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 Post subject: Thorn Valley described!
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2015 4:23 pm 
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Well, beyond a very contradictory appearance in the animated sequel to Don Bluth's movie The Secret of NIMH (the sequel being The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue), which shows a quaint village growing outward from under the raised roots of a huge tree in the middle of a great canyon, there is absolutely no description of Thorn Valley (either spoken or visual) in the first movie.


What do I mean by "contradictory"? Well, I would like to present you with several excerpts from two of the NIMH books which give a detailed description, not only of Thorn Valley itself, but also of the established colony built by the rats of NIMH after their harrowing departure from the colony under the rose bush on the Fitzgibbon farm. Once you see the description, you'll understand what I meant.


The first book, by author Robert C. O'Brien, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, only touches upon the valley itself, but gives a fair description of it and why Nicodemus and the other rats chose it. It isn't until the first of two literary sequels, written by the O'Brien's daughter, Jane Leslie Conly, that we get a detailed description not only of the time it takes to get to Thorn Valley from the Fitzgibbon farm, and the path taken, but also what the layout of the colony really is. That book, Racso and the Rats of NIMH, tells a much different story than the animated sequel does (which was released some twelve years after the first literary sequel)...but still features Timothy.


This will be a great resource for you fan artists and fan fiction writers! Please forgive the length of this post. I will divide it up as best as I can for readability (probably into a few separate posts by subtopic).





THORN VALLEY
In O'Brien's book, in a chapter appropriately titled "Thorn Valley", Nicodemus tells Mrs. Frisby about how he first came to the understanding that, eventually, the rats would have to leave the colony under the rose bush, on the Fitzgibbon farm, and make a fresh start on their own, out in the wilderness and well away from humans, and the risk of being recaptured by NIMH (or something even worse). The rats had discovered that the Fitzgibbon farm lay on the border of a protected wilderness called "Thorn Mountains National Forest", which included a protected wilderness preserve. In an earlier chapter, he had described it to Mrs. Frisby as mountainous, with country bordering it at a point which "...the mountains turned to foothills...[and] rolling country with quite a few roads but hardly any towns, which, we thought, ought to mean farmland. And there are plenty of caves, most of them never visited by people--because people aren't allowed to drive into a wilderness preserve. There aren't any roads in the forest, but only a few jeep trails used by rangers, and airplanes are not permitted to fly over it."



"I began taking long walks into the forest. I had an idea in the back of my head. Sometimes I went alone, sometimes with some of the others.

"On one particular day I went with Jenner. I had not yet told him about my idea, nor did I on the morning we set out, but merely proposed a direction. We took along enough food for lunch. I remember that it was autumn, a bright, cool day; the leaves made a rustling sound when the wind blew, and some were turning yellow.

"In my walks I had been exploring the jeep trails, trying to find out where they went and where they didn't go, trying to find the wildest parts of the forest, places where not even the rangers ever went.




Nicodemus tells Mrs. Frisby that he inquired about the region from various forest animals...none of whom could (and some who simply wouldn't) offer much help, until some chipmunks mentioned "a very old owl who was famous throughout the forest. They even told me how to find the enormous tree in which he lived." This of course, if you haven't already guessed, is the same character that, in the movie, is known as "The Great Owl". And Nicodemus tells her that it was the owl who told him about Thorn Valley. Nicodemus continued:



"The valley lies deep in the forest, beyond the big tree. The jeep trails do not cross it, nor even go close to it, for the mountains around it are forbidding, too steep and rocky even for jeeps, and are covered with thorny thickets. The owl told me that in all the years he had been flying, he had never seen a human being near it.

Yet the bottom of the valley is level and broad and nearly a mile long; steep cliffs wall it in all around. There are three ponds or small lakes in it, and apparently those are fed by springs, for they never dry up. On clear days, the owl said, he sometimes saw small fish swimming in them. I thought: could rats weave fish nets or make fish hooks?

It was this valley I was looking for the day I set out with Jenner. I had careful directions from the owl; yet it took us half a day, moving briskly, to reach the base of the mountains. Then up, up, very steeply, for more than an hour--not really difficult for us, since rats are better climbers than men; also, we are shorter, so we had little trouble with the spiney [sp] underbrush. From the top of the high ridge at last we looked down, and the valley lay before us.

