The Dark Portal | Chapter 11

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Warning: Contains spoilers!

‘Old soldiers never die Jake, they simply fade away.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter shows us that what we thought we knew about Jupiter and his faithful followers is not actually the full story. So far, the fearsome Lord of All has been the worst thing that could happen to our heroes. Like Chapter 7, part of this chapter’s function is to expand the world of the Deptford Mice, but this time our eyes are opened in a different and more frightening direction. Like Audrey, we awake from the nightmare of Jupiter into a reality which is far worse – the hidden, blood-soaked shrine of the Mighty Three.

Now that the fearsome Raith Sidhe have been introduced, I feel I would be remiss not to mention one of the most unique and fascinating aspects of the Robin Jarvis readership. By now you will have gathered that belief plays a pivotal role in his work, and, as our new readers will discover, this is true not only for the Deptford Mice Trilogy, but for every series.

This has lead to a peculiar phenomenon that I’ve seen only in a very few other author’s readerships. It has no official name and has only been tangentially addressed by Mr Jarvis himself, but the fact remains that, regardless of their real-life beliefs, anyone who will admit to being a Robin Jarvis fan will also admit that they have a special fondness for one or other of his fictional deities.

I have more to say on this topic, but I’ll save it for when we’re further into the (Re)Read. For now, let’s focus on The Dark Portal, and open things up to the floor. Dear Readers, are you noble Green Mousers, wondering what your brass would be, awed by the Spirit of Spring? Are you captivated by the fiery gaze of Jupiter, Prince of Nightmare? Or do older, darker powers whisper your name from the depths? (As a quick aside, if you align with a Robiny cult or mythology which has not yet been introduced, please feel free to drop hints, but refrain from mentioning them or their deeds explicitly).

 

Matt’s Thoughts: What could have been just a chapter of more rat unpleasantness turns fascinating with the introduction of the three rat gods: Bauchan, Mabb and Lord Hobb. I’d love to know what Jarvis’ inspirations were for this, but it does make the rats more similar to ancient Vikings or other characters known for paganism, bloodshed and human sacrifice.

For those who are reading through it for the first time, it might just read like one more unpleasant moment in arguably the most violent chapter in the whole book. (To this day, I still remember the scene where Fletch gets his head snapped off … it was such a visceral thing. I don’t think I’d read something that graphic in a book for younger readers since the time I read King Solomon’s Mines, which also featured a somewhat gruesome decapitation of the main villain.)

But what fans of the series really love is that Jarvis has here set up some amazing mythology, with plenty of fascinating questions: Are the three gods real beings like Jupiter, that might turn up some time? If Jupiter wasn’t always god of the rats, where did he come from and how did he take over? All of which we shall leave concealed behind the veil of the no spoilers policy, but it’s a great set-up.

Finally, I love the way Audrey – despite all the evil she has seen – still has some sympathy for Jake in the end. It adds to the impact of his demise but also serves to delineate the fundamentally kind hearts of the mice vs. the self-interest of the rats.

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10 thoughts on “The Dark Portal | Chapter 11

  1. Waking up after being kidnapped to discover a circle of rats leering down at you?

    Now that’s what I call pure undiluted nightmare fuel!

    Looking the leader of this wicked pack straight in the eye as you say he’s the worst rat you’ve ever bitten?

    Daaaaamn! Never change, Audrey! That’s our girl! You have the poweeeeer!

    Seriously, how brave is the young Miss Brown even as she finds herself swept up in what has got to be the most scary ordeal of her life? The author does not claim that she’s fearless in the face of danger which makes it all the more awesome when she refuses to fall to her knees, pleading for her life and sobbing.

    One-Eyed Jake making small talk with Audrey as they sit at the campfire is one of my favourite parts of the book. The experience has got to be as weird for the rats as it is frightening for the mouse they kidnapped from her home. Look at it from their point of view! Mice are a source of food for the rats and as such there to be eaten, not talked to! Beyond knowing how succulent their ears are, he’s so clueless about who the mice are as a people, actually asking Audrey whether she worships Jupiter just like the rats. Maybe it’s because something about this strange brave mouse maid fascinates him, maybe it’s because she’s slated for a fateful meeting with Jupiter and thus what he discloses to her won’t matter anyway, maybe it’s because he’s drunk or maybe it’s due to a combination of all three that he decides to let her in on his dark secret.

    The revelation of the Temple Of The Three is so freaking cool just as Matt said. The rats having their own pagan Gods is another point for them being twisted and evil counterparts of the mice and since Orfeo and Eldritch warned Arthur to watch out for ‘The Three’ earlier in the story, you just know that what we learn here is no mere fluff but information that is going to matter so much down the line. I was unsure how to pronounce their proper name which is the Raith Sidhe. For so many years, I interpreted it is ‘Raav seed’ and it was not until I listened to one of the audio-books that I realized how mistaken I’d been.

    Oh Aufwader! Remember how I mentioned a rat was going to demonstrate one of the killing methods that have always been most memorable to me? Here it is as One-Eyed Jake decides to skip bloody-bonesing or peeling and skips straights to taking Fletch’s head between his claws and tearing that sucker right off like Subzero from Mortal Kombat! AND THEN TOSSES IT ASIDE AND STARTS CHOWING DOWN ON HIM! Like, what the…as savage and cruel as the rats have proven themselves to be, this was just so brutal that I never saw it coming! Did anyone else hear the words “FINISH HIM!” booming through the temple as he prepared to lay waste to Fletch? There are no words for how much I love the hellish picture of rat shadows lunging back and forth across the wall, biting and tearing at each other as their owners fight to the death!

    Remember how I drew comparisons between Piccadilly and Oswald finding the mouse skins and the house from Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Well, I’m about to do so again. What the rats put Audrey through is so creepily similar to how Leatherface’s family treat the heroine when she’s captured by them. Their complete lack of empathy towards this traumatized and frightened girl who has seen her brother being murdered right before her eyes is what makes the dinner scene one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen and such is the case when the rats force Audrey to dance with them. One-Eyed Jake really wasn’t kidding when he warned the mouse maid that he could do things that would make her wish she was dead. Her captors treat her not as another living creature who has thoughts and feelings but as a toy for their own amusement. As the tunnel spins so fast that she feels like she’s going to pass out and a blood-stained fiend bares his teeth in a monstrous grin, my heart flies out to poor Audrey who is so far away from the mice who love her and would do anything to keep her safe from harm.

    And so I cheer when Madame Akkikuyu comes to Audrey’s rescue like a cool big sister, standing up to Jake even though the one-eyed rat has never been more menacing. Her knowledge of herbs trumps his animal savagery as she nonchalantly hits him with her secret weapon and he’s reduced to a howling wreck on the ground. Akkikuyu would make such a formidable lieutenant for Jupiter! She doesn’t need to threaten the rats to make them fall at her feet, she simply shows them who’s in charge and they fall to heel!

    And here we have another unforgettable demise to add to Deptford Mice history as Jupiter makes a personal appearance and punishes Jake’s treachery by turning his tail into a firework fuse. He was so desperate to save himself that I actually cringed with pity for him despite the terror he was inflicting on Audrey mere moments ago. I guess there won’t be any funeral since the rats eat their dead and all but if he did, this would be his eulogy. “Here lies the rat they called One-Eyed Jake. He died as he lived. Horribly.” Just how devoutly did Jake believe in The Three anyway? Notice that he doesn’t plead for the Gods he has secretly worshiped to save him from Jupiter. Rather than trust in their unholy intervention, the condemned one turns to Akkikuyu, begging for help. Paying homage to Hobb, Mabb and Bauchan was what led him to death’s door but it does not seem to enter his mind to pray to them during his final moments. Did his faith falter at the end or were the acts of worship he was so proud of never anything more than hollow rebellion against Jupiter’s tyranny?

    Why is it that Jupiter cannot see Audrey when Akkikuyu tries to prove she has the mouse in her custody? I have my own thoughts on this which I’ll share with you. Notice how this odd moment takes place after Akkikuyu returns the tail bells to Audrey? And who gave those bells to her in the first place? None other than Twit, the one mouse over whom The Grill has no power! So here’s what I’m thinking. When he thought of how much Audrey would love the bells and ran to fetch them for her, what neither mouse realized as he handed them over was that this sweet act of friendship had imbibed them with the innocence that makes him immune to wicked magic and while she wears them, they grant Audrey a small measure of that same protection against any evil that seeks to bring her harm. And if she didn’t have them when Jupiter’s blazing eyes were upon her, she would have been killed on the spot, meaning that Twit has saved the life of his dear friend without even realizing it. Your thoughts, fellow Mouseketeers?

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    • I like the tail bells theory! My other theory was to do with Audrey herself but that is, of course, for another time and place.

      However, if someone could help the Aussie out: how do you pronounce Raithe Sidhe? I may well have to work this out if I read it aloud to the kids …

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      • Then I shall wait eagerly until we arrive at that time and place so you can share your own thoughts with us!

        The woman who lent her voice to the audio-book pronounced it ‘Wraith Shee’! Does that help?

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  2. You sure asked a mouthful, Aufwader! Which religious group to be found in the works of Robin Jarvis captivates me above all others? Oh my gosh, there are so many to pick from and they are all awesome in their own ways that I’m actually on the spot here as I try to decide! This is gonna take some thinking about before I can safely say my mind’s made up!

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  3. I’m a Green Mouser, through and through. Although I do have a soft spot for Mabb.

    Murder and cults aside, I loved how sassy Audrey was in this chapter. “You taste foul.” Damn, tell us how you really feel haha

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  4. Matt: I agree with you when you suggest that the Three seem to have derived inspiration from the ancient Norse Gods. Maybe it’s just me but the pair of horns that crown Hobb’s head and the necklace of teeth worn by Mabb strike that sort of chord. And let’s not forget Bauchan who is a trickster along the lines of Loki.

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  5. If The Deptford Mice books were better known, do you suppose there would be a group of fans who shipped Audrey with One-Eyed Jake? That would be just plain wrong but it seems sooooo plausible to me when I think of the fanfiction I’ve come across throughout various fandoms. There’s got to be one person at least who would see Jake as a tortured soul and Audrey as just the mouse to help him see error of his ways and come over to the right side…

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