Warning: Contains Spoilers!
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?