The Crystal Prison | Chapter 12

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Fennywolde had become an evil place to live.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: What drama! What tragedy and anguish! This chapter pulls no punches, weaving the ‘Fennywolde feeling’ into something real and tangible and terrifying. By the end I felt completely emotionally drained, and yet, there is worse ahead!

First of all, however, we’ve got one of the most wincingly painful scenes to take place between any of our young mice thus far. Poor Jenkin – no mother, an abusive despot for a father, and now the mousemaid with whom he dreamt of starting a wholesome life loves another. My heart bleeds, and even more so when Jenkin does not even have the time to set things right before his short life is brutally curtailed.

The little aside where Alison, having witnessed Jenkin being carried off by Mahooot, cries silently and throws aside her brass really got me, as well. I said before that I don’t think I quite appreciated the glory that is Alison Sedge until this project, and while that’s true, I don’t think I appreciated the tragedy of her, either. She only discovers in hindsight that it was Jenkin whom she loved all along, and oh, how agonising that hindsight is!

What makes it worse is that Alison has not actually done anything truly evil. Spiteful, perhaps, manipulative, maybe, but nothing on the level of the properly villainous.  On reread I was struck by how disproportionate her punishment is for the minor slights and petty quarrels she has perpetuated. Like a lot about this book, the song of Alison Sedge is more of a tear-jerking lament, but, as Matt has said in previous posts, it’s their emotional ups and downs that make these mice so very human.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: So, so grim. I thought I was familiar enough with The Deptford Mice that this re-read would be more about watching how the whole story was put together. But this is full-on. I’m sucked in, the world of Fennywolde has risen off the page, and I’m emotionally invested.

Which is never great when you’ve got a heartbroken Alison throwing her mousebrass away, Jenkin abducted by an owl (after getting such a sweet scene with Audrey) and the vicious owl-mauling scene.

It is cleverly done, in that we almost feel a twinge of sorrow for Mahooot at the end. Certainly, it’s not a great triumphant moment when the mice finally defeat the owl. We don’t get the simple satisfaction of a nasty villain being dispatched. Instead it’s something much more grim. In short, it’s Jarvis.

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5 thoughts on “The Crystal Prison | Chapter 12

  1. This chapter is beyond belief. So much happens here and absolutely none of it ends well for the mice involved.

    It begins with the cruel paw of Isaac Nettle finally pushing his son too far. Something had to give, and it clearly was not going to be the mousebrass maker whose mistreatment of Jenkin was allowed to go unpunished by the Fennywolders who dared not speak out against him.

    I’m so glad Jenkin made the choice to get out of there and take his life into his own paws. I wish that we could have been privy to the moment when he finally stood up to his father. It would have been terrifying to witness Isaac’s rage blaze like an out-of-control fire, but also unbelievably cathartic when Jacob told him ‘Enough. You may have given me life, but nothing gives you the right to do this to me. I love you, father. Now get out of my way. I’m leaving’. I like to imagine that Isaac was just about to hit Jenkin, only for the younger mouse to grab his wrist and hold it in mid-air while delivering this speech!

    If only Jenkin could have shared with this bittersweet victory with the lovely Miss Alison. But sadly it is not to be. Alison has dedicated so many sun-kissed days to flirting with the other boys in an attempt to make him jealous that he rolls his eyes with disgust when she sees how badly hurt he is and reaches out to comfort him. As far as he’s concerned, the most beautiful girl in Fennywolde is nothing more than a silly strumpet he’s wasted too much time with. Miss Audrey is the mousemaid for him, and he goes forth to ask for her paw in marriage, leaving the pieces of Alison’s heart scattered and broken behind him. And mine too. Alison has shown us all that she can be an infuriating mouse in so many ways, but I still can’t help loving her. She may come across as the archetypal ‘popular girl’ but this supposed ice queen does have a heart. A heart that melts only for Jolly Jenkin, in whose paws it has always rested. Alison, what are you doing? Nothing was ever solved with tears! Get up and go get him! You can do it, sister! I believe in you!

    How much do I love Audrey? Let me count the ways as she receives Jenkin’s marriage proposal and then gives an answer that would make Gwen and Albert (the Green Mouse bless his soul) so proud if they could see their daughter now. Audrey is so mature, telling Jenkin that he doesn’t love her. Not really. She isn’t the mouse girl for him, she’s just a distraction from where his heart does lie. Sparks of emerald fire dance in the eyes of our heroine as she convinces him to give Alison a chance to prove that she is so much more than the silver medallion which hangs at her neck. I always loved how that particular detail shows up whenever a mouse displays kindness and bravery that the Green Mouse would smile upon with approval. With the grace she has attained during her journey to adulthood, Audrey honors the spirit of the sun in a way Isaac Nettle would never dream of.

