The Dark Portal | Chapter 8

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Their red eyes sparkled in the firelight and shone with the hunger and hatred that drove them.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Now we return to Oswald and Piccadilly on their hunt for Audrey’s mousebrass, and we begin to understand why Oswald is so hapless and down-trodden. Like with Twit and the story of his parents, I shed a tiny tear when I think of the hurt and feelings of rejection which Oswald has endured for the whole of his life. Combined with Piccadilly’s achingly brave shouldering of his own orphan status, it’s no wonder that this pair are at the top of many a reader’s Characters Who Most Need A Hug list.

In their small, sad conversation, Oswald and Piccadilly bring to light perhaps one of the most important themes in all of Mr Jarvis’ work: the necessity of true and loyal friendship. Oswald may have an appalling time of it in the Skirtings community, and Piccadilly may have no family, but, as they begin to realise in this chapter, they have each other – along with Arthur and Twit and (hopefully) Audrey.

Following this adorably awkward scene, we move right into ‘Oswald and Piccadilly in: A Brush with Protracted and Grisly Death’ as One-Eyed Jake and his band slink by on their way to the Skirtings. Courageously, the mice contrive to distract the rats and so spare the lives of their loved ones, but not before they get a lovely catalogue of the many and varied ways in which Jake and his cronies deal with their victims. All are quite ghastly, and cover everything from a traditional live peeling to my favourite, the good old crispy mouse-ear. Which of the rats’ murderous methods do you like best, O Ravening Readers?

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I love the halfway points in Jarvis novels. The action has heated up, and all the gas burners are turned on. This is a fairly straightforward chapter, but we do start to see Oswald become more brave – plus we also find a little bit about the awkwardness and insecurity that he’s lived with most of his life.

Then we have the rats! One-Eyed Jake, Fletch, etc. I always loved his rat villains, especially because of the illustration in this chapter. Their evil faces and long, tall forms, compared with the short innocent mice make such a contrast. I realised what I didn’t quite express in an earlier post about his villains is that they were unusual for their time, because a lot of villains in kids’ stories were more cartoonish back in those days. (At least in the books I read!) Less than intelligent, easily fooled, comic characters.

Whereas there is almost nothing comic about Jarvis’ rats. (Though possibly you could make an exception for the number of creative verbal riffs they have on all things to do with snot, slime and poxes … a clever way of making them coarse without anything that would count as coarse language.)

Anyway, we’re in the middle of a water chase … on to the next chapter!

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5 thoughts on “The Dark Portal | Chapter 8

  1. In Chapter Eight of The Dark Portal, we moonwalk back a few hours and catch up with what fate has befallen Piccadilly and Oswald who are searching for Audrey’s lost mouse brass. As the city mouse and the albino tangle once more with some old enemies, it soon becomes clear that we’re in for an action-packed episode of the story which is well and truly getting going as we pass its halfway point. Well then, shall we?

    As far apart as Oswald and Twit are in the looks department, it would seem that the two cousins are actually more alike in terms of nature than we had believed as Piccadilly comes to realize when he unintentionally hurts Oswald’s feelings by giving him a nickname based upon his albino condition. He seems to take the hand life has dealt him and play it philosophically, having accepted the way he was born a long time ago, though he admits to Piccadilly how deeply it hurts to know that he’s not what his mother wanted. The way he blurts this out so suddenly makes me wonder if he’s ever said it out loud to another mouse. Why has he never confessed about how he feels to Arthur, Twit or Audrey? Is he afraid that if he does, it may change how his friends treat him whereas Piccadilly is someone he’s known for a few hours and thus he has less to risk by being candid with the grey mouse? Meanwhile the grey mouse is tormented by his own demons, the guilt of having been unable to save Albert from the jaws of Jupiter and the bitter knowledge that Audrey blames him for what happened in the Altar Chamber. The past few days really haven’t been a picnic for Piccadilly and nor will the future be for that matter. He may have survived but the scars his ordeal left him with will stay with him until the day he dies. For him, this quest is as much about finding peace within himself as it is about finding that lost Mouse Brass and returning it to Audrey’s neck. We’ll see if either the charm or what it has come to represent prove attainable, shall we? When you guys said that these books aren’t afraid to delve into themes not commonly found in children’s literature, you weren’t kidding. I’m no counselor (which is exactly what these kids are going to need by the end of all this) but there’s a name for the issue that wracks Piccadilly. Survivor’s guilt. And it’s no fun by even the most elasticated stretch of imagination.

