This is a rather ancient post I made on my original website, long before the days of such useful things as blogs or WordPress. I’ve cleared out most of the posts from that time, and am in the process of tidying the rest away, but I thought this might provide a small amount of entertainment. It was the year 2000, and a pattern had already begun to emerge. Some monsters were ubiquitous. Today you might poke fun at the boars, but back then the little chap that was everywhere was the rat.
In 1831, Mr Charles Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle. It was a five year voyage that would take the young zoologist to almost every corner of the southern hemisphere as he gathered evidence that would eventually lead to his realisation of the theory of evolution. ( A realisation seemingly formed in parallel with the sadly less well known Alfred Wallace.) His own account is a fascinating, and oft exciting read, and I commend it to you. – Professor Whitman
We’re jolly impressed with all that. So much so that we mean to emulate the good Mr Darwin. However, we don’t do things by halves here, and so we will search the depths of not one single world, but an entire multiverse, in our ongoing effort to bring you all that is wondrous in the tellurian! Er, assuming we can get everyone out of bed, of course. – Arkenor
Mankind and the rat have been locked in combat since the dawn of civilisation. The Egyptians deified their cats for their rodent-catching prowess. The rat, in its turn has plundered our food reserves, and spread diseases such as cholera and the black death. Small wonder that a large part of the life of the newbie is spent pounding these fiends. Fiends such as the creature below!
Cyndylon’s Rat hint. If a bloke magically disappears your rat problem, don’t jip on the payment. Ye’d be surprised ‘ow many folk don’t see the connection between someone ‘oo can make ‘ole populations o’ beasties vanish, and the possibility that ‘e might be bad to piss off.
While there is an infestitude of rats in most cities, it is hard to imagine a single rat being a worthy opponent for a man. There have been accounts of more robust specimens from time to time. That worthy chronicler, Dr John Watson, is said to have left such an account in his much desired deposit box at Cox and co. It is at this point I turn to a greater authority upon the matter.
The Giant Rat of Sumatra
(From Fauna in the Canon, by Ronald Rosenblatt)
Surely the most tantalizing creature mentioned in the Holmes memoirs is the Giant Rat of Sumatra, which somehow managed to infest the unhappy ship Matilda Briggs in so terrible a fashion as to leave behind a tale “for which the world is not yet prepared,” or at least was not prepared for at the time of the case of the Sussex Vampire (who turned out to be only the mischievous Master Jacky and not, unfortunately for those of zoological bent, a South American bat of unpleasant dietary habits known as Desmodus rotundus.) Now we may fruitfully speculate on the identity of this mysterious rodent, the Giant Rat, and we may, in fact, offer a speculative suggestion as to its true name and nature.
There can be no question that giant tropical rats do, in fact, exist. The African giant rat (Cricetomys gambianus) is found in Tropical Africa, where it is highly esteemed as food, and often reaches a length of nearly three feet from nose-tip to tail-tip. These giant rats are often accompanied by a highly unusual parasite, a “weird, wingless cockroach,” (Hemimerus talpoides) nearly one inch in length. This creature will be found described on page 218 of Desmond Morris’ The Mammals (Harper & Row, 1965). We may also mention in passing the Indian giant squirrel (Ratufa indica) another rodent that reaches a length of three feet. Thus, there is nothing in the least preposterous about a giant Sumatran rat. We must briefly consider as well whether the Giant Rat of Sumatra may have been merely an unusually big specimen of the common ship rat (Rattus rattus), since these creatures, though it is not well known, often grow to truly impressive size, as large as a rabbit or a cat. Such a creature might easily grow up on the wharves of a Sumatran seaport before slipping aboard the unsuspecting Matilda Briggs to wreak its terrible crimes. Such a creature might easily have carried the bubonic plague aboard the ship, and if the Matilda Briggs had then docked at London or other European seaports, Holmes might have been very wise in keeping the story a secret, as the panic resultant from such news might have been very great indeed.
However, there is another possibility in this question which to the author’s knowledge has never been suggested before. There lives on the island of Sumatra, as well as in Southern Asia and on the island of Borneo, a very curious animal called a “Moon Rat”. This animal’s scientific name is Echinosorex gymnurus. While it is not in fact a rat, being more closely related to the hedgehogs, its appearance is very rat-like, with long sharp snout and whisker, hairy body and long naked tail. This creature reaches a body length of sixteen inches with an eight inch tail, or a total length of twenty-four inches, or two feet. Surely this is giant enough for anyone’s taste. Could this animal be the very creature we seek? A giant “rat” indigenous to Sumatra does indeed answer our needs. Most interesting is the following statement about the Sumatran Moon Rat by Desmond Morris: “Anal glands secrete a musky substance that gives these animals their highly characteristic smell. This is so distinctive that it has even been made the subject of native legends.” (Page 80, The Mammals.) Might this perhaps be the key that unlocks why the world was not yet prepared for the story of the Sumatran rat? Was it merely Victorian prudishness that forced Holmes to keep silent on the Matilda Briggs affair? Was some native deviltry or voodoo involved in the case? No doubt we shall know the answers to these questions someday.
UO Rat Facts – Rats are found in many of Britannia’s towns and dungeons. The center of rat activity would seem to be the sewers of Britain, which are infested by both sewer rats and giants rats. This splendid place for novice warriors to practice their skills with little fear of being murdered. Giant rats are worthy of an amount of caution, but only the rawest of recruits need fear the sewer rat, except perhaps when it has friends… I sent my brother Alfric down to take a look.
Yes, here we see examples of both sorts of rat. They are quite aggressive, and have a tendency to mob the unwary. Luckily Alfric is wisely dispatching the 2 weaker rats before dealing with the larger. I, er, think most of that blood’s theirs. When he is done I’m sure he’ll be sure to remove their tasty flesh to add to our guild mystery meat mountain.
EQ Rat Facts – Scruffy the Rat is a pleasant-mannered giant rat who frequents the Qeynos Hills. Legend has it that Scruffy is connected to Tovax Vmar, and that the number of times Scruffy dies in the day, will determine the number of times Tovax appears that night. (Yer mess wi’ Scruffy, yer mess wi’ me! – Cyndylon)
Rat ears and firebeetle eyes may be combined to make the barely palatable edible goo. Sadly this is the main source of nutrition for many Qeynos based necromancers.
Tales are told of the pied rat. A noble beast, it offered to eradicate Freeport’s bard infestation for the low low price of a few blocks of cheese. Alas, upon discovering that cheese did not exist it bitterly dealt itself 32000 points of damage, and vanished, dashing the hopes of all right-thinking citizens.
Menkes Tabolet, a Qeynos merchant, has built an entire career from selling shoddy rat based products. Don’t fall for his witty sales patter. Rat is most definitely out this season. His snake fang necklace is somewhat more useful.
Renowned Qeynos catacomb beggar, Vin Molter, is partial to Rat Ear pie. “Take one cup of flour, baking spirits, and a giant rat ear. Stir in a mixing bowl, and then cook til brown. Then give it to me. Goes perfectly with a few bottles o’ Khalish, if you get me meaning, squire.”, said the gourmet vagabond last time he collered me for change.
I encountered this large rat during my exploration of the Qeynos Catacombs.
AC Rat Facts – Dereth is home to a peculiar animal part collecting craze. The collectors will pretty much pay for any old tat you care to give them. Rat tails are no exception. The prices paid by these obsessives are:
White/Tan/Russet Rat Tail – 75p
Grey Rat Tail – 120p
Brown Rat Tail – 200p
Black Rat Tail – Stamina Potion
Grey Rat Tail – 120p
One of the Professor’s students encountered a couple of these on a dig in Yaraq. As you can see they are quite vicious (perhaps ill-tempered at being so badly modelled), and were quite intent in lodging their daggerlike incisors in young Tamara’s throat. These are white rats, the weakest of their kind, and Tamara managed to defeat them after a tough fight.