Mavi Fare, The Mouse In The Mosque
By Stuart Baum
Note for readers: ‘Mavi Fare’ is
pronounced MAH-vee FAR-ee and means, literally, ‘blue
mouse.’ (Thank you to the night watchman at the Sumengen
Hotel, Istanbul for the Turkish translation.)
Listen mouse children and you will hear, in his own words,
the tale of how Mavi Fare escaped from the Imperial Mosque
of Sultan Ahmet I (Sultan Ahmet Camii) of Istanbul, Turkey –
known as the Blue Mosque – and from within the figurative
jaws of the mosque keepers and the literal jaws of the
thousands of cats patrolling outside. Settle down, little
mice, and you will hear the tale, which Mavi Fare wove as
delicately and intricately as the One Great Man wove his
carpets. Are you settled? Are you ready to listen with your
big ears wide open? Good, then I shall read from the sacred
scrolls, written with Mavi Fare’s own paws, the story of his
escape from the Blue Mosque, the same mosque that inspired
his holy name. I begin…
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul is one of the most well-known
and holy houses of worship in the world. It is not really
blue. It is white. It looks blue when viewed from across the
sea or across the river, which is why it is called the Blue
I live in the Blue Mosque. I am a mouse. Like the Blue
Mosque, I am really white. Also like the Blue Mosque, I look
blue. This is because so many of the stained glass windows
and so much of the mosaic in the mosque is blue. The light
comes in the blue windows and bounces off the blue walls and
makes me, a little white mouse, look blue.
“Eeek!” screams a lady with a shawl covering her head. “The
blue mouse! There is that blue mouse again! Someone should
kill it!” She doesn’t scream in English. She screams in
Turkish. “Eek! Mavi Fare!” was what she really screamed. But
if I wrote this whole story in Turkish, only a few people
would be able to understand.
The men in the mosque understand her Turkish, of course, and
they come after me with brooms. I manage to scurry under the
door and hide there. The men think I went outside, but I do
not dare go outside since Istanbul is full of cats. So many
cats! So many hungry cats!
“Mavi Fare!” the cats taunt. “Maaa-veeee Faah-reee! When
will you come outside and play with us? We do not want to
harm you, only to ask you a few questions.” Their voices are
soft and sweet and they purr so invitingly, but I know
better than to believe them. They are cats. They do not want
to talk to me. They want me to be their meal!
Inside the mosque are women and men who want to swat me with
brooms and outside are cats who want to eat me! I am a
scared little blue mouse. I want to leave the blue mosque
and live somewhere there are no cats who want to eat me and
no women in shawls who want their men to kill me.
But how can I get away?
One day I hear three men talking. All three sell carpets for
a living. I know, since I can smell the rug wool on them.
“My carpets are the finest in all Istanbul,” says the first
man. He is a fat little man.
“My carpets are the finest in all Turkey,” boasts the second
man. He is less fat, but just as small.
“My carpets are the finest in all the world,” declares the
third man. This man is tall, thin and greyer-faced than the
The first two men laugh.
“It is true,” says the third, greyer man.
“How can your carpets be the finest in all the world?” asks
“Yes,” asks the second, “What makes your carpets so
The man, the greyer, thinner and taller man, replies, “The
wool I use is so fine and so light it can actually float off
the ground.” He says this matter-of-factly, but the other
two laugh heartily.
“A flying carpet?” scoffs the second one. “This is both
ridiculous and impossible.”
The first one adds, in a more serious tone, “It is also an
embarrassment to us Turks that you say this.”
The third man, the greyer one, is again straightforward.
“But it is true.”
After the first and second men laugh and yell some more, the
greyer man offers to bring one of his carpets into the Blue
“You cannot bring a carpet into this holy place,” says the
second man sternly.
“Then I will bring only a small piece,” the third man
declares. “I will bring it tomorrow and you will see.”
The first and second men are laughing as they walk away.
They do not believe. But I, Mavi Fare, believe. Or, at
least, I really want to believe. A flying carpet! Or a piece
of a flying carpet. This means he is bringing a small flying
carpet. Imagine that! A carpet that is too small for a man
to use, but just the right size for a mouse. Just the right
size for a mouse to use to escape from the women in shawls,
the men with brooms, and the cats. From the many cats
outside who want to eat me.
The next day, the first and second men are waiting for the
third man, the greyer, thinner man, to return with his small
flying carpet. I am also waiting. I am hiding alongside the
edge of the mosque, half inside a cracked piece of blue and
white tile, where I blend in.
I must interrupt the sacred words to explain about these
marvelous tiles to those of you who have never and might
never see them firsthand in Istanbul. Not solely for the
little mouse children, but also for the grown up mice who
might be using their big ears to hear this story, for
perhaps the hundredth time.
Istanbul is far away and much of it was built many years
ago, but the blue Mosque and these very tiles have, like the
story you are hearing, well stood the test of time. And they
are just as beautiful today as they were when Mavi Fare
wrote his story. They are white with lovely and intertwined
turquoise tulips. The tulips are surrounded by just as
lovely green leaves. The tiles match each other perfectly,
with only a small thin white line of mortar showing where
the two tiles connect. They are truly magnificent. I have
seen them with my own eyes. Now I continue in Mavi Fare’s
The women in shawls and the men cannot see me, but the
large, striped cat on the windowsill looks down and sees me.
Fortunately, he is outside and the window is covered with a
wooden shutter with carved openings that are too small for
him to get through.
“Mav-eee Far-eee,” he purrs. “Mav-eee Far-eee. Come outside
and play with us. We do not want to eat you. The many, many
friendly cats only want to talk to you and play with you and
then we will let you come back into the mosque to rest. It
will be fun.” Not a word of it is true. He wants to eat me.
Suddenly a man turns to the cat and hisses. The cat,
startled, more falls than leaps from the windowsill. I hear
him land softly on the ground. I can still hear him purring,
“Mavi Fare, I am still outside if you want to come out to
playyy. You can easily get out through the holes in the
shutters.” I say nothing back. I know if I let out even the
smallest squeak the women in shawls will scream.
Again I interrupt. The ‘shutters’, though Mavi Fare’s own
word, does not do these exquisite wooden artifacts justice.
I will not take the time to describe them here, but, again,
you must see them with your own eyes. Perhaps, if you are a
good and lucky little mouse, then, someday, you will have
the chance to travel to Istanbul as I have. I continue…
Soon the third man appears and he is immediately taunted by
the second man.
“Did you walk here or fly here? I kept looking up at the sky
to watch for your arrival.”
The first man is more serious. “Did you bring this magic,
The third man nods and pulls out from his loose black shirt
a small piece of carpet. It is thin, almost like a tissue.
It is the size of a tissue as well. It is very ornate, with
dark green and maroon tulips and other flowers woven into
it. It is so beautiful it takes your breath away. Even the
other two men cannot help but stare.
The greyer man holds the small carpet out from his body and
drops it into the air.
The carpet flattens out, like a small sheet of paper, and
then falls slowly the ground. For a moment, a small moment
so brief that I almost missed it, the carpet stops falling.
Then it continues to fall until, after many seconds it
reaches the ground.
The first and the second men are clearly impressed. They did
not expect the carpet to be so light or so beautiful.
Just as they reach down to the floor to touch it, a women in
a dark blue shawl screams, “Mavi fare! The blue mouse!
is the blue mouse again!”
I realize that I was slowly moving forward as I watched the
carpet and I am now far away from the wall and my hiding
Many people come rushing towards me. I see two men raising
brooms into the air.
The blue-shawled woman continues to yell, “Cannot any of you
brave strong men kill one small mouse? Do us women have to
do all the work in this city?”
