Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A Diversion

Please note: This is a long quote today, but I thought it fit with our recent discussion about "numinous".

They talked of the book a little while the Director sat and drank; but presently he took up the plate and tipped the crumbs off onto the floor. "Now, Mrs. Studdock," he said, "you shall see a diversion. But you must be perfectly still." With these words he took from his pocket a little silver whistle and blew a note on it. And Jane sat still till the room became filled with silence like a solid thing and there was first a scratching and then a rustling and presently she saw three plump mice working their passage across what was to them the thick undergrowth of the carpet, nosing this way and that so that if their course had been drawn it would have resembled that of a winding river, until they were so close that she could see the twinkling of their eyes and even the palpitation of their noses. In spite of what she had said she did not really care for mice in the neighbourhood of her feet and it was with an effort that she sat still. Thanks to this effort she saw mice for the first time as they really are--not as creeping things but as dainty quadrupeds, almost, when they sat up, like tiny kangaroos, with sensitive kid-gloved forepaws and transparent ears. With quick, inaudible movements they ranged to and fro till not a crumb was left on the floor. Then he blew a second time on his whistle and with a sudden whisk of tails all three of them were racing for home and in a few seconds had disappeared behind the coal box. The Director looked at her with laughter in his eyes ("It is impossible," thought Jane, "to regard him as old"). "There," he said, "a very simple adjustment. Humans want crumbs removed; mice are anxious to remove them. It ought never to have been a cause of war. "

"How huge we must seem to them," said Jane.

This inconsequent remark had a very curious cause. Hugeness was what she was thinking of and for one moment it had seemed she was thinking of her own hugeness in comparison with the mice. But almost at once this identification collapsed. She was really thinking simply of hugeness. Or rather, she was not thinking of it. She was, in some strange fashion, experiencing it. Something intolerably big, something from Brobdingnag* was pressing on her, was approaching, was almost in the room. She felt herself shrinking, suffocated, emptied of all power and virtue. She darted a glance at the Director which was really a cry for help, and that glance, in some inexplicable way, revealed him as being, like herself, a very small object. The whole room was a tiny place, a mouse's hole, and it seemed to her to be tilted aslant--as though the insupportable mass and splendour of this formless hugeness in approaching, had knocked it askew. She heard the Director's voice.

"Quick", he said gently, "you must leave me now. This is no place for us small ones, but I am inured. Go!"
~C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapter 7 "The Pendragon" (1945)

*What, or where, is Brobdingnag?

On this day:
1961 An Experiment in Criticism is published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Cool link of the day: Artwork by Marc Brinkerhoff.

6 Comment(s):

At Wed Oct 13, 06:28:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

If I could just make an observation that it seems that Lewis really liked mice. I'll bet he would have kept one as a pet if it had been the thing to do. After all, look how lovingly he portrays the character of Reepicheep in Narnia.

At Wed Oct 13, 07:44:00 AM EST, Blogger Bob said...

Brobdingnag is the country in Gulliver's Travels that Gulliver visited where everyone was a giant. It was the opposite of the country of Lilliput where everyone was tiny compared to Gulliver.

At Wed Oct 13, 07:56:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Yes, I should probably made my link to Wikipedia's page on Brobdingnag clearer up above. But thanks, Bob!

At Wed Oct 13, 09:00:00 AM EST, Blogger Bob said...

Ah! There was a link. I'm sorry. I just had a glance as I left work and thought I'd throw that in there. I'm off to bed to escape the embarrassment.

At Wed Oct 13, 11:02:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

No, the link is easy to miss. I was thinking I needed to start doing my links in a different color so they would look more like, um, links.

Off to bed? Where in the world do you live, Bob?

At Wed Oct 13, 09:47:00 PM EST, Blogger Bob said...

I live in Seattle but I work at night, so I live a reversed schedule.


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