In Nell's version of the Primer she saves the mouse army and thus they are indebted to her.

I assumed that each of the mouse army had her own Primer which ran its own story arc. This seems to be the case since Nell doesn't interact with Fiona Hackworth and Elizabeth Finkle-McGraw in the Primer world.

What real-world service did Nell do to the mouse army that caused them to seek her our and follow her in the real world?

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    Good question, but I'm not sure you should limit yourself to "real-world service". As they were all spending significant parts of their lives in the world of the Primer, her actions there might have inspired their loyalty as well.
    – gowenfawr
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:16
  • @gowenfawr, I sort of assume that the story arcs in the primers are independent. If the magic she did in the Primer to release them is to affect what's going on in the mice's primers it means that the story arcs are coupled and that each mouse experienced being trapped as one of many mice rather than the protagonist of their own story. This doesn't seem credible to me.
    – Motti
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:22
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    in a book where one of the foundational points is that the network allows completely anonymous yet full interaction ('racting'), it's completely credible. Nell considers Miranda her mother, yet the two have only ever met via racting. Fiona's relationship with her father was full despite being limited to racting with his subconscious self. So your question might be, what parts of the racting world embodied by the primer were shared between Nell and the Mouse Army?
    – gowenfawr
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:38
  • @gowenfawr good point, I don't remember cross-primer reacting being mentioned in the book but it could be a valid answer to this question.
    – Motti
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:40

1 Answer 1


This is answered very explicitly in this answer to another (broader) question here.

Essentially, the Primers of the Mouse Army are not the same as that owned by Nell. Hackworth offered to change the Primers that would be made for Dr. X to make them "more Chinese", and a part of the changes he made was that the users would be raised to respect authority - but then later be presented the user of the original primer as the specific embodiment of authority.

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    The answer of the linked question doesn't seem to be active, do you know if there's a reference for the claim "he makes the authority the owner of the missing book"?
    – Motti
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:36

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