Tuesday, April 5, 2011


During an interview, J.K. Rowling once said that one of her favorite books while growing up was Manxmouse by Paul Gallico. Books we read as children impact us and can shape our ideas, and knowing that this book meant something to Rowling as a child interested me. I've just finished reading it to my children and they give it a two thumbs up. I noted some things in Manxmouse which Rowling may have added to the "compost pile in her head" (as she calls it).

One of the things which may have stuck with her from Manxmouse is a "Clutterbumph". A Clutterbumph is anything that you are afraid of. They can take any form that will best frighten you. It can be a bump in the night or a large cat or anything. A Clutterbumph uses your fear to become that fear. This reminded me of the dementors in Harry Potter, and as my sister-in-law pointed out, also similar to the boggarts which the students of Hogwarts use with Professor Lupin to practice fighting their fear.

As the story of Manxmouse goes on, he becomes more widely known. A blue mouse? The only one in existence? Soon people are trying to outbid one another to own the little fellow. A bit like Harry Potter's celebrity status, which if one isn't careful can actually kill you. Learning to trust your friends is key, and not taking yourself too seriously must be implemented.

Another theme that was familiar was the idea of facing your fate. For most of the story, Manxmouse is running from Manx Cat. Manxmouse isn't afraid of Manx Cat, but just about everyone he meets (there is a variety of people that cross his path just as in HP) tells him that his fate is intertwined with the Manx Cat, that he "belongs" to the Manx Cat, that he should fear the Manx Cat. Manxmouse has a conversation that helps him resolve to go and meet Manx Cat, to face his fate. Voldemort is Harry's enemy from the beginning of Harry's life, and Manxmouse learns that Manx Cat is the one destined to end his life in what is termed the "Doom". Both Harry and Manxmouse learn of prophesies involving themselves and how they will die.

The most important idea in both stories is that only when one faces his fate will he truly be free- free from death, free from the enemy's control. Harry walks into the woods to face Voldemort knowing he will be killed, but knowing that it is the only way for Voldemort to be destroyed. The story of Manxmouse is more child-friendly and Manx Cat is quite the gentleman with a nice family, but feels obligated by the "Doom", set down by wizards or magicians long ago, to swallow Manxmouse. When the second half of the "Doom" is found, Manxmouse finds that his resolve to fight to the death has made the "Doom" null and void. This is somewhat reminiscent of Harry who willingly dies and therefore is saved. The theme of embracing your fate, perhaps dying willingly, without desiring to die makes a great story, for it is based on the Original.

No comments: