A species which, like cats, is symbiotic with humanity but needs a better PR agency.
Rats of various kinds crop up in the Discworld annals. Named rats and rat-like entities in the Chronicles include:-
The Clan - A group of changed Rats who have aquired human level intelligence:
- Additives - eaten by Maurice, causing him to become sentient
- Dangerous Beans - White rat with a good nose. Very small and almost completely blind.
- Hamnpork - Old male and leader of the clan.
- Peaches - The keeper of Mr Bunnsey Has An Adventure.
- Sardines - A tap dancing rat who wears a straw hat.
- Big Savings - Large female.
- Darktan - Head of the Trap Disposal squad, wears tool belts.
- Nourishing - Youngest member of the Trap Disposal Squad
- Donut Enter
- Toxie - Young Male who has learned to write.
- Feedsfour - Female
- Special Offer
- Fresh - Now deceased, caught in a trap.
Squads within The Clan:
Other Rat Characters:
- Spider, a Rat King
- The Death of Rats
- An unnamed "homing rat" (presumably a trained keekee) is used to carry a message in The Colour Of Magic
Rat, the food
Along with Dwarf Bread, rat meat is a staple of the Dwarf diet. In fact, it's almost the only meat they eat. Dwarfs can become very upset if you try to sneak in chicken or veal, and you don't want to upset a Dwarf who's hungry already. As fast food, rat pie and rat on a stick predominate; set pieces for dinner include Rat Surprise and Quattro Rodenti. Nanny Ogg has tried to provide more palatable alternatives for Humans in her Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, but it's just not the same. Remarkably, Nanny seemed unaware of the existence of rat fruit, or she would surely have constructed an innuendo-laden recipe out of this choice cut. Perhaps the luxury food association was a deterrent to one planning a recipe book of largely plain and simple fare...
Cats and rats themselves also won't shy away from eating a bit of rat. Except the green wobbly bit.
On the historical eating of rats: see here
External reference: Wikipedia
On Rat farms
Tudor England understood that grain was all-important to feed an island nation. Something called the Preservation of Grain Act was enabled so that anyone killing a rat or mouse in the granary could present the corpse as proof (local parish churchwardens were enjoined to keep accounts and pay the bounty). The inevitable happened. But so far I've not been able to discover if the rat farms were taxed or not...
Rat, the annotation
Is there an inversion here of the themes and ideas of James Clavell's WW2 prisoner-of-war saga, King Rat? Here, men held prisoner by the Japanese and half-starved to death on minimal rations first contemplate the idea of eating rat with horror and nausea. Then they get used to it. Then they start a rat farm in tunnels under the prison, and breed rats for commercial resale of the meat. As the war gets nearer its end, the Allied blockade bites, even the Japanese start to get hungry, forcing them to buy the rat meat from the prisoners via intermediaries (so as not to lose face). After liberation, one of the principal characters finds a diet of chicken and pork and beef is all very well, but he misses rat...
Swedish writer Bengt af Klintberg wrote a book about common Swedish urban legends called Råttan_ i_ pizzan (The Rat in the Pizza). The book became so popular that Klintbergare is now an accepted synonym for an urban legend in Sweden. Terry's dwarfs have a very Scandinavian feel to them. Could the Swedish urban myth have fed back into the Discworld dwarf diet, and become real?
Rat is widely eaten in Asia, either by fraudulent misrepresentation (we only had to worry about horse meat labelled as beef), necessity, or because people really like it.