Book Reviews

C is for the Cat who Walked by Himself!

Cats are where it’s at…

and that’s where I’m going to stop try­ing to write a Dr. Seuss type of blog post. Instead, I’ll blog about a few of my favorite famous, fic­tional cats, because my own cats are in the process of writ­ing a blog with me, so every­one will have to wait to meet them.

The first cat I’ll talk about is “Puss in Boots” who orig­i­nally  appeared in a fairy tale at the end of the 17th cen­tury. He “served” (as if! every­one knows we serve cats, not the other way around) a mas­ter who inher­ited his dead father’s cat. The man was dis­ap­pointed at first; but Puss in Boots was not only very fashion-savvy but incred­i­bly brave, clever and mag­i­cal. The cat was SO clever, that he killed an Ogre, took over the Ogre’s cas­tle all so that his mas­ter could marry a beau­ti­ful princess. What a Cat!  “Puss in Boot’s” has appeared in so many shapes and ways, but my favorite ver­sion of him beside the orig­i­nal “Puss in Boots” has to be from the “Shrek” movies. Here, “Puss in Boots” is dash­ing, witty, brave, and incred­i­bly clever. I think his first ances­tor would be most proud of how far his fam­ily has come.

Then we have a cat who could have been the cousin of Puss in Boots. “The Cheshire Cat,” from “Alice in Won­der­land. Those of you who read my co-author Lyn’s blog post  “A is for Alice in Won­der­land” know that she didn’t exactly favor “Alice” but how can any­one not like “Cheshire.” He was sly, tricky, extremely clever and could dis­ap­pear when­ever he felt like it to Alice’s frus­tra­tion. Hmmmm, that sounds famil­iar, my own cats, seem to dis­ap­pear and tease me for the fun of it and then mag­i­cally appear when they are hungry.

Then there’s a cat who’s not so for­tu­nate, has had to sur­vive a hard street life but man­ages to sing about her expe­ri­ences. T.S. Eliot wrote the below poem for his book ” “Old Possum’s Book of Prac­ti­cal Cats” but left it out when his wife wisely pointed out that it was far too sad for a chil­drens book;

Remark the cat
Who hes­i­tates toward you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the bor­der of her coat is torn
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the cor­ner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.”

Andrew Lloyd Weber liked this poem so much he wrote a char­ac­ter for her in his famous broad­way smash “Cats.” Griz­abella is her name and she sings a song of her youth when she was still beau­ti­ful and loved which has now faded under the moon­light. I speak for myself that when I hear her song, “Mem­ory” I can’t help but get sad think­ing of all the cats who are on the streets, with­out a fam­ily and unloved. O.k. enough, enough before I get too sen­ti­men­tal and won’t be able to fin­ish my post.

There are so many cats I could write about; here are just a few of my favorite cats…

“Bagheera” from “Jun­gle Book” by Rud­yard Kipling

Every­body knew Bagheera, and nobody cared to cross his path; for he was as cun­ning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild buf­falo, and as reck­less as the wounded ele­phant. But he had a voice as soft as wild honey drip­ping from a tree, and a skin softer than down.
Rud­yard KiplingThe Jun­gle Book
  • “Cat in the Hat” from Dr. Seuss.
  • “Pyewack­ett” from movie “Bell, Book and Candle”
  • Crook­shanks” –Hermione Grangers cat from“The Harry Pot­ter Series”
  • Gin­ger, the orange tom cat from C.S. Lewis’s “Nar­nia” Books appears in The Last Bat­tle.
  • Gray­Malkin, the witches’ cat in Shake­speare’s Mac­beth.

I’ll end this post talk­ing about the quin­tes­sen­tial cat, “The Cat that Walked by Him­self” writ­ten by Rud­yard Kipling from the  “Just So” series. Kipling with all his cat char­ac­ters seems to have under­stand the true nature of cats evok­ing fas­ci­na­tion, love, fear, and so many other var­ied emo­tions and thoughts that “cats” are a class by them­selves. But my favorite story about cats is “The Cat that Walked by Him­self.”  Here we have a cat when man and woman still lived in a cave and all ani­mals had yet to be domes­ti­cated. All the ani­mals, with the cat being the wildest are both curi­ous and drawn by the light and aro­mas com­ing from man and woman’s cave. The first ani­mal who stops being feral is of course; the dog…

The Man and the Woman are both inside the Cave eat­ing their din­ner. They went to another cozier Cave when the Baby came, because the Baby used to crawl down to the river and fall in, and the Dog had to pull him out.

Then Wild Horse stamped with his wild foot and said, ‘O my Friends and O my Ene­mies, why have the Man and the Woman made that great light in that great Cave, and what harm will it do us?’

Wild Dog lifted up his wild nose and smelled the smell of roast mut­ton, and said, ‘I will go up and see and look, and say; for I think it is good. Cat, come with me.’

‘Nenni!’ said the Cat. ‘I am the Cat who walks by him­self, and all places are alike to me. I will not come.’

‘Then we can never be friends again,’ said Wild Dog, and he trot­ted off to the Cave. But when he had gone a lit­tle way the Cat said to him­self, ‘All places are alike to me. Why should I not go too and see and look and come away at my own liking.’

Even­tu­ally, the cat makes “peace” with the humans but always tells them he can never be fully “owned” and as docile as the dog;

‘Ah,’ said the Woman, lis­ten­ing, ‘this is a very clever Cat, but he is not so clever as the Dog.’ Cat counted the Dog’s teeth (and they looked very pointed) and he said, ‘I will be kind to the Baby while I am in the Cave, as long as he does not pull my tail too hard, for always and always and always. But still I am the Cat that walks by him­self, and all places are alike to me.Not when I am near,’ said the Dog. ‘If you had not said that last I would have shut my mouth for always and always and always; but now I am going to hunt you up a tree when­ever I meet you. And so shall all proper Dogs do after me.

‘Then the Man threw his two boots and his lit­tle stone axe (that makes three) at the Cat, and the Cat ran out of the Cave and the Dog chased him up a tree; and from that day to this, Best Beloved, three proper Men out of five will always throw things at a Cat when­ever they meet him, and all proper Dogs will chase him up a tree. But the Cat keeps his side of the bar­gain too.

He will kill mice and he will be kind to Babies when he is in the house, just as long as they do not pull his tail too hard.

But when he has done that, and between times, and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by him­self, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, wav­ing his wild tail and walk­ing by his wild lone.

And so I have come to the end of my post about the let­ter “C” which I hope I have demon­strated to you belongs to “Cats” of all shapes and sizes. I have loved cats all my life and have been blessed to have always been owned by at least one cat.

So, tell me, how do you feel about cats? Ambiva­lent? Love them, hate them? Do you have any cats? Please tell me your sto­ries if you have any and I will pass them along to my cats who love hear­ing about their own kind. Cat’s have no prob­lems with humil­ity or self-esteem, do they?

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