Terrouge E-zine Archives
Mythologica Redwallia XII: Mice Part I
"Mice are my heroes because, like children, mice are little and have to learn to be courageous and use their wits." - Brian Jacques
While Mossflower Country and beyond are filled to the brim with all sorts of creatures, undoubtedly the chief species of the Redwall world is the mouse. Martin, Mossflower's most celebrated hero, joined with the mice of Loamhedge Abbey to found the Abbey of Redwall that we know and love, and ever since mice have been unexpected founts of strength and courage. In celebration of the newest Tribes of Redwall book and the U.S. release of Loamhedge this month, we bring you the first of a two-part super-issue of Mythologica Redwallia: Mice!
Mice are yet another "pest" species, though considerably less reviled than their bigger cousins the rats. There are several different species of mice, some wild, some living under the noses of the humans whose homes they inhabit. In recent years, mice have gained fame in the southwestern United States for spreading Hantavirus, which causes kidney and respiratory infections.
Mice sometimes accompany more prominent deities. Picvucin, the god of hunting and wildlife of East Siberian Chukchi, rode on a blade of grass pulled by a mouse. The Hindi elephant god Ganesha is often seen riding a mouse.
When Pryderi and Rhiannon, two heroes of Celtic myth, became trapped in a magical cave, Pryderi's wife Cigva and his friend Manawydan set out to rescue them. After a time, they captured a mouse, who turned out to be the wife of one of Rhiannon's enemies! She lifted the spell on the cave.
In Native American legend, there is a tale similar to that of the grasshopper and the ants that concerns two mice. One of them is a dutiful mouse who collects beans in the Fall in preparation for winter. Her cousin, however, chats and dances and wastes the Fall away. When food becomes scarce, the lazy mouse begs her cousin for a snake skin sack to collect beans in. The responsible mouse takes pity on her cousin, but does not give her the snakeskin without a stern reprimand.
There are several folk tales about the relationship between cats and mice. "The Cat and Mouse in Partnership" is a story by the Brothers Grimm that tells of a mouse and cat who live in a house and do equal shares of the housework. For the winter they hid away a pot of fat below the altar in a church. The cat longs for the fat, however, and tells the mouse that he has been asked to serve as godfather for a relative's kitten. He eats the top off the fat and returns to tell the mouse that the kitten's name is "Top-Off." Strangely enough, the cat is asked to be a godfather twice more, for "Half-Gone" and "All-Gone." The mouse is suspicious, and when winter comes the mouse discovers the cat's treachery - and is devoured by the hungry cat.
A Tibetan story tells of an aging cat who goes before the mice begging for forgiveness for having killed and eaten so many of them. She asks that they make a procession by her twice a day as she meditates as a symbol of thanks for her generosity. The cat is treacherous, however, and is only planning to kill and eat the last mouse in the procession. Ambé and Rambé, two friends, notice the missing mice and create a plan of their own; Rambé marches in front while Ambé brings up the rear, calling to one another all the way. The cat cannot kill the last mouse without being discovered. Eventually the cat snaps and throws herself into the middle of the procession, but they are ready and scurry away to safety.
A Romanian folktale states that in the early days of the world, the dog and the cat lived in peace under a written agreement stating that the dog would do outside housework while the cat did indoor housework. The devil, however, grew frustrated at the peace, and set up the dog to complain about having to brave the elements while the cat had the cozy indoors all to herself. The dog demanded to see their written agreement, but when the cat went to get it, she found that mice had chewed it up and destroyed it. The cat flew into a rage and killed as many as she could, and when she did not bring back the contract, the dog attacked her, and it has been that way ever since.
Mice have also made their fair share of appearances in Aesop's fables. "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse" is a story of two mice, one of whom invites the other from his country home to see the luxuriant life of the city. The country mouse finds, however, that while food is abundant, so are the humans that want to kill him. He returns to the country, fully aware that there's no place like home.
"The Mice and the Bell" tells the story of a group of mice that come up with an ingenious plan to put a bell around the neck of the local cat so they will be warned of its approach. The idea is shot down by a clever mouse who brings up the fact that he knows of no one willing to actually put the bell in place - the moral being that you shouldn't extol the virtues of something until it's cleared of fault.
In "The Lion and the Mouse," a lion captures a mouse in order to make a snack of him, but the mouse pleads for his life, assuring the lion that he will someday return the favor. The lion laughs it off and lets him go, but when he is caught in a hunter's net, the mouse proves the moral of the story - even the weak can do big things - when he chews through the ropes and sets the lion free.
Another instance of such a moral, though much less heartwarming, is that of "The Mouse and the Bull," in which a mouse bites a bull on the leg and then runs back to his wall where he is safe from the great animal's horns and hooves, calling out that the strong don't always win.
Another lesser-known fable, "The Mice and the Weasels," teaches us how foolish the pursuit of vanity is. The mice and weasels are at war, and the mouse generals assert their authority by adorning themselves with medals and gaudy helmets. When the time comes to call a retreat, the generals are weighed down by their decorations and are killed by the weasels.
Along with Aesop's fables, there are several nursery rhymes about mice, including Hickory Dickory Dock and Three Blind Mice.
In many cultures around the world, the patterns of stars in the heavens above have been translated into easily recognizable images - for instance, the Big Dipper and Orion. With technology, we are able to see further into space, and new images are being found in the universe. The newest camera in the Hubble telescope has registered a pair of galaxies in the constellation Coma Berenices, 300 million light years away, that are colliding to eventually form one huge galaxy. Because of their long tails, they have been deemed "The Mice," and suggest what will eventually happen to the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies several billion years from now.
Want to know more? Take a look my bibliography! If you find a discrepancy in the information somewhere above, tell me about it! If it's legit (not just additional material I didn't find), I'll give you credit for it in the next issue.
I make sure to post next month's subject in advance (see below), so if you have any legends or famous characters you'd like me to include, please let me know at email@example.com!
Next month: Mice Part II!