I think fantasy writers have done the world a great disservice. Books and movies alike, it’s all the same. Mice are presented as cute and cuddly little things that sing and dance and have a blast doing mousy things. Think about it. In film we have things like Mickey Mouse, An American Tail, Cinderella, The Great Mouse Detective, The Rats of N.I.M.H., Ratatouille, Flushed Away. Literature has Stuart Little, the Redwall series, David Farland’s Of Mice and Magic. All full of mice singing and dancing and carousing. Anything in film or literature that might put the little critters in danger is shown as being inherently evil. Evil nasty cats, mean rats, exterminators, wicked scientists. Well you know what?
Mice don’t sing or dance. They get into your basement and eat your potatoes. They carry disease and pestilence. They make scratchy noises in your walls and ceilings.
Whoever is writing about mice in pop culture clearly has never lived in a house full of them before. (Of course, there is Terry Pratchett’s wonderful The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, which does do a fairly accurate job of portraying how irritating rats can be. But it’s rats there—not mice.)
For those of you out there who have read Cavern of Babel, you’re probably thinking I’m hypocritical right now. I mean, even my LiveJournal avatar is based on Ozymandias, the prophet mouse in my book. But see, Ozzy isn’t a cute and cuddly mouse. No singing OR dancing. He’d never hesitate to irritate people however he could. And he’d also never get caught. It’s a fact of life that sometimes things that irritate you can also amuse you. Ozzy is proof of this.
Now, I’m not a mean person by nature. I’m fine with mice, as long as they stay where they belong. Field mice are called field mice, not house mice. But there are stupid field mice in my house, scrabbling around in the walls and ceiling and eating my potatoes.
These mice must die.
I am hereby declaring my war against mice. (This isn’t my first war on mice. There was an earlier round back when I was a missionary. The score then? Bryce 4, Mice 0. Take that as a lesson, mice!) I will trap them, poison them, shoot them—I don’t care how they die, just as long as they stop coming back into my house. If they all leave of their own volition, so much the better. But I’ll even buy a cat if I need to—and I have an extreme dislike of cats. Still, cats seem to be the “a-bomb” in the war on mice, and I don’t think that’s an option that should be removed from the table prematurely. Sometimes you have to make a deal with Stalin so you can take out Hitler. I’ve killed one mouse so far, and my wife is headed to the store today for reinforcements before we begin the main offensive. Before this war is over, there will be blood. Or exploded mouse stomachs, whichever is faster.
So fantasy writers out there—whether it’s books or screenplays or whatever—I hereby challenge you to stop writing a lie. Portray mice as they really are, in all their hellish horror. M-i-c . . . k-e-*snap!* No more cute and cuddly.
We have seen the enemy, and it is mouse.