Of Mice and Men…and Women too
Of the many things that baffle me about life, why people fear and hate mice is one that I’ve grappled with on numerous occasions. I could never understand as a child why the maid in Tom and Jerry could leap in terror onto a chair at the sight of Jerry, a creature thousands of times smaller than her.
My first ever pet that was solely mine was a mouse, a sleek golden-coated little fellow who I loved dearly. As pets, mice have their drawbacks: their short lives that mean that they are with you probably less than two years, the fact that they urinate constantly and that their wee smells very pungent.(Incidentally, the poisonous plant hemlock smells powerfully of mouse urine!) But as a six year old, these were never a concern.
In recent weeks mice have been cropping up in my life. I’ve been dreaming about them and I found a moribund mouse in the garden who I tried to revive (I failed). I’ve revived many stunned and petrified mice when our cats have brought them in to play with, and I’ve never worried about handling them (one did bite me but didn’t break the skin). Yet for much of human history mice (and rats) have been considered our enemies. It’s why cats became revered as gods in ancient Egypt (cats have never forgotten this) because they could keep the precious granaries free of the pestilence of hordes of mice and rats.
So while I understand that mice as a force are to be reckoned with, a single mouse has never made me feel fear.
This morning, though, I dreamed again of mice. I was handed a bag of black mice, a plastic zip lock food bag and I had the impression that the mice were to be food for a snake. The squirming mass of tiny creatures filled me with concern. They had no food or water and would surely die. So I found a tank to put them in, that had a kind of adventure playground of hillocks and tunnels much like one I used to play on as a child, and then was concerned that transferring them to it would mean they would all disperse as I was trying to contain them. They all went in to the new home, though I think a few tails were damaged as they did. Then I brought food, chunks of cheese and cake cut into small blocks, and filled the little plastic ponds with water. All the little animals were hungry and thirsty.
I decided to do a little thinking. As a totem, these are some of the suggestions for the meaning of Mouse:
Examines life’s lessons
Seeing double meanings in things
Guidance in signing contracts
Ability to be unseen
In most dream dictionaries Mouse is seen as a bad thing, something that gnaws and nibbles at the soul or the confidence. Yet I believe that the best interpretation of dreams come direct from the dreamer’s own consciousness and I have always had a deep affection for mice (even the one that bit me). Because (like rats) mice reproduce exponentially when food is available, we fear them but I think the fear is rooted in our sense of kindred. We too will reproduce until the world is choked with our kind and all the food is gone. We fear mice because they are like us; they mirror back our greed to us and we hate them for it.
I’d like to share a passage from C.S Lewis (himself surely a man who had a fondness for mice; he ennobled them and made them Talking Animals in the Narnia books for their role in nibbling away the ropes that held the slain Aslan.)
In this passage of That Hideous Strength (really worth reading) crumbs of cake have been spilled deliberately on the floor, a whistle blown and mice have arrived to clear up the mess:
“Thanks to this effort she saw mice for the first time as they really are – not as creeping things but as dainty quadrupeds, almost, when they sat up, like tiny kangaroos, with sensitive kid-gloved forepaws and transparent ears. With quick, inaudible movements they ranged to and fro till not a crumb was left on the floor.”
“…Humans want crumbs removed; mice are very anxious to remove them. It ought never to have been a cause of war. But you see that obedience and rule are more like a dance than a drill – specially between man and woman were the roles are always changing.”