Cats Encyclopedia







CATS IN LITERATURE


(Edited by Susan Feuer)

 




Anonymous

 

 

 


CATS IN LITERATURE



Timoyhy Easton

 


It is a little-known fact that James Joyce, the Irish writer best known for his Dubliners stories and the epic Ulysses, once wrote a fable. What began as a letter to his grandson Stephen in 1936 became the children's story, "The Cat and the Devil." It is the tale of a certain bridge over the River Loire in France that the devil himself promises to build for the people of Beaugency. In exchange for his good deed, he wants for himself the first person who crosses the bridge. The mayor of the town agrees to the deal, but tricks the devil by sending over a black cat instead of a person. This angers the devil, who from then on calls the townspeople les chats de Beaugency, the "cat people." He sympathizes, however, with the poor cat who crossed the bridge and has jumped into his arms. He takes him as his own, and the two (as we know from history) become lifelong companions.




Henri Rousseau



It's not surprising that writer Edgar Allan Ðîå would pen a spooky short story about a witchy black cat. In his story appropriately titled "The Black Cat," the main character is a man quite fond of animals, including his large black cat, Pluto. As bad luck would have it, the man becomes annoyed with his furry friend, then angry, and finally foul-tempered and abusive, and cuts out the cat's eye. Faithful Pluto forgives him, which upsets the man even more, enough so that he hangs the cat from a tree.




William Scott



One evening, another cat, black with white markings on his chest (and also missing an eye), follows him home. The two become companions, but in time, the man, in a rage of psychosis, tries to kill the cat with an ax. Luckily for the cat, the man's wife interrupts the scene, only to get the ax buried deep in her head. The man hides her body in a wall, but his hideous act is given away when the cat, who had mistakenly been buried in the wall, too, cries out and is heard by the police. The pattern of the white fur on the black cat's chest now reveals . . . the gallows!




Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen



We all know that most cats are good at mousing and taking naps, but they're also pretty good writers. In 1942, Christopher Cat, in collaboration with Countee Cullen, a leading poet of the Negro Renaissance of the 1920s, wrote a book. My Lives and How I Lost Them is the cat's account of his nine lives and what fates he met along the way, including drowning and getting caught in a rat trap. It is a humorous, sophisticated piece of writing by one very intelligent cat that was certainly ahead of his time!




Louis Wain



What's it like to be a Shakespearean actor and have to learn how to use a litter box? WinStanley Fortescue, the protagonist in mystery novelist Marian Babson's Nine Lives to Murder, can tell you. Babson, who dedicates her book to "all the cats in our lives, and the life in our cats," adds comic fantasy to this story of an actor being pursued by a murderer. Before the evildoer has his chance, Fortescue falls unconscious and lands on the acting company's cat, Montmorency D. Mousa. When Fortescue comes to, his body has been switched with the cat's. What transpires is a tale of feline experiences that make you glad you don't have to eat mice for dinner!




Gottfried Mind



The cat has always been an animal of mystery, so it follows that cats feel right at home in mystery stories. Writer Lilian Jackson Braun features cats as detectives in her mystery novel series that includes The Cat Who Said Cheese and The Cat Who Blew the Whistle. Journalist Jim Qwilleran and his feline sleuths Koko and Yum Yum wander Pickax City trying to solve mysterious bombings, murders, missing persons, and the like. These books are as tantalizing as catnip and will have readers wishing these cats prowled their neighborhoods at night.




Samuel Miller



Sneaky Pie Brown is yet another cat author who, together with screenwriter and poet Rita Mae Brown, pens the "Mrs. Murphy" mystery series. Sneaky Pie's main characters are Mary Minor Haristeen and her clever cat, Mrs. Murphy. Together, these two solve crimes, sometimes with the help of a Welsh corgi and a fat, gray cat, in novels like Wish You Were Here, Rest in Pieces, and Murder at Monticello. Mrs. Murphy's experiences with her circle of animal friends and insights into human emotions provide the reader with a cat's perspective on life. Still don't believe cats can write? Sneaky Pie Brown's paw-print in the "Author's Note" proves it.




John Duncan


The cat in Rudyard Kipling's "The Cat That Walked by Himself" is the embodiment of the typically independent nature of the truly curious cat. The story describes a time when animals were wild and Man and Woman lived in caves. Cat is determined not to lose his independence as Dog, Cow, and Horse did when they became tamed by humans; he declares he will always walk alone and go wherever, whenever, he pleases. He makes the following bargain with Woman: If Cat ever overhears Woman praising him, she will let him into the cave, where he can sit by the fire and drink milk. One day, Cat stops Woman's baby from crying and entertains him by chasing a string. Woman compliments Cat and, thereby, fulfills the bargain. Cat can enter the cave, get warm, and eat at his leisure, but he is still untamed and free to come and go as he wishes. Unfortunately, Dog makes his own bargain with Cat and chases him up a tree whenever he gets the opportunity! Such is the life of a cat.




Anonymous



Tom Quartz, a name later used by Theodore Roosevelt for one of his own kittens, is a miner's feline companion in Mark Twain's short story, "Dick Baker's Cat." Baker tells his fellow mining friends the story of when Tom Quartz, who cared little for hunting rats but had a keen ability to find gold, almost meets his doom in the blasting of a quartz mine. He survives the explosion with singed whiskers and remains as smug (if not a little intimidating, as cats can be!) as ever.




Guilio del Torre



Who is not familiar with Dr. Seuss's fun-loving Cat in the Hat in his zany striped hat? Perhaps the best-known cat in contemporary children's literature, the energetic cat who waltzes into the home of two bored children on a rainy day is known to inspire young and old to learn how to read. Quite an undertaking for such a silly rhyming puss! Dr. Seuss used only 220 words for this classic, yet it remains a timeless favorite of children and parents all over the globe. If you don't remember what mischievous tricks this cat has under his hat, perhaps you should reacquaint yourself— you'll be glad you did!




Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen



Do you remember the three little kittens who lost their mittens? They cried because they could have no pie. They then found their mittens and cried again until their mother gave them the pie. As naughty kittens will do, they soiled their mittens and then had to wash them. What happens at the end of this childhood rhyme? Their mother smells a rat! This somewhat nonsensical poem has pleased generations of kiddies—not to mention kitties!




Arthur John Elsey



"I've often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat?" The most famous cat in all of British children's literature is probably the one Alice meets in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. With a wide, toothy grin, the Cheshire Cat sits in the bough of a tree and looks down at poor Alice, who is lost. When the girl asks him what direction she should take, he, a cat of quick wit, says: "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to." Perhaps more intriguing than his intelligence is the Cheshire Cat's ability to disappear, a little bit at a time, a quality that helps him escape execution by the king.




John Tenniel, Through the Looking Glass



Did you know that it may have been a mouse who invented the belled cat collar? Aesop writes about mice that fear a cat in his fable, "The Bell and the Cat." The mice are hungry, beginning to starve, in fact, but a cat looms outside their hole, and so they are afraid to go in search of crumbs. A bold mouse makes the suggestion that they tie a bell around the cat's neck so they'll know when the cat is near. Good idea, the mice think, but one elder mouse rises and asks the all-important question: "Who will bell the cat?"




David de Coninck



Puss in Boots, the matchmaker cat who wears red boots in the old French children's story, is the type of cat everyone wants: He's clever, charming, and a good hunter. Puss knows his master is poor, so he places himself in favor with the king and devises a way for the man to meet with the beautiful royal daughter. His plan works, and his master becomes rich when he marries the princess. What becomes of Puss? He becomes a lord, of course!





Puss in Boots

 

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