Many people laugh and this only makes the men angrier and
more determined to swat me with their brooms. A broom falls
right behind me and catches my tail. It does not hurt, but I
was just a couple inches from being killed. I fear them more
than I fear the cats outside, so I quickly dart underneath
the door and I am outside.
In front of me is that big striped cat, his paw raised,
ready to strike. If he had struck immediately, he would have
gotten me, but he purrs instead, “Mavi Fare. How nice of you
to join me. I was just about to have my lunch.” I know what
he plans to have for lunch and now I fear him more than the
men with brooms, so I scurry back into the mosque.
“The mouse is back! Over there!” It is a woman’s voice, but
I do not take to time to look at her. A man swings a broom
at me, but hits a woman’s foot.
“Ouch!” she yells. “My foot is not a mouse!” Many people
laugh. I am not laughing. I am running for my life.
I see a broom coming towards my head and I quickly dart
left. It grazes my whiskers. That was close! I look for a
place to hide or a wall, but I am now in the center of the
mosque and there are bare feet and socks everywhere. I know
not to go under a carpet, since then they will stomp on me,
so I run around feet and over feet (“He ran over my foot!”
yells one man.) and around socks and over socks. I look up
to see who yelled and it is not a man with a broom, so I
have a second to look to see how I might escape. In front of
me are more people and there are two men with brooms waiting
for me to come that way. The wall is behind them, as if they
know I will try to reach it. To the right are more men with
brooms. To the left are a crowd of people and the greyer man
with the flying carpet. I run left. I run directly towards
the greyer man, run around his bare feet and jump, as
quickly as I can, into his pants cuff. I make myself as thin
as I can and remain perfectly still. I can see nothing from
inside the cuffs, but I imagine the men with brooms are
looking for me and I only hope they do not look here. I also
hope the greyer man does not notice the extra weight in his
pants cuff. The weight of one small, thin and hungry blue
mouse in his cuff. Barely any weight at all! I think light
Soon all the yelling and commotion dies down.
“Where did he go?” I hear a man ask.
“He was right here,” says another man.
“He ran over my toes!” screams a woman.
“Everyone quiet down,” says a man. “Shhh.” The room becomes
quiet. The man continues, “The blue mouse must be nearby. He
did not go past me.” I stay still and, though it is
difficult, I hold my breath.
The room remains quiet, but soon people start whispering and
then a woman says, “All these large brave men outwitted by
one small blue mouse.”
Many people laugh. They start talking again and soon the
mosque returns to normal. I stay still. I breathe very
slowly and quietly.
Everyone quiets down. I feel the greyer man go down to his
knees and I hope I am not crushed, but he is being careful.
The chanting starts. It is beautiful and relaxing. Before I
fall asleep, I hear (or I think I hear) the greyer man say,
“I know you are there, there in my cuff, my little mavi
A hand touches me! I am awake and, without looking or even
thinking, I dart left right left right and run right some
more into a dark place. It is the edge of a pile of carpets,
very thin carpets. Nothing is coming towards me.
I look around and see the greyer man smiling at me.
He speaks slowly, calmly. “You are safe here, my little mavi
fare. No terrified women. No brooms. No cats. Only my
I stare at him, wary. The cats say nice things, too, but
they want to eat me.
He continues to talk. “You can stay here, my little mavi
fare, for as long as you want. I have left out some water
and bread for you.” He points to a bare place on the wooden
floor. I see a tea saucer full of water and a small piece of
“You are hungry, I can see, my little mavi fare. I will
leave soon so you can eat.” His face gets closer to me, so I
back up more tightly against the pile of carpets. His warm
smile becomes a slight frown. “But you must promise me one
thing, my little mavi fare. You must promise me that you
will not nibble on my carpets.” He slowly moves his hand
towards me. I try to back up further, but I am pressed
against the carpets as far as I can go already. His hand
stops and he opens it. There is a pile of wool threads in
his hand. He turns his hand over and the threads and small
wool pieces fall, ever so gently and slowly, like tiny
leaves, like tiny feathers, to the ground. “Here is enough
to get you started on your nest. I will bring more after
your dinner. But you must promise to use only the material I
give you.” He looks me in the eyes. I nod my head up and
down until he smiles. “That is a good little mavi fare,” he
says. “Now I will leave so you can have your dinner.”
