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Henry Kuttner's Story:
The Basis for "The Last Mimzy" Movie


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Henry Kuttner was a true master of short fantastic fiction, in his best examples approaching the quality of O'Henry stories. Too bad, a penny-per-word pulp magazines demanded a quick and voluminous output. However, even at his most "hackish" style Kuttner manages to be immensely entertaining. His humorous Hogben mutant family series is top-notch, as well as most short stories published in the 40s. With his wife C. L. Moore he wrote under multitude of pen names and in variety of fantastic sub-genres (see reviews below). He is definitely one of my favorite writers, and I wish he'd be more appreciated and recognized today.






Henry Kuttner
"Mimsy Were the Borogoves"
(as by Lewis Padgett)
© Astounding, Feb 1943
The Best of Kuttner 2, 1966
--short fiction : 1971 Astounding All-Time Poll /21
--novelette : 1999 Locus All-Time Poll /28

--/ third place sf story
--/ idea award
--/ style award


Children can deal with unknown phenomena better than adults, mostly because the world around them is still unknown and represents a mystery that they discover as they grow up. Parents should not mess with their kids imagination (trying to subvert it to something more manageable) even if for the reason that the imagined might turn out to be true. In fact, parents should NEVER barge unexpectedly into a child's bedroom... Teddy bears with ugly demeanors and bad-tempered plushy toys may suddenly get revived for no particular reason. In case of this story the mysterious objects are quite benevolent and non-threatening, other than totally re-wiring the kid's minds. These children start to see the world like Picasso saw it, or worse. Calvin might've better described it to his Hobbes, but Kuttner does a pretty good job, keeping our interest in "what is it they are REALLY seeing?" Of course the movie shows everything "loud and clear", which is only another argument to go and read the original story first. Hopefully the general public recognizes that behind pretty average production values of "The Last Mimzy" movie lies a brilliant, most fascinating storyline by the incomparable Henry Kuttner. And Kuttner's inspiration were of course the "Alice" books by Lewis Carroll.

To freshen up your memory, here is the full "Mimsy" verse:

"'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood
, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

'And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
' He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

- Lewis Carroll

Here is how Lewis Carroll himself envisioned "the toves"



and his version of the Jabberwocky battle:



However, Rodney Matthews' variation on the same theme became more popular:


(artwork copyright Rodney Matthews)

review: 30-Aug-07 (read in 1985)

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A similar story to "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" was the following one, published in even more entertaining pulp "Thrilling Wonder". In my opinion it has more narrative punch than previous one and reads like some of the best "Weird Tales" short stories.



Henry Kuttner
"Call Him Demon"
(as by Keith Hammond)
© Thrilling Wonder Stories, Fll 1946
Bypass to Otherness, 1961
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award


"In the 1920s a group of children staying at their grandmother's house realize that one of the uncles who lives there is not a real person, and only arrived there a few weeks before. He is able to exert some kind of mental influence over the adults of the household, which makes them believe he has always been a member of the family. The Wrong Uncle, as they call him , is a kind of projection -- or, more precisely, a detachable limb in human form -- of a creature which lives in a cavern deep beneath the house, accessed by a portal in the attic. The thing has only two emotions: hunger and satiety, and it only eats raw meat". The kids are offering it some meat from a local store (and being rewarded with the mental images of the creature's wondrous travels) , but they are running out of the spare change, and the creature only gets hungrier and hungrier... Surprisingly, one of the children is able to defeat the creature because he turns out to be at least as terrible as the creature itself. Sorry if I revealed the secret behind the story's title, but Kuttner wrote so many stories about hidden capabilities of children (not all of them benign) that it's easy to catch the drift. Maybe he suspects that they intrinsically know more of the "reality" of the world than adults do, and it makes him uncomfortable and a little cautious. I wonder what C. L. Moore (his wife) thought of these stories?
review: 21-Sep-06 (read in 1988)

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