Girl Genius
Girl Genius

Big Rat Island is a fan-coined name for an island in the Atlantic Ocean which seems destined to play a pivotal role in the Girl Genius story. This name seems an appropriate place holder not only because it is the larger of two islands labeled as "the Rat Islands" on an old chart (more or less anyway, see below), but also because, due to the actions of Doctor Francisia Monahan, it is inhabited by some very large and very horrible rats (again, see below).


It is the larger of two islands labeled as insulae mures, the Rat Islands[1], on an old map from official British archives. Currently, very little about this landmass is known with any certainty, but it was apparently the location of a legendary temple complex at the center of the greatest city of a mysterious Great Ancient Civilization[2]. The island is located smack dab in the middle of the Cursed Waters,[2] evidently one day's airship travel from Londinium. (Though whether or not it is part of the official British archipelago is not at all clear.)


The island is a high plateau with sheer rocky cliffs descending directly to the ocean, where they are, at least at times, battered by strong waves. There is at least one lake or pond on the island, which drains to the sea via a waterfall plummeting from the plateau's edge. The flat top of the plateau is heavily forested and dotted with ruins. There is also some sort of man-made structure at one spot at the base of the plateau amid the waves, but it's currently impossible to tell exactly what it is, both a dock and some sort of bridge have been hypothesized.

The island has an extensive population of rats; whether that's where the name came from is currently unknown.

In the Comic[]

We get our first mention of this island when Ariadne Steelgarter is plotting (with Madwa Korel) to escape from Queen Albia's attention before being apprehended for the attempted murder of Violetta. The two women seek sanctuary on (then unnamed) Big Rat because their co-conspirator Doctor Monahan has taken up residence there, establishing a secret laboratory in which she produces her Horrible Rats, who also serve as her guards. At some point, Madwa brings Prende's Chronometric Lantern to the island. It is eventually revealed there is a Queen's Mirror on the island as well, and Steelgarter and Monahan are getting the artifact up and running with the help of the clank-copy of Lucrezia.

Agatha and company learn about the island thanks to the research of the English princess Neena and some translation assistance by Zeetha, Neena is the one who produces the aforementioned map[2], and she shares what we currently know of the history and significance of the island.

Our Heroes quickly travel to Big Rat in an official British airship. As they approach, they see the ruins, which are not listed in British records. Hadrian Rakethorn and Neena hypothesize that the survey records have been falsified, while Bangladesh DuPree suggests that nothing be assumed, and that they could instead be there thanks to an effect of the Lantern. Before there can be further investigation, sabotage by an agent of Steelgarter forces them to abandon the airship and descend via emergency mini-helicopters. They quickly meet castaway airman Thomas Crothers and then the Horrible Rats; escaping the latter, they follow the former down into an impressive system of underground chambers fashioned by the Great Civilization.

Lucrezia later claims that the temple on the island was an abode of another God-Queen (apparently, the one who left the skeleton), but she was merely a squatter who occupied already abandoned place.

Speculation on Future Developments[]

What we know about Big Rat Island so far, as sketchy and uncertain as it is, gives it the potential to bring together the plot threads for:

  • The mysteries of the Great Ancient Civilization and its temples (and the mystery of how Kjarl Thotep got trapped in one of them)
  • The mysteries of the Ancient God-Queens and their Mirrors (which the aforesaid Great Ancient Civilization probably created)
  • The mystery of the source of the Cursed Waters and quest of the Deepdwellers and the Great Cetaceans to neutralize its effects, especially on the Song Keeper
  • As an extension of the above - the mystery of waters of River Dyne and what makes them special
  • Ariadne Steelgarter's motivations for her covert plot to locate Skifander (and the possibility that Zeetha will finally find her way home)
  • Madwa Korel's (and through her, the Other's) plans for Prende's Lantern and whatever role the Lantern may have played/will play/is playing in the Other's temporally-tangled history
  • Agatha's quest to free Mechanicsburg from the time-freeze bubble
  • And the role Professor Monahan plays in all of this (which, given her likely status as an apprentice to Dimitri Vapnoople, may well involve monsters—although it's looking like her rats already have that covered, though, she's also Lucrezia's old classmate)
  • And possibly even the causes of the Other's enmity with the Queens (Lucrezia is present and is tuning the adjacent Mirror to the one in the Royal Collection of Inconvenient Oddities)
  • It may even touch upon Geisters, since the only shot of Citadel of Silver Light shows traces of Great Ancient Civilization building style.

Possibly Relevant Outside Information[]

Orkney, an archipelago north of Great Britain, "contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe."

The Rat Islands in southwestern Alaska are located 180° in longitude around the globe from the Orkney,[3] about 8° south in latitude. The eponymous Rat Island itself was named (originally in Russian, then translated) after the rats that were introduced in 1780. Incidentally, the rats were eradicated in 2009 (long after Monahan's rats appeared in The Works) and the island renamed Hawadax.


  1. The Latin phrase insulae mures can be translated as the Rat Islands or Islands of the Rats. It can also mean the Mouse Islands or Islands of the Mice, since the Latin word mus—of which mures is the plural—can mean either mouse or rat. The Ancient Romans did not generally differentiate between rats and mice, instead referring to the former as mus maximus (big mouse) and the latter as mus minimus (little mouse). Given Doctor Monahan's well-known affinity for rats (at least on her cards in The Works), the translation rat will be used here. However, this begs the question of how these islands got their name in the first place, since the chart that gives it seemingly dates from before Monahan took up residence there.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "The people who built the Queen's Mirrors? I believe that their greatest city was located right around here! In the area that is now this cluster of islands! This is where they perfected their advanced science! —And this island? It corresponds with a legendary temple complex in the center of all that! Not only that—these people—they seem to have communicated and worked together with the Great Cetaceans—and this area is smack in the center of the "cursed waters" that the Deepdwellers came to speak to Mama about." - Volume 21 (book 8 of the Second Journey), page (094), panel 4.
  3. The Orkney islands are between about 2.35° and 3.5° W, while the Rats are between 172° and 180° E, which is to say between 0° and 8° west of 180°, so the longitude range of the Orkney, plus 180°, falls within that of the Rats. Rat Island itself is at 1.7° west of 180°.