Mimsy Were the Borogoves

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"Mimsy Were the Borogoves..."
AuthorLewis Padgett
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Science fiction short story
Published inAstounding Science Fiction Magazine
Publication typeMagazine
PublisherAstounding Science Fiction Magazine
Media typePrint (Periodical)
Publication dateFebruary 1943
 
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"Mimsy Were the Borogoves..."
AuthorLewis Padgett
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Science fiction short story
Published inAstounding Science Fiction Magazine
Publication typeMagazine
PublisherAstounding Science Fiction Magazine
Media typePrint (Periodical)
Publication dateFebruary 1943

"Mimsy Were the Borogoves" is a science fiction short story by Lewis Padgett (a pseudonym of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore) that was originally published in the February 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine.[1] It was judged by the Science Fiction Writers of America to be among the best science fiction stories written prior to 1965 and included in the anthology The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964. In 2007, it was loosely adapted into a feature-length film titled The Last Mimzy.

Plot summary

Millions of years in the future, a post-human scientist experimenting with a time machine sends two boxes with hastily gathered batches of educational toys into the past. The first arrives in the middle of the twentieth century and the second in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Believing the experiment to be a failure when the machines and test objects fail to return, he discontinues his efforts.

The first box of toys travels back to 1942, and is discovered by a seven-year-old boy, Scott Paradine, who takes it home. The toys include a small transparent cube that visibly manifests the holder's thoughts; a wire maze puzzle employing a fourth dimension; and a detailed anatomical doll that possesses unfamiliar organs and structures. As Scott and his two-year-old sister Emma play with the toys, the psychology of the two develops in unusual ways.

Although their parents are often preoccupied with their own lives, they suspect an anomaly and become worried. They consult with a child psychologist, Rex Holloway, who quickly recognizes the strangeness of the toys, and suspects their origin to be alien. Holloway surmises that the toys are "educating" the children and introducing an "x factor" into Scott's and Emma's thought processes. He believes their developing minds are pliable enough to be profoundly affected by the devices.

The toys rapidly guide the Paradine children to construct a pathway into the dimension where the beings of the future live. At Holloway's direction their parents take the toys away from them; but the children continue their effort.

The second box arrives in nineteenth-century England, and is found by Alice Liddell, who one day recites some verse learned from one of its contents to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Intrigued, he asks her its meaning; whereupon she, uncertain, identifies it as "the way out". Dodgson, in reply, promises to include it in his writings.

In 1942, Emma and Scott encounter the book Through the Looking-Glass and identify in the words of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" the missing element of a time-space equation enabling them to travel to the alien destination. (The unusual title of the short story is found in the third line of Carroll's poem). Their father arrives in the doorway of Scott's bedroom as the children vanish in a "direction Paradine could not understand".

Footnotes

  1. ^ Feb. 1943 listing of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine