably easier to break than Gnommish. The message in this code is an ecological call-to-arms, and appears to contain no further insights into Fowl's story. The third book is, at the time of writing, not yet published. However, it is already known that the book will be called Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, and, as it already has 'code' in the title, it's almost certain that there will be a code in this book as well.