Despite its minuscule size, the mouse has a large presence in the animal kingdom and the human imagination. Maligned for millennia, it has been considered one of the human race's greatest adversaries, responsible for problems ranging from disease and plague to holes nibbled in clothing. Yet the mouse is held in divine regard in Hindu and Buddhist traditions and is found across art, myth, literature and folklore. An accomplished survivor, the house mouse has colonized six of the world's continents and, despite its name, thrives on Subantarctic islands void of human habitation; it has even travelled into space.
These remarkable characteristics have made the mouse a heroic figure in culture and fiction: it is the iconic and illustrious symbol of Disney and earth's intellectually superior race in Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The mouse plays one of the most integral roles within modern scientific endeavour as the quintessential laboratory animal. One of the animal kingdom's smallest mammalian prey, the mouse is a figure through which we can envisage our own vulnerability. Leading a perilous life in an uncompromising predatory world, mice represent courage, perseverance and adaptability and are proof that appearances can be deceiving.
An animal worshipped, slaughtered, loved and loathed, the mouse is a beguiling part of our culture and environment. Mouse explores in rich detail the stories and history of this enchanting creature, with which we not only share our domestic and urban space, but 99 per cent of our genetic makeup.
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Georgie Carroll is a writer and researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
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