C.S. Lewis’ Philosophical Letters About Mice (for Susan Call Hutchison)

Letters to Children by CS LewisI posted on Monday about a cheeky poem that Lewis wrote about Talking Beasts. You can read about it here. One of our long-term readers here at A Pilgrim in Narnia, Susan Call Hutchison, responded by saying how she loved the mice references, especially the “mouse’s Twinkling adroitness.” Susan is a children’s writer, and has a series on church mice (Mrs. Middlejoy, I do believe).

In response, I asked if she had read C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Children where he talks about mice. She hadn’t so I promised to dig it up. There are a few, actually–little cute references to mice and his confession that he was a mouse-fancier. Here is a fun reference to mice and guinea pigs:

I never knew a guinea-pig that took any notice of humans (they take plenty of one another). Of those small animals I think Hamsters are the most amusing–and, to tell you the truth, I’m still fond of mice. But the guinea pigs go well with your learning German. If they talked, I’m sure that is the language they’d speak (letter to Joan, Oct 16, 1955).

The Lion Witch Wardrobe (1stEd) LewisMy favourite, though, is a letter to he wrote to a little girl who sent him pictures that she drew of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Her name was Hila (not Hida) and she was from New York. She was struck by a reference in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that Aslan goes by other names in other worlds (including ours). Rather than answering her directly, he invites her to put the clues together. Then he promises that four more Narnia books will follow.

In that sense it is an intriguing letter about how Lewis connects Narnia with our world. But it is also a lovely letter, including a bit about mice that is particularly fun. So, for Susan, the authority on church mice, it looks like Lewis was an authority on college mice. I would encourage readers to pick of C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Children, and be sure to check out the Mrs. Middlejoy stories.


 

June 3rd 1953

Dear Hida (is that right) Newman

Thank you so much for your lovely letter and pictures. I realised at once that the coloured one was not a particular scene but a sort of line-up like what you would have at the very end if it was a play instead of stories. The Dawn Treader is not to be the last: There are to be 4 more, 7 in all. Didn’t you notice that Aslan said nothing about Eustace not going back? I thought the best of your pictures was the one of Mr. Tumnus at the bottom of the letter.

voyage-of-the-dawn-treader-roger-haneAs to Aslan’s other name, well I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in this world who (1.) Arrived at the same time as Father Christmas. (2.) Said he was the son of the Great Emperor. (3.) Gave himself up for someone else’s fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people. (4.) Came to life again. (5.) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb (see the end of the Dawn Treader). Don’t you really know His name in this world. Think it over and let me know your answer!

Reepicheep in your coloured picture has just the right perky, cheeky expression. I love real mice. There are lots in my rooms in College but I have never set a trap. When I sit up late working they poke their heads out from behind the curtains just as if they were saying, ‘Hi! Time for you to go to bed. We want to come out and play.’

All good wishes,
Yours ever
C. S. Lewis

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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20 Responses to C.S. Lewis’ Philosophical Letters About Mice (for Susan Call Hutchison)

  1. Brenton, what a wonderful gift this is to me! I was almost in tears by the time I got to the end of the letter to Hila, but I was smiling too broadly to shed them. If any of your readers are interested in my church mouse Mrs. Middlejoy, they can find a free book at http://mrsmiddlejoy.com. And if they are really curious, they can even hear the mice sing. I am so happy to know that C. S. Lewis was fond of mice. So much is said about his writing “allegory.” I think he just writes from the point of view of someone for whom the idea of a World beyond this one is very, very real.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an excellent lesson in how to write to a young reader. I am not so relaxed about mice, though. A few years ago my family and I ran from a cottage on the English/Scottish border that became infested with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    This makes me wonder how much transposed autobiography there is in Ransom’s lovely interactions with mice in That Hideous Strength (1945).

    When my mother was at university in the 1930s she was acquainted with a resident mouse and had experiences somewhere between those noted to Hila and Ransom’s. When she was doing homework late into the night, a mouse would come out like those in Lewis’s College rooms but in a bolder and more friendly fashion. Once, when she was laid up sick in bed, the little mouse brought out her babies – so far as she could tell, to show them to her!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually thought of linking the autobiography, but decided to keep the post short. I think all of Lewis’ characters were made up of the man in the mirror in some way, sometimes caricatured in the people around him.
      A mouse proud of her litter! I wonder what instinct drives that!
      I’m in Lewis’ 1954 letters–only another 1100 pages to go! Therein he speaks of a popular news story at the time of a good dog that suddenly turned to stealing food when two of his housemates had disappeared. It turns out they had fallen down a well and he was sneaking them food. Lewis says, “perhaps we’ve been always wrong about the beasts.” Perhaps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        His response to Konrad Lorenz is interesting in this context (though I’d have to look up the details). The early Lorenz books are delightful and fascinating in any case (I still have not gotten far in On Agression, though).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    As far as enjoyable rodents of fiction go, this might be a good place to mention again how much Lewis enjoyed John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk (and, I think, its dream-sequel, The Box of Delights: Or When the Wolves Were Running). Like Lewis, Masefield was an enjoyer and admirer of Beatrix Potter’s stories. (Yes, like Lewis and millions of others, indeed – open or secret lovers as grown-ups of books in some sense written for children. )

    Liked by 2 people

  5. L.A. Smith says:

    I have always loved mice too, but I confess I don’t want one in my house, peeking at me from behind a curtain. So it’s more of a long-distance love affair…..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. L.A. Smith says:

    Another one of my favourite literary mice is Miss Bianca and her side-kick, Bernard. Loved those books (The Rescuers…forget the Disney movie, it certainly didn’t do it justice).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. L. Palmer says:

    That is an adorable, sweet letter. I particularly like the mice in Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. There, they are small, but heroic creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

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