    Their journey through the sewers goes from introspective to life-threatening in a heartbeat when the glare of burning torches throws shadows across the wall near the corner of the tunnel. Thinking impressively quickly while under the pressure of a precarious situation, they grab an old plank and use it as an impromptu canoe to avoid being noticed by the swarm of rats. One-Eyed Jake is at the head of this small army and he’s marching on the house where the mice live, oblivious to the unstoppable wave of death and destruction heading straight for them. Knowing that he and Audrey are the real targets of the rats, Piccadilly makes a choice that proves his selfless bravery, standing up and yelling insults at the rats. The danger is transferred from the mouse community as a whole to himself (and Oswald who’s along for the ride) as the rats forget about their destination and launch an attack on the floating plank and the two mice who cling to it for dear life. Once more, it really cannot be emphasized enough that Piccadilly barely knows the mice in the house. He’s met only a few of them, the rest still being faceless strangers to him. He could have decided to stay silent and out of the clutches of the rats who mean to drag him back to his worst nightmare, The Altar Chamber of Jupiter. But he doesn’t. He could do nothing to save Albert but he can protect the community his lost friend belonged to and that is what he does without thinking twice about it. It’s also worth pointing out that he knows nothing about Audrey’s disappearance. For all he knows, she’s still waiting for him and Oswald to return which means that he’s trying to keep her safe as well as the other mice. The quest for Audrey’s brass reminds me very strongly of the quest for the Holy Grail, The Knights of The Round Table proved that the fire of valor burned deep within them as they were tested during their perilous journey. Oswald proves his worth too, overcoming pure terror to help his new friend protect the mouse community from the marauders above. He’s terrified but still decides that the risk is more than worth taking if he can keep those fiends away from the ones he loves. He may not think much of himself but King Arthur would be proud.

    One-Eyed Jake resurfaces in the story, providing us with valuable insight into the power struggle between him and Morgan whose position of power he aims to usurp. Between the two of them, which rogue will win? Will Jake pry the role of Jupiter’s lieutenant from Morgan’s cold dead claws or will he learn a painful lesson about respecting his elders? It could go either way, though the rat with the eye-patch seems to be on the road to claiming victory as the bone-chilling close of the chapter reveals that it was his claws that grabbed Audrey and dragged her through The Grille. One thing alone is certain. Piccadilly and Oswald aren’t the only mice whose fates hang on a balance which grows more perilously tenuous with each second that crumbles away.

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  2. As filthy and disgusting as the rat-folk take such pride in being, they certainly are pioneers when it comes to the art of sheer cruelty. One method of butchering their victims sticks out to me in particular but we’ll need to wait patiently for another few chapters before I can point at it and say “That one! That one, Aufwader!”

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  3. Once again, I find myself off the pace after being up a mountain without Internet for 3 days.
    Love this chapter – I love the insight we get into Oswald’s character. What living person can’t relate to his raw and honest confession that he’s not quite the mouse his parents wanted? Doesn’t matter how good your family is, everyone has experienced (at least once, however briefly) that awful feeling of their parents’ disappointment (cause hey, everybody screws up at least once, right?)
    ….I also love the bit where Oswald yells “‘Smellyfeet!’, which was the worst insult he could think of.” Still makes me chuckle, especially as every time I read it I still hear it said in Matt’s reedy “Oswald voice” 😂😂😂😂
    Also, speaking of voices and posts I missed, I always imagined Triton to have a vaguely Scottish brogue… 🤔

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    • I think we’re all afraid of disappointing our parents. Mum and dad are the most important people in our lives and we naturally want to be everything we can be and make them proud. The fear of being a disappointment must have been magnified by a thousand times for Oswald. Imagine knowing deep down that your secretly wishes you could have been born someone else…

      I loved that too. Oswald has been so sheltered by his prim and fussy mother that his amateur attempt at trash talk was bound to lack the sting of Piccadilly’s insults.

      Like

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