What if the Rats of NIMH were actually a dream?

I've done my silly quota for the month, now time to actually try and spark up something.

This is a 'what if' question, so it's not like it's supposed to be a 'real' interpretation or anything. It's just for fun.

What if after Mrs. Brisby gets the medicine from Ages and delivers it to Timothy, she dreams the rest of the movie and the ending is her waking up.

Think about it for a minute. The book makes this possibility a bit more plausible than the film, but the film does have hints that it's a dream.

  1. She faints after using the stone. Now she claims to have given the stone to Justin afterwards, but could Justin just be a figment of her imagination? She also has burn marks, true, but couldn't she have gotten them from other sources? We could have a Wizard of Oz scenario on our hands, where parts of the dream manifest in reality. 'There's no place like home' could instead be 'you can unlock any door if you only have the key'.

  2. Nicodemus and the Owl are mysterious and surreal. Made for her to perhaps confront her timidness and seek help for it?

  3. We do see the NIMH truck, but couldn't she have seen that outside the dream, which scared her and then made her think about why such a presence could be at the farm house? NIMH could've been a factor outside the dream to influence her thoughts inside.

  4. The rats could've been a fable passed down through generations of her family. 'Auntie' Shrew seems to have believed in them.

  5. Jeremy could also be a factor...Perhaps reminding her of her husband in someway? Maybe over-reaching, but it's possible. Perhaps in his silly nature and wanting to impress her.

So let's take everything in. A fable passed down through generations, a nefarious looking presence outside the farm house, stress of sick child and moving day woes, and a need to calm her fears. We could possibly have a dream on our hands. The ending being Mrs. Brisby telling her children the story.

So the Rats of NIMH didn't exist, what would that mean for the children? Would they seek Thorn Valley? What is Thorn Valley supposed to represent anyway? Heaven? Would the children tell the story to their next of kin and perhaps keep the cycle/dream of Thorn Valley going?

Have fun with this..or don't.


  • It's an interesting idea. The only thing would be their cinder block home, it was moved. How would we explain that?

  • Not only the house-moving that would present a dilemma, but also Johnathan and his unusual qualities, which were well established within the context of the film. If the Rats didn’t exist, then he wouldn’t have known them, so what made him so different from other mice?

    This also wouldn’t have eliminated the matter of Moving Day, and whether Timothy would be well enough to make it with them.

    Auntie Shrew didn’t definitively state that she’d actually met or seen any of the Rats, but the way she talked about them, it didn’t make them sound like a fable or legend.

    I hate to say it, but the whole idea would involve as many contrivances as I’ve come up with in my fan-fics…maybe more? I know, this is just for fun, not trying to shoot down your idea.

    Your mention of “The Wizard of Oz” reminds me of the old post I made to the “Quotes from other films” thread in the old forum, where I compared the two films and found some interesting parallels, which really hadn’t occurred to me until I was preparing that post.

  • I should have prefaced this with the idea that the house would've got moved by other means unknown to us (again possibly through the dream influencing the outside world). So if we assume that was the case (suspend your disbelief), Moving Day wouldn't have been a factor. Their house would be safe from the plow. As for Johnathan and Auntie Shrew, anything could be possible. Maybe he came from a mouse family that was literate? I'm not saying it would make logical sense in our world, but this is a world where magical amulets move houses. Perhaps the world these creatures inhabit is filled with imagination to the extent that they treat whatever evidence they find in support of their fable as fact. Humans were like this for awhile.

    If we assume this dream caused a miracle to happen on the outside through sheer will with the rats being an illusion made possible by the dream, what would happen to the kids? Would they have similar dreams? Flying dreams? See what I did there?

  • edited October 2016

    What I really wanted to do was ask what would happen to the children after Mrs. Brisby dies and the children go on to live indefinitely? Meaning, what would they do for finding mates or family that would also grow old and die faster than they would? Would they stick together forever? I wanted to ask these questions, but figured that'd be more psychological and morbid than most people wanted to go into. So I decided to be a bit happier and say that the rats were an illusion of sorts and that factor wouldn't be a problem. Therefore, what would the children do if such a thing was a dream? But I realize that what I've done here requires a lot of suspension of disbelief.

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