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Secrets of NIMH

A Review of the National Institue of Mental Health

A Children's Story

One of my favorite animated movies is The Secret of NIMH. I am fascinated by Nicodemus and the Rats of NIMH, as they helped the widowed Mrs. Frisby. Mrs. Frisby was a field mouse who had to cure her son Timothy of pneumonia and move her family from their home before plow time arrived. Unfortunately, the plow was coming earlier than expected, not allowing Timmy time to recover before the move. In desperation and on a time-crunch, Mrs. Frisby was advised by the Great Owl to seek help from an old prophet named Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was the mystical leader of the Rats of NIMH, which was a community of beta rats who escaped from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) laboratories. Nicodemus believed that rats can progress beyond imagination, and it was part of his great plan that they would. But if rats were to progress in that manner, they would have to change the way rats were viewed and how they viewed themselves. He wanted to create a community in Thorn Valley, in which the rats did their own farming.

As it turned out, much to Mrs. Frisby's surprise, her late husband Jonathan was a Rat of NIMH; and, he died on a mission to carryout Nicodemus' plan. The Rats of NIMH were certainly scientifically and socially advanced, and had the means to help Mrs. Frisby. In honor of her late husband, Nicodemus was compelled to help Mrs. Frisby; but, that decision was met with a volatile response among the elite of the community. After much hostility that ultimately led to the death of Nicodemus, the Rats of NIMH physically moved the Frisby cinderblock home to safety from the plow with their evolved technology.

About the Author and Nine Old Men

The Secret of NIMH was a film produced by Don Bluth Productions based on the novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien. Rumor has it that that Disney's legendary "nine old men" were behind the making of the film after they retired from Disney, and they mysteriously died after the film's release.

O'brien's work was based on the studies of John B. Calhoun at the National Institute of Mental Health. Calhoun was a behavioral researcher who studied mouse and rat population dynamics, which he suggested served as a model for human population dynamics. Calhoun coined the term "behavioral sink," a collapse in behavior due to over-population.

Both the book and film have interesting stories themselves, almost eerie to the core. From intelligent lab rats and secret societies to survival of the fittest and population control, the Rats of NIHM bring to mind many conspiracy theories. When Disney and places like NIMH are involved, mysteries are sure to abound.

More on Nicodemus

As mentioned, I was fascinated by Nicodemus. He was the leader of the Rats of NIMH with a mystical amulet and anti-aging wisdom, what's not to love? In a pivotal scene, he said to Mrs. Frisby that "courage of the heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it's there." The amulet he spoke of gave the hint that "you can unlock any door, if you only had the key." They key, then, is courage of the heart. There is power when we have the courage of the heart of the Spirit.

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Nicodemus was the name of a Pharisee and Ruler of the Jews who prepared Jesus' corpse with myrrh, aloe, and linen. On the night prior to Jesus' death, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus then asked Jesus "how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

Jesus was trying to teach Nicodemus that unless one is "born again," they cannot see the kingdom of God; further, to enter the kingdom of God they must be "born of water and the Spirit." The biblical story of Nicodemus made me think of what Nicodemus meant when he said "We can no longer live as rats. We know too much." Similarly, once born again with the Spirit, we can no longer live as men or women. We know too much.

© 2021 Marilyn Prado

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