Mouse World

"For behind the wooden wainscots of all the old houses of Gloucester, there are little mouse staircases and secret trap-doors; and the mice run from house to house through those long narrow passages; they can run all over the town without going into the streets."

Similar in many ways to Beneath the Earth, Mouse World exists in secret on the fringes of human society; the difference is scale. This is an entire class of stories built around tiny protagonists operating just out of sight in the human world. These come in a few flavors, but all share some important common elements. In any case, the lives of the little folk draw eerie parallels to the lives of the big-folk.

In an urban setting, the characters most often act like rats, even when they aren't actual Talking Animals in the 3- to 6-inch range. They live in Mouse Holes using adapted or cobbled-together materials made from human trash with the odd toys and models thrown in usually making it Scavenged Punk.

If they deal with human opponents directly, expect clever trickery, stealth and the odd Colossus Climb. They may become Dinky Drivers to operate human vehicles. If humans aren't aware of them in the slightest (as in most cases), it's usually because they either have a strong Weirdness Censor, the tiny species is keeping a complex and clever masquerade, or they simply regard talking and/or clothed Funny Animals or tiny humanoids as an Unusually Uninteresting Sight. In some cases one lucky human (usually a child) Speaks Fluent Animal and is the only human character in the story aware of the tiny species. In combination with an Incredible Shrinking Man, you can have a Trapped in Another World plot. Other slightly larger animals such as cats and dogs may also play a role in this world, but expect Animal Jingoism to come into play, along with examples of Cats Are Mean.

The trope may have begun with the original Lilliputians, and later Gulliver's time with the Brobdignagian giants, in Gullivers Travels by Jonathan Swift (although there were a few very small beings in some cultures' version of the Oral Tradition, long before Swift's time). The best-known recent version is probably The Borrowers books and their adaptations to other media.

The Mouse World is almost always a Wainscot Society, more or less literally. ("Wainscot" is wooden panelling on interior walls, and small beings might live behind the wainscot in houses; mice often do in the real world.) However, the Mouse World may not feature a fully-developed society. Hence, this is a Sister Trope and often functionally a Subtrope to that one. Not to be confused with the Disney Theme Parks. If you're looking for little people who don't necessarily live in one of these worlds, head over to Lilliputians.


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  • There is a weirdly humanlike monkey society in The Jungle Book, but they do not act humanlike around any person other than Mowgli.
    • The animals in general only act humanlike toward Mowgli.
  • In Incarceron anyone who enters the Prison is shrunk down to fit into it. Said Prison is, in fact, a silver cube set on the Warden's pocketwatch.

Newspaper Comics
  • The Far Side loves this trope. There have been cartoons featuring rodents, fish, arthropods and even microbes whose behaviour mirrors (and of course satirises) that of humans.

Western Animation

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • The scene in MouseHunt in which the mouse's room is shown, consisting of a postcard as a poster and a little bed made up of a tin box and cotton balls.

  • Stuart Little
  • The young adult Discworld novel The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents: although the sapient rats are an unusual case, not the norm.
  • Played quite straight in the novel The Prince Of Darkness, about a Rat-Machiavelli eventually being overthrown by a communist revolution...
  • China Miéville's King Rat plays this with gritty realism. Organized rats are real city rats living in the sewers.
  • The Deptford Mice books by Robin Jarvis.
  • The Tale of Despereaux has one for mice (the Trope Namer) and one for rats.
  • The Redwall books started out with a few elements of this, which were later Ret Conned away.
    • The most obvious example of this is the horse and human-sized cart Cluny and his horde first show up in. Horses are never seen again in the series. Then there's the stampede of cows through a village, a dog, and an abandoned barn.
    • There's also St. Ninian's church, which was burned down in Pearls of Lutra, and a mention of the (human) country of Portugal in the first book.
  • Firmin by Sam Savage is a novel about a rat who lives in a bookstore and is a consumer of great literature (literally — he finds it quite tasty).
  • Angelina Ballerina
  • The Christopher Churchmouse series of biblically-oriented short stories, written by a Barbra Davoll, is set in a church where mice live much the same lives that humans do in secret, even including attending the preacher's sermons.
  • Margery Sharp's The Rescuers series, source material for the two Disney Animated Canon films.
  • Geronimo Stilton
  • In the book, House of Tribes. It shows life entirely from the perspective of rodents. It is a very well done example, that fits this trope to the T.

Live-Action TV
  • Portlandia has a skit about a trio of rats living in Portland voiced by Fred and Carrie.

Tabletop Games

Western Animation
  • Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, although one not exclusive to rodents. Dogs, cats, arthropods, fish, birds, and pretty much every other sort of animal is an active part of the Mouse World.
  • Capitol Critters
  • An American Tail, films and series. Theirs comes complete with animal Expys of actual human historical figures, and the mice themselves are essentially metaphors for oppressed minorities.
  • The Great Mouse Detective (which was based on a series of books by Eve Titus, Basil of Baker Street)
    • Exaggerated in that while set in London, the mouse version of London is almost exactly the same as the human, without Bamboo Technology. They have clockwork, guns, functioning cabarets and (bizarrely) even Queen Mousetoria, who's an identical mouse version of Queen Victoria. Also, living directly under Sherlock Holmes' house is Basil, a mouse who's an amazingly clear if Disney-fied Expy of Holmes himself.
  • The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under, two animated Disney features based on the aforementioned series of books by Margery Sharp.
  • Cinderella's mouse-friends, though not the center of the story, have significantly adapted the house so they can move about freely inside it.
  • The novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, or The Film of the Book The Secret Of NIMH.
    • The movie took it far further, though; the mice have tables, chairs, a bed, separate rooms and curtains in the doorways of their home, whereas in the original, it was just a two-opening cinderblock.
    • The novel (and the later sequels) did state that the Rats of NIMH had made their tunnels surprisingly human-like (and it only got more so, after they moved to the valley, including a statue of one of the rats who died near the end of the first book). Racso even has some of the younger rats figuring out how to make candy. And Mrs. Frisby was married to one of the mice from NIMH. So her husband might have been partial to human-like amenities, and Mrs. Frisby humoured him.
  • The computer-animated film Flushed Away has a rat-sized recreation on London made out of junk in the Absurdly Spacious Sewer, with its own Tower Bridge, Picadilly Circus (complete with not-so-big screens) and Big Ben.
  • Danger Mouse, although the scale is not kept consistent.
  • Played quite realistically in the Disney Animated Canon film Ratatouille, where the most Bamboo Technology utilized by the rats is their musical instruments. Other than that, they're quadruped rodents. Remy, who engages in more humanlike behavior like walking on his hind legs and reading, is considered an oddity by the others.
  • Once Upon a Forest, though it takes place mostly in the wilderness where humans are seen as mythical, frightening and destructive monsters, the Woodland Creatures encounter with 'the yellow dragons', aka construction equipment, as well as other human inventions such as streets and animal traps qualifies it. They also live in houses built into trees.
  • Most Tom and Jerry and Tom and Jerry Tales cartoons and episodes.
  • Most of Pinky and the Brain is set in a "normal" human world; however, the episode "The Third Mouse" (a parody of The Third Man) is set inexplicably in a 1940's Mouse World.
    • The episode "When Mice Ruled the Earth" has Pinky and the Brain trying to create one of these, and succeeding at the end. Unfortunately, all the mice look and act like Pinky.
    Brain: Quickly, Pinky! We must return to the past! I must change it all back again!
  • The Rankin/Bass special Twas The Night Before Christmas involves a family of mice living with the family of a human clockmaker. Unusually for the trope, the human is not only aware of his counterpart's existence but actually interacts and works with him.
  • One episode of the second season of Flash Gordon establishes that, along with all the other animal-themed races on Mongo, there is a race called the Mouse Folk, who are Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Tube Mice a CITV series about mice living beneath a London Underground station, who even have their own MP - Mouse of Parliament.

Real Life
  • Pet supply companies put out a variety of toys for rodents that emulate this trope, such as hamster-sized plastic cars or model huts made of gnaw-friendly materials.

    Small Creatures 
  • Professor Schimauski by German artist Walter Moers discovered that his toaster actually worked because there's a little dragon living in it.

  • Watership Down, except they live in a rural setting.
  • The Mouse and His Child includes both small creatures and non-living things.
  • The Wind in the Willows sort of waffles between this and the typical cartoon-animal approach. Sometimes the small animals seem to be the correct size, but sometimes they interact with scaled-down horses and other such non-anthropomorphic animals that really ought to be a lot bigger
  • In Redwall, animals live in a medieval sort of world, and they do have tables, ovens, swords, clothing, etc. They don't live in a realistic way, it's very humanlike. However, they do retain characteristics of being animals... moles are good at digging, squirrels are champion climbers, otters are naturals at swimming, some animals are mentioned as being carnivorous (most animals in the series eat only fish and eggs, as far as non-plants go).
  • The mock epic Batrachomyomachia makes this Older Than Feudalism: it parodies epics like The Iliad by replacing the heroic figures with warrior mice and frogs, fighting each other complete with miniature armor and weapons.

