“If this is like Lord of the Rings or Dungeons & Dragons, I’ll be really mad.”
And that was my girlfriend’s warning upon her introduction to the world of David Petersen’s Mouse Guard.
Petersen’s epic stories are about the Mouse Guard take the animal colony concepts of Watership Down one step further. The mice have a civilization in the woodlands of the middle ages, much like those seen in the David the Gnome cartoons and books, where they interact with each other and warring species. Mouse Guard books are more like medieval knight fiction that happens to be with mice as the lead characters than a cartoon like Disney’s Robin Hood, which features anthropomorphic characters.
The goal of the Mouse Guard is simple. Here’s a brief intro borrowed from Wiki, that in turn borrowed it from some of the books’ inside covers and promotional materials.
The mice struggle to live safely and prosper among all of the world’s harsh conditions and predators. Thus the Mouse Guard was formed. After persevering against a weasel warlord in the winter war of 1149, the territories are no longer as troubled. True, the day to day dangers exist, but no longer are the Guard soldiers, instead they are escorts, pathfinders, weather watchers, scouts and body guards for the mice who live among the territories. Many skills are necessary for the guard to keep the borders safe. They must find new safeways and paths from village to village, lead shipments of goods from one town to another and, in case of attack, guard against all evil and harm to their territories.
They are not simply soldiers that fight off intruders; rather, they are guides for the common mice looking to journey without confrontation from one hidden mouse village to another. The Guard patrols borders, finds safeways and paths through dangerous territories and treacherous terrain, watches weather patterns, and keeps the mouse territories free of predators. They do so with fearless dedication so that they might not just exist, but truly live.
Legends of the Guard is a great introduction to this world, as it’s an anthology. Tales of the Guard features a frame story of Petersen of a bunch of mice sitting in a local tavern and sharing their favorite stories of the Guard. Each tale is drawn by a different cartoonist ranging from Gene Ha to Love and Rockets mastermind Terry Moore.
My favorite was by Katie Cook of Fraggle Rock fame, where the protagonist mouse has to comes terms with spending a lifetime of thinking that he was actually a fox. Katie does a great job with her story, the art is ridiculously cute and was the highlight of the collected version.
So at the end of the book, Legends of Guard is both me and girlfriend approved. You should check it out.