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Literature / Ben And Me

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Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos is a 1939 book by Robert Lawson. Bill Peet, who was working at Disney at the time, adapted it into a short feature for them in 1953, with Sterling Holloway providing narration and giving a voice to Amos.

Ben and Me chronicles the life of the famous Benjamin Franklin — from the perspective of a mouse, Amos, who lives in his coonskin hat. Amos stays with Ben through most of the exploits that made him famous, helping him and sometimes getting the wrong end of Franklin's adventurousness and insatiable curiosity.

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This book includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Amos mentions that a hole Ben made in the front of the hat came in useful for Amos warning him about obstacles right ahead of him that he didn't notice.
  • Asleep for Days: Amos sleeps for two days following the kite-flying incident.
  • Babies Ever After: Multiple of Amos' siblings have families of their own by the end of the book.
  • Cut the Juice: A variant; when Ben's demonstration of electricity starts to go awry and electrify some of the spectators, Ben starts forward to do something. However, Amos, realizing it's a bad idea to touch anything that might make them part of the circuit, nips him on the ear and tells him to stop the apprentice who's been turning the wheel instead. This solves the problem without putting anyone else in the electricity's way.
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  • Damsel in Distress: Sophia, a mouse Amos meets during his and Ben's stay in France, was chased from her home at court and separated from her husband and children, the latter of whom are in captivity.
  • Didn't Think This Through: When Amos and Ben first talk to each other, Ben defends the meager fueling on the fire with the maxim "waste not, want not." Amos points out that getting sick from exposure to the cold could result in wastes of time (in bed) and money (for doctors). Ben promptly builds up the fire.
  • Fiery Redhead: Red, a mouse who accompanies Thomas Jefferson in the same way Amos does Benjamin Franklin, has reddish fur and a passionate temperament that can erupt in rhetoric or in physical confrontation.
  • Forgets to Eat: In the middle of Ben's excited rush to finish with the stove prototype, Amos asks him if he goes past the pantry on his way back from the woodpile. When Ben asks why, Amos points out that not everyone feels satisfied with inventing without some food to go along with it.
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  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: In one story, Ben goes swimming. Amos, who disdains it, stays on the bank. A dog runs away with Ben's hat and Ben, thinking Amos is still inside, runs after it to rescue him. Then some people come by, see Ben's clothes and not the wearer, and assume he drowned, so they run off carrying the "evidence" with them. Eventually Ben comes back, and ultimately has to face everyone wearing only his swimsuit and coonskin hat.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Amos claims that Ben achieved most of his success because of Amos' assistance. For instance, Amos gave Franklin the idea for the stove and his skill as a spy let Ben know all sorts of things that made people unaware of the arrangement wonder if the man could read minds.
  • Kite Riding: Ben rigs a platform on his kite for Amos and a cart in which he can ride down, which Amos enjoys immensely. As Ben begins to study electricity, he hints that Amos riding on the kite during a thunderstorm would greatly benefit his study. Amos declines. However, the day Franklin "discovers" electricity, he sends Amos up in the kite like usual — and Amos doesn't find out till too late that he's removed the cart.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Amos is the oldest of twenty-six children.
  • Red Is Heroic: Red, a mouse companion of Jefferson's, has reddish fur and a fierce dislike of injustice.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Ben accidentally convinces many locals that he's drowned when he runs off chasing a dog that had stolen his cap, leaving his clothes on the banks.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: After Amos' alterations to the latest Poor Richard's Almanac cause a number of ships to run aground and nearly result in a riot, Ben points out that the almanac clearly isn't an authentic one. He claims it's a hoax and urges his customers to insist on the genuine article in the future.
  • Silent Treatment: Amos refuses to talk to Ben at all after the kite-flying incident. Given how badly it affected him to stay on a kite in the middle of a thunderstorm, it's pretty understandable.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: As expected for a mouse in fiction, Amos has a great fondness for cheese.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Ben doesn't seem to find it odd when Amos starts talking to him.
  • Well-Intentioned Replacement:
    • Ben Franklin has set up his electrical equipment for a demonstration. To Amos it doesn't look like the diagrams, so he "fixes" it, dumping the extra stuff into a chair. The governor later gets zapped.
    • Amos has taken it upon himself to "fix" the latest edition of Poor Richard's Almanac by adjusting the lists of maxims and the tides table. This doesn't end well, but he was certainly was good-natured in his intentions.
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