Live-Action TV

Tabletop Games

Web Comics
  • The world of Crossed Claws certainly looks this way, what with the field of grass that goes up far past the characters heads, and a kind, playful cat wanting her new rabbit friend to meet her caretakers which she can only describe as "tall things". It's actually a straight up fantasy world with its own history, and the "Tall Things" are shapeshifting bug monsters.

Western Animation

    Fish and Sea Creatures 
Western Animation

Comic Books
  • The Snorks are a French-language comic featuring rockpool-based Smurf ripoffs.

    Small Humanoids 
Anime and Manga
  • The Secret World of Arrietty, Studio Ghibli's film adaptation of The Borrowers
  • The Littl' Bits
  • Kabu no Isaki by Hitoshi Ashinano. The story is set in a world where everything except humans is 10 times larger (in linear size), but apparently the Earth surface gravity force is not 10 times stronger. Result: Japan appears huge and sparsely populated, humans are piloting what looks like toy airplanes, landing on fuki (butterbur) leaves and such.
    • There is also an old one-shot called Kuma-bachi no Koto ("something about carpenter-bees") by Ashinano in which small humanoid(s) and standard-size people co-exist.
  • Busou Shinki. Humans are perfectly aware of the sentient girl-shaped toys equipped with lethal weapons, but it's not regarded as something special. There is a fringe Shinki society that few know of, however.


  • The Polish film Kingsajz is set in such a world, inhabited by gnomes. The title is a phonetic rendition of "king size", here a normal human's size which can be temporarily achieved through a magic potion.
  • Strange Magic: The movie's fairy protagonists are small enough to ride armored squirrels as mounts,

  • The Littles
  • The Borrowers
  • Terry Pratchett's Nac Mac Feegle (aka the Pictsies) in Wee Free Men and other Discworld books. His earlier children's books, The Carpet People and The Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings) are a more obvious example.
  • Mistress Masham's Repose
  • The Gallivespians in His Dark Materials
  • Possibly the tiniest example is the Protozoan World of the microscopic people in the short story "Surface Tension". Just barely qualifies as interacting with the macro-scale human world, due to the etched metal documents left behind for them.
  • A classic of British fantasy literature, The Little Grey Men features four gnomes who presumably had a Mouse World culture once, but now are the Last Of Their Kind.
  • Gnomes is a wonderfully detailed illustration on how six-inch humanoids might survive in the wild. For the most part they live In Harmony with Nature but they do occasionally scavenge things from human beings and their domestic animals.
  • This is how Pauline Clarke figured the Young Men would handle it in Return of the Twelves. The Young Men were a set of (actual) wooden soldiers owned by Branwell Bronte and his sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Taking off on the Bronte kids' idea that the soldiers would see themselves as normal sized and perceive the kids as giant Arabian Nights-type "Genii", Clarke's idea was that the soldiers came to life and moved around when nobody was looking. She describes them navigating the huge everyday world with intelligence and aplomb.

Live-Action TV
  • Land of the Giants (Inversion: regular humans trapped in a world filled with — guess what — giants.)
  • Kabouter Plop (Plop The Gnome) a popular Belgian children's show focuses on 4 small gnomes that live inside a mushroom houses.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

Western Animation

    Insects and Arachnids 

Comic Books
  • Junkville, the setting of a series of Disney comic books starring Bucky Bug.


  • A Rustle in the Grass by Robin Hawdon is a novel about ants told in a Heroic Fantasy style.
  • The Ant Bully
  • The City Under the Back Steps by Evelyn Sibley Lampman, in which two children are shrunk down to ant size and have adventures in/with an ant colony

Western Animation

    Sapient Nonliving Things 
  • The Doll People features dolls that take an oath upon being made which allows them to keep their sapience. Oddly, Barbie dolls are not alive, although fictional brands of dolls are.
    • Barbies could be alive. For some reason, they mostly choose not to take the oath.

Tabletop RPG

Western Animation