Thomas | Chapter 6


‘Thomas!’ the maidens cried, taking up the name and singing it with their silvery voices. ‘A fine, sturdy title. Thomas Triton we now call you. A friend of the sea-daughters.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Mermousemaids! Halia! Dias! Enalus! Metaneira! Myrtea! Carmanor! Zenna the librarian’s daughter!

The mermice are some of the most intriguing characters in all Robiny canon, putting the ‘Myth’ into ‘Myth & Sacrifice’ and then some. I suppose it stands to reason that if there is a ‘secondary crew’ of mouse mariners on board most ships, then there must be sirens to go along with them, but if you really stop to think about it, the fact of the mermice brings up a plethora of interesting questions about the wider Deptford universe.

For instance, are there other mer-creatures? Are there merrats, merstoats or sundry other mervermin to entice the grog-fuddled wits of pirates and buccaneers who may not, in fact, be mice? Alternatively, are the sea-daughters able to change their appearances to beguile any creature of  ‘the clay’ who might lean too far overboard? Robin’s favourite themes of transformation and deceit do show up very strongly in this book, after all.

Further fascination lies in the idea of the maidens’ grim-sounding father and his halls beneath the waves. There he rules, unnamed and unknowing, a watery enigma about whom only Mr Jarvis probably kens the whole truth. To be honest I like the ambiguity of the mermice and their mysterious undersea doings so much that I don’t think I ever want to know more about them. I am content to consider Halia a secret devotee of the Scale and Zenna the one being in all creation for whom the Lord of the Frozen Wastes has a soft spot, and leave the rest to the murky depths.

(The same cannot be said of Mulligan’s adventures, however. There’s a whole series lying in wait there!)

Matt’s Thoughts: I was a bit afraid that the interactions with the sirens was going to end worse than it actually did, but I feel like there is more to come on this particular subplot. (And like our characters, it’s rather foggy to me how this is all going to play out!)

But can I quickly say that I love the way all the human legends that are thrown in here have a rodent equivalent. So instead of being human sirens, of course they take the form of swimming mice. I hadn’t extrapolated it out to mer-stoats like my blogging colleague, but now that she mentions it …

2 thoughts on “Thomas | Chapter 6

  1. Now that we’re a few chapters in, I’d like to say a bit about Mr Jarvis’ use of names and language in this book. Please join in, everybody.

    We all know that Robin loves to incorporate historic and mythology-based terminology (the Barguest, Nicodemus, etc) and to invent his own names and terms (ahem), but here I feel he pulls out all the stops in that regard. First of all, there’s Woodget himself, almost definitely named for Captain Woodget, real-life skipper of the Cutty Sark.

    Then there’s the name of our goodly ship – Calliope, the Ancient Greek muse of eloquence and, somewhat appropriately, epic poetry. What better name for the vessel upon which our hero beings his long, eventful seafaring life? The other ships which appear in this book have apt titles as well, but we’ll get to them later on.

    Last chapter, we met Simoon, who, though he explains his own name in characteristically verbose fashion, neglects to mention that it translates as ‘poison wind’. (Oh how I’d love for there to be something in that, but I know there most likely isn’t.)

    In this chapter we of course have the mermice. I’m not sure if their names have individual significance, but I’d like to think that Halia is a reference to the Nereids. I’ve linked Zenna’s origin above, but I’d love to know if that young lady ever read this book, or knew she was a sea-maiden.

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  2. I like the idea of the sea maidens being able to shapeshift to the form most desirable to their victims. It’s something I never considered before, but indeed it does fit in with Robin’s love of creating masters of disguise, and it fits the myths of sirens as well. They would be capable of most anything to draw their victims into the water and to their doom.

    Then again, studies have shown that mice are able to sing at frequencies we humans cannot hear, so perhaps these are real half-mouse sea maidens who sing their songs knowing that only mice specifically will be attracted to their voices. In that case, maybe there are mer-stoats, mer-rats, mer-squirrels, and whatnot in the oceans able to lure their own specific prey to them.

    Zenna’s attachment to Woodget is so sweet. Because he stepped up to defend her from the mockery of her sisters, he now has her undying devotion. As much as I want he and Bess to reunite (even though we already know they won’t), Woodget and Zenna do make a cute couple (even if his inability to breathe underwater stands in their way).

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