A few weeks ago, my husband and I were startled by a mouse running through our kitchen as we made Saturday brunch. Now, I think mice are cute. I enjoy seeing rodents in a cage, or in the wild. I even had a pet rat as a teenager. But wild mice running free in the house are Not Acceptable.
More recently, my husband saw a kangaroo rat in the carport, dragging the copper wool we had used to plug a possible mouse hole (yeah, that worked). Could this be the little critter that chewed through two sets of my sparkplug cables, costing us $100?
These wildlife encounters got me thinking—why on earth are mice so popular as characters in books and movies, when they can be such pests in real life?
Mice as main characters have a few things going for them. They are familiar, even to young children. They are relatable, because they are mammals and have hand-like paws. These paws allow them to behave more like humans than our other favorite relatable mammals, cats and dogs.
And finally, mice are small, so they work well as underdogs. From The Rescuers to The Tale of Despereaux, they have to struggle against great odds to succeed. They may especially appeal to children because, well, children are small and often feel like helpless underdogs themselves.
Mice in literature—we love them. In our homes, not so much.
What’s your favorite type of animal hero? Why?
Chris Eboch always preferred the Disney movies with animal characters, such as The Aristocats and (the original) 101 Dalmatians.