Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Two Bad Mice

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The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter - is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co. in September 1904. Potter took inspiration for the tale from two mice caught in a cage-trap in her cousin's home and a doll's house being constructed by her editor and publisher Norman Warne as a Christmas gift for his niece Winifred. While the tale was being developed, Potter and Warne fell in love and became engaged, much to the annoyance of Potter's parents, who were grooming their daughter to be a permanent resident and housekeeper in their London home. Plot The tale begins with "once upon a time" and a description of a "very beautiful doll's-house" belonging to a doll called Lucinda and her cook-doll Jane. Jane never cooks because the doll's-house food is made of plaster and was "bought ready-made, in a box full of shavings". Though the food will not come off the plates, it is "extremely beautiful". One morning the dolls leave their dollhouse for a drive in their perambulator, pushed by the girl who lives in the Nursery. No one is in the Nursery when Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca, two mice living under the skirting board, peep out and cross the hearthrug to the dollhouse. They open the door, enter, and "squeak for joy" when they discover the dining table set for dinner. Tom Thumb tries to cut some Ham, but it's made of plaster and when his wife tries to help, she declares the ham is "as hard as the hams at the cheesemongers" and Tom Thumb smashes the ham. They try eating some Fish, but it's glued to the plate. After realising all the food is made of plaster and uneatable, they smash the Lobsters, the Pears, the Oranges and the Pudding. The fish will not smash nor will it come off the plate, so they instead try burning it in the fire, but to no avail (the fire is not real). Tom Thumb scurries up the sootless chimney while Hunca Munca empties the kitchen canisters of their red and blue beads. Tom Thumb takes the dolls' dresses from the chest of drawers and tosses them out the window while Hunca Munca pulls the feathers from the dolls' bolster. In the midst of her mischief, Hunca Munca remembers she needs a bolster for her babies and the two take the dolls' bolster to their mouse-hole. They carry off several small odds and ends from the doll's-house including a cradle, however a bird cage and bookcase will not fit through the mouse-hole. The Nursery door suddenly opens and the dolls return in their perambulator with the Girl and her Governess. Lucinda and Jane are speechless when they behold the vandalism in their house. The little Girl who owns the dollhouse gets a policeman doll and positions it at the front door, but her Governess is more practical and sets a mouse-trap. The narrator believes the mice are not "so very naughty after all": Tom Thumb pays for his crimes with a crooked sixpence placed in the doll's stocking on Christmas Eve and Hunca Munca atones for her hand in the destruction by cleaning the Dollhouse every morning with her dust-pan and broom.
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