It was beautiful and still, a wild and lonely place. Through the green and yellow treetops below us I could see the water of one of the ponds sparkling in the sun. I got the idea that my eyes--our eyes--were the first ever to see it. Yet that was not true, for as we descended into the valley, a deer suddenly appeared in the trees ahead and went bounding off down the slope. There were wild animals there, and I wondered if they even suspected that outside these walls of mountains there were cities and roads and people.

Most of the valley floor was in forest, great spreading oak and maple trees, but near one of the ponds I saw what I had hoped to find--a large natural clearing, a glade where only coarse grass and wild flowers grew, and some clumps of black raspberry bushes. This clearing was on the far side of the valley, beyond it the mountain wall rose again, a steep slope with big outcroppings of stone--granite ledges that thrust six or ten feet out of the earth.




Finally, he told Mrs. Frisby about how he tried to convince Jenner that they could "...clear away these weeds and bushes. And if we dug into that mountainside, under those rock ledges, we'd have all the cave space we wanted, dry and warm, with a good roof. There could be room enough for a thousand of us."


Next, we'll look at the route taken to Thorn Valley from the Frisby home, and the Fitzgibbon farm.

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 Post subject: Re: Thorn Valley described!
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2015 6:15 pm 
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The Way To Thorn Valley
The route taken, by the Frisby family (in the sequel books) to Thorn Valley required them to enter into the deep forest bordering the Fitzgibbon farm. That forest grew into, and through, the aforementioned "Thorn Mountains National Forest", towards a mountain range bordered by foothills, and also cut through by a body of water called "Trout River". The mice (and the rats) regularly used a trail of their own, following the river, to go back and forth. None of this is really described until the first literary sequel, Racso and the Rats of NIMH, which was written by Robert C. O'Brien's daughter, Jane Leslie Conly. The book was written in 1986, twelve years prior to the animated sequel The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue. And though both feature Timothy (Mrs. Frisby/Brisby's youngest son), both stories are otherwise very different. And the animated sequel is not based on the literary one.


We first learn, in the very first chapter of the the book, that a trip to Thorn Valley on foot, for a field mouse, would take four days, and that it is a journey fraught with danger...predators such as snakes, foxes, wildcats, coyotes and birds of prey all figure into those dangers. Snakes and birds of prey are specifically mentioned more than a few times. It is due to a family emergency that Jeremy cannot fly Timothy for his yearly schooling session at Thorn Valley (another thing which was changed in the animated sequel, as Jeremy does fly him there in that sequel). So Timmy has to set out alone, on foot, into the deep forest, with only a backpack loaded with food and a few other essentials. Thus we get a good look at the pathway and approaches to Thorn Valley.


Timothy starts by walking northeast into the forest, "...keeping low to the ground as he had been taught." Walking for several hours, he eventually came to a stream and, after resting for a while, he followed it as it turned slowly northward. The stream meandered randomly, in a general north-northeasterly direction, with the path alongside of it (a path which would not be generally visible to humans), to a point where the stream splits. There the path turned north, and at that point Thorn Valley was apparently one day's walk away.


This information demonstrates the first point, besides the more general story elements, where the animated sequel breaks continuity. Here we see that Thorn Valley lay north by northeast from the Fitzgibbon farm. However in the animated sequel, when Jeremy is--in fact--available to fly Timothy to Thorn Valley, he predictably forgets the direction to fly. Martin, Timothy's brother, reminds him that Thorn Valley lay "south by south by south". Pretty much entirely opposite of what Jane Leslie Conly put in her written sequel twelve years prior.




(continued in the next post...)

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 Post subject: Re: Thorn Valley described!
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:13 pm 
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The Approach To Thorn Valley
After the trail turns north, away from the stream (which seems to be an unspecified lesser branch of the aforementioned Trout River), Timmy and his companion, Racso (who end up walking together to Thorn Valley after a chance encounter with each other, in which Timothy saves Racso from drowning in the stream), run into a rescue party from Thorn Valley, including Justin. Timmy and the rats travel a few more hours before reaching difficult, mountainous terrain. Here they have to cross over the mountain range (or a portion of it) into the narrow canyon which shelters Thorn Valley itself. It's here where Justin points out that:



"We have only about one mile to go. But that mile is the most difficult part of our trip. We must cross over the mountain and descend into the valley, and there are only about three hours of daylight left. We must decide now whether we want to finish the journey this afternoon, or whether we should camp for the night and arrive tomorrow morning."



This demonstrates that, even for good climbers like rats, the trip up and over the mountain is a long and difficult one, which consumes several hours. For small animals like rats and mice, that would certainly seem logical.



During their journey up the mountain trail, the path became more difficult:



"Abruptly the trail changed and became more rocky. Often, to remain on the path it was necessary for the rats to scramble over sharp stones. Justin, still in the lead, took out a rope and tied it around his chest. He passed it back and, in turn, each rat let out a length and then looped the rope around himself and passed it on.

"Brendan helped Racso fasten the rope around him. 'We do this in case one of us should slip,' he explained. 'If you feel someone falling, grab on to the rock nearest you and hold on tight.'

"They came to the base of a stone formation. Brendan told Racso that it was the peak of the mountain. The view from the trail was beautiful. Racso could see miles of woodland and the river, which wound through the trees like a green ribbon.

"Suddenly the trail widened and began to go down.

" 'Not long now,' Brendan said.

"Racso could hardly keep his eyes on the trail. He saw a valley spread out below him. The setting sun, reflecting off the stone wall of the mountain, cast a golden light over the fields and trees. Racso looked for houses, buildings, lights; but they were nowhere. He looked for busy hordes of rats, but he did not see them. He was puzzled.

"Twilight fell. It was too dark to search for the civilization at Thorn Valley...They continued downward. The other rats were silent.

"Justin whistled, a long piercing sound resembling a bird's cry. Another whistle floated back through the dark. They turned and walked over something that felt like gravel chips. There was no moon. Racso could not see anything. Then he felt Brendan touch his shoulder. 'This way.' They went through a gully and entered what looked like an ordinary rat hole. It was dark, and there was the smell of mud. The passage twisted and turned."




From this point, before I show you how the rats' colony at Thorn Valley itself is described in the book, I will be posting screen shots of how Thorn Valley is drawn and animated in The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, so you can begin to see the stark differences between what was first written, and then animated many years later...and, of course, the occasional, if rare, similarities.

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 Post subject: Re: Thorn Valley described!
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:45 pm 
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Thorn Valley in The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue
Unsurprisingly, what appears in both of the NIMH movies is not exactly what was established in the books. Robert C. O'Brien's description of the rats' colony under the rose bush presented a more practical place...not so fantastic in its design or appearance. It is beautiful, of course, what Don Bluth and his team created, and perhaps more fitting for an animated feature than what is in O'Brien's book (which is a bit more realistic). But it is very different.


The same goes for the Thorn Valley we see in the animated sequel. It's a very picturesque and pretty place...full of stained glass windows, cobblestone streets and hanging signage in front of multi-story buildings, small houses, and so forth. And there are stone bridges spanning small creeks, and an impressive carved wooden monument in the town square, surmounting a pool with a stone wall. The monument is dedicated to Jonathan Brisby, husband of Mrs. Brisby, and father to her four children (Teresa, Martin, Timothy and Cindy), and hero to the rats of NIMH. But it really isn't all that similar, in most cases, to the description given of Thorn Valley by Jane Leslie Conly in her sequel to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. In the post that follows this, you'll begin to see why.


However, here is a pictorial presentation of Thorn Valley as seen in The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue. Where the screen shots show elements of Thorn Valley which are at least similar to what was described in the literary material, I've noted it above certain shots. Otherwise, just enjoy the view. The next post will continue the presentation.





The Canyon
We start with a look at the canyon which Thorn Valley lay in. To review what Nicodemus described to Mrs. Frisby, in the first book (edited just a bit from what I posted earlier):



"The valley lies deep in the forest, beyond the big tree. The jeep trails do not cross it, nor even go close to it, for the mountains around it are forbidding, too steep and rocky even for jeeps, and are covered with thorny thickets.

