So, I believe that the Mouse Guard and their civilization might be much larger than is commonly realized.
First, I believe examining the map that the Mouse territories are in an alternate universe in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Everything lines up about this, from the general topography, to the fauna and flora observed, to the unusual presence of both iron and copper ore in a relatively small geographic area of North American forest.
There are only a few differences between the real upper peninsula of Michigan, and the mouse territories and I believe all are sufficiently explained by the assumption of an alternate world sufficiently different that mice and weasels first appeared as the main sentient beings of the world, rather than humans.
- Lake Michigan is somewhat smaller and differently located compared to where we’d expect to find it on a map.
- No known freshwater crabs exist as far north as Lake Superior, however, salt water crabs tolerant of such cold exist and land crabs are abundant in the neo-tropical Americas. So this is only a minor difference in evolutionary history, compared to say sentient mice.
This suggests to me that the mouse territories encompass some 15,000 square miles, or nearly 10,000,000 acres of land. While the mouse cities may only be points of light in such a vast territory, which is otherwise howling wilderness, even if only a fraction of this land is in use by civilized mice, the potential population of the mouse territories could be enormous.
The largest single under taking by the Mouse Guard is the maintenance of the scent barrier. Other estimates of the size of the Mouse Guard do not put the number of mice large enough to maintain a scent barrier along even a limited front several miles across and still accomplish any of the gaurds other duties. If in fact as the map suggests, the scent barrier has a perimeter over 100 miles, hundreds of mice would need to be involved full time in its maintenance.
I suggest that larger cities may well contain several tens of thousands of mice and there may be thousands of Guard Mice.
It’s also worth noting that while this size may seem enormous, if we apply this scale to the map 15000 square miles means that settlements are still only a few miles from each other, and while wild mice rarely venture more than a dozen yards from their home, a mouse is fully capable of traversing a dozen miles in a day. Thus, while this estimate may seem like a lot of territory, only a territory this large can explain the scale of mouse journeys implied by wilderness travel. If the mouse territories encompass say only 15 or even 150 square miles, then major settlements are only couple hundred yards from the nearest settlement, a distance a mouse could traverse in only a few minutes. Even a mile or two wouldn’t require a mouse much more time to travel than it would a human in the same circumstance. So, only at this scale do we really have the need for multi-day journeys between cities, rather than the equivalent of a quick dash to some nearby neighborhood.
Further, while this scale seems large, it’s the only scale that I think lines up with a civilization with over a 1000 year history. It’s seems highly improbable, and a bit pathetic, that mouse society has only expanded over an area of a few square miles in 1000 years. It also gives room for the epic scale of the recent mouse/weasel war, and I think sufficient explanation for why the weasels were daunted by their mouse prey. There are a lot of mice, collectively with enormous economic power. I think the idea that the mouse territories have perhaps 100,000’s of citizens also better explains the level of complexity we see in their society. They don’t collectively act like a society with just a few thousand members, but have developed the sort of complicated infrastructure of society like universities and factories that we’d associate with high populations.
In any event, one of the things I like about this interpretation is that probably 80% of the settlements in the territories aren’t even on the map. While many of these might be small villages of just a few score mice, it leaves a huge amount of room for developing your own content and incorporating whatever you like from other GM’s imaginations as well.