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Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett

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“Mimsy Were the Borogoves” is a 1943 science fiction novelette by Lewis Padgett. It is about two young children who find a box of toys sent back from millions of years in the future, and the strange effect the toys have on their mental development.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

A wooden puzzle toy!Scott Paradine is a seven year old boy who one day finds a box of amazing objects on the banks of the river where he is skipping school. Like any normal kid he tears it apart and is intrigued by all the contents. Some of what he finds frightens him, but he gets used to it and takes the box back home where he and his little sister, Emma, continue to play with the amazing instructional toys. Ahh… life is great for Scott and his cool gadgets – that is until his parents become worried by what is happening and bring in a child psychologist to get a handle on things. The good doctor comes up with a frightening theory and suggests that the toys be taken away. That seems to help set the kids back on the right track, but what their parents don’t know is that Scott and Emma have big plans for the knowledge they have gleaned from these amazing toys!

…”Is that an abacus?” he asked. “Let’s see it, please.”

…Somewhat unwillingly Scott brought the gadget across to his father’s chair. Paradine blinked. The “abacus,” unfolded, was more than a foot square, composed of thin, rigid wires that interlocked here and there. On the wires colored beads were strung. They could be slid back and forth, and from one support to another, even at the points of juncture. But – a pierced bead couldn’t cross interlocking wires….

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • The toys! How cool were they! The thought of those amazing instructional tools from the future was quite appealing to… well, the boy in me.
  • Speaking of instructional toys from the future – that was quite a nifty and unique idea, not one I have seen before.
  • The ending of “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” was really cool. I don’t want to give it away, but tying together a historical author, a famous childrens novel and toys from the future was very clever indeed!

• The bad:

  • I tried reading a few different free versions of this story, but all of them had some minor problems. You just have to overlook some minor spelling and grammatical mistakes if you want to read this story online. Oh well, it was worth it.
  • This was the first story I have read from the enigmatic “Lewis Padgett,” and some of the writing conventions kind of confused me. I didn’t like how the dialogue and point-of-view jumped around without rhyme or reason in a few parts.

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 24
• Word Count: 11,656

Where you can find “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”:

  • This novelette first appeared in the February 1943 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.
  • “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” is included in the amazing collection The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One .
  • You can read a nice HTML version of “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” at Will Holcomb’s nifty web page. – Sorry, link no longer available.
  • You can also download this story in various formats from Scribd.com. – Sorry, link no longer available.
  • If you are in the USA, you can read this story at the Google Book preview for The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: 1929-1964.

Some Interesting Links:

  • Did you know that “Lewis Padgett” is a pen name for Henry Kuttner and his wife C. L. Moore? Yep. You can learn more about “Lewis” at Wikipedia.
  • The strange title of this story comes from the third line in Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical poem “Jabberwocky.”
  • The movie “The Last Mimzy” was loosely based on “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. If you haven’t seen it then here is the trailer:

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like The Veldt, about a couple who become concerned when their children use the virtual nursery to recreate a realistic African veldt, by Ray Bradbury.

4 thoughts to “Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett”

  1. Yeah,

    I can definitely see what you mean, there is a lot of conversation and not much else. However, the toys were really cool huh? And I thought the ending was pretty good too. Oh well, you can’t win em all.

  2. The toys were pretty cool! I wouldn’t mind having them, but then, I might be too old for them… I am not sure what it was, but I just could not get interested in the story at all! And, yeah, part of it was the conversations. They didn’t really interest me after a while and I would start skimming them…

  3. I found the conversations fascinating, because they highlighted the fact that “traditional” ways of thinking are not the ONLY ways.

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