Yet the bottom of the valley is level and broad and nearly a mile long; steep cliffs wall it in all around. There are three ponds or small lakes in it, and apparently those are fed by springs, for they never dry up.

It was this valley I was looking for the day I set out with Jenner. I had careful directions from the owl; yet it took us half a day, moving briskly, to reach the base of the mountains. Then up, up, very steeply, for more than an hour--not really difficult for us, since rats are better climbers than men; also, we are shorter, so we had little trouble with the spiney [sp] underbrush. From the top of the high ridge at last we looked down, and the valley lay before us.

It was beautiful and still, a wild and lonely place. Through the green and yellow treetops below us I could see the water of one of the ponds sparkling in the sun.

Most of the valley floor was in forest, great spreading oak and maple trees, but near one of the ponds I saw what I had hoped to find--a large natural clearing, a glade where only coarse grass and wild flowers grew, and some clumps of black raspberry bushes. This clearing was on the far side of the valley, beyond it the mountain wall rose again, a steep slope with big outcroppings of stone--granite ledges that thrust six or ten feet out of the earth.




Note specifically that not only is the canyon surrounded by high mountains on either side, with steep rocky walls on the interior, and rocky projections or outcroppings throughout, but that it is mostly forested, as is the country around it. There is no creek cutting through it, but there are three "ponds or lakes" in it, apparently fed by springs. And they never dry up. The clearing, which Nicodemus was aiming for as a spot to place the colony, was an open glade near one of the ponds, featuring "coarse grass and wild flowers...and some clumps of black raspberry bushes."



What we see in the sequel is vaguely similar. However, instead of a mostly forested canyon bordered by the sheer walls of mountains (flanked on either side by more forest and thorny thickets), what we see first is a sort of crack or fault in the level earth, with a mostly open floor of grassland beneath it, cut through the center by a meandering and occasionally branching creek or stream, with only one ancient tree in the center (perhaps an old oak), and some evergreen trees along the rock walls. And, at the top of the canyon, stretching out on either side, rolling grassland dotted, here and there, by trees:


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Farming
Indeed, the goal of the Thorn Valley colony is for the rats to establish a completely independent and functional culture, free of outside influence and the need to take from others. One of the facets of that goal entails farming. In the first book, both Justin and Nicodemus show Mrs. Frisby grain and seed stores being shipped to the location of the future Thorn Valley colony, for the purpose of planting crops. During his description to Mrs. Frisby of the Plan, Nicodemus also mentions that he tells Jenner, during their visit to the future Thorn Valley colony site, "we could grow our own food." In Racso and the Rats of NIMH, a "garden" is described, where vegetables and fruits are grown for the colony: "Since some of the workers were away on the expedition, Nicodemus asked for volunteers to fill in for them. Racso asked to work in the garden and was assigned the job with Christopher under the supervision of an older rat, Bertha...They walked to the garden without looking at each other. Racso saw that it was filled with green, leafy plants about six inches tall." Among the vegetables described in the book are peas, cabbages and peppermint (which the rats use to make tea). Of course, there were other crops as well, very meticulously laid out in an agricultural grid. In O'Brien's book, we learn that Nicodemus himself designed a plow which the rats would use to create furrows in the earth to plant their crops. And that the rats had stored up enough grains (including oats, wheat, barley and corn), seeds and beans for a whole year should their first crop fail. And that they had stockpiled enough seeds for two years worth of crops. Justin tells Mrs. Frisby:


"We've been building these stockpiles for a long time. All from Mr. Fitzgibbon's farm. We now have a two-year supply for one hundred and eight rats, plus enough to plant for two crops, in case the first one fails. In there'--he gestured toward the last bin in the row--'we have boxes full of seeds. Seeds for tomatoes, beets, carrots, melons and a lot more."



Shortly after that, Nicodemus tells Mrs. Frisby that "We've got two-thirds of it moved to Thorn Valley already, and we've dug a dry cave to store it in, under one of the big rocks. We've got seeds, we have our plows, we've cleared and cultivated part of the land near the pond; and in a few days we'll begin our first planting. We've even dug some irrigation ditches, in case there's a drought."



