Hello again, readers! This post is about a book by Miss Margery Sharp called The Rescuers. Now, any of you who are remotely familiar with Disney films will probably recognize the title. Disney made two movies featuring the famous Rescuing mice Miss Bianca and Bernard: The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. (The latter was my favorite of the two.)
These animated features were based on Margery Sharp’s books. But beyond the Prisoners’ Aid Society, Bernard, and Miss Bianca, there is not much that the books and the films have in common.
In the films, Miss Bianca and Bernard both work for the Prisoners’ Aid Society from the get-go. In the books, this is not so. Bernard certainly is part of the Prisoners’ Aid Society at the start of the novel. He even has a medal for “Gallantry in the Face of Cats”!
But in the books, Miss Bianca is the pet of the Ambassador’s son. She lives in a cage, inside a Porcelain Pagoda, and is waited on hand and paw. And she has no fear of cats!!!
Now, the premise of the book The Rescuers is this: the Madam Chairwoman of the Prisoners’ Aid Society branch in (presumably) England has heard about a certain political prisoner being held in a terrible, horrible place called the Black Castle. This particular prison is infamous even among mice. The assembled mice all shiver and shudder at the very name of it. Only one mouse ever got in and out of the Black Castle, and he is now a very old fellow well out of his prime.
This particular political prisoner is Norwegian, and he is a poet. All this sounds very sad to the mice, until Madam Chairwoman drops a bombshell on them. She does not want to send someone to the Black Castle to be the Norwegian poet’s companion and comfort in his suffering. No, she wants to send at least two mice to the Castle to rescue him!! And what is more, she wants the help of the pampered Miss Bianca in this venture!
This leaves many heads awhirl with confusion, anger, resentment, and astonishment. No one has ever escaped the Black Castle. It is a bare, black building built into a bare, black mountain. It is seated on bare, desert moor country, and the track leading to the front gate is littered with the bones of prisoners who died on their forced march to the Castle.
But the most startling thing is the Madam Chairwoman’s choice of Miss Bianca to help accomplish the rescue. Miss Bianca is rumored to be an idle mouse, having lived her whole life in luxury. Does she have the courage to do something so daring?
Madam Chairwoman only wants Miss Bianca’s help in finding and securing the aid of a Norwegian mouse for the rescue. After all, the prisoner she wants to free is Norwegian, and it is not likely that he will understand English. They need someone who will be able to speak to him in his native language. (Mice have a universal tongue which they all understand, and naturally speak the language of whichever country they were born and raised in, so they have no problem communicating with each other.)
Well, Madam Chairwoman selects Bernard to ask or even bully Miss Bianca into helping them. Since the Ambassador is headed to Norway with his family, and since Miss Bianca goes wherever the Boy goes, she will be perfectly capable of finding a Norwegian mouse to assist in the rescue.
Well, Bernard makes his way up to the Boy’s room and finds that the rumors are at least partly true: Miss Bianca has been raised in the lap of luxury and therefore has no practical experience in the outside world. But the rumors never mentioned her beauty, which strikes Bernard to the heart. From the moment he sees her, he is madly in love with her. His love and courage are what inspire Miss Bianca to agree, hesitantly, to the plan. And from there the adventure really begins!
This is all that I am going to spoil of The Rescuers, readers. It is a very good little adventure story, and I was glad to read it. I do not think it will usurp the place in my heart where The Rescuers Down Under resides, though. But I am glad to know where Disney’s Miss Bianca and Bernard came from. After all, without Margery Sharp’s stories, there would be no movies!
If you can grab a copy of this book, I highly recommend it. It is well written and fun, especially for children, its target audience. It is certainly worth checking out of the library, anyway!
The Mithril Guardian