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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 15

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However much he wrote or drew, there were always empty pages left, and although he kept the book his entire life and used it every day, he never filled it. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: At the start of this chapter we can see shades of the Isaac Nettle who will try to have Audrey burnt alive, lead a murderous mob, and push his own son to run away from home. Earlier in the book he was more of a figure of ridicule than real threat, and in some ways I’m pleased to see that that was only temporary. A character as grim and realistically Puritanical as Nettle doesn’t deserve so mild a punishment as to be brushed under the figurative rug as comic relief. The way he twists the will of the Green to suit his own ends is also a stark contrast to the truly sacred power of the Ancient, the water voles, and the Glinty Water.

On a lighter note, considering what Mr Jarvis said in the comments a few chapters ago, it’s kind of heartwarming that he let Todkin have his own book after all. As for Whortle’s gift, I think he does have one, but we’ll have to wait and see.


Matt’s Thoughts: I’d love to know where the Giving of Significant Gifts came from in fantasy literature. It’s a memorable feature of some of the classics of the genre – Father Christmas handing out the gifts in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe; Galadriel bestowing useful items to the Fellowship of the Ring.

Does it have its origins in something deeper? Tales of the gods bestowing magical items upon men? I don’t know of anything quite like it in Christianity, though you do get the odd item that can temporarily channel the power of God, such as Moses’ staff.

I tried using Google but nothing came up from a quick search to indicate that this is a story theme. But if anyone else out there with more knowledge can enlighten me on this topic, I’d love to know more.

If nothing else, this scene adds to the tragedy of this book, because the gifts give the impression that these guys will go on to become heroes – not be slaughtered by a roving corn dolly a few months later.

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 14

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‘Faith is all we have now. Faith in the strength of the small, faith in the purity of their hearts. As it began with mice, so it shall end. That is the wisdom of the moon-sent angel. My blessing upon you, Young Whortle Nep, and remember my warning – beware the straw that walks.’ 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This is why I always say that Whortle’s Hope, though it might look fluffy, is actually weightier in terms of Deptford universe lore than Fleabee’s Fortune. There’s so much crammed into this one chapter about the fate of Fennywolde, of Whortle and the water voles, of Captain Fenny, and of the entire world that started with Albert Brown getting lost in the sewers.

Most intriguing to me is Fenny’s King Arthur-like sleep, and what will happen when his name is finally called by the chosen creature, whoever that may be. (It can’t be Whortle, since we know what’s in store for him.) I’m also very curious about what Woppenfrake says about Fenny having been ‘called back from the shadows’ by the spirit of the Glinty Water, following his murder.

This (kind of, sort of) ties into the theory I’ve been using in the Deptford obituaries, whereby those killed by Robin’s gods of evil are subjected to eternal torment rather than given the Green’s blessed peace, but it also raises questions about life after death the Deptford universe.

Who decides when a soul stays behind? Are there other spirits besides the Glinty Water who have the power to undo death itself? We know that Wendel, erstwhile high priest of Hobb, was able to walk the lands as a ghost, and that ‘Orace Baldmoney visited Fleabee from the beyond, but Woppenfrake implies that Fenny will come back physically. If that’s the case, will the illustrious Captain still be quite himself after centuries of slumber, or some kind of prophecy-fulfilling construct, like the vision of him Whortle saw when he first travelled into the past?

Lastly, there’s the revelation that the water voles know everything that will transpire in Fennywolde following the arrival of Audrey and Madame Akkikiyu. Suddenly, their indulgence of Whortle is made perfectly clear. Like the book itself, they’re letting a young mouse have some fun and fulfil a few dreams before he is horribly murdered before his time. (What a pleasant holiday read!)


Matt’s Thoughts: Ah, here’s another cameo I didn’t recognise at the time, because I left too much of a gap between reading The Oaken Throne and reading Whortle’s Hope. The Ancient – still around after all these years. And here he is, tragically warning Young Whortle to be aware of the straw that walks.

There’s a strange grimness to this book, that documents a lot of beauty and fun, and may well end on a happy note because we know that all of it will be swept away by Nicodemus. Or is this a metaphor for life? That we never know what heartache and misfortune might lurk around the corner?

It’s also not 100% clear to me exactly when the final cataclysmic event that will involve the return of Captain Fenny is going to occur. I have thoughts on this, but I’ll save them for the end of the book.

