Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
|Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH|
Cover of the 1st edition
|Author(s)||Robert C. O'Brien|
|LC Classification||PZ10.3 O19 Mi|
|Followed by||Racso and the Rats of NIMH|
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a 1971 children's book by Robert C. O'Brien, with illustrations by Zena Bernstein. The winner of the 1972 Newbery Medal, the story was adapted for film in 1982 as The Secret of NIMH.
The novel relates the plight of a widowed field mouse, Mrs. Frisby, who seeks the aid of a group of former laboratory rats in rescuing her home from destruction by a farmer's plow, and of the history of the rats' escape from the laboratory and development of a literate and technological society.
Plot summary 
Mrs. Frisby's son, Timothy, is ill just as the farmer Mr. Fitzgibbon begins preparation for spring plowing in the garden where the Frisby family lives. Normally she would move her family, but Timothy would not survive the cold trip to their summer home. Mrs. Frisby obtains medicine from her friend Mr. Ages, the older white mouse. On the return journey, she saves the life of Jeremy, a young crow, from Dragon, the farmer's cat - the same cat who had killed her husband, Jonathan. Jeremy suggests she seek help in moving Timothy from an owl who dwells in the forest. Jeremy flies Mrs. Frisby to the owl's tree, but the owl says he can't help until he finds out that she is the widow of Jonathan Frisby. He suggests that Mrs. Frisby seek help from the rats who live in a rosebush near her.
Mrs. Frisby discovers the rats have human-level intelligence, with a literate and mechanized society. They have technology such as elevators. They have tapped the electricity grid to provide lighting and heating, and have acquired other human skills, such as storing food for the winter. Their leader, Nicodemus, tells Mrs. Frisby of the rats' capture by scientists working for a laboratory located at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the subsequent experiments that the humans performed on the rats, which increased the rats' intelligence to the point of being able to read, write, and operate complicated machines, as well as enhancing their longevity and strength. This increased intelligence and strength allowed them to escape from the NIMH laboratories and migrate to their present location. Jonathan Frisby and Mr. Ages were the only two survivors of a group of eight mice who had been part of the experiments at NIMH, and made the rats' escape possible. Out of respect for Jonathan, Nicodemus agrees to help Mrs. Frisby's family. The rats move her house to a location safe from the plow.
Meanwhile, the rats are preparing "The Plan," which is to abandon their lifestyle of dependence on humans, which some rats regard as theft, for a new, independent farming colony. Before Mrs. Frisby's arrival, a group of seven rats led by a rat named Jenner left the colony because they disagreed with "The Plan", and are presumed to have died in an accident at a nearby hardware store. This incident has attracted the attention of a group of men, who never identify themselves, and they have offered to exterminate the rat colony on Fitzgibbon's land free of charge for him.
To move the house, the rats have to drug Dragon, the farmer's cat, as it is too dangerous to work in the open without any place to hide. However, Mr. Ages has a broken leg and cannot dash to Dragon's bowl to put in the drug. Since the other rats are too big to fit into the hole in the wall to enter the house, Mrs. Frisby volunteers to go. Unfortunately, she is caught by the family's son, Billy, who puts her in a cage. At night, Justin comes to save her and manages to get her out of the cage. They plan the house move. The successful house move allows the mouse family to remain while Timothy recovers before moving to their summer home.
Mrs. Frisby overhears the Fitzgibbons discussing the men during her captivity and reports back to the rats. Thanks to her warning, the rats have time to plan their escape.
Related works 
O'Brien's daughter, Jane Leslie Conly, wrote two other novels based on the rats of NIMH. Racso and the Rats of NIMH tells the story of a city rat who runs away to join the new colony, befriending Timothy, while saving the colony from a flood along the way. In R-T, Margaret, and the Rats of NIMH, the rats rescue two lost human children who in turn help to save the colony before winter.
In 1982, the animated film The Secret of NIMH was released, directed by Don Bluth. The film adds a mystical element completely absent from the novel, with Nicodemus portrayed as a wise, bearded old wizard with a magic seeing mirror and enchanted amulet, rather than middle-aged and with an eye patch. The character of Jenner is made a villain who kills Nicodemus, and Jenner along with a secondary villain, Sullivan, are killed in a sword fight. Additionally, Mrs. Frisby's name was changed to Brisby to avoid trademark infringement with the Frisbee. The crow Jeremy receives greater prominence as comic relief in the film than he has in the book.
Parallels in science 
Research published in the the March 2013 issue of Cell Stem Cell details the injection of human glial cells into the brains of newborn mice. Upon maturation, the mice were faster learners—a novel marker of life imitating art. Like Mrs. Frisby and her rat cohorts, it would appear that researchers working with the National Institutes of Health are busy creating super-smart rodents that may well lead to dramatic breakthroughs in neuroscience.
Summer of the Swans
|Newbery Medal recipient
Julie of the Wolves
The Trumpet of the Swan
|Joint winner of the
William Allen White Children's Book Award
- HENRY FOUNTAIN, “J. B. Calhoun, 78, Researcher On Effects of Overpopulation”, New York Times, September 29, 1995
- Cawley, John (October 1991). "The Secret of N.I.M.H.". The Animated Films of Don Bluth. Image Pub of New York. ISBN 0-685-50334-8.
- "Forebrain Engraftment by Human Glial Progenitor Cells Enhances Synaptic Plasticity and Learning in Adult Mice"
- "To Make Mice Smarter, Add A Few Human Brain Cells"