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"Borne" Characters Analysis

By Jeff VanderMeer

science fiction | 336 pages | Published in 2017

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind—or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?


Estimated read time: 7 min read

List of Characters

Character NameRole
BorneMysterious Creature
MordGiant Bear

Role Identification

In Jeff VanderMeer's "Borne," the characters play vital roles in driving the narrative forward and exploring the themes of identity, survival, and the boundaries of humanity. The protagonist, Rachel, takes center stage as she navigates a post-apocalyptic world filled with strange creatures and dangerous factions. Wick, the antagonist, presents a constant threat to Rachel and her newfound companion, Borne. Borne himself is a mysterious creature with a complex nature, while Mord, the giant bear, adds an additional layer of danger and unpredictability.

Character Descriptions


Rachel is a complex and resilient character who serves as the reader's guide through the dystopian landscape of "Borne." She is a scavenger, living in the ruins of a once-thriving city, and her physical appearance reflects the hardships she has endured. Rachel is described as having a lean frame, with wild hair and piercing eyes that reflect her determination to survive. She possesses a deep empathy for the creatures she encounters, which sets her apart from the harsh realities of the world she inhabits.


Wick, initially introduced as Rachel's lover and protector, gradually reveals a darker side as the story progresses. He is a former employee of the Company, a powerful organization responsible for the creation of the mysterious creatures that now inhabit the city. Wick is described as a tall and imposing figure, with a calculating and manipulative nature. His actions often serve his own interests, putting him in direct conflict with Rachel and the other characters.


Borne is a unique and enigmatic creature that Rachel discovers during one of her scavenging missions. Borne starts as a small, amorphous blob, but quickly grows in both physical size and intellectual capacity. Borne possesses a childlike curiosity and an eagerness to learn, making him endearing to Rachel. His physical appearance constantly changes, taking on different forms and shapes, which adds to his mysterious nature.


Mord, a giant bear, is one of the most dangerous creatures in the city. He roams the streets and instills fear in anyone who crosses his path. Mord is described as massive and powerful, with scars and wounds that bear witness to countless battles. While initially seen as a threat to Rachel and Borne, Mord's character arc reveals unexpected complexities and a connection to the survival and evolution of the city itself.

Character Traits


  • Resilient: Rachel demonstrates incredible strength and determination in the face of adversity.
  • Empathetic: She possesses a deep sense of empathy towards the creatures she encounters, often seeing beauty where others see only danger.
  • Resourceful: Rachel uses her scavenging skills and knowledge of the city to survive and protect those she cares about.


  • Manipulative: Wick's actions often serve his own interests, and he is willing to manipulate others to achieve his goals.
  • Calculating: He carefully plans his moves, always considering the potential outcomes and consequences.
  • Intelligent: Wick's background in the Company gives him a deep understanding of the creatures and the city, making him a formidable adversary.


  • Curious: Borne has an insatiable curiosity about the world around him, constantly asking questions and seeking knowledge.
  • Adaptable: As Borne grows and changes, he adapts to his surroundings, taking on new forms and abilities.
  • Innocent: Borne has a childlike innocence and naivety, often viewing the world with wonder and awe.


  • Fierce: Mord is a formidable predator, instilling fear in those who encounter him.
  • Protective: Despite his intimidating nature, Mord shows a surprising level of protectiveness towards Rachel and Borne.
  • Mysterious: Mord's origins and motives remain shrouded in mystery, leaving readers intrigued and uncertain about his true nature.

Character Background


Rachel's background is revealed gradually throughout the story. She was once a scientist working for the Company, but the city's destruction and the emergence of the creatures forced her to adapt to a life of scavenging. Her past experiences and connections to the Company give her a unique perspective on the events unfolding around her.


Wick's background is closely tied to the Company. He was one of their employees and played a significant role in the creation of the creatures. His motivations and actions are influenced by his past experiences within the organization and his desire for power and control.


Borne's true background remains a mystery. His origins are unknown, and as he evolves and grows, he becomes more complex and enigmatic. Borne's existence raises questions about the nature of creation, identity, and the limits of humanity.


Mord's background is shrouded in myth and speculation. He is believed to be one of the original creatures created by the Company but has since grown into an independent and powerful force in the city. Mord's presence raises questions about the consequences of unchecked scientific experimentation and the impact it has on the world.

Character Arcs


Rachel's character arc revolves around her personal growth and transformation from a survivor to a protector. Initially focused solely on her own survival, she gradually develops a deep sense of responsibility towards Borne and the other creatures. Rachel's arc explores themes of compassion, sacrifice, and the power of human connection in a harsh and unforgiving world.


Wick's character arc follows a trajectory of moral degradation and eventual redemption. Initially driven by his own self-interests, Wick's actions become increasingly ruthless and manipulative. However, as he witnesses the consequences of his choices, he begins to question his allegiance to the Company and ultimately finds a way to redeem himself.


Borne's character arc is one of self-discovery and personal growth. As he learns about the world and his own capabilities, Borne grapples with questions of identity and purpose. His interactions with Rachel and Wick shape his understanding of the world and his place within it.


Mord's character arc is one of mystery and revelation. Initially seen as a relentless predator, his true motivations and connection to the city become clearer as the story progresses. Mord's arc challenges assumptions about good and evil and delves into the complexities of survival and adaptation.


Rachel and Wick

Rachel and Wick's relationship is complex and fraught with tension. They share a history and a connection that is tested by their differing motivations and the harsh realities of their world. Their relationship evolves throughout the story, ultimately leading to a climactic confrontation that forces them to confront their true feelings and loyalties.

Rachel and Borne

Rachel and Borne's relationship is one of mutual discovery and growth. Rachel becomes a mother figure to Borne, guiding him through the complexities of the world and nurturing his intellectual and emotional development. Borne, in turn, brings joy and a renewed sense of purpose to Rachel's life.

Rachel and Mord

Rachel's encounters with Mord are characterized by fear and uncertainty. However, as the story progresses, a tentative understanding and connection develop between them. Mord's presence becomes pivotal in Rachel's journey, challenging her beliefs and forcing her to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.

In Jeff VanderMeer's "Borne," the characters' roles, descriptions, traits, backgrounds, arcs, and relationships intertwine to create a compelling and thought-provoking narrative. Through their interactions and growth, the novel explores themes of identity, compassion, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. VanderMeer's skillful characterization and storytelling make "Borne" a captivating read for fans of dystopian fiction.