There is a certain subset of fantasy creatures that are unfailingly polite. Whenever I stumble into their worlds, they break out the honeycakes and put a kettle on.
But maybe I don’t want to have to tea with mice and bears and teeny little worms. Do I want to have tea with them? Let’s see.
Dormouse, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland
I like you Dormouse. I truly do! There are few things I love more than small sleepy animals. But I like to sit and drink my tea, not engage in impromptu therapy sessions with Hatters. Hence, you sit here, near the bottom of the list, snoring away. Gosh you’re cute.
The Depressed Bear, The Magicians
Sorry, Bear. You may invite me to hang out at your tavern with plenty of honey-drenched tea, but first of all, you are one lachrymose ursus. Second, you tend to have a pretty one-track mind, and I think we’d exhaust your one or two conversational topics in about five minutes. Third, and probably most important: is Quentin Coldwater at the tavern?
Because I am not listening to that.
Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
You guys set out a mean tea spread! (Although your take on fish and chips is a little odd…) And since I’m assuming that I would only meet you if you were sheltering me, a Daughter of Eve, from the White Queen, it’s fair to say that I’m a fan of yours.
But. None of that will matter in the moment when I have to stand face-to-face with a toddler-sized mammal with teeth the size of my fist. I love you Beavers, honestly, but I don’t think I can watch you eat a scone.
Plus I don’t think I want to get into this weird Aslan-cult-prophecy thing you keep talking about.
I hope you can forgive me.
Worm and His Missus, Labyrinth
Worm, I think you’re great. I appreciate your attempt to help me with the Labyrinth, and it pains me to hear you say you’re “just” a worm. You are a worm of distinction! And I do, truly, appreciate your kind offer of tea with your Missus.
How am I supposed to fit through the door? I see the door. I know it’s worm-sized. What exactly is your plan? Is this some TARDIS-foolery, where suddenly your wormhole is enormous inside? Fine. We’re in a fantasyland, I can accept that, but that does not solve my central conundrum: how do I fit through your worm-door?
You come up with an answer to that, Worm, and then we’ll talk about tea.
Mr. Tumnus, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
So if walking through the woods on a snowy evening I should chance to see a streetlight, I’ll be a little confused? And then if I chance to see a faun carrying his groceries home I’ll… probably faint, to be honest. But after that, Tumnus? Once you’ve dropped your groceries in the snow and shaken me awake, if you do me the honor of inviting me into your home? I know I’ll be in the presence of EPIC TEA.
Come on, you’re a creature who risks your own life to protect a human you’ve only known for an hour! You chose to be turned into a statue rather than betray your new friend. Tumnus, you are a ride-or-die faun, and I’m guessing you’ll create a tea that will reflect your noble soul.
Say I’d like some jam with my scone? Tumnus is all like “Strawberry preserves, orange marmalade, or LEMON CURD, motherfucker? You have your choice of all three in my cave that has been transformed into a cozy library.”
So what I’m saying, Tumnus, is that after you’ve roused me from my shocked sleep, I’ll say hell yes to your kind offer of tea.
However, you’re still not quite Number One.
Ratty, Mole, and Badger, The Wind in the Willows
If I’m sailing down the river with you, Rat and Mole, there is a very strong likelihood of a picnic breaking out, and since this would be a pastoral Edwardian English picnic, there won’t be any annoying bees or ants, just cute bees and ants. That will probably help us set up the blanket.
When the two of you inadvertently crashed Badger’s winter hibernation, he totally dropped his earlier plan of sleeping for three months and welcomed you in. Badger is warm, friendly, and trustworthy, basically, the best-scenario tea companion. Badger, you never would have voted for Brexit. You would have kept The Great British Bake Off on the BBC where it belongs.
I’m imagining Christmas Tea at your home, Mole. The sideboard creaks beneath the weight of the pies you’ve prepared. The cheese and pickle sandwiches. The Cornish pasties. I’m imagining Mole carefully unspooling honey into my steaming mug as I drowse by a crackling fire, ornaments glinting on a fragrant pine tree… and then I could spend New Year’s Eve getting wrecked with Toad.
The next time a rat or a mole or a badger approaches me and asks me in to tea, I’m saying yes.
Originally published September 2016.