The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents is the 28th novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, published in 2001. It was the first Discworld book to be aimed at the younger market; this was followed by The Wee Free Men in 2003.
The novel won the Carnegie Medal in 2001, providing Pratchett with his first major award. The leader of the judges, Karen Usher, declared that the choice was a unanimous one: "This is an outstanding work of literary excellence - a brilliant twist on the tale of the Pied Piper that is funny and irreverent, but also dark and subversive."
The Amazing Maurice is a talking cat, who leads his Educated Rodents, a group of talking rats, as they go from town to town being a plague so that their accomplice, a boy piper, can "lure them all away" from the town, after which they share the money the piper makes. The rats had gained intelligence from eating the waste from the rubbish tip behind Unseen University; Maurice gained it after eating one of the rats, before he was capable of realizing that they were no longer proper rats.
The group is not completely happy; the leader of the rats, Hamnpork, despises Maurice, while Dangerous Beans, a near-blind rat who guides them like a guru, wants to start a rat civilisation and both he and Peaches, the group's scribe, find their trickery unethical. The rats are seeking an ideal of humans and rats living together, following the example of their sacred book Mr Bunnsy Has an Adventure. They agree to do one last job, in the town of Bad Blintz, in Uberwald.
The rats set about planning their offensive, led by Darktan, their general, while Maurice and Keith, the piper, look around. They are surprised to find that while the buildings are expensively built, the people have little food, and rats are hunted far more viciously than anywhere else. Maurice and Keith meet Malicia, the mayor's daughter, who is a story teller (her grandmother and great aunt were the Sisters Grim). She soon discovers that Maurice can talk, and meets Sardines, a tap-dancing rat who is the most daring of the group. While talking to her, Maurice reveals that the rat-catchers have been passing off boot-laces as rat tails (for which they are paid 50 pence each).
As they set off to look in the rat-catchers' house, the rats discover many rat tunnels, which are empty, save for traps and poison. The two groups meet in the rat catchers' den, where they have been storing the food the rats are thought to have eaten, and find cages where the rats are being bred, for coursing.
The rat-catchers return, and lock Keith and Malicia away, and take Hamnpork to be coursed. Maurice hides, and feels a voice trying to enter his mind. The rats feel it, and it returns many of them to being simple rats, to the dismay of Dangerous Beans. Darktan leads a group to rescue Hamnpork, while Peaches and Dangerous Beans free Keith and Malicia. Malicia lets slip that Mr Bunnsy Has an Adventure is a fictional children's book, and Dangerous Beans and Peaches leave in despair.
Darktan's group is successful in rescuing an injured Hamnpork, though Darktan himself, the head of the Trap Disposal Unit, finds himself in a trap. After a near-death experience, and the death of Hamnpork, he assumes leadership, and sets out after Dangerous Beans. Maurice, in the meanwhile, has given in to his conscience and is also seeking them, but the voice gains power over him. Malicia and Keith, after gaining freedom, trick the rat catchers into revealing their secret by tricking them into thinking they have been poisoned. The rat catchers have created a powerful rat king – several rats, tied together at the tail, who make a single mind with power over others – who is named Spider, being made of eight rats (eight being a magical number on the Discworld).
Spider is interested in Dangerous Beans; other rats he can control, but Dangerous Beans has a mind similar to his: one that thinks for others. Dangerous Beans refuses Spider's offer of jointly ruling, as Spider wants to wage war on humans. As this happens, Malicia and Keith, under Spider's control, are about to set free the trapped rats. Spider tries to destroy Dangerous Beans' mind; this is felt by his army of rats, and Maurice. Dangerous Beans is able to resist, but Maurice reverts to being a cat, and the cat instinct tells him to pounce on Spider, though enough of his mind remains to tell him to sever the knot in Spider's tails.
Darktan's army, who have been fighting Spider's rats, find Peaches in Spider's lair, which is burning after Peaches dropped a match. Maurice, seeing Dangerous Beans, attacks and kills him. He emerges carrying the body of Dangerous Beans. When he is safely out, he falls over and dies. In ghostly form, he sees the "Bone Rat" coming for Dangerous Beans. He attacks him, but is picked up by Death, with whom he strikes a deal: one of his remaining lives for Dangerous Beans'.
Though Spider is defeated, there is still a problem remaining: the rat piper is due to arrive the next day. The rats set about rounding up the other, non-intelligent, rats ('keekees'). When the piper arrives, Keith challenges him. His pipe had been broken by the rat-catchers, so he uses a borrowed trombone, to the sounds of which Sardines comes out dancing. When the piper starts to play his magical pipe, the rats plug their ears to avoid being charmed. One rat does come out: Mr. Clicky, a clockwork rat the rats use to test traps.
The piper calls Keith aside, and tells him the tricks of the trade: the pipe contains a hidden slide position for a trick note that drives rats away, the stories are made up so people will be scared into paying. Keith and the piper then lead the keekees out of town – Keith wants to maintain the story of the piper, and the rats want a convenient way to set the keekees free.
Once that has been done, the rats emerge, offering to tell the humans where to find the stolen food and money, in return for living peacefully with them. Maurice negotiates, selling the humans a promise of a brighter future, with the rats as a tourist attraction. Keith stays on as the town's piper, and the town becomes a tourist attraction, as Maurice predicted, and everybody remarks on how clean the place is.
Later, Maurice finds a child to whom he asks "Hey, stupid looking kid. You wanna be lord mayor? No, down here kid."
Ideas and themesEdit
The novel presents a new take on the classic fairy tale The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
All the rats' names derive from the words they have seen written on tins before they knew what the words meant, and they have called themselves whatever they thought sounded good. Pratchett puns on this, such as the doubting rat, who was called 'Tomato' (as in Doubting Thomas).
Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents are first mentioned in Reaper Man.
- BBC Radio 4 broadcast a 90-minute dramatisation in 2003, which was repeated on BBC 7 on June 2,2007 and April 27, 2008. This will be available to listen to via the BBC 7 website for a week, until 4th May
- Изумителният Морис и неговите образовани гризачи (Bulgarian)
- Čudesni Maurice i njegovi učeni glodavci (Croatian)
- Úžasný Mauric a jeho vzdělaní hlodavci (Czech)
- Mirakelse Maurits en zijn Gestudeerde Knaagdieren (Dutch)
- Hämmastav Maurice ja tema õpetatud närilised (Estonian)
- Mahtava Morris ja sivistyneet siimahännät (Finnish)
- Le Fabuleux Maurice et ses rongeurs savants (French)
- Maurice, der Kater (German)
- Il prodigioso Maurice e i suoi geniali roditori (Italian)
- Brīnumainā Morisa dēkas (Latvian)
- Magiske Maurits og hans Gløgge Gnagere (Norwegian)
- Zadziwiający Maurycy i jego uczone szczury (Polish)
- O Fabuloso Maurício e seus ratos letrados (Portuguese)
- O Fabuloso Maurício e seus roedores letrados (Portuguese - Brazil)
- Uluitorul Maurice şi rozătoarele lui educate (Romanian)
- Удивительный Морис и его ученые грызуны (Russian)
- Den Makalöse Maurice och hans Kultiverade Gnagare (Swedish)
! colspan="3" | Reading order guide
! colspan="3" | Awards