3

As always when they met, Lan's and Rhuarc's icy blue stares nearly struck sparks. A braided leather cord held Lan's dark hair, gray-streaked at the temples. His face looked to have been carved from rock, all hard planes and angles, and his sword rode his hip like part of his body. Perrin was not sure which of the two men was more deadly, but he thought a mouse could starve on the difference.

The Wheel of Time: Book Four - The Shadow Rising (Chapter 3 - Reflection)

Is the phrase being used as an idiom? If so, I could find no strong references to its usage anywhere. If not, can someone explain what the author wished to express here?

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I haven't heard a similar phrase before so I don't know that it's an idiom. But I can infer from context what it means, so I'll explain that:

The first thing we know is that a mouse, being a small creature, does not need to eat much food.

"The difference," in that sentence, refers to the difference in Lan and Rhuarc's deadliness, as perceived by Perrin.

So what Perrin is saying is that she doesn't know exactly how much of a difference there is in how deadly the two men are, but she does think that the difference is so small that, if it were equated into food, it would not be enough to feed a mouse, and the mouse would starve (even though a mouse requires little sustenance.)

In short: this is a clever way for her to express the fact that she thinks they are pretty equally deadly.

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