Warning: 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 Emerald. As 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!