In the first part of the eleventh chapter of The AMazing Maurice and His Educated Rats, the rat king rages, and Maurice makes the most important decision of his life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of death.
Maurice is an unlikable character, though I admit that I feel like I have to divorce him from being a cat. Otherwise, I’m like, “Oh, he’s just like every cat ever.” He is selfish. He is quick to judge. He thinks about his own gain and only thinks of others as a means to help himself. Indeed, it’s Maurice’s fault that the rats came to Bad Blintz in the first place! He pressured them to do One Last Job, despite that he was already scheming to keep these jobs going as long as possible. They benefitted him so much! Why would he stop them? There was only one of Maurice and countless of the rats, right?
So, when the rat king psychically attacks those prepared to attack him (I LOVE THAT I GET TO TYPE THAT), it wipes out the Changed part of Maurice’s mind. Gone is his scheming. Gone is his self-interest… outside of pure instinct, that is. It’s like Maurice was distilled down to the pure essence of a cat, one that would fiercely fight for its survival and nothing else. It’s precisely this aspect of Maurice that the rat king underestimated, and it assumed that its willpower was enough.
OH GOD, WAS IT EVER NOT. Maurice devolves, and in that devolution, he becomes ferocious. Single-minded. Vicious. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing! It’s because of this that Maurice is able to un-do the terrible magic of the rat king, and it’s because of this that many of the “bad” rats aren’t able to do much damage. But the downside of this is horrific:
Maurice isn’t able to distinguish Changed rats from the regular ones.
I figured that Dangerous Beans was dead, and that was bad enough. But once Keith and Malicia managed to break into the room to survey the chaos (GOOD LORD, I THOUGHT THE WAVES OF RATS WAS BAD), they watch as Maurice carries a dead Dangerous Beans, and then:
…he gently dropped the bundle to the floor. He prodded it once or twice, to see if it would move.
He blinked slowly when it didn’t move. He looked puzzled, in a kind of slow-motion way. He opened his mouth to yawn, and smoke came out. Then he put his head down and died.
I wasn’t reader for his death OR the matter-of-fact way in which Pratchett stated this. TO SAY IT WAS A SHOCKER IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. Yet it’s through this twist that we finally get the end result of Maurice’s character growth. He definitely dies, and he watches as the Death of Rats comes to claim Dangerous Beans, and his reaction was A LOT FOR ME TO HANDLE.
After all I’ve been through? That is not happening!
He sprang into the air and landed on the Bone Rat. The little scythe skidded across the floor.
“Okay, mister, let’s hear you talk—“ Maurice began.
“Er…” said Maurice, as the horrible awareness of what he’d done caught up with him.
With virtually no hesitation, Maurice tries to stop the Bone Rat from taking Dangerous Beans life. And I love when you can point to a moment in a character’s arc and say, “This would have been unbelievable at the start.” That’s absolutely the case here. After all this, Maurice couldn’t deal with the thought that he was responsible for Dangerous Beans’s death.
SO HE NEGOTIATES WITH DEATH TO TAKE AN EXTRA LIFE OF HIS SO THAT DANGEROUS BEANS CAN LIVE. i just!!!!!!! can’t!!!! believe!!!!! we!!!! finally!!!! are!!!!! here!!!!! Maurice finally did something at his own expense TO BENEFIT SOMEONE ELSE. I adore his conversation with Death, too, and the way it highlights just how significant this change is for Maurice. It’s all very uncatlike, no?
But this conflict isn’t over, y’all. There’s still the hired rat piper to deal with, and I don’t know why Maurice thinks cotton will work. And what of Darktan’s final stand against the big rats? WILL THE CHANGED RATS SURVIVE THIS??? I’m very worried! Which isn’t surprising, since that’s like my default state, but STILL.
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