Cats, cats, and more cats!!!

I like big cats, and I cannot lie.  Actually, not just big cats.  Little tiny cats who should be much bigger (like my Panda Bear, pictured below), weird cats, hissy cats, cuddly cats, purry cats, grumpy cats, cute little kitten cats…pretty much anything feline.

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Panda Bear

And I’m not alone – humans have been engaged in a love-affair with the cat for a very long time!  According to Dr. David Kitchener, a Zoologist at the National Museum of Scotland, we have been living with cats for close to 100,000 years. He also suggests that domestication probably happened in Mesopotamia (not Egypt, as is commonly thought) around 12,000 BCE, when cats were most likely bred by Mesopotamian farmers to control pests.  The Near Eastern Wildcat is probably the closest modern-day relative to that ancient feline.

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Near Eastern Wildcat (image courtesy of Shutterstock)

The Egyptians are famous for their love of cats, which is probably why so many of us believe that the Egyptians domesticated them.   They had a cat god named “Bastet”, who was keeper of hearth & home, protector of women’s secrets, and guardian against evil spirits.  I really want to know what secrets Egyptian women had, but my cats sure aren’t talking…

Bastet

Bastet (image courtesy of Shutterstock)

In the city of Bubastis (where Bastet’s temple stood), when a cat died, the people in the cat’s household would shave off their eyebrows to signify mourning.  The mourning period was over when their eyebrows grew back.  I may be a cat-lover, but don’t expect this kind of dedication from me any time soon!

 

 

Moose & Squirrel, and Moose in a Sombrero

I really love creative pet names – In fact, when you’ve had as many cats as we have over the years, you have to get creative with their monikers.  We’ve had Sherman (after Sherman & Mr. Peabody), Watney (Watney’s beer), Itchy, (Itchy and Scratchy), Charles Dickens vonBlackcat I and II (also called “Dickens” and “Charlie” for short), Niña (she was found during an “El Niño storm in California), Bram (after Bram Stoker), Moose & Squirrel (from Rocky & Bullwinkle), Pellet (who had been shot by a pellet gun before he found us), Otter & Seal (because Seal is a sealpoint siamese, so her sister also had to be a water animal), and our three new kittens, Frog, Turtle, and Monkey (after some of our favorite animals in Costa Rica).   Do you have any naming protocols for your cats?

 

 

Otter, Frog, Dickens, and Pellet the dog-cat

Cats also figure prominently in TV, film, and literature.  Personally, my favorite cat names come from T.S. Elliot’s story Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (which the musical CATS is adapted from):  Bombalurina, Electra Growlfinger, Mungojerrie (didn’t he have a popular song back in 1970?), Rumtum Tugger, and more.  Do you have a favorite from that story?

How many of the other famous cats below do you recognize?

  • “Buttercup” from Hunger Games – owned by Primrose and hated by Katniss
  • “Cat” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • “The Cat in the Hat” – Dr. Seuss
  • “The Cheshire Cat” and “Dinah” from Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • “Church” from Pet Sematary by Stephen King
  • “Crookshanks” and “Mrs. Norris” from the Harry Potter stories by J.K. Rowling
  • “Greebo” from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld – Nanny Ogg’s cat
  • “Pluto” from The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe
  • “Tab” from Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • “Mrs. Bigglesworth” from the Austin Powers movies

And then there’s all the comic strip and cartoon cats:

  • Garfield and Nermal from the comic strip Garfield
  • Felix the Cat
  • Heathcliff
  • Hello Kitty
  • Sylvester
  • Tigger
  • Simba and Nala
  • Scratchy (from Itchy & Scratchy)
  • Figaro
  • Puss in Boots
  • Stimpy

Who’s your favorite cat?  And don’t be shy – show us your cat pix!

On Archetypes: The Trickster

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So, what is it that makes a story “pop”?

Stories that speak directly to the human experience, with characters and themes that are familiar to us all tend to be the ones to capture our hearts and give us “all the feels.”

How do authors achieve this?  Often, they use something called an archetype:  A universal, symbolic pattern.  Joseph Campbell’s book  The Hero with a Thousand Faces, discusses the common themes and personality types prevalent in literature throughout human history.  These archetypes can be found across many cultures and time periods, and it’s exactly this universality that appeals to us, even today.

I’m going to be exploring some of the common archetypes in this blog from time to time, and today I’d like to discuss The Trickster.  According to Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers:

The Trickster archetype embodies the energies of mischief and desire for change.  All the characters in stories who are primarily clowns or comical sidekicks express this archetype.

Common traits of The Trickster include a tendency towards, as the name suggests, trickery.  They buck convention, and follow their own rules.  The mischief they enjoy can create all sorts of problems for the hero in a story, but often their antics end up being helpful, in that they give the Hero an outside perspective, and help her or him to find another solution to a problem.

Archetypal characters have two functions in literature:  The emotional or psychologial function, and dramatic function.  Emotionally, Tricksters are the characters who keep the hero humble, down to earth.  They point out our foibles, bring about healthy change, and remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.  They can symbolize the duality of nature as they are often shapeshifters, and are a good reminder to not just blindly accept the status quo. IMO, we should all keep our own personal Trickster in our closets!!

Dramatically, they provide comic relief in a story – when the action gets really hot and heavy, sometimes it’s good to throw in a little humor to lighten things up!

Some famous literary Tricksters:

Loki

  • Loki from Norse mythology:  There are numerous stories of Loki playing tricks on the other gods, wreaking havoc, then finding a way to make it up to them.   One example is when he cut off the hair of the goddess Sif, wife of Thor.  Thor threatens to kill Loki, but Loki then makes it up to Thor, by having a new, magical hair piece made for Sif out of gold.

Coyote

  • The Coyote in Native American tales: In one story, before people inhabited the earth, a monster walked the land, gobbling up all the animals except Coyote.  Coyote tricked the monster by claiming he wanted to visit his friends in the Monster’s belly.  Once he was inside the Monster, he cut out the Monster’s heart and set fire to its insides, freeing his friends.

BrerRabbit

  • Br’er Rabbit from African tales:  One of this Trickster’s antics was to get Br’er Fox to rescue him from a well.  He told the fox that the moon reflected in the water at the bottom of the well was really a block of cheese. So, Brer Fox jumps into one of the water buckets, descends into the well, and, in in doing so, enables Brer Rabbit to escape when the other bucket rises to the top.  In fact, rabbits are very common tricksters – their quick-thinking often saves them from larger, stronger animals.

There are also plenty of Tricksters in modern-day movies and television:

  • “Vikings” – Floki (a personification of Loki
  • “Star Wars” Han Solo
  • Cartoon characters, such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck
  • “Pirates of the Caribbean” Jack Sparrow
  • “The Simpsons” Bart Simpson

I’ve included a few links below if you’d like to do more reading on The Trickster:

Please comment, and let me know who is your favorite Trickster!

All photos courtesy of Shutterstock