Terry Pratchett

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

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The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents Summary

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The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is a 2001 novel by acclaimed British sci-fi and fantasy writer Terry Pratchett. It is the twenty-first installment of Pratchett’s popular Discworld series, which tells the stories of various magical characters on an imaginary disc-shaped planet called Discworld. Although all books in the series deal with fantastical elements, this is the first written specifically for a young audience.

The titular character is a cat called Maurice. He is the leader of a group of rats who go town to town, scamming villagers with the help of a boy piper called Keith. The rats pretend to be a plague and the boy arrives, claiming he can lure them away with his music in exchange for money. Real pied pipers do exist, with flutes that can charm rats away, but Keith and the rats are simply pretending. The animals are all sentient. The rats got their intelligence from eating some waste near a university, and Maurice got his from eating one of the rats. After eating the rat, he realizes that he has eaten a sentient being and, feeling remorse, joins them.

The rats are all named after words they would have seen on cans of food or road signs, such as Hamnpork, the leader; Peaches, the scribe; and Dangerous Beans (a play on “dangerous bends”), a blind rat who is a spiritual leader of sorts. Hamnpork does not like Maurice, while the other rats have misgivings about their scam. They want to live in a new society where humans and rats can peacefully coexist, as is laid out in their sacred text, Mr Bunnsy Has An Adventure (a parody of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series of books for children).

The group agrees to do one last job in a town called Bad Blintz. When they arrive, Maurice and Keith set out to inspect the town. They notice that the houses are lavish and expensive, but that the people seem hungry and particularly hateful toward rats. They meet Malicia, the mayor’s daughter and a storyteller descended from the Sisters Grim. She discovers that Maurice can talk, and he tells her that the rat-catchers in town have been passing off bootlaces as rat tails in order to get the reward money that comes with a catch.

They set off to the house where the rat-catchers live. They find many rat tunnels, empty except for rat traps and poison. In a hidden den, they meet up with the group of rats and find that the rat-catchers have been stealing and hiding food to make it look like there is a rat problem, while also breeding rats so they can catch them in their own tunnels.

The rat-catchers come back and imprison the humans, taking Hamnpork so they can pretend to catch him. As he is hiding, Maurice feels a voice trying to take over his brain. The rats feel it too, and the voice succeeds in turning some of the rats back into normal animals. Some of the remaining sentient rats, led by a rat called Darktan, go to rescue Hamnpork, while Peaches and Dangerous Beans focus on releasing Keith and Malicia. Malicia mentions that Mr Bunnsy Has An Adventure is a fictional children’s book, which shocks and upsets the two rats who had believed in it so fervently.

Darktan’s unit rescues Hamnpork, but he is badly injured. Darktan gets caught in a trap and almost dies, while Hamnpork succumbs to his wounds. Darktan assumes leadership and sets out to find Dangerous Beans. Malicia and Keith, now released, trick the rat-catchers into revealing their secret weapon. They have created a powerful Rat King (several rats tied together by their tails) whose combined minds have created one consciousness that can control others. They call it Spider, because is made up of eight rats. He intends to wage war on humans and rule them. Spider assumes control of Keith and Malicia, and by this point has also successfully infiltrated Maurice’s mind.

Spider is drawn to Dangerous Beans because his mind is more resistant to his control than anyone else. He offers the rat the chance to rule alongside him, but Dangerous Beans refuses, still believing in coexistence. Spider then tries to take control of Dangerous Beans’s mind, and the effort is felt by all the rats as well as Maurice. Spider fails, but Maurice reverts into a normal cat. His cat instincts make him pounce on Spider, but he has retained enough intelligence to know that he should target the knot connecting the tails.

Meanwhile, Malicia and Keith set free the trapped rats, who Spider wants to turn into his army. Darktan and his group of rats fight the freed rats, and eventually find Peaches in Spider’s lair. The lair is on fire because Peaches dropped a match. Maurice kills Dangerous Beans in his simple cat form and succeeds in getting out of the den, carrying the rat’s body. At this point, he also dies and becomes a ghost. He sees the “Bone Rat” (a rat-like depiction of the grim reaper) come for Dangerous Beans’s body and attacks him. At this point, Death intervenes and Maurice strikes a deal: He will sacrifice one of his remaining lives for Dangerous Beans’s.

A real rat piper is due in town the next day. The rats gather all the remaining nonsentient rats and wait. When the piper arrives, Keith challenges him. When Keith plays (using a borrowed trombone, as his pipe was broken), one of the rats comes out dancing. When the other piper plays, the rats plug their ears and none come out, making Keith the winner.

The piper reveals his secret to Keith: His pipe is designed to play a secret trick note that drives rats away. The tales make people pay, since they believe there is a magical skill of some sort involved. Keith and the piper lead the nonintelligent rats out of town, allowing the piper to believe that he has succeeded while setting the rats free from the village.

Finally, the rats reveal themselves to the humans. They offer to show the townspeople where their food and money is, in return for being able to peacefully live among them. Maurice helps their cause by telling the humans that they can be rich by selling the talking rats as a tourist attraction. Keith stays as the town’s piper, the town prospers, and everyone lives happily together. Maurice leaves to have new adventures by himself.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents received the Carnegie Medal, an award given to the best children’s book of the year, in 2001. Despite a very long career of commercially successful books, this was Pratchett’s first major award and acknowledgment of his literary contribution. Terry Pratchett was knighted in 2009 and died in 2015. One of his last requests was for any ongoing work he had written to be destroyed by a steamroller, a wish that was fulfilled in 2017.