So how does all of that compare to the animated sequel? Well, surprisingly, there are some vague similarities:


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Unfortunately, this is where any similarity ends. Below you will see a general tour of the rest of Thorn Valley, as seen in the animated sequel. After that, I will provide you with a description as laid out in the books.


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 Post subject: Re: Thorn Valley described!
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 12:19 am 
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The Thorn Valley Colony
Before giving you the excerpts from Jane Leslie Conly's book Racso and the Rats of NIMH, which describes the rats' colony in pretty fair detail, allow me to demonstrate why the screen shots, taken from the animated sequel The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue contradict the literary continuity of the NIMH stories, and why they don't make sense. From Robert C. O'Brien's original book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, as Nicodemus is having his conversation with Mrs. Frisby in his study, and telling her about the rats' first adventures after their escape from NIMH, he tells of their coming to the estate of a wealthy human couple, who are away on a round-the-world trip. They sneak into the home and, among other things, spend the better part of a year reading the books in estate's extensive library, and learning a great deal from those books. Nicodemus mentions that he was particularly interested in finding out how rats were perceived by humans, and noted that most of the books portrayed rats in a very negative light...as thieves lurking on the edges of human civilization, and as carriers of disease...



"But there was one book, written by a famous scientist, that had a chapter about rats. Millions of years ago, he said, rats seemed to be ahead of all the other animals, seemed to be making a civilization of their own. They were well organized and built quite complicated villages in the fields. Their descendants today are the rats known as prairie dogs.

"But somehow it didn't work out. The scientist thought maybe it was because the rats' lives were too easy; while the other animals (especially the monkeys) were living in the woods and getting tougher and smarter, the prairie dogs grew soft and lazy and made no more progress. Eventually the monkeys came out of the woods, walking on their hind legs, and took over the prairies and almost everything else. It was then that the rats were driven to become scavengers and thieves, living on the fringes of a world run by men.

"Still it was interesting to us that for a while, at least, the rats had been ahead. We wondered. If they had stayed ahead, if they had gone on and developed a real civilization--what would it have been like? Would rats, too, have shed their tails and learned to walk erect? Would they have made tools? Probably, though we thought not so soon and not so many; a rat has a natural set of tools that monkeys lack: sharp, pointed teeth that never stop growing. Consider what the beavers can build with no tools but their rodent teeth.

"Surely rats would have developed reading and writing, judging by the way we took to it. But what about machines? What about cars and airplanes? Maybe not airplanes. After all, monkeys, living in trees, must have felt a need to fly; must have envied the birds around them. Rats may not have that instinct.

"In the same way, a rat civilization would probably never have built skyscrapers, since rats prefer to live underground. But think of the endless subways-below-subways-below-subways they would have had.

"We thought and talked quite a bit about all this, and we realized that a rat civilization, if one ever did grow up, would not necessarily turn out to be anything at all like human civilization. The fact was, after eight months at the Boniface Estate, none of us was sorry to move out of it. It had given us shelter, free food, and an education, but we were never really comfortable there. Everything in it was designed for animals who looked, moved and thought differently from the way we did. Also, it was above ground, and that never felt quite natural to us."




(continued...)

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 Post subject: Re: Thorn Valley described!
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 8:37 am 
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So we come to it at last...where we left off three posts ago. In the first literary sequel, Racso and the Rats of NIMH, Racso is following Justin, Timothy Brisby, and a handful of other rats through the dark into Thorn Valley, and they all enter a darkened passage that twisted and turned, and smelled of mud...



"Suddenly Racso saw light ahead of them. He thought he heard voices and laughter. He hurried along behind Brendan. The passageway ended in a large, bright room. Racso saw rats--a hundred rats. Someone handed him a wooden cup filled with broth, and he drank deeply. It warmed his throat and belly."



