Mrs. Brisby and the Search for Johnathan

by David Leemhuis

Courage of the heart…it served Mrs. Brisby well in her quest to save her children and gained her valuable allies and friends. Now, she must rely upon it again in a new quest to find the one who will once again make her family complete: Johnathan Brisby, the father of her children, the one she thought they’d lost forever. Guided by the ever-mysterious red amulet, she leads her new friends into parts unknown to any of them, with no way of knowing that they’d meet opposition to their quest…or that they may not survive to be reunited with the object of their search.


The first draft of this story was written in March and April 1986, after having been pretty much in my head for over a year previously.  The original version saw print in “The NIMH File,” an APAzine compiled and edited by Timothy Fay.  I was under a certain amount of deadline pressure at the time, plus it was my first attempt at writing any kind of fiction since high school a decade-plus before, so I was never entirely satisfied with the results.  As I put it at the time, I mainly wanted the chance “to get this story out of my system,” so I banged out the entire story in about a month’s time, and as a result a lot of material I now consider “cringeworthy” crept in: certain bits of dialogue, plot elements that I later realized made little sense, and one horrible mixed metaphor: “I’ve made some further discoveries, my friend, though how they all fit together I’m only beginning to unravel.”  Come again?

So, 2 ½ years later, I finished a revised and expanded version, which I retitled simply “Mrs. Brisby’s Search,” because at the time I thought the original title gave too much away. In between, I’d written a follow-up story to “Search”—“The Hidden Conflict”—which presented my own origins for the Stone and Nicodemus’s powers and abilities, while attempting to explain away other unresolved matters and inconsistencies from the film. More recently, actually about a decade ago, I first had the idea for an alternate storyline that would simplify and streamline the whole saga, mainly because I thought “The Hidden Conflict” introduced characters and situations that strayed a bit too far from the original milieu of “NIMH” and made the overall storyline more complex than necessary and too bogged down in detail. Even I was finding it hard to follow. I hadn’t written down any details of this alternate storyline—in which “The Hidden Conflict” was written out—but I’d kept the basics of it in the back of my mind. This past year, upon discovering online “NIMH” fandom and the opportunity to present my stories on the web, I decided to dust off the alternate and make it the definitive version. So once I’d firmed up the details I started the third version of “Search,” for which I decided to restore the original title.

My apologies for being long-winded, but these stories do have a history, if only to myself and a handful of others who’d read the originals.

The story, though movie-based, also incorporates elements from the Robert O’Brien novel: characters such as Arthur, Isabella and Janice, aspects of Timothy’s and Johnathan’s personalities, the creekside setting for the Brisby summer home, etc. It takes the reader into a realm which is arguably more fantastic than that of the movie and which I’m sure some may find confounding but which I hope others may find to be, at the very least, a unique approach. When I’d first conceived it a good quarter-century ago, it seemed a logical extension of the seemingly-mystical and otherworldly aspects of the film, and this latest version retains that flavor as well as the basic plot of the original, though many details were altered.

Finally, as I’ve stated in my forum posts, I don’t consider this any more “definitive” or “correct” than anyone else’s fan-fiction; it’s just my own take on this particular fantasy realm, one out of many, some of which I’ll readily admit to be superior.  As usual, feedback is appreciated.  Love it or loathe it, feel free to post comments at the following forum topic:

Read on…

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