Mijbil the Otter
By Gavin Maxwell
· The story ‘Mijbil the Otter’ is written by Gavin Maxwell, a British naturalist and writer. He has written books about his adventures with otter, an unconventional pet.
· This chapter taken from his book 'Ring of White Water' is a beautiful tale of love and friendship between a baby otter and the narrator. It is written in form of a memoir.
· Gavin Maxwell lived in a cottage in Camusfearna, in the West Highlands in Scotland. When his dog Jonnie died, Maxwell was too sad to think of keeping a dog again. But life without a pet was lonely so he decided to keep otter as his pet.
· Otters are found in large numbers in the marshes near Basra in Iraq. The author bought an otter and decided to bring the pet from Iraq to London. The chapter narrates the special arrangements the author made to bring the otter.
· It is a beautiful and interesting description of habits, interests, activities and behaviour of a baby otter living in human society.
· The theme of the story is that language of love is universal and every creature understands and responds to this universal language.
· The chapter also invokes sensitivity among human beings and sensitises the people to be kind and compassionate towards the livestock.
The elements of humor, romance, thrill and adventure make the story more interesting.
Summary / Synopsis
§ ‘Mijbil the Otter’ is the story of love and friendship between the author and his pet, baby otter. When the narrator travelled to Southern Iraq, he felt that he should keep an otter as a pet instead of a dog. Camusfearna being an eminently suitable spot, he mentioned this to his friend who advised him to buy one from Tigris marshes where otters are as common as mosquitoes.
§ Five days later, his mail arrived but by the time his friend had left. The Arabs brought it in a sack, it was sent by his friend. From the head to the tip of his tail he was covered with a coating of mud. It took him a month to remove the last of the mud and see the true colours of the otter, soft velvet fur of brown colour. The otter’s race previously unknown to science, and was, thus christened by zoologists Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli, or Maxwell’s otter.
§ For the first twenty four hours Mijbil was neither hostile nor friendly. He was simply aloof and indifferent, and slept on the floor far from his bed. The second night Mijbil came on to his bed. Next day he began to lose his apathy and take a keen interest in his surroundings.
§ The author took him to the bathroom, where for half an hour he went wild with joy in the water, plunging, rolling and enjoying every bit of it. The author learnt that for an otter water must be kept on the move, and when static it is wasted and provoking. Two days later, Mijbil escaped from his bedroom and ran into bathroom. After little struggle he was able to open the tap on his own. He started to recognise his name respond at narrator’s call. He spent most of his time in playing with rubber ball, marbles and juggling the objects.
§ After some days the author decided to transport otter to Camusfearna. British airline to London would not fly animals so he booked a flight to Paris on another airline, and from there to London. The airline insisted that Mij should be packed into a box not more than eighteen inches square, and to be carried on the floor at his feet. The author made the box and put Mij into the box so that he would become accustomed to it, and left for a meal before the flight. He had torn the lining of the box to shreds and started bleeding due to the cutting edges left. It was just ten minutes until the time of the flight, and the airport was five miles distant. He removed the cutting edges and put the miserable Mij back into the box, holding the lid with his hand. Officials were angry at his late arrival.
§ He rang for the air hostess, and gave her a parcel of fish to keep in a cool place for Mij. He took her into his confidence telling about the events of the last half hour. The air hostess was the very queen of her kind. She suggested that he might prefer to have his pet on his knee. The author felt gratitude and respect for her.
§ But, Mij giving a shock to everyone disappeared from the box at high speed, and in the aircraft there were squawks and shrieks. A woman stood up on her seat screaming out. He started running here and there and slipped between sardarji's legs. After a while the otter was back to its place with the help of airhostess.
§ Mij and author remained in London for nearly a month. He would play for hours with a selection of toys, ping-pong balls, marbles, rubber fruit, and a terrapin shell that he had brought back from his native marshes. He was intelligent enough to invent games with the ping-pong ball and a broken suitcase.Mij quickly developed certain compulsive habits on his walks in the London streets and play and jump like children. People used to stare at Mij and used to make weird guesses about what he is such as ‘a baby seal’ and ‘a squirrel.’ ‘ a walrus, ‘a hippo’, a beaver, a bear cub, a leopard, etc. A labourer was astonished and asked what creature he was.