Mrs Frisby And The Rats Of Nimh Summary

Robert C. O'Brien

Mrs Frisby And The Rats Of Nimh

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Mrs Frisby And The Rats Of Nimh Summary

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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh is a children’s novel by Robert O’Brien. The novel, which was published in 1971, tells the story of a widowed field mouse whose home is in danger of being destroyed by a farmer’s plow, but who cannot move because of her son’s illness. She enlists the help of a highly advanced society of rats and a former laboratory mouse to save her home. The novel received broad critical acclaim at the time of its publication and won the 1972 Newbery Medal. In 1982, it was adapted into an animated movie, entitled The Secret of Nimh.

Mrs. Frisby, a recently widowed field mouse, lives in a cinder block house in a farmer’s garden. Her son, Timothy, is sick with pneumonia and confined to his bed. Mrs. Frisby receives three packets of medicine from Mr. Ages, an older mouse, to give to Timothy. On her way home, she sees a crow named Jeremy tied to a tree and saves him from the farmer’s cat, Dragon, by chewing through the rope. In return, Jeremy gives Mrs. Frisby a ride back to her house. Mrs. Frisby returns home to find her other children gathered around Timothy’s bed. She gives him all three packets of medicine, which causes his illness to subside. However, he is still too weak to travel with the family to their summer home. Mr. Fitzgibbon, the farmer, is getting ready to plow the garden for springtime planting. When his tractor dies, he has to order a new piece. This delays the plowing and gives Mrs. Frisby some time to come up with a plan. Jeremy suggests that she ask advice from an owl who lives in the forest, and flies her to the owl’s tree.

When the owl finds out that Mrs. Frisby is the widow of Jonathan Frisby, he tells her to go and speak to a group of rats who live in the rosebushes near her home. When Mrs. Frisby goes to visit them, she discovers that the technologically advanced rats live with electricity, elevators, heat, and lighting. While Mrs. Frisby waits in the library to speak to Nicodemus, the leader of the rats, she notices the words “The Plan of the Rats of Nimh” written on a white board. She wonders to herself what the word “Nimh” means. Nicodemus tells Mrs. Frisby that the rats can help her move her house to the other side of a stone to avoid the plow, using a pulley system that they invented. In order to do this, however, the rats would have to drug Dragon’s bowl to put the cat to sleep. Mrs. Frisby learns that her husband, who was acquainted with the rats, was killed by Dragon while attempting to drug him. Mrs. Frisby also learns about the history of the rats.

Nicodemus explains that he and his friend, Jenner, discovered a bag of food one day and were captured by scientists who took them to a laboratory at the National Institutes of Mental Health, or NIMH. There, the rats were given experimental shots that gave them the ability to read, write, and operate complex machinery. A rat named Justin figured out how to open the door of his cage by reading the instructions and led the other rats, along with eight lab mice, to escape through the air ducts. Before Jonathan was killed, he and Mr. Ages were the last two remaining lab mice out of the original group of eight. The escaped rats have come up with The Plan, a grand scheme to form their own farming colony so that they would no longer have to steal food from humans. Jenner, however, disapproved of the plan and left with a group of other rats who felt the same way.

The rats commence with their plan to move Mrs. Frisby’s home. Since Mr. Ages has a broken leg, Mrs. Frisby volunteers to be the one to dash to Dragon’s bowl and drug it. While she is doing this, however, she is captured and locked in a birdcage by the farmer’s son, Billy. While inside the Fitzgibbons’ home, Mrs. Frisby overhears them talking about an incident in which a group of rats was electrocuted at a nearby hardware store while trying to steal a motor. Mr. Fitzgibbons reveals that the incident has attracted the attention of a group of men, who have offered to exterminate the rats living on his property for free. That night, after the Fitzgibbons have gone to bed, Justin frees Mrs. Frisby from the birdcage and helps her escape from the farmer’s house. The rats successfully move the Frisbys’ house to the other side of the rock using a complex pulley and scaffolding system.

Mrs. Frisby tells the rats about the conversation she overheard, and warns them that a group of men are coming to exterminate them. The rats believe that the men are the scientists from NIMH who had kidnapped them in the first place. In order to fool the exterminators, the rats destroy all traces of technology and litter their home with garbage to make it look like a normal rats’ hole. Most of the rats then move to Thorn Valley, where they plan to establish their farming colony, but ten stay behind so that their home won’t appear to be deserted. The exterminators fill the hole with poisonous gas, killing two of the rats, but the others manage to escape through a back exit. Meanwhile, Timothy is able to recover in peace before the Frisbys move to their summer home.

The main themes of the novel are family, home, sacrifice, community and society building, independence, technology, and environmentalism. The novel has been praised for using animals to convey a larger message about science, the nature of intelligence, and the destruction of the environment. The rats in the story are a parable for scientific progress and innovation, and the power that comes with knowledge.