The Mouse and his Child

Russell Hoban

The Mouse and His Child.

“As the tramp watched, the saleslady opened a box and took out two toy mice, a large one and a small one, who stood upright with outstretched arms and joined hands. They wore blue velveteen trousers and patent leather shoes, and they had glass-bead eyes, white thread whiskers, and black rubber tails. When the saleslady wound the key in the mouse father's back he danced in a circle, swinging his little son up off the counter and down again while the children laughed and reached out to touch them. Around and around they danced gravely, and more and more slowly as the spring unwound, until the mouse father came to a stop holding the child high in his upraised arms.”

Thus, the reader is introduced to the title characters of Russell Hoban's first full-length novel, The Mouse and His Child. Originally published in 1967, this is a story that has stood the test of time. It's a tale of adventure, of comedy and tragedy, of love and redemption, and finally of family and home. The mouse and his child are tin, wind-up toys, who are bought one Christmas and spend some four years living in a house with a human family. During that time, however, they come out only in December, and are fated to spend the rest of each year packed away with the other ornaments and mechanical toys. During the fifth Christmas, though, things change, and the adventures begin for the mouse and his child.

“Now when it was wound up the motor worked without jamming, but the mouse and his child danced no more. The father, his legs somewhat bent, lurched straight ahead with a rolling stride, pushing the child backward before him. The little dog sat and watched them with his head cocked to one side. The ragged man smiled and threw away the leftover parts. Then he put the toy in his pocket and walked out to the highway.

High on a ridge above the town where snowy fields sloped off on either side, the road crossed a bridge over the railroad tracks, went past the town dump, and stretched away to the horizon. The tramp set the mouse and his child down at the edge of the road and wound up the father.

'Be tramps,' he said, and turned and walked away with the dog at this heels.”

And so begins the real life of the mouse and his child. Their travels take them from the dump to the forest, from the depths of a pond to the tops of the trees, from loneliness to a multitude of friends, and from despair to a state of grace. There is something in their story for each of us, so be sure to read all about The Mouse and His Child.

Copyright © 2003, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.