After reading all three books of The Rats trilogy (and The City graphic novel), I’ve decided to look back and theories the connections of each books revelations to the end bomb shell book of Domain.
Below I’ll be giving brief catch ups with each books endings relating to the rats, and where there origins started. This will relate to my theory on the series finale, and how it effects the future in a post- apocalyptic world rule by the rats.
This post will have major spoilers for The Rats, Lair, Domain and The City!!!
In the first book we find out through the course of the story that Under-Secretary, Foskins, had found information about the Black Rats origins. They were created by an atomic bomb test in New Guinea, which a professor (Zoologist) by the name of William Bartlett Schiller took one of the rats back to the U.K.
He went to a canal in London in a small house and started breeding the brown rats with the black rats, resulting in the creation of the mutant breed. However to no ones surprise, the Black Rats break free and start breeding and infesting London’s sewer network.
Harris (protagonist), knew where this old canal house was went straight to it to reach Foskins in time, during the big purge against the rats in an abandoned city of London. When inside, Harris finds all sorts of stuff in a study room including a black board with a faint image of a rat. It’s only when he goes downstairs does he finally realise how significant this place is.
For within this house we find our first White Rat, a mutated monstrosity who’s obese, crippled, hairless and distinctly has two heads. We also find it’s mutated bodyguards who are much bigger than the Black Rats. After battling his way through the bodyguards (and found out the fate of Foskins), Harris kills the mutant rat king.
Meanwhile as the military massacres the hordes of Black Rats from their hiding places (using ultra sounds to attract them), a few however were trapped in a storage room unable to get out. The mother rat gives birth to a strange White Rat before she dies from stress, the White Rat leads its kin away from the city.
In Lair, the protagonist by the name of Pender, finds the new nest of the Black Rats, which reveals more about its hierarchy system. I’ve listed this below to quickly explain the lowest to highest in the rats lair.
- Black Rats are the foot soldiers who deliver fresh meat to its superiors, decapitated heads are much needed to the brood.
- Bodyguard rats are much bigger and stronger than the foot solider, who guard the mutated white rat and it’s group of similarly afflicted kin.
- White Rats are mutated monstrosity’s who tend to be leaders or in place of authority to the Lair. They demand food on a constant basis to replenish their hunger, for their crippled affliction makes them useless to hunt for food.
- White Rat (king) is the leader of the lair who bends all to his will and demands for more fresh heads to eat. Being bigger than its kin, this rat has two heads, one being useless apart from either eating or sniffing, sight is blind.
After a dispute with one of the Black Rats who the White Rat king was feasting on its new meal, the Black Rat strangely disobeyed its orders and attacked its king. Tearing its throat out and forging on its flesh, along with the rest of the Black Rats. The bodyguards and its White Rat masters were killed off too, making the lair go into outright chaos.
In the end, Pender managed to escape as the army destroys the abandoned house with rockets and explosions, supposedly killing off the Black Rats forever.
But a few survived and went back to the city…..
In Domain, it’s revealed that the rats have a Mother Creature, a massive White Rat who commands all to her commands. Not only is she like her white kin, but she can also breed to create more rats.
After the nuclear apocalypse the rats had grown bolder and left heir nest to find a world in ruin. Regaining their confidence they terrorise many survivors, killing them and taking food back to the nest.
By the end of the story, it’s revealed later on in the last chapter that when the protagonist looked back at the horror he witnessed seeing the Mother Creature, he realised that her litter looked awfully familiar. They were human in appearance with rat features, almost as if the litter were an evolution in the rats cycle. Did mankind evolve from rats, not apes?
Finally in The City, we discover yet another Mother Rat in illustration, and a first visual illustration of what this human/ rat looks like.
So with all that information out of the way, what can this all mean?
From everything I’ve gathered from all three books, and how the author developed his stories, I have theory.
The Rats are a product of a nuclear blast which changed their DNA to make them abnormally stronger, smarter, more cunning than their smaller kin. However, it has caused a mutation where a few newborn become the white rats. Eventually these rats become deformed and crippled either by genetic failure or it’s part of the hierarchy gene that makes them above the Black Rats. Like bees, the rats produce a unique litter that will lead its nest if ever the King or Queen is slain.
One rat may become the mother creature, who breeds many rats including her own white kin. Unlike her own kind, her newborn are alien to the Black Rats who see them as a threat. But they won’t harm them for their Queen has total command over the nest.
These newborn are the next evolutionary step in the rats species to evolve into more humanoid beings. Wether they are the return of mankind’s ancestors or something entirely more disturbing will never be answered.
This is the true horror of James Herbert’s trilogy of The Rats. Whilst each book is horror filled with rat attacks and mutilations of victims, these pale in comparison to the real horror that connects all the books.
Domain ends the trilogy by showing mankind’s downfall for its recklessness with nuclear weapons, massacring everyone and everything on this earth. The rats, a product of nuclear bomb tests decades ago (the irony that mankind had created such horrors) were a mistake created by mankind’s recklessness (and a professors stupid idea to breed them). The rats took this opportunity to rise up from their long absence from the upper world.
They breed and kill the now weakened but surviving groups of mankind, whilst their queen breeds a new race to rule the earth.
The true horror is that the rats have become the next dominant species of earth, and theses new breed of humanoid rats will inherit this world once mankind becomes extinct. The rats hate them and are more than willing to kill them, but this new breed may live long enough to survive as long as their queen is still in power.
Whilst the revelation of the new inheritors of earth is an interesting theory, it’s only what I think might happen. You may have your own theories on what The Rats trilogy ending could mean, I’m interested to hear your own theories in the comments below!
Thank you for reading this post. I hope you have enjoyed this post and, hopefully you may be interested to read more or James Herbert’s literature.
Next up I’ve got one more post on The Rats series with my own ideas to improve The City, and how I would give it more meaning as a finale to the series. I’ll explain the positives and negatives of the original story, and wether it could continue the saga with a sequel if James Herbert had continued the series.
Until next time!
- Herbert James, The Rats First published in 1974 by New English Library. Edition 1999 Re-published by Pan Books
- Herbert James, Lair First published in 1979 by New English Library. Edition 1999 Re-published by Pan Books.
- Herbert James, Domain, First edition 1984 published by New English Library.
- Herbert James, Miller Ian, Balchin Judy, The City, First edition 1994 published by Pan Books.