Skipping along a bit, Racso is welcomed and introduced around. But while Timothy Brisby is noticed by Nicodemus for a heroic deed in saving Racso, earlier in the story, from drowning in the stream, Racso is frustrated that he's not similarly noticed and appreciated for saving Timothy after he was attacked and injured by the owl (THE owl, yes!), and that he had been seeking Thorn Valley in order to stay there. As he stewed over this...



Isabella came and said, 'Justin says to show you to your bed. You'll be sharing a room with Timothy.' Racso followed gratefully as she led him out the door and down the long clay hallway. He was too tired to care that she didn't glance back to make sure he was behind her, or say good night. Tomorrow he would explore, and meet more rats, and learn more about Isabella...but tonight, tonight was for sleeping.

"Racso slept late. When he rolled over on his bed of soft rushes he saw that Timothy's bed was already empty. He stretched and looked around. Light filtered through a high window in the small room, so that by daylight it was quite cheerful. Besides the two beds, the room contained a wooden shelf and a series of pegs, from two of which hung Racso's hat and Timothy's knapsack. The clay floor was clean and dry, and the walls had been painted with lime to make them brighter. The door was wooden, with an arched top."




A couple of notes here: first, when "clay" is mentioned, it refers to the type of earthy clay that can often be found below topsoil when you dig into the ground. It's usually reddish-brown in color, soft and smooth to the touch. And usually forms the material used to make clayware (pots, crockery, etc.). It does not refer to clay in the arts & crafts sense. Second, "lime", in this case, does not refer to the green citrus fruit, but rather calcium oxide, which has a grayish-white appearance, and is often used in plaster.


After Racso awoke, his new friend Brendan appeared, offering to take him to breakfast in the "cafeteria", and then on a tour of Thorn Valley...



"He followed Brendan down a long hallway, passing many doors that looked just like the door to his own room.

" 'The bedrooms were built along a high bank, so that they could be lighted by the sun or moon,' Brendan explained. 'Some of the storerooms on the inside tier have no windows. We light those with beeswax candles.'

"Racso was disappointed. 'I thought you'd have electric lights.'

" 'We used to, when the colony lived under the rosebush at the Fitzgibbons',', Brendan said. 'I was too little to remember, but I've heard others talk about it. But we were stealing electricity from the farmers, and the leaders didn't think it was right to do that.'

"He followed Brendan into the cafeteria, a wide room with a long series of windows. There were stacks of wooden bowls along one wall, with names on them; along another wall were baskets filled with nuts, seeds, carrots, onions, turnips and dried fruits. In an adjacent room stood a big clay oven and a fireplace.

" 'We use those mostly in cold weather,' Brendan explained. 'The soup we made last night was special, for Timothy's homecoming.'

" 'Where are the others?' he asked Brendan, between mouthfuls.

"Brendan looked surprised. 'We get up with the sun,' he said. 'Most of the colony is hard at work by now: gardening, harvesting, gathering wood, weaving baskets, digging up the ground for a new water main. The babies are in the nursery--that's just down the hall and to the left--and of course, the young rats are in school."



Shortly, Racso meets the leader of the rats, Nicodemus (who isn't killed in the first book, the way he was in The Secret of NIMH). Nicodemus leads Racso to his office, where he questions him:


" 'Please sit down. I'll join you in a moment,' the head rat said solemnly.

"Racso was scared. He went into the room and sat in a straight chair beside a wooden desk. The office was small and tidy, with a red rug on the floor and sketches hanging from the walls. Besides the desk and extra chair, there was a bookcase packed with books and notebooks, and on the bottom shelf, a shiny metal box with knobs on it--a radio!"



Later, Racso is assigned to a classroom with other rats and Timothy Brisby, and begins his formal education. One of the young female rats, working in a group with a few others, shows the class a map they made of Thorn Valley, which included one of the ponds--which the rats named "Emerald Pond"--a playground, the entrances and exits to the underground colony complex (front door, back door and emergency door), a small creek that runs from the Trout River into Thorn Valley (where the rats catch crayfish: "you can tell because there's a bend toward the south right there"), and to a dam the rats constructed at Emerald Pond. The pond also serves, in part, as a swimming "hold" for the rats.


Still later on, Timothy shows Racso around Thorn Valley:



"Timothy enjoyed showing Racso the valley. The rats' nest was a complicated maze that took a full day to explore: the sleeping wing, the cafeteria, the storerooms, the nursery, the meeting room, the school. On the floor below these were an infirmary and several offices: one for Elvira the doctor, one for Nicodemus, one for Hermione, one for Arthur, one for Justin. There were three empty rooms with soft feather pillows and slate blackboards--'thinking rooms.' These could be reserved by anyone who had a problem and needed a quiet place to figure out a solution. Some interesting inventions had been conceived there: the granite solar collectors, which heated the nest during the coldest part of the winter, and the water wheel, which produced energy and also ground acorns into flour and squeezed oil from the harvest of peanuts and soybeans.

"But best of all was the playground.

" 'Is it really just for
us?' Racso asked Timothy when he first saw it. 'The ones I've seen have always been for human kids!'

"Timothy nodded. 'Arthur helped us build it last spring. The whole class worked on it together.'

" 'I want to go on the slide!' Racso yelled. 'I want to swing on the grapevine!' "




(continued...still a bit more to tell!)

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 Post subject: Re: Thorn Valley described!
PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2015 11:14 am 
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Heroes
There are other features mentioned. A bridge (it's not stated whether the bridge is made of stone, wood or some other material), connecting a path running past the garden along to Emerald Pond. It doesn't state what the bridge spans, though it is probably the little creek which feeds the pond. Elsewhere is a stone walkway...



"...bordered with glossy rhododendron. The walkway was overhung by taller plants and trees, and the effect, even in winter, was lovely and peaceful...The walkway led into a small pine grove. Beyond the trees was a clear, fast-flowing brook. To one side Racso noticed a mossy bank with a small gray stone on it. The stone was a rectangle about six inches high, with quartz crystals embedded along the sides. Racso stared at it. They approached the stone and stood in front of it. Racso saw that it had been engraved with the letter 'R.' "



The memorial, it turns out, was to two special rats that Nicodemus tells Racso about. The two had died in the escape from the rose bush the day NIMH came to try and flush out the rats and recapture (or kill) them, and Nicodemus mentioned them specifically giving their lives so that the others could escape. It's a sad story:



" 'One was a rat called Martha, who had come with us from Nimh.' [sic] 'She had tremendous strength and cunning and was almost fearless. She was older than most of us and had fought on the streets before she ever got to the laboratory. She volunteered to be part of the last guard--the rats who stayed to trick the humans into believing that they had destroyed an ordinary rats' nest.'

" 'And the other?'

" 'The truth is that we don't really know,' Nicodemus said sadly. 'He was a large, reddish rat who simply appeared on our doorstep at Mr. Fitzgibbon's farm in late winter, about a month before the move. He was practically starving. We gave him food and sent him away, but he kept coming back--he said he wanted to pay us back for helping him out. Eventually we let him stay. He was different from us. He was not bright, even for a normal rat, and he never understood why we had decided to leave our nest. We tried to teach him letters, and he tried to learn, but 'R'--for 'Red'--was the only letter he ever recognized. But what a worker! I don't know if we would have been ready to move if it hadn't been for him. He could move one pound of seed in a single carry, and he worked around the clock.

" 'The day came when the colony left for Thorn Valley. Nine of us stayed to destroy the nest. Red came back that night. 'I want to help,' he said.

" 'We knew the end would be dangerous: Mrs. Frisby had overheard that Dr. Schultz from Nimh planned to gas the nest, to collect specimens. He suspected that some of us were the rats of Nimh, At dawn we heard the tractor start. They must have put a bulldozer blade on it, because we saw the roots of the rosebush fly up into the air. There was a terrible stench. I ran behind the others, toward the hidden door. I could see the sky when Justin stopped me. 'We're missing two!' Red never spoke, he just turned around and went back in. I came out, gasping. After the others had stopped circling and dodging, I counted seven. Later Brutus was pushed out. Red had saved him, and gone back for Martha.'

"They stood for a moment in silence. A question plagued Racso. Finally he asked, 'Why did he do it?'

" 'I don't know. I've thought about it a lot. We've never been able to find his family or even where he came from. We never even got his body--the doctor took that, and Martha's too. That's one of the reasons we put up this stone.'

