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Of Mice and Pen: Some of the Bravest Squeakers in Literature

Eric Smith

Staff Writer

Eric Smith an author, blogger, and literary agent based in Philadelphia. When he isn’t busy trying to discover new books, he sometimes tries to write his own. Blog: Eric Smith Twitter: @ericsmithrocks

mouseguard black axeThis month, Archaia released Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, the latest hardcover collection of David Petersen’s Mouse Guard. I’ve been waiting for this book for months now, and was thrilled when it arrived in my local comic book shop.

Unfamiliar with Mouse Guard? It’s a fantasy series that focuses on brave mice soldiers who guard the world of mice. They lead other mice from town to town, protect territories from predators (badgers, weasels, you name it), and investigate wrong doings in their tiny universe that Petersen somehow paints to be as large and complicated as our own. There are two other collected volumes out there, Fall 1152 and Winter 1152, and I recommend picking them up immediately.

Now, The Black Axe is a prequel to those two books, and explores the story of a mouse named Celanawe. Through the story we learn how he  became the Black Axe, a well respected and legendary figure in the world of mice. It’s another beautifully illustrated and wonderfully told fantasy, a little darker than the Fall and Winter, but just as lush.

I remember reading Winter 1152, and being impressed at the actions of the Black Axe. See, Celanawe is one of the bravest, toughest mice in Petersen’s fantasy world. Wielding the the Black Axe, he’s a figure that other Guard look up to, and a real legend in their society. But… he’s also a mouse, guys. A mouse. How can something so small accomplish such bold deeds?

That’s one of the themes that’s at the core of Petersen’s stories. That sometimes you can find bravery in the most unexpected places, which is certainly a valuable lesson for the younger readers that often pick up this series.

This also got me thinking… have there been other mice as bold as Petersen’s? Let’s take a look at some of the bravest, toughest mice in literature. You’ll be surprised to find quite a few.

rescuersMiss Bianca (The Rescuers by Margery Sharp): Did you know that before The Rescuers was a beloved Disney movie franchise, it was a middle grade series? It’s true! And there are nine books!

Anyhow, Miss Bianca is a stunning beauty of a mouse, living a life of pampered luxury… who gets wrapped up in working with the Prisoners’ Aid Society. She enlists other mice to help her on her quests, dodging cats and traveling farther than any normal mouse ever should.

Reepicheep (The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis): Oh that Reepicheep. So bold, so brave, so ready to defend his honor armed with a rapier and a handsome hat. He’s involved in a lot of major battles through the books, and the mice who follow him love him. Then again, how do you not fall in love with a character that has a name like Reepicheep?


mouse motorcycle

Ralph (The Mouse and the Motorcyle by Beverly Cleary): I remember my parents reading this book to me as a kid, and then watching that made-for-TV movie… hundreds of times? I never got tired of it.

Ralph is one brave mouse. Not just because of his motorcycle driving, which is brave in itself, but how he risks his life to bring an aspirin tablet to the human he has befriended. Touching aspirin killed Ralph’s father, but he still goes on this adventure. Brave little guy.

Vladek (Maus by Art Spiegelman): Can you really talk about brave mice in literature without taking about Maus by Art Spiegelman? Vladek, Spiegelman’s father, recounts his Holocaust experience to Art. Definitely an act of bravery right there, both from the mouse in the comic and Art’s father.



mouse motorcycle

Despereaux Tilling (The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo): It’s hard not to love that tiny runt of a mouse, the adorable Desperaeux Tilling with his big ears and wide eyes, especially as a book lover. I mean, instead of eating books like all the other mice he’s grown up with, Despereaux reads them. He dreams of becoming a brave knight… and in many ways, he does, even if that sword of his is really just a sewing needle.

Stuart Little (Stuart Little by E.B. White): Another mouse you can’t not mention. A young mouse adopted by a human family, Stuart Little keeps an eye on another adopted animal, a bird named Margalo. And he protects this bird from the family cat. A mouse, standing up to a cat? Awesome. He also boldly ventures out into the world to find Margalo when she leaves.



mouse motorcycle

The Mice of Redwall (The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques): Alright, I’m stuck on this one. There are way too many mice in the Redwall series to list. Do any of you have a favorite? I’m going with Martin.

Karic (The Mice Templar by Bryan J. L. Glass and Michael Avon Oeming): The main protagonist of Glass and Oeming’s Mice Templar (a series that gets compared to Mouse Guard quite often), Karic is a bold young mouse who, separated from his family, has to rise up against the evil mouse king Icarus. He shoulders a lot of responsibility and pressure, and does it bravely.

Now, let’s be real here. It doesn’t stop there. You can find mice all over the world of literature. Who else would you add to the list? Who’s your favorite bookish mouse?


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