Of Mice and Men

by David Kennedy



One of the observations rarely made concerning the Wold Newton meteor strike is that the British countryside is full of small animals. Little thought has been given to the effect the ionising radiation might have had on them. Part of the reason for this is, doubtless, the impossibility of constructing family trees for wild animals so long after the event. After all, even the family tree MN so carefully constructed for Juno [1] has many gaps in it, and those of us who suspect the "wolf" who rescued Constable Benton Fraser of the RCMP from an ice crevice, and was later named Deifenbaker, is actually a descendent of the wolf/dog crosses sired by Buck must accept that any attempt to trace this particular line is doomed to failure [2].


However, with careful research and extrapolation, a few animal lineages can be roughly traced. Sadly not all the way back, however; the earliest reliable evidence of "advanced animals" living wild in the English countryside comes from the notes of amateur naturalist Helen Beatrix Potter, who observed the rabbits and other animals of the area near Wold Newton almost 100 years after the meteor strike, finally publishing her findings in a series of books beginning in 1902.


According to Miss Potter's notes, the small animals of the area had advanced communication skills (although they could not communicate with humans) and had formed a society that mimicked that of the nearby village. Since rodents already have good manual dexterity in their forepaws, they had even managed to make their own clothes. Miss Potter satisfied herself that they were capable of this by observing a group of Wold Newton mice that had made their way, not to Gloucester as she later wrote, but the much closer but less poetic town of Grimsby. From Grimsby port a few of these mice spread around the world, but in general the advanced animals remained in the Humberside area.


The most curious thing about this was the way the human residents of the area refused to acknowledge it. Miss Potter interviewed a local farmer, Mr MacGregor, who flatly denied the rabbits on his land wore clothes, or had any unusual abilities. Since he had shot at least one of the rabbits, and trapped some others (although they later escaped), it is inconceivable he could have failed to notice this, although unsurprising he was in denial. Presumably the other residents were also concerned about how much admitting the situation would affect their way of life.


In the 1890s, one of the brighter of the Grimsby mice, by the name of Basil, happened across a copy of A Study in Scarlet and instantly came down with a classic case of Great Detective Syndrome. Accompanied by his friend and cousin Dawson, he hopped onto the next train to London, and began living behind the walls of 221B Baker Street, picking up the skills of detection from his hero.


Coincidentally, one of the many children of Samuel and Anna Maria Whiskers, the vicious rats described in one of Miss Potter's notebooks, had also made his way to London. Named Ratty Whiskers by his unimaginative parents, he changed it, on arrival in the capital, to the more impressive Professor Ratigan. Firmly believing it was his destiny to rule the animals of London, he created a criminal empire, mostly of Wold-Newton rats, but recruiting advanced animals from wherever he could find them [3]. He was repeatedly thwarted by Basil, who took the sobriquet "Basil of Baker Street". Some highly fictionalised accounts of these adventures were written by Eva Titus, and were later further fictionalised in the Disney movie Basil, the Great Mouse Detective.


In 1904, a curious meeting took place near Wold Newton. Two of the Wold Newton animals, a rat and a mole, were boating, when they saw, to their astonishment, a toad in a suitably scaled-down motor-car. He told them a vague story about coming from a big house, where he was Lord of the Manor. This story was somewhat garbled, and particular doubt on it was cast by the fact he attempted to claim sanctuary with the woodland folk. His explanation for this was that his house had been taken over by wild weasels. Evidence later released concerning the experiments performed by Dr Moreau for the British government suggest that the Toad was, in fact, one of his creations [4].


The Toad settled into the community, but continued his arrogant boasting. He married a local advanced toad, and their son [5] grew up fully believing his father's tall tales, which he would later tell to his son. The Toads, therefore, eventually became convinced they came from a noble and powerful family.


Meanwhile, Basil of Baker Street had encountered, on several occasions, an agent of Ratigan named Mlle Relda, from a nest of Grimsby mice that had made their way to America. There was a definite attraction between them and eventually Relda left Ratigan's service and she and Basil went to America, where they were married. Dawson, who now felt a strong affinity to Doctor Watson [6], was also married, and travelled to Australia, where Watson had spent his boyhood.


Basil's children multiplied in America, as mice do. Being descended from a mouse who took a keen interest in human affairs, many of them believed the purpose of their intelligence should be to help others. In the 1940s, they formed the Mouse Prisoners' Aid Society, which was subsequently joined by uplifted mice with various origins [7].


Two of Basil's descendents, in fact,  proved so eager to be heroes that, to the rest of the clan's horror, they replaced lab mice in the early Super-Soldier experiments. Both subsequently escaped, one having been given the Captain America formula, the other Gibbon's Accelerator. They had brief careers as Mighty Mouse and Speedy Gonzales, before the effects of the chemicals proved too much for their systems.


