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The silver bell in the book.

This article is about the bell. For the song, see Silver Bells.
"This bell is a wonder symbol of the spirit of Christmas as am I."
Santa Claus after giving Hero Boy the silver bell.

The silver bell is a crotal bell Hero Boy receives as the first gift of Christmas. It makes a beautiful and sweet ringing sound that only individuals who truly believe in Santa Claus and the Christmas spirit can hear.

Role in the book

Hero Boy first hears the silver bells being rung from the reindeer's harness while they excitedly await Santa's arrival. He likes the sound they make so much that he asks for one when chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas. At Santa's request, an elf cuts one of the bell off and tosses it to Santa, who holds it up and declares it the first gift. At that moment, the clock strikes midnight, so Santa hands the bell to Hero Boy, who puts it in his right pocket. Later, when the children are back on the Polar Express, they ask Hero Boy to show the bell, so he reaches for it, but only finds a hole in his pocket. One child suggests they go back to find it, but the train had already started moving, leaving Hero Boy heartbroken.

On Christmas morning, while Hero Boy and Sarah open their presents, Sarah finds a small Christmas box behind the tree with Hero Boy's name on it. Inside is the bell with a note from Santa explaining that it fell through the pocket hole onto his sleigh and advising him to get the hole fixed. Hero Boy shakes the bell, creating a ringing sound both he and Sarah like, but their parents cannot hear it with their father thinking it is broken.

Most of Hero Boy's friends are able to hear the bell too, but over the years, they lose their belief in the spirit of Christmas and it stops ringing for them, even for Sarah one Christmas, but Hero Boy still continues to hear it into adulthood.

Role in the film

The silver bell in the film.

When the observation car stops spinning on the turntable, the children get off and Hero Girl hears the bells from one of the tunnels. She thinks it will lead them back to the North Pole Square, but Hero Boy and Billy cannot hear it. The tunnel takes them to a village where Billy begins to hear the bells, but Hero Boy still cannot.

During the processional at the Square, the elves hang silver bells on the reindeer's harness. Hero Girl comments on their beautiful sound, but a confused Hero Boy is still unable to hear them. When Santa Claus arrives, the elves, children and reindeer cheer. One of the bells loosens from the reindeer's harness and lands right in front of Hero Boy. He picks it up and shakes it next to his ear, but he can only hear a voice whispering, "doubter" until he tells himself, "I believe," three times. Santa overhears and asks what he said, to which Hero Boy responds, "I believe... this is yours," and hands the bell to him.

Santa then talks with the children and chooses Hero Boy as the one to receive the first gift of Christmas. Hero Boy sits on Santa's lap in his sleigh and Santa asks him what he wants. Hero Boy whispers into his ear that he wants one of the bells from the sleigh. After which, Santa holds up the bell and declares it the first gift of Christmas before handing it to Hero Boy, who puts it in his pocket.

When the children get back on the train, they ask to see the bell, but Hero Boy only feels the hole it fell out of. The children decide to go outside and look for it, but the train starts moving before they could do so. They all feel sorry for him losing the bell, especially Hero Girl. Before Hero Boy gets off the train to go home, Know-It-All points out, "It's the thought that counts."

The next morning, while Hero Boy and Sarah open their presents, Sarah finds one small present behind the tree with Hero Boy's name on it. Hero Boy opens it to find the silver bell and a note from Santa telling him about it falling on the sleigh. He rings it and both he and Sarah enjoy its beautiful sound, but when he lets his mother ring the bell, she cannot hear anything. His father also rings it, but he too does not hear a sound and hands it back to Hero Boy, remarking that it must be broken. Hero Boy then puts it on the table before leaving.

Most of Hero Boy's friends are able to hear the bell too, but over the years, they lose their belief in the Christmas spirit and it stops ringing for them, even for Sarah one Christmas, but Hero Boy still continues to hear it into adulthood.

Behind the scenes

While the children look for a way back to the Square, the filmmakers wanted to show they were following the sound of the silver bells without the audience hearing it so it would be shown from Hero Boy's perspective. Robert Zemeckis came up with the idea to cue the audience by having the record skip whenever Hero Girl and Billy hear the bell.[1]

Early concept art for the film by Randy Gaul shows three ideas for how the bell is packed; in paper, in straw, and in velvet.[1] In the actual film, no packing material is used.

Trivia

  • The box Santa delivers the bell in is similarly wrapped to Billy's present; both in red-and-white striped paper and a green bow.

Gallery

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Cotta Vaz, Mark. Starkey, Steve. (November 4, 2004) The Art of the Polar Express, Chronicle Books. p. 100-101, 143. ISBN 978-0811846592.
Objects
Billy's present Ebenezer Scrooge puppet Emergency brake The first gift of Christmas Fritz the Dog Hot chocolate Northern lights Record players Silver bell Tickets
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