In the twelfth and final chapter of The Amazing Maurice, some times, all it takes is a little compromise. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Holy shit, what a surprising little book, y’all.
In the end, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents seems utterly unlike the story at the start. This is a sprawling political farce, and it’s also a giant dose of emotional closure, and EVERYTHING IS SO GREAT. Y’all, thank you for this. LET’S DISCUSS.
This book has been unexpected in a number of ways. The focus, the plots, the character development! And then the end doesn’t disappoint either: Maurice arranges a giant council meeting between himself, the citizens of Bad Blintz, and the rats. It’s here that one of my favorite tropes is displayed with a much larger scope than you usually see, too. Y’all know how much I love characters discovering that the world they live in is much stranger than they previously thought. IT’S SO FUN. But here, multiple characters learn the truth, and THEY’RE ALL MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL. It’s not just the Mayor, which I kinda suspected would be told the truth. (Though I imagined it differently; I thought Malicia would reveal the actual truth and the Mayor just wouldn’t believe her.)
Maurice, however, orchestrates a vast negotiation to give the rats what they always wanted: Autonomy. Safety. Guaranteed protection. A means of building a life! The rat catchers (and their accessories) were exposed by the Mayor, but it’s Maurice who steps in and takes a huge risk here. He navigates the selfish desires of the council members, and the poetry of that is not lost on me. Maurice began his journey in this book virtually incapable of thinking of anyone but himself. Yet that’s not what he does here! His journey is one of selflessness. He points out that it’s cheaper to feed the rats and ensure their safety rather than hire a piper. They’ll be able to keep the big, non-Changed rats out of the way. THEY GET TO JOIN THE WATCH. And the more Maurice talks, the more the people see just how beneficial this arrangement will be. Tourism! Souvenirs! A theater! (Which I hope Sardines gets, personally.)
I was glad, though, that the rats got a chance to speak on what they actually wanted. Their voice was important in all this, and both Darktan and Dangerous Beans bring up valid concerns before Maurice orchestrates the actual arrangement. Those concerns are deeply related to the themes we’ve seen over the course of The Amazing Maurice! How can the rats lead new lives that are separate from their old destinies? How do they overcome their fears and their uncertainties over fitting into a world where there are so few Changed creatures? Is this deal just going to push them into a new system of subjugation and terror?
They’re important questions to ask, and the very fact that they are asked is evidence that the rats truly are no longer what they once were. They’ve even transformed the meaning of Mr. Bunnsy Has an Adventure. It’s not just a story or a lie or an approximation of a reality:
“Yes,” said Dangerous Beans. “Yes.” He turned his misty pink eyes to Darktan, who had to stop himself from stepping back, and added: “Perhaps it’s a map.”
Perhaps that book can guide them further. Which it already has! But this is a chance for the Clan to branch out, to adopt new members and new policy. It’s why it’s vital that they’re part of the Watch, that they can fold themselves into life in Bad Blintz. Yet all of this is, admittedly, a compromise. It’s not the island they wanted, is it? So I get Darktan’s disappointment. This didn’t turn out like he wanted, right? And this arrangement with the people of Bad Blintz is infinitely more complicated than anything they were doing before. The con that Maurice invented was complex, sure, but it wasn’t this bad. So… why does Darktan eventually warm up to this?
Because it’s a step. This is about compromise, about accepting that the Clan will always be outsiders because there is no one else like them. They’ll never find a place to fit in, and it’s pretty unlikely that they’d find a perfectly uninhabited island anyway. This final chapter gives us a glimpse of something magical, though: a genuine partnership between Malicia’s father and Darktan. Through the contract they come to agree on, they have found a purpose for the Clan. Keith finds a purpose. Malicia finds a purpose. Even if it’s not definite for everyone, there’s the promise of one.
The Amazing Maurice is inherently about stories, as are many Discworld books. But the characters here twist stories to fit their own needs or to keep them afloat. From Mr. Bunnsy to all the wacky tales in Malicia’s head, there are enough stories here to keep an entire city thriving, to help two kids learn how to navigate the world, and to allow Maurice to find another boy that’s down on his luck, all so he can start this adventure over again. Will the story unfold the same way? I don’t think so, but the cycle has started again. Some stories tell themselves in repeat because… well, because they’re simply that good.
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