While the majority of Basil's descendents wanted to help humans, others wished to leave humanity alone. They left the group, but soon realised they needed an influx of new genes. While they could communicate with ordinary mice, mating with them seemed distasteful, and would probably dilute their intelligence [8]. They were particularly concerned when, in 1944, one mouselet proved unable to learn their language properly, but was able to speak English. Not knowing what else to do, they left him at an adoption agency and hoped for the best. He was adopted by Frederick and Eleanor Little (who seemed not to notice he was a mouse) and named Stuart [9]. Clearly inbreeding was causing odd effects of its own.


Then, in 1967, those who remained were astonished to meet a mouse from outside their nest who had a name. She called herself "Mrs Frisby".


Mrs Frisby was actually a brighter-than-average ordinary mouse [10], but she was connected to a society of super-intelligent rats and mice, the product of an experiment by the National Institute of Mental Health documented by Robert C. O'Brien [11]. Some of Basil's descendents joined this society, aiding the NIMHians in creating a scientific culture that did not depend on humanity. They remained in communication with the Mouse Prisoners' Aid Society, however, and occasionally assisted them, if they could do so without any risk. Over the next few decades many idealistic youngsters from NIMH would join the MPAS, while disaffected children of MPAS members were free to move to the NIMH community.


In the 1970s a MPAS agent named Bernard was put in charge of their London operations. Bernard was the product of two equally heroic lineages. On his father's side he was descended from Basil, and his mother was Miss Bianca, one of the most notable members of MPAS [12].  In London, Bernard encountered a community of intelligent mice, also descended from the Grimsby clan, living in the tunnels and sewers under the district of Deptford [13]. Bernard fell in love with a mouse maid named Audrey Brown [14], and they got married. Their children included a white mouse named Daniel.


Daniel grew up determined to duplicate his ancestor Basil's detective career. He did not follow his father into the MPAS, preferring a solo career. However, after preventing a couple of advanced-animal crimes, in one of which he lost an eye, he was contacted by the Diogenes Club.


The Diogenes had become aware that there was at least one crimelord in Britain who they were unable to track down due to his non-humanity. They knew that, due to the Wold Newton animals, escapees from Moreau and his successors, and various other such oddities, there was a complex society of intelligent rodents living in London. They decided to set up a special force to investigate this. To this end, they engineered an advanced hamster, intending it to become their agent. Unfortunately, the hamster, although intelligent, was extremely jittery and prone to panic. They therefore sent him out, not to combat evil himself, but to enter rodent society and find a suitably heroic creature to do so.


The hamster, named Penfold by one of the scientists for no established reason, found Daniel and explained the situation. Daniel agreed, as long as he was allowed a free hand and got an exciting codename. He took the name Danger Mouse, inspired by the mysteriously vanished John Drake's epithet Danger Man [15].


Before long, he and Penfold learnt who was behind the crimewave, however stopping it proved a different matter. The crimelord was a descendent of Mr. Toad, who had taken the name Baron Greenback and believed it was his destiny to rule the world. He would clash with Danger Mouse on many occasions.


Also in the 1970s, a descendent of the NIMHian genius Nicodemus, called Geegaw Hackwrench (his connection, if any, to the human who occasionally used the name "Hackwrench" is unknown) set off to explore the world in various craft of his own design. He eventually arrived at the New York docks, where he happened to meet a young mouse arriving off a ship from Australia. This transpired to be a descendent of Basil's friend Dawson, known as Monteray Jack. Jack joined Hackwrench in his explorations, but they eventually parted company.


In 1987, Monteray Jack encountered two advanced chipmunks which had escaped from a private laboratory which was recreating the NIMH project [16]. They had been nicknamed Chip and Dale after the chipmunks in the old Disney cartoons. Chip, inspired by an interest in detective stories and conversations with a police dog, had developed an ambition to be a detective [17]. With the help of Geegaw Hackwrench's daughter, Gadget, Jack and the chipmunks succeeded in stopping the feline criminal known as Fatcat [18]. The quartet subsequently formed their own detective/rescue organisation which they named the Rescue Rangers, possibly in tribute to the MPAS's nickname of "the Rescuers".


In 1990, after finally defeating Baron Greenback, Daniel Mouse went on a sabbatical to America, where he met the Rescue Rangers. He was instantly attracted to Gadget Hackwrench, and they had a daughter, Glory Hackwrench. Disliking the name "Hackwrench", she changed it to "Goldenleaf". She is now the main agent of the Spy Mice Agency, a Washington based organisation loosely connected to the MPAS, which deals with the continued threat of Ratigan's descendents [19].




[1] See "You Weren't Nuthin' But A Hound Dog" http://ratmmjess.tripod.com/wold1.html


[2] The circumstantial evidence is pretty good, however. Deifenbecker comes from roughly the right area (the near-Arctic areas of the North American continent) and resembles a husky as much as he does a wolf. More significantly, he shares the intelligence of Buck's known descendents. The ability to understand complex human speech, characteristic of the lineage, is particularly pronounced with "Deif", who is deaf, but capable of lip-reading.


