Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rats!

One day I was working in the Brooklyn Public Library, and I noticed a book on the shelf, translated from the Dutch, called Rats by Martin Hart. Seeing as I have recently had some experience of my own with the mouse menace I decided to take a look. I quickly found myself repelled, and a little weirded out, by the author's pro-rat bias.

Here, the author takes umbrage at the "strange belief" in rats stripping animals (or people) "to the bone:"
"Those who do not defend themselves may lose their noses, a few fingers and toes, but will never be eaten down to the bone by rats. Moreover when rats do consume corpses (of conspecifics or other animals) they eat the bones as well. All that is left behind of other rats is the tip of the tail."
After complaining for many pages about the poor treatment rats receive in literature, the author singles out The Wind in the Willows, of all things, as constituting a notable exception to the trend:
"There can be no objection to his portrait of the brown rat -- the calm, hardworking animal Grahame describes would be welcome as a pet by anyone. The black rat, too, is magnificently described."
Here's the author on the subject of rats as pets:
"Children, too, are usually very fond of rats. Not weighed down with all sorts of prejudices, they generally need no more than ten minutes before the pick up a rat and stroke it, as I have seen my nephews and nieces do time and again. Children like to push rats along in a doll's pram, covered with a little blanket. There is, however, one fairly strong objection to keeping rats as family pets: they are highly susceptible to pulmonary infections which can be communicated to children."
It's just a weird book, man:
"There are many people who keep rats as snake food. On a Sunday afternoon the whole family gathers round the cage of their pet boa or python and watches while a live rat is thrown to, and devoured by, the hungry snake. No one to whom I have ever told this has shown any sign of indignation. But when I tell them that hamsters are used for the same purpose they usually protest. I am glad to say that I have heard of cases where the rat bit large chunks out of the skin of the snake."
And it only gets weirder...:
"I know cases of elderly people who used to feed wild rats by hand in their gardens every day. This may sometimes be the only daily encounter such lonely old people still have. I shall probably end my days in the same way."
It's an ostensibly scientific book which describes the anatomy and habits of rats, and yet every couple pages the author chooses to share some creepy rats-related reminiscence from his childhood:
"On many an afternoon and evening in the early summer I used to lie in the long grass round refuse tips and the banks of stagnant pools watching the incessant toing and froing of brown rats. Provided I did not move, they paid hardly any attention to me. Sometimes they would even sniff at me."
Why are you so weird, Rat Man?

2 comments:

  1. You're just perpetuating this unfair discrimination against rats! DONT LET THEM BRAINWASH YOU

    ReplyDelete