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Literature / The Legend of Rah and the Muggles


The Legend of Rah and the Muggles is a children's book written and published by Nancy Stouffer (now referring to herself as "N.K. Stouffer") in 1984. (That title is a modification; the book title didn't actually feature the word "muggles" when it was released; Stouffer added it later to increase her chances of winning her lawsuit.) The book languished in obscurity until 1999, when Stouffer sued J. K. Rowling (author of the wildly popular Harry Potter book series) for intellectual property damages, claiming that Rowling had stolen elements from Rah and used them in the Potter books without permission, primarily the use of the word "muggles". The subsequent lawsuit was eventually laughed out of court, as Stouffer was unable to verify her claim that she originally trademarked the term.

The tale opens with a nuclear war caused by government corruption, in a way that's guaranteed to send any 6-year-old to a somewhat restless sleep, followed by an Author Filibuster about the abuse of eminent domain laws. If this jars with the colourful Fairy Tale kingdom depicted on the front cover (which in fairness isn't too bad) then it should. It's like watching an episode of Handy Manny with explosions and genocide. The title character somehow brings sunlight back to the land of the Muggles, who evolved implausibly quickly from the survivors of the apocalypse. No attempt is made to Hand Wave the conditions After the End that led humanity down that particular evolutionary path, let alone with such speed. The subsequent chapters present a disjointed and incoherent account of the lives of Rah, his brother Zyn and the Muggles, as several years will often be skipped in-between chapters.

Simply put, Rah and the Muggles is to children's literature what The Eye of Argon is to swords and sorcery, minus the unintentional hilarity. For a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the story, this link should tell you just about all you need to know. If you want to know more, see Zelda Queen's more detailed dissection. Or you could buy the book or download a pirate copy of it.

This book provides examples of:

  • After the End
  • Alternative Calendar: And clearly not that helpful, since "The Year of the Purple Haze" does little to distinguish a year from any of the 500 other years in which the world was blanketed with a purple cloud of fallout.
    • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every year seems to be named after a particular parable from The Ancient Book of Tales. For example, "The Year of the Gilded Cage" refers to an incident in which pirates stole a number of pets being taken to be sold and released them on Aura, keeping only the gold cages.
  • Anti-Villain: Zyn, but not in the way the author intended.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Nobody does anything about Zyn or the Nevils.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • This book features a type of moss called "Bordonian Moss", which has purple flowers. Moss is not a flowering plant.
    • Yur declares that the light of the fireflies will keep Zyn on the island of Dezra forever. The lifespan of a firefly is two months, so in practice the Muggles have accomplished nothing.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: When the Nevils are creating tar to waterproof Zyn's boat, they end up getting second and third-degree burns from the heat. Yet all they have to do to heal the burns is jump in the ocean and they're all better, whereas in real life the saltwater would make their burns worse.
  • Bright Castle: Depicted on the cover, and apparently where Lady Catherine lives, which features in the first chapter and never appears again.
  • Cain and Abel: Rah and Zyn.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Zyn, who following his Face–Heel Turn started talking like a scally.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Rah's allergy to a type of moss counts as this.
  • Christmas Cake: Noona
  • Comforting the Widow: In the first chapter the twins' mother, Lady Catherine, learns that her "beloved husband" is dead. She mourns extensively. A few days/paragraphs later, she openly flirts with the butler.
  • Convenient Escape Boat: Zyn and the Nevils use clamshells to escape the island in Chapter 13.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The writing style is a style of writing with many unnecessary repetitions that she repeats unnecessarily many times. Stouffer would be hopeless on Just a Minute. Also see the quote under Funetik Aksent below.
  • Description Porn: Stouffer apparently isn't aware that the children 6 to 12 years old (the target audience) don't care about overly long and elaborate descriptions of everything.
  • Deus ex Machina: The aforementioned clamshell boats.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The book's introduction drones on for 2,000 words of questionable relevance to the rest of the story — and so, for that matter, do the first two chapters. In fact, the story's major conflict (the Cain and Abel plot) isn't even hinted at until about halfway through.
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research: The word "Bugger" is uttered quite often in the book. Apparently Stouffer was not aware that it's a very offensive word in both British and Australian english.
  • Do Not Call Me Paul: One of the Nevils is named Peter, but he insists on being called by his nickname "Chops".
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: Rah's "Ancient Book of Tales", which includes a story about Killer Rabbits that might seem familiar...
  • Elemental Baggage: Rah apparently has so much fluid in his tear ducts that his crying can sink boats.
  • Evil Redhead: Zyn
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Take a wild guess as to which beverage "Lemonade Lake" (for reasons unexplored) tastes like. The parody had "Coca-Cola Canal".
  • Expospeak
  • Face–Heel Turn: Zyn and the Nevils.
  • Freudian Excuse: Zyn's Start of Darkness comes from his resentment of his brother, and is handled with all the subtlety you'd expect.
  • Funetik Aksent: A sea cow who stutters, like so:
    "Well, wha— wha— what do you know a— a— about dat!" It's the ba— bah— bahbies Naddie and Neddie were tal— talking ah— ahbout," he stuttered to himself. "We got— got— gotta get ya ou— ou— out— a here! There's a st— stor— storm ca— ca— comin'," he stuttered nervously... (from here). Yes, he even stutters in internal monologue.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Congress Of United Peoples, or C.O.U.P., in the introduction, which seems to be a Take That against the United Nations.
  • Granny Classic: Golda
  • Grumpy Old Man: Yur
  • Hit So Hard the Calendar Felt It: The Calendar is reset by a nuclear war. The problem is that it talks about a "Year of the purple haze" (nuclear fallout), when every single year in living memory has been a year of purple haze!
  • Hollywood Evolution
  • How Do I Used Tense?: Stouffer has this habit of switching into present tense and back in the course of a single sentence.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests
  • Infant Immortality: Taken to the logical extreme. Place two infants (toddlers?) on a raft and shove them out to sea, let them stay on the raft for one full week before having the happy sea creatures come to their aid, and then consider how they avoid being (a) horribly sunburnt, (b) half-drowned or maybe all drowned, (c) salt-burnt, and/or (d) dehydrated and probably dead from that alone. They're certainly not going to be shiny, happy babies by that point, and that's even leaving in such an important detail as Nobody Poops.
    • The lack of sunburn could possibly be Handwaved with the fact that Lady Catherine apparently covered them with a blanket before sending them off. It's still really weak, especially when you consider (a) that doesn't excuse their heads and (b) there is no more mention of the blanket, nor does it appear in the picture.
  • Informed Attribute: The Character Glossary describes things that the characters are never shown doing or being in the story, and sometimes the entries contradict what's already established in the previous chapters.
  • Jerkass: Zyn is meant to be seen as this.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The intro pointing out how implausible the whole situation was is an example of the bad, "Message from Fred" kind.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Averted (notable, given the genre); magic exists, but completely at random with no apparent rules behind it.
  • Mood Whiplash: From Paranoia Fuel to Tastes Like Diabetes back to Nightmare Fuel in record time.
  • Muggles: Surprisingly averted: The Teletubby-like protagonists might be called "Muggles", but they throw random magic around like nobody's business. Granted, this would make sense, as the book does predate the term in the Harry Potter sense we all know and love... if the author hadn't sued J.K. Rowling over use of the term.
  • Never Say "Die": Despite gleefully recounting the annihilation of all life that doesn't fall into the Tastes Like Diabetes category earlier on, the book describes the Big Bad's plan as making Rah "sleep forever".
  • Nobody Poops
  • Ocular Gushers: If you want to Narmify a touching goodbye scene, you can't do better than have someone cry so much that they cause a flash flood. Presumably the vast volume of water involved was stored in one of the massive plot holes.
  • Orphaned Etymology: After the "Thirty Year War", all knowledge of the world is lost. Then how do the characters remember well about Shakespeare, Pachelbel Canon D, the Indians, French Language and Chinese Lanterns?
  • The Pigpen: Boggs
  • Plot Hole: So many that the "plot" resembles a block of Swiss cheese.
  • Pregnant Badass: Lady Catherine, supposedly.
  • Preppy Name: Lady Catherine's butler is named Walter Randolph Winfred Cherrington.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Zyn and Rah.
  • The Resenter: Zyn
  • Redundant Department of Redundancy / Shaped Like Itself: "Their cries for help went unrecognized as they rang out with piercing screams for help."
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: The author has the unfortunate combination of a tenuous grasp of English and a singularly unqualified editor.
  • Show, Don't Tell: One of the book's main problems. Qualities of characters are stated, but never actually shown.
    • In a particular example, it is stated that Zyn has become jealous and is losing all of his self-esteem, and that he and Rah were very close until now. Stouffer doesn't actually describe how and why it happens, and what part of his personality is losing. This also cements Zyn's status as Designated Villain.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Zyn
  • Stupid Evil: The Nevils.
  • Swiss Army Tears: Rah cries so much that it sinks the Nevils' boat.
  • Talking Animal: A few with cute alliterative names show up, without much consequence; that some of them have New York accents would be a major source of Fridge Logic in any other book, but here it barely registers.
  • Technicolor Science: Nuclear fallout is purple; evidently the bombs used in the final war contained radioactive potassium permanganate. Nuclear fission produces, among other things, radioactive iodine - hence the use of iodine pills to protect against exposure by saturating the body with normal iodine so the radioactive stuff doesn't get absorbed. Iodine, at least in vapour form, is purple. However, it doesn't colour fallout purple, and its half-life is so short that you can forget about it after a week or two.
  • Time Skip: Random numbers of years will pass between chapters.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Zyn and the Nevils decide to take shelter in a radioactive tree, and refuse to move out even after developing serious health problems.
  • Unequal Pairing: Lady Catherine falls in love with her butler.
  • Vanity Publishing: Twice, in fact. The first publisher went bankrupt, then the book was picked up by a new publisher hoping to capitalize on the plagiarism controversy...which also went bankrupt.
  • Veganopia: Nominally. The character list claims that Muggles are vegetarians, but we also hear of them eating killer rabbits.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Zyn is meant to be seen as this.
    • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: What he comes off as. He's not even scary, just angry-more like, in another book, would come off as a well-written redeemable bully.
  • Wanton Cruelty To The Common Apostrophe: Very frequently, including on Stouffer's own website.
  • Weird Moon: One that can shine through a cloud thick enough to block the sunlight.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The vanishing treasure chest, and pretty much every single character besides the brothers who appears in the first two chapters or so.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: So which nation/continent is "Aura"?
  • Writer on Board
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Stubby, who starts out as a five-year-old boy, is described in a later chapter as a "fifteen-year-old boy"...twenty-two years after Rah and Zyn's arrival on the island.