Mouse World

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
Mice1 2084.jpg
"For behind the wooden wainscots of all the old houses of Gloucester, there are little mouse staircases and secret trap-doors; and the mice run from house to house through those long narrow passages; they can run all over the town without going into the streets."

Similar in many ways to Beneath the Earth, Mouse World exists in secret on the fringes of human society; the difference is scale. This is an entire class of stories built around tiny protagonists operating just out of sight in the human world. These come in a few flavors, but all share some important common elements. In any case, the lives of the little folk draw eerie parallels to the lives of the big-folk.

In an urban setting, the characters most often act like rats, even when they aren't actual Talking Animals in the 3- to 6-inch range. They live in Mouse Holes using adapted or cobbled-together Bamboo Technology made from human trash, with the odd toys and models thrown in.

If they deal with human opponents directly, expect clever trickery, stealth and the odd Colossus Climb. They may become Dinky Drivers to operate human vehicles. If humans aren't aware of them in the slightest (as in most cases), it's usually because they either have a strong Weirdness Censor, the tiny species is keeping a complex and clever masquerade, or they simply regard talking and/or clothed Funny Animals or tiny humanoids as an Unusually Uninteresting Sight. In some cases one lucky human (usually a child) Speaks Fluent Animal and is the only human character in the story aware of the tiny species. In combination with an Incredible Shrinking Man, you can have a Trapped in Another World plot. Other slightly larger animals such as cats and dogs may also play a role in this world, but expect Animal Jingoism to come into play, along with examples of Cats Are Mean.

May have begun with the Lilliputians, and later Gulliver's time with the Brobdignagian giants, in Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. The best-known recent version is probably the Borrowers books.

Not to be confused with the Disney Theme Parks. If you're looking for little people who don't necessarily live in one of these worlds, head over to Lilliputians.

Examples of Mouse World include:


General[edit | hide | hide all]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • There is a weirdly humanlike monkey society in The Jungle Book, but they do not act humanlike around any person other than Mowgli.
    • The animals in general only act humanlike toward Mowgli.
  • In Incarceron anyone who enters the Prison is shrunk down to fit into it. Said Prison is, in fact, a silver cube set on the Warden's pcketwatch.

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • The Far Side loves this trope. There have been cartoons featuring rodents, fish, arthropods and even microbes whose behaviour mirrors (and of course satirises) that of humans.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Rodents[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • The scene in Mousehunt in which the mouse's room is shown, consisting of a postcard as a poster and a little bed made up of a tin box and cotton balls.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Stuart Little
  • The young adult Discworld novel The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents
  • Played quite straight in the novel The Prince Of Darkness, about a Rat-Machaivelli eventually being overthrown by a communist revolution...
  • China Mieville's King Rat plays this with gritty realism. Organized rats are real city rats living in the sewers.
  • The Deptford Mice books by Robin Jarvis.
  • The Tale of Despereaux has one for mice (the Trope Namer) and one for rats.
  • The Redwall books started out with a few elements of this, which were later Ret Conned away.
    • The most obvious example of this is the horse and human-sized cart Cluny and his horde first show up in. Horses are never seen again in the series. Then there's the stampede of cows through a village, a dog, and an abandoned barn.
      • There's also St. Ninian's church, which was burned down in Pearls of Lutra, and a mention of the (human) country of Portugal in the first book.
  • Firmin by Sam Savage is a novel about a rat who lives in a bookstore and is a consumer of great literature (literally—he finds it quite tasty).
  • Angelina Ballerina
  • The Christopher Curchmouse series of biblically-oriented short stories, written by a Barbra Davoll, is set in a church where mice live much the same lives that humans do in secret, even including attending the preacher's sermons.
  • Margery Sharp's The Rescuers series, source material for the two Disney Animated Canon films.
  • Geronimo Stilton

