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Literature / The Tale of Samuel Whiskers

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The Tale of Samuel Whiskers is a children's book by Beatrix Potter. It was published in 1908, and is the sequel to The Tale of Tom Kitten.

Tom Kitten lives in a rat infested house with his mother, Tabitha Twitchit, and his sisters, Moppet and Mittens. He decides to go into hiding when his mother does the baking, instead of being shut up in a cupboard with his sisters to keep them from getting lost and in mischief! He pauses at the fireplace and decides to leap up into the chimney. He finds a crack in the wall big enough to squeeze through and finds himself in the attic. There he falls into a hole populated by the main title character, Mr. Samuel Whiskers, and his wife, Anna-Maria, who immediately sets upon him and ties him up. The two rats then consult with one another what to do with the kitten, and decide to make a pudding out of him. They both disappear to retrieve the items and ingredients they need, including butter, dough, and the rolling-pin. When they return, they smear Tom with butter and roll him in the dough, creating what is arguably the world's first purrito.

Meanwhile Tabitha Twitchit realizes Tom is missing and is searching for him. Her daughters get out of the cupboard, then go play with the dough for a bit, are startled by a knock at the door, and then are frightened by the rats. The person at the door is Mrs. Ribby, Tabitha's cousin, to whom Tabitha bemoans what unruly children she has and how the rats in the house are too much for her. Eventually Moppet and Mittens are retrieved from a flour-barrel in the pantry and an empty jar in the dairy, and both report observing a rat stealing dough, and another rat stealing the butter and the rolling pin. Ribby helps search for Tom, and they call for the carpenter, John Joiner, after they hear a roly-poly noise under the floor of the attic. Tom is retrieved and the pudding is pulled off him, which is made into a bag pudding (the currants being expressly to hide the 'smuts'). Then he's given a hot bath.

Meanwhile, Samuel Whiskers and Anna-Maria evacuate the house, fleeing with the author's wheelbarrow and taking up residence at Farmer Potatoes' barn. Here they have many children and wreak havoc.

In postscript, Mittens and Moppet become excellent paid rat-catchers, but poor traumatized Tom is scared of anything larger than a mouse.

It can be read here.

This book contains the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: An unintentional case due to Values Dissonance. Tabitha Twitchit locks her kittens up in a cupboard to prevent them from getting into mischief while she bakes, and later Tabitha and Ribby have their minds set on beating Tom before they realize he's in danger. At least they seemingly decide to not punish him after his ordeal.
  • Aerith and Bob: Moppet, Mittens, and Tom Kitten.
  • Big Damn Heroes: John Joiner, with a saw, is brought in to save the day. No surprises the rats would cut and run when threatened by a terrier.
  • Carnivore Confusion: The animals are all sentient. Not to mention, it's the rats that want to eat the cat.
  • Cats Are Mean: Inverted. It's the rats that are mean, in this case.
    • Although the three kittens are unruly, which probably qualifies.
  • Cooking the Live Meal: Very narrowly escaped by Tom, as the rats are interrupted before their pudding recipe reaches the cooking stage.
  • Civilized Animal: Tabitha Twitchit not only wears clothes (the female kittens Moppet and Mittens apparently do not, while Tom does), she bakes bread.
  • Cute Kitten: All three kittens.
  • Even The Rats Won't Touch It: The pudding that Samuel Whiskers and Anna-Maria try to make out of Tom. Samuel constantly worries about the string being indigestible and the smell of soot on it. The cats make the dough into a pudding and eat it, though (after they take it off Tom).
  • Fat Slob: Samuel Whiskers, an obese and lazy rat who orders Anna-Maria around and merely sits back while taking snuff.
  • Fully-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Samuel and Anna-Maria, unlike the other animal characters in most of Beatrix Potter's stories.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: When the rats see the saw cutting into their lair, they only take their most valuable items and leave Tom behind to be rescued.
  • Mouse World: The passages in the old house make for an excellent rodent superhighway.
  • No Sympathy: The first thing that Ribby says, after seeing Tabitha is distraught because Tom is missing, is what a bad kitten he is!
  • Trauma Button Ending: The story concludes by informing us that for the rest of his life, Tom remained terrified by the sight of anything bigger than a mouse.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: The rats make a quick retreat when they realize John Joiner is after them.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Well, the rats would hurt a talking kitten, at least, which is close enough given the Carnivore Confusion.
  • You Dirty Rat!: The rats are definitely the villains of the story, stealing many items and preparing to cook and eat a live kitten.