The Mouse That Roared

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The Mouse That Roared
The Mouse That Roared first edition.jpg
First edition cover
Author Leonard Wibberley
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fiction, Satire
Publisher Little Brown & Co
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
ISBN 978-0-316-93872-3
OCLC 1016437
Followed by Beware of the Mouse

The Mouse That Roared is a 1955 Cold War satirical novel by Irish American writer Leonard Wibberley, which launched a series of satirical books about an imaginary country in Europe called the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. Wibberley went beyond the merely comic, using the premise to make commentaries about modern politics and world situations, including the nuclear arms race, nuclear weapons in general, and the politics of the United States.

The novel originally appeared as a six-part serial in the Saturday Evening Post from December 25, 1954 through January 29, 1955, under the title The Day New York Was Invaded. It was published as a book in February 1955 by Little, Brown.[1] The British edition[2] used the author's original intended title, The Wrath of Grapes, a play on John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Wibberley wrote one prequel (1958's Beware of the Mouse) and three sequels: The Mouse on the Moon (1962), The Mouse on Wall Street (1969), and The Mouse that Saved the West (1981). Each placed the tiny Duchy of Grand Fenwick in a series of absurd situations in which it faced superpowers and won.


The tiny (three miles by five miles) European Duchy of Grand Fenwick, supposedly located in the Alps between Switzerland and France, proudly retains a pre-industrial economy, dependent almost entirely on making Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. However, an American winery makes a knockoff version, "Pinot Grand Enwick", putting the country on the verge of bankruptcy.

The prime minister decides that their only course of action is to declare war on the United States. Expecting a quick and total defeat (since their standing army is tiny and equipped with bows and arrows), the country confidently expects to rebuild itself through the largesse that the United States bestows on all its vanquished enemies (as it did for Germany through the Marshall Plan at the end of World War II).

With the counterfeit wine as a casus belli, they send a formal written declaration of war, but this is misplaced by the State Department. Receiving no response, the Duchy is forced to muster some troops and hire a ship to stage an actual invasion.

Instead, the Duchy defeats the mighty superpower, purely by accident. Landing in New York City, almost completely deserted above ground because of a citywide disaster drill, the Duchy's invading "army" (composed of the Field Marshal Tully Bascomb, three men-at-arms, and 20 longbowmen) wanders to a top secret government lab and unintentionally captures the "Quadium Bomb" (a prototype doomsday device that could destroy the world if triggered) and its maker, Dr. Kokintz, an absent-minded professor who is working through the drill. This "Q-Bomb" has a theoretical explosive potential greater than all the nuclear weapons of the United States and the Soviet Union combined.

The invaders from Fenwick are sighted by a civil defence squad and are immediately taken to be "men from Mars" when their mail armor is mistaken for reptilian skin. The Secretary of Defense pieces together what has happened (with help from the five lines in his encyclopedia on The Duchy of Grand Fenwick and the Fenwickian flag left behind on a flagpole) and is both ashamed and astonished that the United States was unaware that it had been at war for two months.

With the most powerful bomb in the world now in the smallest country in the world, other countries are quick to react, with the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom offering their support. With the world at the tiny country's mercy, Duchess Gloriana, the leader of Grand Fenwick, lists her terms: all the nuclear weapons of the powerful nations must go through an inspection by impartial scientists and the "Tiny Twenty" should be formed, a group of 20 small nations so that they can get their voices heard. Soon Duchess Gloriana and Tully Bascomb get married, and during the wedding Dr. Kokintz discovers that the bomb is a dud and never had any power. Dr. Kokintz decides to keep that fact to himself considering that the pretense furthers the cause of world peace.


Wibberley got the idea from the US peace treaty negotiated with Japan by John Foster Dulles, which included generous amounts of aid to Japan. He wrote an article for the Times which suggested that his native Ireland make a token invasion of the US to get aid. He then developed this into a novel changing Ireland to the Grand Duke of Fenwick.[3]


Anthony Boucher praised the novel as "utterly delightful . . . a very nearly perfect book, on no account to be missed."[4]


Film adaptation[edit]

The Mouse That Roared was made into a 1959 film starring Peter Sellers in three roles: Duchess Gloriana XII; Count Rupert Mountjoy, the Prime Minister; and Tully Bascomb, the military leader – and Jean Seberg, as Helen Kokintz, as an added love interest. Other cast members included: William Hartnell as Sergeant-at-Arms Will Buckley; David Kossoff as Professor Alfred Kokintz; Leo McKern as Benter, the opposition leader; MacDonald Parke as General Snippet; and Austin Willis as the United States Secretary of Defense. In 1963, a sequel, based on The Mouse on the Moon, was released.

Stage adaptation[edit]

The Mouse That Roared was adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel in 1963. The play portrays Duchess Gloriana XII as twenty-two years old, as in Wibberley's novel. In this version, Dr. Kokintz is a physics professor at Columbia University and the arrival of Tully Bascomb's invasion force coincides with a campus student protest. Thus, the Fenwick soldiers are mistaken for being eccentric protesters rather than as foreign invaders.[5]

Television pilot[edit]

In 1964, Jack Arnold produced a television pilot based on the film, with Sid Caesar playing the three roles that Sellers had played, but it was not picked up for production.[6]

Radio adaptation[edit]

BBC Radio 4 broadcast a one-hour adaptation on 15 February 2003[7] and 22 May 2010 as part of its Saturday Play series.[8] The production was directed by Patrick Rayner and starred Julie Austin as Gloriana, Mark McDonnell (who co-adapted the book for radio) as Tully, Crawford Logan as Count Montjoy, Simon Tait as Dr. Kokintz and Steven McNicoll (who also co-adapted the book) as Mr. Benter.


  1. ^ Wibberley, Leonard Patrick O'Connor (1955). The Mouse That Roared. Boston: Little Brown & Co. ISBN 978-0-316-93872-3. OCLC 1016437. 
  2. ^ London: Robert Hale, 1955
  3. ^ Scheuer, P. K. (1959, Dec 07). Inger stevens will return to theater. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, June 1955, pp.75.
  5. ^ Christopher Sergel (January 1, 1963). The Mouse that Roared. Leonard Wibberley. Dramatic Publishing Company. ISBN 9780871294555. 
  6. ^ Reemes, Dana M. Directed by Jack Arnold 1988 McFarland, p.140
  7. ^ "radio plays drama,bbc,Saturday Play, 1998-2007, DIVERSITY website". 2007. 
  8. ^ "Saturday Play : The Mouse That Roared". BBC Radio 4. 22 May 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-05-24.