Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘You must think me a rude old battleaxe,’ she said calmly.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Now the Starwife gets her moment in the limelight. One of Mr Jarvis’ most iconic characters, this grizzled old beldam is another fantastically stop-motionish specimen. I love the description of her chamber in the Great Oak, with its hanging baubles and ancient tapestry, and of course, who could forget the Oaken Throne itself!
I’m going to nerd in a different direction here and suggest this track by Howard Shore for the scenes with the Starwife in this chapter and the next. Meant for Tolkien’s woodland elves, it evokes both the cunning and strength of the primordial forest, and something that is also a little cold and otherworldly.
The Starwife; ancient, all-seeing, with one eye fixed upon the heavens and one paw rooted to the earth, rather suits the comparison. Mr Jarvis has admitted to a fondness for Tolkien’s legendarium in the past (to the point that he once made models of the characters!) and if any of you are also Tolkien fans, you’ll enjoy spotting the influence of that esteemed master of high fantasy in Robin’s work as this project progresses.
In this chapter we also get to see Audrey display some of her signature fire. I love her clash of wills with the Starwife, and I commend our heroine for standing up for herself even in the midst of her grief over Oswald.
While rereading, it also occurred to me that there is perhaps a little bit of class commentary going on in this chapter and Chapter 3, especially with regards to the way the Greenwich Park squirrels treat the mice and the way the Starwife behaves toward Thomas and Twit. Mr Jarvis himself lived in Deptford for some time before moving to Greenwich, so he is perfectly placed to offer insights of that kind. This is yet another example of how his work is so firmly rooted in place; this may be a fantasy about mice, but it is imbued with so strong and specific a culture that it simply would not be the same were it set anywhere else.
Matt’s Thoughts: The Starwife! This is the kind of character that you see being voiced by Maggie Smith or Judi Dench. Acid-tongued, arthritic, with little patience for cowardly squirrels or being contradicted. (I’m not sure why, but I also find it hilariously funny having a squirrel called Piers.)
This might also be a good time for another one of my photos from the Greenwich trip last year. Sadly, it looks like I didn’t take a photo of the Observatory itself, but you can check out their website if you’ve never seen it. But this is my photo taken from the Observatory looking down, so as I was reading this chapter, I was realising that it must be a massive hill when you’re only a mouse! It’s steep enough climbing it as a human!
There are a whole bunch of interesting things foreshadowed in this chapter: the darkness with twinkling lights behind the Starwife’s throne, the throne itself, Thomas Triton’s past, his attachment to Twit, all of which are elaborated on further, either in this trilogy or in the Deptford Histories. But, of course, this is all by the by – the most important thing is that Madame Akkikuyu is back on the scene … On to chapter 3!