    Then the corn-stalks rustle in that way which has come to make our skin crawl with horror. We know what this dreadful sound heralds. The approach of death incarnate. The murderer comes to claim another victim, but this time we see whose claw is responsible for raking the heart of Fennywolde with terror. Tell me truthfully, did you suspect the claw of Audrey’s corn dolly when you first read The Crystal Prison? There were clues pointing us in the right direction. For one, the string of brutal killings began almost immediately after Nicodemus called upon Brud to occupy the straw figure and for another, we have Twit mumbling that the claws which grasped for his throat in the mist reminded him oddly of straw. Can any Mouseketeer proudly boast to have figured out the answer to this eerie mystery back in the day? Because I don’t mind admitting that I was in dark right up until the corn dolly was looming over the horrified Audrey and Jenkin in all its horrifying glory!

    As the mice are chased through the corn, my heart is in my mouth. Oh my gosh, these are some Blair Witch shenanigans unfolding right here. I feel the same blind panic I did when Josh, Mike and Heather were chased away from their tent by an unseen ghoul. All the ingredients for a terrifying chase scene are present here. A monstrous pursuer that might have stepped out of your worst nightmare. An isolated location where nobody can come to your rescue. The sound of mouths gasping raggedly for breath and of frenzied hearts pounding. Needless to say, this was freaky stuff when I read it as a child. But the mice make it to the safety of the open field and Jenkin sees the approaching danger and uses that precious moment to push Audrey clear of its path, proving himself a hero before the greedy claws of Mahooot pierce his body and lift him away. And just like that, he’s gone. Jenkin’s life and so many others have been destroyed forever in the blink of an eye.

    As Akkikuyu whips the fieldmice into a mob eager to bring the owl’s reign of terror to an end, Isaac follows them like a mouse in a trance. Does he finally understand the misery and suffering he put his son through? Or did he always know that he had done was evil and simply kept the guilt buried as deeply as his senses of wonder and joy? Whatever the answer to my question may be, I cannot imagine a worse fate than looking into the mirror and seeing the face of Isaac Nettle looking back at me. We do not enter Hell when the day comes for us to leave this world. We create it right here through our own choices and the black deeds of the mousebrass maker have ensured that he is condemned to a truly terrible prison. Damn, I spent the whole story up until now cursing his very existence but now that the long-delayed kharma has finally struck as Alison stands alone and forgotten by the mice of Fennywolde. Nobody comforts the devastated mouse girl, who now faces the darkest night of her entire life. Love can last an eternity but a loved one can be lost instantly. She has come to learn this precious wisdom but it brings no relief to a heart that will never be healed, tormented by a lifetime of regret. Alison will never get the chance to remove her haughty mask and tell Jenkin how much she loved him. The joy they might have shared together has been taken away in one clawing stroke and her world shall be forever grey.

    Akkikuyu confronts the winged devil in his own lair and, in what TV Tropes would describe as a Crowning Moment Of Awesome, sends him tumbling down into the paws of the same mice he has preyed upon. As despicable a predator as the corpulent owl was, I can take no pleasure in his ugly demise. Mahooot was the owl equivalent of Jabba the Hutt (Hoooo, hoooo, hoooo!) but his hungry pursuit of the fieldmice was part of his nature, like it or not. If the Fennywolders had come up with a cunning plan to drive the menace away, that would have been one thing. But this? I don’t know what this is but it doesn’t feel like justice to me.

    Which brings me to the final victims of Mahooot’s gluttonous appetite. The Fennywolders whose fear and hatred has led them down the path of savagery. Never has a truer word been spoken than when Mr Woodruffe bitterly declares that they are no longer his people but the worst type of rat. Akkikuyu may have won her fight against Mahooot but at a terrible price. Darkness has been unleashed upon Fennywolde and will not stop until the heart of every mouse has been corrupted and destroyed.

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  2. Out of all the deaths in the main Deptford Mice trilogy, I think Jenkin’s affected me the most, which is really saying something considering how many there are. He was such a sweet, kind-hearted character who endured so much suffering at the hands of his father, and then it all ended at the talons of Mahooot just as he made a move toward his freedom. Isaac’s line in Whortle’s Hope about wishing an owl would carry Jenkin away so he would never have to look at him again is chilling, and you can only assume it came back to haunt him big time here.
    As much as we are expected to dislike her, I do feel rather bad for Alison as well. It’s made clear that deep down, she truly loves Jenkin and can’t stand to see him being abused. His murder truly drives her over the edge, and though her hatred of Audrey is unfounded, you really can’t blame her as her limited knowledge of what was going on led her to the conclusion that she was a threat. By the end Alison basically becomes an Ophelia-like figure, dirty and disheveled, dreaming of her lost love.

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