[3] There is a strong possibility that some of his agents may have been escapees from Dr Moreau's laboratories.


[4] See League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2, #5. While "Mr Toad" is known to have interacted with Mina Murray and Alan Quatermain, the illustration suggesting Moreau created "Ratty" and "Mole", as well as the creatures observed by Miss Potter appears to be the product of Kevin O'Neill's prolific imagination.


[5] It is believed that Mrs Toad spawned normally, but only one of the tadpoles survived, probably due to incompatibilities between the genetic structures of the two amphibians, following their very different "upliftings".


[6] Great Detective Sidekick Syndrome is not often mentioned, but clearly exists. The classic case is Captain Arthur Hastings, who became steadily more "Watsonian" the more time he spent with Hercule Poirot. He, however, departed for Argentina, rather than Australia.


[7]As recorded in various books by Margery Sharpe. Two of these were later filmed as The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under.


[8] Some descendents of Ratigan, who had also arrived in America, felt no compunction against either inbreeding or crossbreeding, and were therefore able to produce a much larger clan. Although they abandoned such human affectations as clothes, they inherited their ancestor's megalomania. Their initial attempt to conquer the world was foiled by Airboy. See http://www.pjfarmer.com/secret/marvelous/ironman1a.html


In 1967, the same year the WN mice discovered Mrs Frisby, Ratigan's descendents were manipulating a man named Willard Styles. They were led at this time by a rat named Ben, who had somehow developed a telepathic link to Styles. His manipulation of the human was subtle enough that Styles believed he was the one training the rats to do his bidding, at least until they turned on him. These events were described in The Ratman Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert, the basis for the film Willard. Subsequently, Ben and his clan went on to seek out others they could manipulate in this way, finding  a young boy named David Garrison. Garrison, suppressing the memory of these events, would later change his name to Otis Flannagan and become a pest-control officer in New York. Both Styles and Garrison were distantly related to the Doolittle family.


[9] The Littles' lack of awareness that Stuart was a mouse led to E.B. White stating that he was their natural son. The 1999 film gives a somewhat more accurate account.


[10] As far as is known. She may, however, have come from one of a number of communities of intelligent mice whose origins are unclear. An Eastern European society is known to have existed, some of whom travelled to Germany in the early 19th century, where they became involved in a war with the "living toys" created by "Herr Drosselmeyer", as recorded by E.T.A Hoffmann in The Nutcracker. (It is not known whether Hoffmann realised Drosselmeyer was actually the noted scientist Dr Spalanzani, whose early automation experiments and involvement with Joseph Balsamo (going under the name Dr Coppelius) would figure in his account of his friend Nathaniel's suicide, Der Sandmann). Many  members of the Eastern European community decamped for America in the 1890s, apparently under the belief the country was free of cats.


More sinisterly, there is evidence to suggest a small community of immortal mice, unconnected to any of the mouse societies, manipulating humans to their own ends. A sort of rodent version of the Nine, if you will. One such mouse, originally calling himself Mortimer, is the real controller of the Disney Corporation, hiding behind the friendly image of Mickey Mouse. Two others were traced to a pet shop in Islington, which sold them to Tricia Macmillan shortly before her disappearance in 1978. The mice also vanished.


[11] In Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, later filmed as The Secret of NIMH.


[12] Miss Bianca was a white "fancy" mouse, owned by the child of a British Ambassador. She was the main character in the Sharpe books and subsequent movies. Her origins are, as yet, unclear, but she may have come from the East European nest mentioned above. Bernard and his son, Daniel, inherited their colouring from her.


[13] This society was described in the Deptford Mice series, by Robin Jarvis.


[14] The aunt of the Audrey Brown who appears in the Deptford Mice books.


[15] Colonel K, Danger Mouse's walrus-like superior, was an invention of the heavily fictionalised cartoon series Dangermouse, parodying Admiral Sir Miles Messervy. Daniel got his orders through a simple radio transmitter, with no name attached to the dispatcher.


[16] Following the escape, Ackerman Laboratories continued the experiments with mice, creating a highly intelligent creature they called The Brain and an erratically coherent mouse named Pinky. Ackerman Labs is believed to have combined the NIMH research with techniques developed by other branches of parent company Micawber Industries. Ackerman Labs' records show that Pinky and the Brain are descended from Algernon, a laboratory mouse used in an early NIMH intelligence-increasing experiment. The controversial nature of this research was increased when the apparent success of Algernon's treatment led to NIMH rushing through human trials, with tragic consequences. It is for this reason that Ackerman Labs are monitoring his descendents' progress over many years before making an announcement.


[17] Presumably the dog was one of Juno's Wold-Newton irradiated descendants, possibly from the line of Rex the Wonder Dog.


[18] Fatcat had also had ancestry at the Wold Newton event. See my upcoming article Jellicle Cats Come Out Tonight.


[19] See the Spy Mice books by  Heather Vogel Frederick.