Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chivalrous Mice: Reepicheep and Despereaux

On December 19 the book The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo comes to life on the big screen. It is the story of a chivalrous mouse named Despereaux. I've read and enjoyed the book, but need to point out that Reepicheep, featured in the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, is also a chivalrous mouse.

Reepicheep is featured primarily in Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but makes an appearance in The Last Battle, too. Though he is diminutive in stature, he is large in courage, at times putting the humans to shame.

In my book The Heart of Narnia, I wrote this about Reepicheep (warning: there are some spoilers in the excerpt):

The talking mouse Reepicheep is the epitome of courage. Despite his small stature, he exhibits great valor and knightly chivalry. He fights bravely in the second Battle of Beruna against the army of Miraz and, in the process, has his tail cut off, though it is restored miraculously by Aslan (who clearly is fond of the mouse, despite Reepicheep’s emphasis on honor sometimes bordering on pride).

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when confronted with an invisible band of hostile creatures known as Duffers, Reepicheep is willing to fight them even though they cannot be seen and, therefore, may be too many to overcome. When the human crew of the Dawn Treader, including King Caspian, suggest avoiding a strange darkness where Dark Island is hidden, Reepicheep courageously urges them to go on, and, as a result, they rescue Lord Rhoop from the nightmare-inducing island.

On Ramandu's Island, when the travelers encounter a mysterious banquet and are afraid to eat it, Reepicheep steps in and drinks a cup of wine from the table. Most notably, when the Dawn Treader reaches the end of the world, Reepicheep boldly and joyfully sails into the unknown over an enormous wall of water.

Reepicheep also encapsulates the argument from longing or desire, as presented by C.S. Lewis in many of his other writings.

What would happen if Reepicheep and Despereaux met? I think they would get along just fine.


Jeff LaSala said...

Indeed! My first thought upon seeing an ad for this movie was, "At least Reepicheep made it to the silver screen first!"

Robert Velarde said...

We'll see how Reepicheep develops in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader film due out in 2010.

By the way, as you may know, the phrase "chivalrous mice" is from Lewis's autobiography, Surprised By Joy, where he writes of his early fantasy stories, "They were an attempt to combine my two chief literary pleasures -- 'dressed animals' and 'knights in armor.' As a result, I wrote about chivalrous mice and rabbits who rode out in complete mail to kill not giants but cats."