The Deptford Mice Almanack | July

 

the deptford mice almanack _0009
Waldo and Dilly-O are fine fellows, if a trifle boisterous. Named after Arthur’s two late friends, Oswald and Piccadilly, they seem to be to be quite a pawful, but my attention was taken by Waldo, who is quite artistic. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This month starts off in bad, bad form, with the very first date being the fall of Sarpedon at the Black Temple. This is only somewhat made up for by the inclusion of the ‘Nine Bright Stars’ poem, and the only drawing of the Dark Despoiler we’re ever likely to get – Gervase’s small doodle on the 28th, scrawled over by Pirkin Gim-Gim (the absolute heathen). I’ve moaned and groaned about the Scale being short-changed in the Almanack before, but this month really shows how little the folk of Greenwich seem to know about the Serpent’s brood. Quite a dangerous ignorance, if you assssk me.

Lizard business aside, I’d forgotten that Morgan was actually born in the House of Mabb, ‘a loner who shifts his allegiance to whomever is in power’. I find this a trifle harsh in description of Morgan specifically, since he never actually chose to be Jupiter’s henchrat for most of his life. Considering that his one goal was independence, it’s rather grimly ironic that he was literally born to be a lackey, if a respected one.

There are a couple of mysterious dates this month – Baffles Day on the 14th, upon which Audrey lost one of her tail bells (who found it? we must ask ourselves), and the mention of the Holly Princes of the old squirrel realms. Once more, we catch glimpses of tunnels branching off to either side, leading away into darkness.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: A few little poignant gems in here – Madame Akkikuyu’s final resting place, Arthur and Audrey leaving Fennywolde. Also, some lovely stuff like Arthur naming his kids Oswald and Piccadilly – nice to know those two lived on in some form!

I know that the humorous entries were meant to be the ones such as the 7th and 29th, but I must admit, I got my biggest chuckle from the 30th, where we see a toothy maw waiting for a frightened mouse to run into its hole from a thunderstorm. I feel this is the sort of scenario that is told to frighten young fieldmice into obedience – a little bit like the mouse equivalent of Stranger Danger.

Finally, it seemed very fitting – in the month where we have just finished Whortle’s Hope – to read these words ‘I … was met with great friendliness by Master William Scuttle, the present King of the Field … [i]t was wonderful to note the great respect which the others have for him.’ What a great character he was.

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Mr Jarvis’ Book of the Dead | Whortle’s Hope

Gravestones at Whitby abbey
In this post we record for posterity and remembrance the names of all those who have fallen to the fatal stroke of Mr Jarvis’ pen. Hero, villain, or neither, we honour their sacrifice for the greater myth of the story.

The deceased of Whortle’s Hope are as follows: 

CAPTAIN FENLYN PURFOTE  (The Oaken Throne | Ch 10 – Whortle’s Hope | Ch 6) Warrior of legend and the founder of Fennywolde, Fenlyn Purfote was wrongfully slain through the black arts of Mabb. The first mouse to be hanged at the Fennywolde yew, the manner of his death was one of Fennywolde’s most dire and closely-guarded secrets for many ages. His valiant deeds in the name of the Green, however, are recalled by all, and his memory has been a beacon of hope and a source of pride to all Fennywolders in times of strife. By the mercy of Amnemsis, the spirit of the Glinty Water, Captain Fenny’s soul was spared an eternity of servitude in the wastes of the Pit, and his body now lies in state beneath the field he died for. It is written that one among the mice of the ‘Wolde has the power to awaken him from his enchanted slumber at a time of direst need, though none may guess when that time will arise or what new threats it may bring.

VIRIANNA, DAUGHTER OF THAMESIS, PRIESTESS TO THE GREEN (Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 8 – Whortle’s Hope | Ch 9) Mother of Woppenfrake, Willibald and Firgild, Virianna served Captain Fenny faithfully as prophetess and advisor, until the treachery of Mabb condemned her to death. Accused of murdering her Captain, Virianna was burnt at the stake by the Fennywolders, leaving her three children orphaned and outcast. Aside from them, only Young Whortle ever learnt to truth of the events surrounding Virianna’s death; a truth he carried with him to his death.

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 20 & Epilogue

Scan_20180702Warning: Contains Spoilers!

By the time ice and snow gripped the ditch and the still pool was frozen over, the Wolf Killers had forgotten all about the oath they had sworn – and that it had not been fulfilled. Thus the first shadow of evil fell upon their land. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: So we finish the last installment of the Deptford universe to date. Here at Myth & Sacrifice we still have half of the Deptford Mice Almanack to blog through, but, in publication terms, the path comes to an end. What’s beyond? Twit’s progress, Audrey’s sorrow, Mabb’s unrest. Ghosts and gods. Open fields.

I never ask Mr Jarvis about sequels. Ever since I first started blogging about his work I’ve enjoyed speculating about what might happen, but my wish for him is what I wish for all my favourite creators: that they ignore what the fans want, and, as far as possible, make what they want to make, what they sincerely enjoy making. I saw (and still see) the amount of repetitive questions Robin gets about the second Intrigues of the Reflected Realm book, the ending of Fighting Pax, and until recently, the Hagwood trilogy, and while that sort of thing comes with the territory (especially online), personally, I never want to contribute to it.

That said, I’m going to make the only request I will ever make as a fan regarding sequels. I don’t expect Robin to take it to heart, but on behalf of the many, many years I’ve been one of his readers, I feel I need to say it, and the end of Whortle’s Hope is probably the most appropriate place to do so.

Mr Jarvis, please never publish the Deptford Mice finale. Never set in stone what happens to Audrey the Starwife, and Twit, and Arthur’s children, and Fleabee. Never lay down the law about who comes rumbling up from the Pit and who dies tragically on the battlefield; who arises from the dead and who sacrifices themselves at the last minute to save the day.

By all means, write the thing, since the rodents of Deptford and beyond are clearly so close to your heart. I hope you have the time of your life writing the last Deptford book, if you so choose somewhere down the line. But please, never show us Captain Fenny’s final stand, or the Ancient appearing before a legion of exhausted-but-determined woodland warriors, or Audrey calling down a terrible doom upon Hobb in a blaze of Green-given fire.

Let us imagine it for ourselves. That’s the best finale we could ever ask for.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I have been something of a life-long Tintin fan, and became even more so when I read a bit more about Hergé and his process for creating the Tintin books. One of the most interesting stories is how he created one of Tintin’s last adventures, The Castafiore EmeraldAs a kid, this was considered one of the most boring Tintin adventures, because absolutely nothing happens. It’s all set in Marlinspike mansion, and vaguely revolves around stolen jewels, but in the end there’s no big action sequences,  no real villain and just none of the regular Tintin stuff we came to expect.

Which was exactly the way the book was planned.

Hergé, who by this stage in his career, had a love/hate relationship with the spiky-haired reporter, wanted to try something different. So his experiment with Castafiore Emerald was to create a 62-page Tintin book where the artwork would be spectacular, the character comedy spot-on, but absolutely nothing would happen plot-wise. And returning to the book as an older reader, I can see he totally succeeded. It’s one of the great Tintin books.

I get a similar feeling finishing off Whortle’s Hope here. There was plenty of room to insert a supernatural mega-villain into this book. All sorts of blood and thunder could have occured. But instead, it finishes like this: a young mouse makes a great sacrifice by essentially giving up the titular Hope he has carried through the whole book. But in doing so, Jenkin gets a gleam of hope in the tortured relationship with his father. To be honest, this might be the only Jarvis book where everyone gets a happy ending.

It’s striking in its simplicity.

Whether this ending was Mr Jarvis’ own idea to do something lighter in tone, or whether it was pressure from a well-meaning publisher suggesting that something a little bit less bloodthirsty might go over better with young readers, I’m not sure, and we’ll probably never know.

I don’t think it matters. Knowing this world like I do, I actually appreciated the moment of grace. It’s like a slow movement in a classical symphony – a moment of repose amidst the drama of the outer movements.

However, what is interesting is that epilogue. First off, there’s that heartbreaking sentence: ‘They did not know it, but it proved to be the last year the Wolf Killers would spend together.’ But the real point of interest is, of course, that last word where we find out it is Twit whose name is written above Fenny’s resting place.

While it made perfect sense that Twit would remain in Fennywolde at the end of The Crystal Prison, it was always a bit sad that he essentially disappeared from the trilogy two books in, not to return for the finale. So the ending of Whortle’s Hope here leaves open the awesome possibility that there was one more great battle coming – quite presumably against Mabb, now that I’ve read this book again. Can you imagine it? A final showdown against the forces of evil where Twit and Fenny fight side by side?

Maybe one day!

Anyway, rereaders, enjoy the sunshine and light, because in the seaside town of Felixstowe, a bunch of shifty folk are about to discover something in an old, abandoned house and the world as we know it will change completely … see you soon for Dancing Jax!

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 19

Scan_20180702Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Young Whortle could not believe his eyes. Deep down in the pool, a soft radiance was flickering – the spirit was ascending. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This lovely, ethereal chapter reminds me of the mystical Midsummer celebrations that Audrey witnesses in The Crystal Prison, and leaves just as many questions on the still night air. Where are the water voles and their master going, now that the Glinty Water is no longer glinty? Was it the removal of Amnemsis’s protection which left Fennywolde open to the evil of Nicodemus? What relation, if any, does the Green Mouse have to all of this? And, most importantly, did Woppenfrake just fix up with Amnemsis to have Whortle brought back from the dead during the Deptford Mice finale?

I mean look at that scene. An ‘unspoken question’ passes between Woppenfrake and the spirit of the Glinty Water. Amnemsis does the sparkly-eye thing at Whortle, who feels very cold suddenly, and then much better. Woppenfrake seems relieved about something and thanks Amnemsis profusely. I’m just saying, it all seems a little over-the-top for the granting of a magical slingshot.

Remember, Woppenfrake was the one who got closest to Whortle, who seemed more attached to him than the other water voles, and who expressed the most regret to them about Whortle’s fate, wishing he could save him from a premature death. Could it be, after all the gleeful foreshadowing and smug Crystal Prison references, that Robin has decided to have half a heart and take pity on Whortle after all?

Gosh, I hope not.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I think the strangest aspect of this book to me is that there simply isn’t an antagonist. Now that it’s been made clear that the voles aren’t sinister creatures, this story is simply what it is: a tale about Young Whortle and the time he really wanted to win the Head Sentry prize.

Fleabee’s story had more of a dark impetus to it, because there was the chance that she would be killed by the end of the book, whereas there have been no real life-threatening situations here. Any obituaries Aufwader writes will have to be for characters who died a long time past!

But it is a great reminder that the characters and places of the Jarvis Universe(s) are big enough to contain all sorts of stories. Perhaps we only hear the most dangerous ones in his books, but there is plenty going on in these worlds while the book is closed.

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 18

Scan_20180702Warning: Contains Spoilers!

He was lost and afraid and something evil was pursuing him, rattling and creaking through the barley. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Ah yes, I’d forgotten that Whortle has a dream in which he predicts his own death and it is never brought up again. Genuinely, you would think he might take a second to sit up in his nest and think, ‘Hmm, that sure was a creepy dream I just had where I was being chased through the field. Hmm, the Ancient sure did warn me about walking straw. Hmm, maybe that wasn’t an ordinary nightmare, I’d better be careful and not go wandering alone if I can help it’. But no, sorry Whortle, your dooooom is already written and published, so no life-saving insights for you. (We just know this kind of thing is the reason Robin calls himself ‘mouse killer’ – boy does he love to pull the rug out from under them at every opportunity!)

On to the main star of this chapter: Dimsel ‘Savage Goddess’ Bottom, a mouse after my own heart. Forget Fleabee, if Mabb was going to go looking in fields to find her next high priestess, she’s got a willing candidate in this young Fennywolder. It’s a real shame that Dimsel is put out of action at the end of this chapter; she’s the most developed ‘mean older sister’ the Deptford universe has ever had, and in some ways her character is hampered by being part of the main Fennywolde Games storyline. She might’ve been a great secondary antagonist, had she been allowed to get involved with the water voles. Ah well, at least Iris and Lilly can go on terrorising the neighbourhood on her behalf.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I know Dimsel Bottom was a character in The Crystal Prison, but somehow her vicious streak never registered with me. (Possibly she was overshadowed by Alison Sedge in that particular book.)

While we know various mouse characters go through periods of religious doubt in the Deptford books, wondering if the Green is really there at all, Dimsel’s open blasphemy is in a new league altogether! Still, I was rather satisfied with her comeuppance in the end.

And poor old Twit …we know that he will come through this a stronger mouse, but seeing him realise how everyone perceives him is rough.

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 17

Scan_20180702Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Who would have thought that silly Twit had that sort of speed and skill in him? 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: It’s very sweet that Twit gets to win an event, and an interesting whisper of his future. Of course he won’t earn the respect he deserves until next summer when he’ll stand up to everyone for Audrey, but this is a little hint that maybe Twit didn’t go from ‘zero to hero’ overnight – maybe some of the the Fennywolders where starting to see him differently long before the events of The Crystal Prison, even if the majority didn’t catch on until later.

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  Nothing much to say about this chapter – it’s pretty self-explanatory! – except that it is an interesting reminder that Twit wasn’t all that well-respected back home. (Well, everyone called him Twit, so what does that say?)

So as much as he was out of place in Deptford as the proverbial ‘country mouse visiting the city’, in many ways, it was that trip that brought out his heroic side and made him who he was. If he’d never visited, would people have known what he was capable of? Would Twit have known himself that well? All of this helped pave the way for him to one day be the King of the Field.

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 16

Scan_20180702Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Then Mr Woodruffe, the King of the Field, strode forward and, amid loud cheers, declared the Fennywolde games open. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Even amidst the celebratory atmosphere, the mischief of Whortle’s friends, and all the fun and excitement of the day, there is still a melancholy undercurrent to this chapter. While Twit waves at his proud parents and the Burdock brothers caper about, Mr Nettle shows no support for Jenkin whatsoever, even when he wins the meadow race.

This is really just another sad thread in the tapestry of their relationship, and we can see how this sort of treatment has made Jenkin strive all the harder for his father’s approval over the years. Considering Mr Nettle’s change of heart following Jenkin’s death in The Crystal Prison, it is all the more depressing to think that the Meadow Race is one more family moment the Nettles have missed out on.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: And as if nothing dark and mysterious has occurred, we’re back to the craziness of the Fennywolde Games. There’s a bit of a mean streak that runs through the Wolf Killers and their antics, isn’t there? But it’s one with a cheeky sense of humour, especially the Burdock Brothers and their scuffle over the suggestion that Dimsel Bottom might like Uriah.

Now, remind me, because it’s been a while since I read Crystal Prison, but was Isaac Nettle always like this? Or was it the loss of his wife that sent him into his miserable state of pietism? You feel his strictness is a way of controlling pleasure (both his own and that of others), because if you don’t have too much in life to enjoy, you haven’t got as much to lose.