Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Rats of NIMH sequels

Jane Leslie Conly produced two sequels to her father Robert O'Brien's Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Racso and the Rats of NIMH (which I confess I can't stop calling "Rasco and...", because my brain refuses to process Racso, even though I know it's an anagram of Oscar !) and RT, Margaret and the Rats of NIMH. The first book follows up the story of Mrs Frisby, with the rats of NIMH now settled in Thorn Valley where they are now running a school, to which Timothy Frisby (the youngest of Mrs Frisby's children) goes for 9 months of the year. This is the third year that Timothy has gone to the school, and normally the Frisbys' crow friend, Jeremy takes Timothy, but this year he's forced to walk the many miles as Jeremy must stay home and look after his mother who broke her wing. En route to Thorn Valley Timothy starts to notice signs that someone is following the same trail as him, but whomever is ahead of him on the trail seems to have no idea about how to behave in the countryside as they leave a campfire still burning and leave clear indications that they are following the trail. Eventually Timothy discovers that the culprit is Racso the rat, who has heard of the rats of NIMH and their colony and decides he wants to attend the school there so he can learn to read and write, and become a scientist. After some misadventures on the way, the two arrive at Thorn Valley to discover it is no longer the safe haven it had been; humans are building a dam upriver which is causing the river to rise rapidly and threatens to flood the entire valley. Even the Frisbys aren't safe as the humans plan to buy up the farms around the area of Thorn Valley to build roads, car parks and tourist facilities. The rats come up with a plan to sabotage the dam and the computer that will control the dam, and teach themselves computer programming in order to achieve that goal. Eventually the dam project is abandoned by the humans and Thorn Valley is saved.

RT, Margaret and the Rats of NIMH is set two years after Racso joins the colony in Thorn Valley. Arthur (usually known as Artie or RT) and his sister Margaret are camping with their parents in Thorn Valley, some distance from the rats' colony. Margaret and Artie (who apparently can't talk and suffers from asthma) go for a walk one day and on the way back to their campsite meet a bear. They flee in terror, losing themselves in the process. They shelter in a cave that is near the rats' colony and when Racso has an argument with his friend Christopher, the latter runs away to the cave where the children are sheltering. Christopher befriends Artie and brings him food, and later a herbal potion to ease his asthma. Unfortunately, Margaret catches Christopher and when he reveals there are more rats nearby, she holds him hostage. Eventually Nicodemus who, despite his great age, still leads the colony agrees to giving Artie and Margaret shelter, at least temporarily. During the summer weeks both children become a part of the community, but both Margaret and the rats realise that the children cannot remain with them during the winter months because there is insufficient shelter available for them. Nicodemus volunteers to guide them back to human civilisation - he wants to try to reach the sea before he dies. The children had been given up for dead since the helicopter and search parties could not locate them. When they turn up not only alive but quite well, Artie's asthma having been cured by the rats' herbal medicine, Margaret is interviewed by Lindsey Scott, the same reporter who had covered the Thorn Valley dam project two years before. Lindsey is a little suspicious of Margaret's account of their survival, as is Margaret's best friend, Leon. Eventually, after a visit from Racso and Christopher, Margaret reveals the truth to Lindsey when she wants the latter's help in stopping Leon from visiting Thorn Valley (he believes the rats are aliens in disguise). Margaret agrees to take Lindsey and Leon to Thorn Valley to meet the rats, with her father, Artie and Lindsey's boss in tow, but when they get there, all signs of the rats' colony are gone.

Whilst it was interesting to find out how the rats got on after they fled from Mr Fitzgibbon's farm, I didn't feel Conly's sequels worked quite as well as her father's original story. Strangely, I don't think I ever realised before that Robert O'Brien wrote both "Mrs Frisby" and Z for Zachariah, the post-nuclear holocaust novel which I read a few years after I read "Mrs Frisby".

1 comment:

Samantha Mills said...

Thanks for this!