Why Cats?

T.S. Eliot wrote a poem entitled the Naming of Cats. It is a bit longer than what follows, and I’ve made a few modifications, but it goes something like this . . .

From Book Two - Morna Anya and Delotha Sil'

From Book Two - Morna Anya and Delotha Sil'

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have three different names.

First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Each a very sensible and everyday name.
Next, there are fancier names that may sound more gaily,
Most which are rarely ever, ever the same.

Yet, above and beyond, there's one name that's left over,
And this is the name you never will guess.
The name that no human research can discover,
But the cat itself knows, and never will confess.

I’ve been asked why I selected cats as lead characters in my novel. For those who know me I frequently use the phrase “Cats are divine creatures.” Oh, and they are!

From Book Two - Shamma, Grand High Priestess of the Tar Shor

From Book Two - Shamma, Grand High Priestess of the Tar Shor

You see, when writing an epic fantasy tale, it seems reality is fantasy’s best friend. We, the audience, and the writer, all live in reality. The problems we understand are real problems. Genuine conflicts. True drama. The drama of families, of lost loves, of conflicts, of trying to discover what reality is all about and where one fits into reality’s massive puzzle. Cruel neighbors and callow bullies and loved ones dead. This is the nature of write what you know, and the fantasy writer’s version of that is, write what’s real. So, you see, a fantasy writer uses fantasy to highlight the reality. You grab the core essence of a true problem and swaddle it in the mad glittery ribbons of fantasy — and therein you find glorious new permutations of conflict. Reality expressed in mind-boggling ways. Reach for fantasy. Find the reality.

So, where do cats fit in? Well, they are no different than the Harrow’s elfs, dwarfs, ajatars, firbolgs, fenri, cu sith, or for that matter humans. For me, cats are a bridge of sorts; they are creature embedded in our reality that everyone understands, yet they are fanciful and mysterious. The cat is a bit of fantasy in our reality.

What lies in the heart of a character is what we understand — and, in fact, relate to — most. Yes, the battlefield is a muddy bloody place of flesh and bone, and magic is used, but those two forces are clashing based on the motives of characters — characters who feel betrayed or vengeful, who send realms to die to rescue peace and freedom, who risk it all because of some real or imagined slight ages before.

For you see, the human heart — even when encased in a cat’s chest — drives fantasy fiction.

Tu kai a’ kai!