The Indian in the Cupboard

by Lynne Reid Banks

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The Indian in the Cupboard Summary

The Indian in the Cupboard is a 1980 novel about an English boy named Omri whose toy Indian comes to life.

  • When Omri locks his toy Indian in a small cupboard on his ninth birthday, the figurine comes to life and introduces himself as Little Bear.
  • Omri realizes that Little Bear is a real person from the past, as is Boone, the toy cowboy Omri’s friend Patrick brings to life against Omri’s wishes.
  • After a series of adventures, the boys decide to use the cupboard to send the living figurines back to their own time.


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Last Updated November 3, 2023.

On his ninth birthday, Omri is gifted a plastic toy Indian by his friend Patrick and a small cupboard by his brother Gillon. He tries several keys on the lock to the cupboard until he finds a working ribboned key that once belonged to his grandmother. When he places the toy Indian in the cupboard and locks it, Omri discovers that the cupboard has the power to bring things to life. The Indian, whose name is Little Bear, fearlessly makes demands of Omri. Because he is eager to become close to the Indian, Omri obliges Little Bear. He then discovers that he can use the cupboard to make other plastic objects real, such as the teepee he produces for Little Bear. Due to the fact that Little Bear has memories from a different time, Omri figures out that the Indian must be a real person from the historical past. He asks Little Bear about the war he was part of, and Little Bear boasts of the numerous scalps he has collected. This unnerves Omri, and when Little Bear later asks for a gun, he negotiates and promises him a horse and a bow and arrows instead.

Omri hides Little Bear in a matchbox and takes him outside to observe the world. When he rushes back inside to get ready for school, however, he accidentally unsettles the horse, who ends up injuring Little Bear. Omri spots his army medic figurine and puts it in the cupboard. Once the medic is awakened, Omri tells him that he is dreaming and asks for help treating Little Bear. After Little Bear is bandaged up, Little Bear sends the medic back to his own time. Little Bear later asks for materials to build a longhouse, and so Omri leaves him some materials from his father’s greenhouse, some food, and an axe which he wrested from one of the toy knights. He then leaves for school, where he remains absentminded, arousing Patrick’s curiosity. When asked what he’s thinking about, Omri answers that he is thinking about the toy Indian, which Patrick assumes is a lie or some kind of insult.

The next time Omri encounters his friend, Patrick offers up a toy cowboy to go with Omri’s Indian. Omri declines, assuring Patrick they would fight. Seeing that Patrick’s patience is wearing thin, Omri invites him home and introduces him to Little Bear. Patrick excitedly suggests using the cupboard again, but Omri explains that the living figures are more than simply toys— they are real people. The two end up physically grappling and ruining Little Bear’s food. To apologize, Omri quickly heads to the kitchen to replace the food, forgetting all about Patrick and the cupboard. He comes back and finds Patrick having used the cupboard to bring his toy cowboy to life. Suddenly, Omri’s mother stops by to tell Patrick that he is wanted at home. Omri forces Patrick to leave the cowboy behind, to which Patrick agrees under the condition that Omri bring the cowboy to school tomorrow. Before going to bed, Omri separates the cowboy and Little Bear. However, he wakes up to them shooting at each other. When Omri asks Little Bear to stop, the Indian agrees under the condition that he be allowed to come to the store with Omri to choose his wife. Omri then consoles the cowboy and finds out that he is named Boone.

Omri takes Little Bear and Boone to school and hands the cowboy over to Patrick. During class, Little Bear deals poorly with the boredom and starts stabbing Omri for attention, causing Omri to yelp and...

(This entire section contains 1214 words.)

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get in trouble. As Omri scolds Little Bear, the Indian asks for some company, even if it is Boone. Omri asks to borrow Boone from Patrick and promises to give them both to him after class. At lunchtime, Patrick demands that Omri hold up his end of the agreement. He then arrives late for class, as he was trying to feed Boone and Little Bear in the music room. The teacher asks for an explanation and, unsatisfied with Patrick’s answer, sends him and Omri to the headmaster’s office.

The headmaster questions them more firmly, leading Patrick to crack under pressure and start divulging the existence of Little Bear. After he is shown the two living toy figures, the headmaster decides that he must be ill and thus ought to go home. Nevertheless, Omri becomes cross with Patrick and takes Boone back from him. At the store, Omri takes out Boone and Little Bear to pick Little Bear’s wife, and they settle on a figurine of an Indian girl with a red dress. When Omri pays at the register, he is accused of pocketing two other toys. Fortunately, Patrick comes in and helps Omri clear things up. Having reconciled with Patrick, Omri invites him over for a sleepover.

At home, they discover that the cupboard has been hidden by Omri’s brother Adiel, who suspects Omri of hiding his football shorts. After the two rummage through Adiel’s belongings, Patrick points out that the missing shorts are behind the radiator and must have fallen without Adiel noticing. This calms Adiel down, and he reveals that he hid the cupboard in the attic. After Omri and Patrick secure the cupboard, however, they find that its key is missing—and Adiel has no clue where it is. They search for the key to no avail and then spend the rest of the night watching a Western film where there is fighting between cowboys and Indians. Boone cheers the picture on while Little Bear makes a fuss. Their heated argument results in Little Bear shooting Boone with an arrow. Omri scolds Little Bear and commands him to help mend Boone’s wound.

Before bedtime, Omri’s mother informs him that Gillon’s pet rat has escaped and is underneath the floorboards. Omri realizes that the key has probably fallen down there somewhere and enlists the help of Little Bear. After Little Bear successfully retrieves the key, Omri uses the cupboard to bring the army medic to life for Boone. He then commands that Little Bear and Boone become blood brothers once Boone has recovered, to which Little Bear agrees. Struggling to fall asleep, Omri realizes that he cannot keep Little Bear and Boone around for much longer.

The next morning, Omri brings the Indian girl to life, and she and Little Bear take to each other immediately. When the girl—who is named Bright Stars—and Little Bear ask Omri to throw them a wedding feast, Omri suggests that it might be better to have the feast back in Little Bear’s own time. A few days later, after Boone has fully recovered, they throw a “brotherhood ceremony” and make Boone and Little Bear blood brothers. At the height of their merriment, Little Bear tells Omri that it is time for the three of them to go, while they are still happy. Omri puts them in the cupboard and says goodbye. He turns the lock and then opens the door to find the toys returned to plastic. Omri asks Patrick what he should do with the cupboard, and Patrick advises him to leave it empty, just in case.


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