The man stands up and leaves the room. I do not move an
inch. I hear a door close and still I wait. I wait as long
as my hungry stomach will let me and then I slowly, slowly
inch towards the water and bread, keeping to the edges of
the piles of carpets the entire time.
I fill my belly with bread and water. I eat as much as I
can. For the first time in my life, I eat until I can eat no
more. Tomorrow, I will eat only as much as I need. I do not
want to get fat or the cats and brooms will catch me. But
today, today, I eat. Today, today, I am safe and can rest.
Exploring the room, I find a small place where the carpets
do not quite touch the wall and decide to make my nest in
there. Piece by piece, I bring the threads and small wool
pieces to my nest. It is not much, but it is like a palace
to me. Just in case, I go back to the bread and nibble off a
large piece. I bring that back to my nest.
I curl up in my palace of wool and listen. What I hear is
amazing: silence. No people yelling ‘Kill the blue mouse!’
No cats purring ‘Mav-eee far-eee come out and play-ayy.”
None of those sounds. Just silence.
But my reverie is broken by the sound of the door opening. I
The grey man speaks, “I see you have enjoyed your dinner,
little mavi fare. I will leave more when I am gone. And I
will refill the water. As well, I am leaving another handful
of wool for your nest. I will bring more of that as well.
Plenty for the largest nest you will ever need to build. And
you can live here in peace and luxury for as long as you
want. No brooms to crush you. No cats to eat you. So long as
you promise never to gnaw on my carpets. Not even the
smallest, tiniest nibble.”
Though he could not see me, I nod. I understand and very
much appreciate his hospitality. Not one nibble. Use only
the wool left in a pile by the bread.
Except for the nod, I remain still until I hear the door
open and close again and, even then, for a long while
I am so happy to escape the Blue Mosque and be free from the
brooms and cats. I am also happy to have a full belly and a
large, comfortable nest. But I am not fully content. Even
making my nest larger would not make me content. I need to
find that small carpet. That small flying carpet he showed
to the first and second man. I need to stand on it, command
it to fly, and leave Istanbul and all of Turkey. To find a
place where mice would be free from men and women, brooms
and cats. To find a place ruled by mice. If I fly far enough
and long enough, I will find that place. If not, I will make
that place myself.
Tomorrow, I will find the flying carpet. Tomorrow. But
tonight I am tired, warm and fat. Tonight I will sleep
peacefully for the first time in my life. Tonight I will
rest before my big journey. Because today I have escaped
from the Blue Mosque. And tomorrow I will begin the quest
for the Great Mouse Place. And I will not stop until I find
it. So swears the Blue Mouse of Istanbul. So swears Mavi
And that, my little mouse children, is the story, in his own
paws, of Mavi Fare’s escape from the Blue Mosque of
Istanbul. The rest of the sacred histories, as you know,
were written by others and detail Mavi Fare’s search for the
Great Mouse Place, his adventures on the only true flying
carpet in the world, his teachings, and his place in both
Mouse and, of lesser importance, human and cat history. But
these are stories well known to many of you. If you have not
yet heard them, then I shall read them to you, as best I can
… but on another night. For it is late and you need to get
your sleep. Your little mouse sleep. Otherwise, you might
not have enough energy to avoid the next broom or the next
cat that comes your way.
Go to sleep, my little mice. Sleep still, my little mice.
Curl up your long tails and fold up your big ears, my little
mice. And, like Mavi Fare, dream big dreams…
© 2007 Stuart B Baum