by Roald Dahl
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
We only see the carving-knife a few times, but boy is it an image we remember. First, we hear about it when the Grand High Witch says that as part of the Mouse-Maker recipe, "you take exactly forty-five brrrown mice and you chop off their tails with a carving knife" (93). Later, a chef in the kitchen actually does this to our narrator, "as the carving-knife whizzed through the air and there was a shoot of pain in the end of [his] tail" (18.33). Finally, in the climactic scene, a chef runs out with a carving-knife in order to kill some of the newly transformed witch-mice.
It goes without saying that the carving-knife is a tool of cruelty. What's more, this is a weapon that causes immediate, sharp damage: one slice can do the trick. Notice, though, that it's a tool of cruelty used only by adults. For that reason, it might make us see adults as violent creatures, but, in turn, it highlights the innocence of children.
Whenever we read about mice and carving-knives in this book, we can't help but think of the old rhyme about the three blind mice:
Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?
We guess mice and grown-ups just don't mix well.