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 13

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Dimsel opened her mouth to yell, but a cold eave of fear paralysed her and for vital moments, she was rooted to the spot. The great beast stalked ever nearer. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I like how the ‘wolf’ is built up as a source of genuine risk for the mice in this chapter. For quite a while it really does seem as if Dimsel will get chewed! The water voles did their job almost too well, making the monster both realistically bloodthirsty, and just a bit uncanny, since it’s modeled on Figgy’s drawing rather than a genuine animal. Honestly I think the idea of a wolf as imagined by someone who has never seen one is actually scarier than if a real wolf had arrived in Fennywolde – like when you have a nightmare and some ordinary animal or object is inexplicably terrifying because it just doesn’t look quite like the real thing.

When the faux-wolf turns out at the end to be no danger at all, it reveals what the water voles were actually going for. As well as providing a bit of adventure for Whortle and friends, I get the feeling that the whole thing was intended as training of a different kind, a test of the young mice’s mettle. Maybe Woppenfrake, Firgild and Willibald wanted to see whether the courage of Fenny’s original woodland band still lived, so many years on? The ancient weapons they supplied would suggest it.


Matt’s Thoughts: This was rather awesome (and rare in the Jarvis canon) – a low-risk fight scene. Normally, when our little heroes come up against something nasty with fangs, the stakes are really high and we never know who’s going to make it out alive.

But this showdown with an exaggerated wolf is all action, stunts and humour – the kind of sequence that you find in blockbuster fantasy epics. But it does beg the question: are the water voles setting our five friends up for something?

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 12

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‘Remember always,’ the water vole said as he replaced the brass around the fieldmouse’s neck. ‘Travel your own best way, in all things, Master Nep.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter almost feels as if we’re back in Hagwood, with the shapechanging and the mastering of new skills in tune with nature. It makes me wonder whether whatever power dwells within the werlings might have some relation to the power of the Green, or vice versa. Who’s to say what manner of creatures Virianna might have met in her long life, after all…

Matt’s Thoughts: It’s almost like a small interlude, this chapter, as we experience the joy of Whortle’s swimming lesson. I have been wondering about the spirit of the Glinty Water. Not remembering how this book plays out, I’m wondering whether it’s something along the lines of the Undine that we encountered in The Wyrd Museum series?

Whatever it is, it’s a reminder that whatever mysterious and magical creatures you find yourself encountering in a Jarvis book, there are always older and more mysterious creatures that have been around for centuries longer again. All just biding their time.

Whortle’s Hope | Chapter 11

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Alison wanted to say that she would go with him, but she held back. The moment passed and she was to regret it for the rest of her life. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: What really caught me at the start of this chapter was Whortle joyfully playing in the mist. It’s a small moment, but one laced with sombre foreshadowing – none of the Fennywolders, least of all our young hero, have the slightest inkling of the terrors that mist will hold for them but a few short months later.

We see this grim foreshadowing again when Figgy tells Jenkin that ‘his head could fall off and we wouldn’t care’. It’s really quite grisly considering the manner of Jenkin’s death (and that too will come all too soon). It’s also pretty painful to see Jenkin become so angry over Hodge mocking Isaac Nettle – we know the Nettles will never have a chance for reconciliation and that Mr Nettle will end up a shell of his former self, having lost his son before time without ever really being a proper father to him. Then there’s the business with Alison, which really speaks for itself. Mousey soap opera at its finest and most miserable!


Matt’s Thoughts: Somewhere, amidst all the frivolity of two groups fighting over a raft, a great pall of tragedy lurks. It starts with Whortle and Co being somewhat oblivious to the source of Jenkin’s pain. (Granted, it’s not helped by his own sense of self-blame as well. The moment where he describes his father as ‘better than the lot of you put together’ is heart-rending.)

But the grand irony is that Alison, despite all the damage she will do, actually does understand what’s going on for Jenkin and has a perception that others do not. Good qualities are not doled out equally in the Jarvis universe, with good and bad qualities existing side-by-side in many of his characters. (Except for Twit, who – whatever you may query about his intelligence – is pure sunshine.)

And then, finally, the oath. We’re not saying that this oath necessarily caused the problems of The Crystal Prison – we know too well the source of the issues there – but there’s yet another dose of grim irony that they unwittingly swear a doom upon themselves that actually does transpire in just a few months.