O is for O'Brien and Outlandish Science

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh is the type of book I usually don't read--I prefer people, even tiny people like the Borrowers or the Littles.

Anthropomorphized animals don't catch my interest. My apologies to all the Jacques fans in the universe but I never got into the Redwall series (I kept thinking, "Why can't these characters just all be human?").

Having said that, Mrs. Fribsy and the Rats of Nimh is a good book and a good movie (The Secret of Nimh).

The comparison is odd because although the movie makers used sizable chuck from the book, including the entire opening plot sequence, it is also HUGELY different. The book rests on the proposition that the rats are scientifically advanced and wish to become self-sufficient. The movie rests on the idea that scientific advancement comes with mystical advancement--the kind of idea that makes U.F.O. and Bigfoot nuts* happy but drives Sherlock Holmes and Sheldon Copper mad with irritation.

Justin meets Mrs. Brisby
And yet, it works in The Secret of Nimh. I'm not sure why although it could be that I never really bought into the whole Flowers of Algernon idea where the rats became smart due to injections. I mostly hated Flowers of Algernon (although I like its movie version, the Bourne Legacy). So the addition of a mystical element in Nimh didn't bother me even though I tend to side with Holmes and Copper when it come to real science.

Besides which, the movie ends on a more positive note than the book: namely, Justin doesn't die (his death is implied at the end of the book). Interestingly enough, O'Brien's daughter, who wrote a couple of sequels, keeps Justin alive; Justin is totally lovable in the book and when I saw the movie years later, I considered his image/voice a perfect match for his book character.

*U.F.O. and Bigfoot nuts didn't start out that way. In the early 20th century, hunting for the unknown was still a legitimate science; there were unexplored parts of the world (explorations that have now moved into the oceans and into space). Anything could be out there!

There are still explorers of this type among the U.F.O. and Bigfoot crowd although the authors of Abominable Science point out that they may be explorers; they are not trustworthy scientists.

Unfortunately, for the explorer-types, U.F.O. and Bigfoot believers expanded in the 1970s and 1980s to include mystics, fortune-tellers, astrologer-promoters, and crystal-gazers--basically, all the people in Independence Day who get destroyed by the alien spaceships while they are dancing on the roof and holding signs saying, "Welcome!" Belief in E.T. and Bigfoot moved inward, becoming a matter of self-indulgent naval-gazing and the use of hypnosis (as opposed to radio signals) to ponder the possibility of alien contact.

As you might imagined, these new-age believers are enemies of the original believers. Every sect has its fault lines.

1 comment:

  1. Anthropomorphic animals raise questions on how you luck at it. Are they just humans that look like animals or animals with human intelligence. Bugs Bunny is quite obviously a rabbit. On the other hand, Miyamoto Usagi from Stan Sakai's anthromorphic Samurai comic Usagi Yojimbo could be changed to a human for most of the stories. Animals aside the comic is a fairly accurate representation of Tokugawa era Japan. Every once in awhile, you are reminded he is a rabbit in a world of humanlike animals, though.

    In a crossover with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (who are of course mutants from a human world) the turtles end up in Usagi's world, one of the turtles asked how such a world could evolve and if they have tails under their clothes. Usagi answered: They were created by the gods; and that's private.