The Dark Portal | Chapter 6


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Threefold the life threats. How shall he be vanquished? By water deep, fire blazing and the unknown path.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I didn’t remember the very start of this chapter, and when I read it over it gave me the chills. Here we’ve got Arthur Brown of whom I spoke so well in my thoughts on Chapter 4; kindly, well-meaning, sensible Arthur Brown, imagining the worst of Audrey and turning his back on her when she most needs him. Of course, it’s Jupiter’s power that is corrupting Arthur’s gentle nature, and I think it is the fact that Arthur specifically is so affected by the evil enchantments of the Grill that really makes the threat of Jupiter seem personal.

In this chapter we also get our first hints that there is more to Twit than was initially shown. For instance, there is something a bit woolly about the explanation for his immunity to the Grill’s influence. Apparently, he is simply too good-natured for the magic to get its claws into him. If, however, the same Arthur who recently comforted his grieving mother and raced into Jupiter’s lair at risk to his own life to rescue his sister can suddenly be sneering like a rat and saying Audrey can rot in the sewers, Twit must be positively saintly.

Then there’s the business with his parents – town mouse and country mouse, so to speak, meaning that Twit slots neatly into both the society of his fieldmouse home and the Skirtings community, even if he prefers the former. (Does anyone else find it heart-breaking that the story Twit treasures about his parent’s meeting is meant as a cautionary tale to discourage city and country mice from pursuing romance with each other? I certainly do!) Evidently, there is a degree of sorrow in Twit’s life if not in Twit himself, and a degree of duality and mystery. Keep hold of these clues, we’ll need them much, much later.


Matt’s Thoughts: I’m guessing that if there is any particular section in long-term Jarvis fans’ copies of The Dark Portal that is the most thumb-stained, it is this chapter. The bats, (with the marvelous names of Orfeo and Eldritch), are the deliverers of a bunch of cryptic riddles that foreshadow the entire trilogy all the way through to the last page of Book 3.

Thus the thumb-stains! Throughout the trilogy, all of a sudden you’ll remember something that the bats said way back in Chapter 6 of The Dark Portal, you flick back and then marvel at how Jarvis has plotted the whole thing carefully from beginning to end. Despite which, you can never quite work out how it’s all going to end.

Unless …

[Small Aside For My Confession of Youthful Transgressions]

… unless you’re like me and you used to peek up the end of books to see how they finished up. I was notorious for doing this up until the age of – well, really up until I read The Dark Portal. By peeking at the end of Portal, I so spoiled the ending for myself, that I decided from then on I’d sit back and let books unfold as the author set them out. Since then, I’ve found books and movies to be a lot more enjoyable when you don’t know how they’re going to end. It does mean, though, that I won’t join in any conversations about any TV show I haven’t seen yet Because I Might Watch It One Day.

[End of Aside]

Anyway, final question for the readers: if there was ever a T-shirt going around with the logo:

‘By water deep, fire blazing and the unknown path’

Who here would buy it?


11 thoughts on “The Dark Portal | Chapter 6

  1. Oh boy, we’re here. This chapter, everyone. It is incredible. If you’re a new reader, the reason why what happens here is so important will be unclear at the moment. But once you’ve finished the trilogy and come back to read it again, you will be blown away by just how much Chapter Six of The Dark Portal matters and how little you suspected it at the time.

    Since Audrey, Piccadilly and Oswald have all exited stage right, Twit gets a chance to take the spotlight and we get to the happy-go-lucky country mouse a great deal better. It was just as well that he didn’t get to partner up with Oswald on the quest for Audrey’s mouse brass. If he was roaming the sewers when Arthur needed some mouse to snap him out of The Grille’s influence, who knows what may have happened. What an unexpected and terrifying moment that was as the evil magic of the gateway seeped into Arthur’s mind and poisoned it against his sister. As well as being supremely unnerving, however, it gives us hope for the mice by showing us that the evil force that threatens them may be powerful but can be overcome by something as simple as innocence. Not all hearts are as pure as Twit’s but what we see is that just one kind heart is far stronger than Jupiter’s magic. Still though, it was scary how all The Grill needed to ensnare Arthur and fill him with hatred for his sister was that single moment of frustrated anger to latch onto. No small wonder that the mice try to stay away from it at all times, huh?

    Rather than go squirming through The Grill to find their missing friends and getting himself hopelessly lost along with them, Arthur sensibly gives the matter some thought and decides to call upon outside help to solve it. That’s right, he’s taking this all the way to the top AKA the attic, home of the mystical bats who can see into the future and will share what they know with the mice when it amuses them to do so. Poor Twit must be feeling rather left out today as Arthur gently tells him he can’t come along since the bats only permit one mouse to seek their wisdom at a time. We find out more about the world of mice as, left alone, Twit sits down and thinks of the home he will soon return to. I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the heart as the little field mouse remembers how his neighbors have always treated him. Ouch. When I was a kid, I wondered why it was that Twit felt he must go back to Fennywolde at all. Yeah, he was born there but why stay in a place where just about everyone laughs at you and think you’re slow in the head? The story of how his dad met his mother and they ran off together to the field seemed like proof to me that he should stay in Deptford and live among the friends he’d found there. If Mrs Scuttle found happiness somewhere other than the place she was born, why couldn’t her son do the same?

    I suppose that he would miss his parents if he decided to stay permanently in Deptford. And perhaps his heart belongs in the field he has always known even if he sometimes feels sad because the other mice don’t understand him. People are more complicated than you think they are as someone once told me. At one point or another in our lives, I think we’ve all had the bitter experience of being judged and written off by folks who didn’t make the effort of trying to understand us for who we really were. And the memory of how that casual cruelty made us feel is so very present as Twit sits in the gloom of the darkening house and a tear rolls quietly down his fuzzy cheek. No wonder he gets up and goes after Arthur rather than continue to dwell on something so hurtful.

    Orfeo and Eldritch are two of the coolest seers ever to be sought out by a character in a story. It feels as though they live partly in this world and partly in another which makes lots of sense considering how much time they must spend gazing into the future. Even though Arthur walks away unable to shake the feeling that his time was wasted, Orfeo and Eldritch have a lot of interesting things to say about what awaits our heroes. They open their mouths and foreshadowing simply flows like fine wine. The problem is that rather than outright tell him what the future holds, they speak in riddles. Maybe if he’d asked them to speak slowly while he wrote it all down and then went around the Skirtings, showing the piece of paper to everyone he knows and asking if it made sense to them? I always wondered why the brothers are so cryptic in their advice-giving. Is there some rule among batkind forbidding them from speaking too clearly when other creatures stand before them or do these two particular bats simply enjoy watching utter bafflement as it spreads across non-bat faces? I honestly feel as though it could go either way! (“Psst, bro! Another one of those mice has come to ask us to read their fortune! Wanna mess with him?”)

    When Twit meets the bats, notice how their attitude changes almost completely. The haughty demeanor with which they treated Arthur is doffed and they glide down from their perches to stand before Twit and speak with him on more equal terms. They treat him with a respect that was nowhere to be seen just a few minutes ago and he doesn’t know what to make of it whatsoever, assuming that he’s being made fun of yet again. As an apology, they offer him the chance to do what few mice have ever done before and see the world as they see it. Arthur may have gone as high as he could by approaching the bats but Twit is about to go even higher still as he takes their paws and is carried into the starry heavens. I’m sure we’re all as excited as the field mouse for Chapter Seven to begin.
    Aufwader and Matt, you have both pinpointed the exact reasons why “Visitors In The Attic” is among my favorite chapters. That a mouse as sweet as Twit is treated as the village idiot, his name little more than the punchline of a mean-spirited joke, by his neighbors is one of the saddest things in the entire series. The other field mice probably don’t even realize how awful their treatment of him truly is, that he has feelings and their careless words have hurt them so deeply.

    The foreshadowing is a thing of beauty. I actually gasped out loud when I finally realized just what Orfeo and Eldritch had been talking about first to Arthur and then to Twit. They hint at not only the events of the entire trilogy but also what lies beyond it.

    Why is there no merchandise page on Robin’s site yet? Because seriously, the money is growing red hot in my pocket!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Whoops! It seems I made a little goof! meant to say ‘That a mouse as sweet as Twit is treated as the village idiot, his name little more than the punchline of a mean-spirited joke, by his neighbors is one of the saddest things in the entire series.’ Would it be okay if you could edit that for me? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be a nuisance!


      • Looks like you worked out how to fix it? (Or else Aufwader was kind enough to jump in, rather than waiting for the sun to rise in Australia!)


    • I think the hidden complexities of character in his books is definitely one of the things which raises Mr Jarvis above other writers from around this time and age-range. In the little scene with Twit remembering his parent’s meeting, we gain insight into his country home, but the ideas are also planted that individuals cannot be lumped together, that place does not make person, and that not everyone is as they first appear. These are powerful lessons for any children’s book, let alone one about talking mice, and they are handled so skillfully that you don’t even notice they’re there until, possibly, years later. Exemplary, says I!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh you’ll get no argument from me about that. The Deptford Mice has so many things to say that remain important long after we have laid down the book. Those powerful lessons stay with us because the author never preaches but let’s us see them in action through the characters we care for so much, trusting the reader to recognize why what is going on in the world of mice should resonate with us in the world of humans.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The bats, the bats! Meeting Orfeo and Eldritch again reminds me of my long lost Audrey Theory, which I’ll go into deeper when we finish the Final Reckoning. I love rereading this chapter, because of how skilfully Robin weaves in his future books – and if you look reeeeal close, some of the things he mentions haven’t even become relevant in the main trilogy! (Which means he’s gotta write more. Right? Right??)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. By the way, people, I just saw another commenter needed to be approved for their first comment on Chapter 1 and it turned out that … Mr Jarvis himself had dropped by. YEAH! So you might want to check some of the older posts for his comments.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This chapter is rewarding to re-read on many levels.
    One of the great virtues of the cautionary tale of Elijah and Gladwin Scuttle is that it introduces us to Arabel, Oswald’s mother, when she is an unmarried mouse-maiden. You can see that motherhood was the furthest thing from her mind when she was young, and how self-absorbed she was. It is another layer to the dithery gossip-wife whom we already know as Mrs. Arabel Chitter.

    Liked by 1 person

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