Paul Biegel

Man en Muis

Mice are only people, too

Gruesome, engaging, funny, valiant and sad, Man and Mouse, is written by the greatest fairystoryteller in the Netherlands, Paul Biegel. It is an allegory set in the low-level world of mice: indoor and outdoor mice, field and house mice, the ‘Browns’ and the ‘Greys’, as well as a specimen of a newer species, the computer mouse.

Man and Mouse is set in the house and garden of a human, the elderly ‘Uncle Theodore’, who has no idea of the teeming life surrounding him. But mice are like people, it soon turns out, with dreamers and doers, adventurers and inventors, blockheads and smart Alecs. The biggest scoundrel, a rat, lives in the cellar, where he deals in ‘Befuddle’, a mixture of ‘Poisonous Gilly-Weed’, ‘Blue Bile’ and ‘Wild Night-Cap’. Whoever sniffs it falls into a state of ‘strange daftness’, in which dreams are sweet and beautiful and life seems light and airy. Then the mouse no longer cares for cheese or maize. After Befuddle there is nothing but more Befuddle, even if death follows.

Biegel writes about the seductiveness of drugs, without getting moralistic, or losing his sense of humour. The message is clear, but does nothing to spoil the whimsicality of the story. Besides, Man and Mouse is about much more. Paul Biegel interweaves numerous story lines, as he writes about first love, about mischief and misunderstanding, about progress and about the polymorphic dreams of Mousedom.

The characters are innumerable, the language effusive and, just at the right moments, sparing again. Biegel has a way with words. He alternates his home-baked vocabulary with simple, almost obvious sentences, making the book, like his other works, accessible and challenging, inviting and stimulating. His maxim is: ‘The nature of the child is not to be small, but to become big.’

By Judith Eiselin

A superb, exciting book.

Jan Smeekens, PCZ

Enjoy a writer who is both good at what he does and knows what his young readers want.

Pjotr van Lenteren, de Volkskrant

Man en muis has been written by a born narrator, and one who clearly enjoys what he is doing, it regularly leaps off the pages. (…) Biegel describes this mouse world with its various characters with virtuosity and humour.

Wendy de Graaff, Leesgoed

Something of this life of luxury began to filter through to the field-mouse folk who lived in the garden of THE HOUSE. Quite simple little mice they were, with their long-haired coats, and there were a great many of them, living together in big families. One of these families lived a little apart, with their fourteen children, in a hole under the pine trees beyond the lawn. Good little children they were, following their father and mother obediently every day, hopping and skipping through the long grass in search of food. “But watch out for Hawk,” called Dad, “he grabs you in his claws out of nowhere.” It’s a hard life, being a field mouse. When they return after eating there are only thirteen or twelve children left: as well as Hawk there are Owl and Grass Snake, and there is Hopelessly Lost, from which state no child ever returns.
Changelink, the seventh child, is the cleverest. He has spotted that Hawk and Owl can see from the quivering grass tufts where mice are moving. “Stop that barging along!” he shouts. “You give yourselves away! You have to creep! Quietly!” It certainly helps. Next time they come home after feeding there are still twelve children left. Changelink is so clever that, even though he had once got himself Hopelessly Lost, he had actually seen a way of getting home again. By climbing up a tall fennel plant and spying from there, he had been able to work out which way to go to reach the pine trees. Hurrah for Changelink! They hugged and kissed him, but Changelink had seen something else from his high lookout point: THE HOUSE.

Paul Biegel

Paul Biegel (1925-2006) dreamed of becoming a pianist, but finally, by way of a failed law degree and a period spent in the USA, ended up as a writer for a television guide and a cartoon studio. In 1962 he debuted as a children’s author with De gouden gitaar (The Golden Guitar). A new book…

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Man en Muis (2003). Kinder- en jeugdboeken, 144 pagina's.



Spaarne 110
NL-2011 CM Haarlem
The Netherlands
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