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers
  • Capitol Critters
  • An American Tail, films and series. Theirs comes complete with animal Expy's of actual human historical figures, and the mice themselves are essentially metaphors for oppressed minorities.
  • The Great Mouse Detective (which was based on a series of books by Eve Titus, Basil of Baker Street)
    • Exaggerated in that while set in London, the mouse version of London is almost exactly the same as the human, without Bamboo Technology. They have clockwork, guns, functioning cabarets and (bizarrely) even Queen Mousetoria, who's an identical mouse version of Queen Victoria. Also, living directly under Sherlock Holmes' house is Basil, a mouse who's an amazingly clear if Disney-fied Expy of Holmes himself.
  • The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under, two animated Disney features based on the aforementioned series of books by Margery Sharp.
    • And Cinderella's mouse-friends, though not the center of the story, have significantly adapted the house so they can move about freely inside it.
  • The novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, or The Film of the Book The Secret of NIMH.
    • The movie took it far further, though; the mice have tables, chairs, a bed, separate rooms and curtains in the doorways of their home, whereas in the original, it was just a two-opening cinderblock.
    • The novel (and the later sequels) did state that the Rats of NIMH had made their tunnels surprisingly human-like (and it only got more so, after they moved to the valley, including a statue of one of the rats who died near the end of the first book). Rasco even has some of the younger rats figuring out how to make candy. And Mrs. Frisby was married to one of the mice from NIMH. So her husband might have been partial to human-like amenities, and Mrs. Frisby humoured him.
  • The computer-animated film Flushed Away
  • Danger Mouse, although the scale is not kept consistent.
  • Played quite realistically in the Disney Animated Canon film Ratatouille, where the most Bamboo Technology utilized by the rats is their musical instruments. Other than that, they're quadruped rodents.
  • Once Upon a Forest, though it takes place mostly in the wilderness where humans are seen as mythical, frightening and destructive monsters, their encounter with 'the yellow dragons', aka construction equipment, as well as other human inventions such as streets and animal traps qualifies it. They also live in houses built into trees.
  • Most Tom and Jerry and Tom and Jerry Tales cartoons and episodes.
  • Most of Pinky and The Brain is set in a "normal" human world; however, the episode "The Third Mouse" (a parody of The Third Man) is set inexplicably in a 1940's Mouse World.
  • The Rankin/Bass special Twas the Night Before Christmas involves a family of mice living with the family of a human clockmaker. Unusually for the trope, the human is not only aware of his counterpart's existence but actually interacts and works with him.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Pet supply companies put out a variety of toys for rodents that emulate this trope, such as hamster-sized plastic cars or model huts made of gnaw-friendly materials.


Small Creatures[edit | hide]

Comics[edit | hide]

  • Professor Schimauski by German artist Walter Moers discovered that his toaster actually worked because there's a little dragon living in it.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Watership Down, except they live in a rural setting.
  • The Wind in the Willows sort of waffles between this and the typical cartoon-animal approach. Sometimes the small animals seem to be the correct size, but sometimes they interact with scaled-down horses and other such non-anthropomorphic animals that really ought to be a lot bigger
  • In Redwall, animals live in a medieval sort of world, and they do have tables, ovens, swords, clothing, etc. They don't live in a realistic way, it's very humanlike. However, they do retain characteristics of being animals... moles are good at digging, squirrels are champion climbers, otters are naturals at swimming, some animals are mentioned as being carnivorous (most animals in the series eat only fish and eggs, as far as non-plants go).
  • The mock epic Batrachomyomachia makes this Older Than Feudalism: it parodies epics like The Iliad by replacing the heroic figures with warrior mice and frogs, fighting each other complete with miniature armor and weapons.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]


Fish and Sea Creatures[edit | hide]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Snorks are a French-language comic featuring rockpool-based Smurf ripoffs.


Small Humanoids[edit | hide]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • The Secret World of Arrietty, Studio Ghibli's film adaptation of The Borrowers
  • The Littl' Bits
  • Kabu no Isaki by Hitoshi Ashinano. The story is set in a world where everything except humans is 10 times larger (in linear size), but apparently the Earth surface gravity force is not 10 times stronger. Result: Japan appears huge and sparsely populated, humans are piloting what looks like toy airplanes, landing on fuki (butterbur) leaves and such.
    • There is also an old one-shot called Kuma-bachi no Koto ("something about carpenter-bees") by Ashinano in which small humanoid(s) and standard-size people co-exist.

Film[edit | hide]

  • The Polish film Kingsajz is set in such a world, inhabited by gnomes. The title is a phonetic rendition of "king size", here a normal human's size which can be temporarily achieved through a magic potion.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Littles
  • The Borrowers
  • Terry Pratchett's Nac Mac Feegle (aka the Pictsies) in Wee Free Men and other Discworld books. His earlier children's books, The Carpet People and The Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings) are a more obvious example.
  • Michael de Larrabeiti's Borribles and their enemies the Rumbles are a bit bigger than the usual Mouse World inhabitants, but otherwise seem to fit the trope nicely.
  • Mistress Masham's Repose
  • The Gallivespians in His Dark Materials
  • Possibly the tiniest example is the Protozoan World of the microscopic people in the short story "Surface Tension". Just barely qualifies as interacting with the macro-scale human world, due to the etched metal documents left behind for them.
  • A classic of British fantasy literature, The Little Grey Men features four gnomes who presumably had a Mouse World culture once, but now are the Last of Their Kind.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]


Insects and Arachnids[edit | hide]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Junkville, the setting of a series of Disney comic books starring Bucky Bug.

Literature[edit | hide]

Sapient Nonliving Things[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Doll People features dolls that take an oath upon being made which allows them to keep their sapience. Oddly, Barbie dolls are not alive, although fictional brands of dolls are.
    • Barbies could be alive. For some reason, they mostly choose not to take the oath.

Tabletop RPG[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]