" 'The 'R' ', said Racso. 'Does it stand for Red?'

" 'It stands for Rat,' Nicodemus said. 'It's for him and for Martha, and for other rats who work or die for what they believe in.' "




This stands in contrast to the animated sequel, which shows a very prominent, carved wooden statue of Jonathan Brisby in the square of the Thorn Valley colony...


Image


In the literary version of Thorn Valley, on the other hand, the rats kept things quite simple...just a small memorial stone on the bank of the creek, in a pleasant little space by the walkway and the creek. And it was not only not dedicated to Jonathan Frisby (remember, in the books, it's "Frisby", not "Brisby"), but there's not even a mention, by Nicodemus, of mice at all. Even though, in the first book, Nicodemus does pay respects to Jonathan Frisby while talking with Mrs. Frisby. In the books, while Jonathan Frisby is an important part of the rats' success, he's not treated with the same adoration which he is in the animated sequel.





In fact, it's worth pointing out how different the literary sequel Racso and the Rats of NIMH is from the animated sequel. In the animated sequel, Timothy Brisby is called to train as a hero. To eventually BE a hero. However, there are some lines in the literary sequel which show how that "hero" concept is, again, somewhat contradictory. As Racso, the young rat who comes to Thorn Valley with Timothy, is interviewed by Nicodemus in his office, he points out that he wants to stay in the colony permanently. When Nicodemus inquires as to why...



"Racso hesitated. He wanted to speak well, but he was scared. After a while he said, 'I want to be a scientist. I want to be a hero, like you.'

"Nicodemus looked genuinely startled. He laughed briefly. His good eye was open wide, and he regarded Racso with quiet amusement. 'I am
not a hero,' he said. 'And Thorn Valley is not in the business of raising heroes. Heroes are creatures of adversity--war, fire, accident, or disaster. Our dreams for Thorn Valley don't include the tragic circumstances that produce heroes. What we want is a community where rats cooperate to provide food and shelter, where work and pleasure are part of everyone's life.'

" 'But you'll need heroes,' Racso argued. 'You'll need leaders.'

" 'Leaders, yes,' Nicodemus nodded. 'But leaders are no more heroic than the rat who carries more grain that she really has to, or the student who does not lose his temper when another rat takes what is rightfully his.' "




And yet, near the end of the book, after the reader has learned that not only is Jenner (whom The Secret of NIMH movie paints as an amoral, scheming and sociopathic villain) the father of Racso--whose name appears to actually be "Oscar", that he was hiding it to hide his identity at first (you'll just have to read the whole book to get the bigger picture)--but that Jenner becomes a hero to the rats. He gives his life to save the Thorn Valley community (because, once again, the character is different in the books, and is not killed at the end of the first book). So the rats create another stone memorial...this one specifically to honor Jenner...with his name and, at the request of his son, the word "hero" below it. It is placed along the creek bank next to the existing "R" memorial. During a dedication ceremony at Thorn Valley, Nicodemus has a moment of clarity in which he admits something privately to Racso:



"He looked directly at Racso. 'You told me once that you dreamed of becoming a hero.' he said. 'I remember I told you that we did not breed heroes here, and that everyone must do his part in making the community strong.'

"Nicodemus smiled. 'I still believe that,' he said. 'But if young rats should find their minds wandering sometimes to heroic feats, or if they dream of triumphs and victories we have not yet undertaken to win, I wish them well. And if I should see them here in the pine grove, sitting alone beside these monuments, I will bide my time before I send them back to work or school.' "



So, in a small way, author Jane Leslie Conly grants that, in time, Thorn Valley could indeed see heroes emerge from the community...as it did with Jonathan Frisby, Mr. Ages, Mrs. Frisby, Justin, Brutus, Martha, Red, Jeremy, Timothy, Racso and others. Which does leave a lot of potential territory open!





And that's all she wrote on this topic! lol A lot of reading, yes! But if you're really into the concept of seeing Thorn Valley laid out, for fan fictions, fan art, or just to understand it better, well there's a lot of room here to develop the concept!

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