Oatmeal addiction seems to show up just once, as a one-off about chemical warfare (similar to bioweapons in 38), and then vanishes. But where did it come from? Where did the stockpiles of oatmeal by the Yeerk pool go? Are there still oatmeal addicts?
Research & Development: In 16, the Animorphs encounter Joe Bob Fenestre, a controller who has learned to live without Kandrona by a substance made from cannibalizing his fellow Yeerks. By the end of the book, Joe Bob Fenestre’s house has been burned down, and he has gone missing, never to be seen again. But perhaps he was captured by his twin, Visser 3, who rather than being just horrified by the cannibalism, also finds it interesting.
Visser 3 gets his scientists to research the substance that Joe Bob creates from Yeerks to see if they can synthesis it, replacing pools with an oral supplement. They find out that Maple & Ginger instant oatmeal has all the necessary chemicals to reproduce the process, and costs no Yeerk lives. Unfortunately, it also drives Yeerks crazy, and even if Joe Bob is still alive for them to study, he’s already crazy as it is.
While the majority of Yeerks abstain from oatmeal, some are power-hungry and crazy enough to try it. This is where Taylor comes in. The girl is already insane, and the Yeerk that infests her has such a strong drive to gain power, that they will do anything to get it. This accounts for the insanity, blurred line between Yeerk and host, and uncontrolled switching that Tobias sees in #33. It’s not simply that Taylor was crazy and drove the Yeerk insane with her, it’s that they are fused, mixed together by a combination of drugs (oatmeal) and absolutely no time apart from each other for years on end. This also explains how the Yeerk was able to survive without Kandrona for a while in 43 as part of pretending to be part of a rebel Yeerk faction, and why the real Taylor, whose personality has been subsumed through force of will, not biological Yeerk control, is able to break free and whisper “Don’t trust her” for a moment in #43. There may be other oatmeal addicts among the Yeerks, but Taylor shows us the true horror of that addiction.
Blogger comments: Honestly, Taylor being an oatmeal addict is the most likely reason for her behavior. I think it’s possible that perhaps she was the first one to try it at all. Taylor and the Yeerk were really blurred together by the time we met them in 33 and even more in 43.
While Edelman’s situation with the Yeerk (#17) was awful, I also think he still had a sense of self. But Taylor and the Yeerk were experiencing serious identity issues by the time we met them– maybe because they had been addicted to oatmeal for so long, longer than any Yeerk that tried it as an experiment.
I keep seeing people putting Animorphs #17: The Underground, aka “the oatmeal book” on their “favorite trash books” or such, and I frankly don’t see why it even qualifies in the “trash” category. I mean I know out of universe Instant maple and ginger oatmeal was chosen as the drug that is to Yeerks what meth is to humans because of the “lol oatmeal really” bit of humor.
But in universe? While the Animorphs at first don’t take it seriously (because it’s oatmeal), it’s soon made clear it’s played serious enough. Because while Applegate lets these kids laugh at what would normally be a humorous situation, she also shows that there’s really nothing funny about it. If Yeerks consume the stuff, they are freed of their dependency of Kandrona rays, but become hopelessly addicted to oatmeal that it eventually leads them to insanity. We the reader first think it’s still outrageous, but I mean, our species can eat chocolate fine, but do we think it’s funny if it’s fed to a dog?
This book poses perhaps the first real moral dilemma for the Animorphs when it comes to this war and how they should fight it. These Yeerks have discovered completely by accident that oatmeal is an addiction to them, and they happened upon it because the Animorphs destroyed the Kandrona generator of the Yeerk pool: the Yeerks who weren’t high rank were left out of the ship with the only generator to starve, and here they thought they found a new means of survival, but instead it destroys them. With their insanity also comes a price to their hosts: they cannot leave their hosts’ heads, and while humans might sometimes break through the Yeerks’ insanity, they can never be rid of them. This was enough to drive the human controller Edelman to attempted suicide.
So the Animorphs have an option: they have a substance that is easily obtainable and almost a joke to them. But they essentially have a chemical weapon at their use; it obviously has freaked out the Yeerks enough that they bought every ounce of the stuff they could find so it couldn’t be used against them. For the first time, the Animorphs really feel they have something big on the Yeerks. They can dump it in the Yeerk pool and inflict harsh mental damage on a sentient race. But they then have to ask themselves: is this right?
Amazingly it’s Cassie who suggests that they just dump a case in the Yeerk pool (this is obviously before she met Aftran and the Yeerk Peace Movement; compare this to her later decision to not try and blow up the Yeerk pool, yay character development). And they do it. They drop the proverbial bomb on the pool, essentially dooming hundreds or thousands of Yeerks to a lifetime of insanity (or more realistically, as the book implies, Visser Three will just kill them since they are useless now). And that kind of victory proved hollow. After all, they didn’t get Visser Three or any high-level Yeerks; those Yeerks in the pool were just grunts.
Ultimately the Animorphs decide never to use the weapon again. They choose to erase the possibility of biological warfare from their arson. Applegate made me take oatmeal as a weapon seriously.