Myth Monday: The Cat Who Became a Queen (Kashmiri Fairy Tale)

Myth Monday: The Cat Who Became a Queen (Indian Fairy Tale)

By Kara Newcastle

800px-Olympus_Queenannecats toyger cat by Gaynorjl wikimedia

Once upon a time, the king of Kashmir was desperate for a son. He waited many years for an heir to succeed him, and he became so desperate that he threatened all of his wives with banishment to the most wild parts of the continent if they did not produce the long sought for child within a year. The wives were frightened; they didn’t know the world beyond the city where they lived, and if they were banished, they would have no one to protect them from the wild creatures.

They also knew that they couldn’t produce his son, though through no fault of their own; the issue lay with the king, but of course, everyone was too afraid to tell him that. The women banded together, promising to help each other find a way to produce an heir. All efforts failed, and not one of the royal wives was able to become pregnant by the king. The king became more impatient with every passing day, raging at his wives.

At long last, just as the year was drawing to a close, a messenger was sent from the harem to the king with great news: a member of the harem was pregnant! The king was beside himself with joy, and would have visited the blessed mother-to-be immediately, but the messenger gently warned the king that the future mother was in delicate health, and it would be best to let her rest. The king, not wanting to jeopardize his expectant wife or their unborn child, readily agreed to the wife’s privacy.

When the harem women heard the king’s answer, they all sighed with relief. As it turned out, a member of the harem was indeed pregnant, but it was not any one of the wives: it was one of their beloved cats! In desperation, and afraid to lie that one of them was with child, the wives cleverly thought of a ruse to buy them more time. After all … it was partly true.

In due time, the mother cat gave birth to a single kitten, a beautiful female with a golden-brown coat with tiger-like stripes across her back. The women sent their messenger back to the king, reporting that a child had indeed been born, though, regrettably, it was a daughter, and not the son he had wanted. To their amazement, the king was overjoyed to have any child at all, and, even without seeing his “daughter,” was prouder than any man alive at that moment. He wanted to see his child, but the messenger warned him that the Brahmans had decreed that the little princess must not be seen by her father until the day she was to marry. The king was momentarily disappointed, but soon declared that he would marry his cherished daughter to a worthy prince. The king stopped badgering his wives for a child, and all the women saw the small kitten as their savior. They fell in love with her, and, in truth, treated her like she was indeed a daughter. They named her Rohini.

Every day the king would inquire about his new daughter, and every day a messenger would be sent back from the harem with a new story. If the kitten Rohini pranced about, the king would be told, “Your daughter is so graceful.” If Rohini boldly stood her ground against the bigger cats, the king was told, “Your daughter is very brave.” If Rohini caught a mouse and released it unharmed, the king was told, “Your daughter is so gentle and kind.” When Rohini learned to open doors, the king was told, “Your daughter is exceedingly clever.” When the kitten became a cat, the king was told, “Your daughter is the fairest of all in the land,” and she was.

After many years, the king decided that his daughter was old enough to marry. He carefully considered all of the eligible suitors and chose Amulya, the son of a neighboring king. This prince was known for his kindness, bravery and intelligence, and the king felt that the young man was the best fit for his unseen daughter.

Hearing the king’s decision sent the royal wives into a panic; what would they do now? They had carried on the ruse for far too long, how would they be able to solve this problem?

Fortunately, the foreign prince was famous for his compassion, so when Amulya arrived at their palace, one of the wives led him into a private chamber to view his betrothed. She said nothing until the prince was inside, and she shut the door firmly behind him. Gesturing for him to stay where he was, the royal wife slipped into an adjoining room, and returned a moment later, carrying the cat in her arms.

Prince Amulya smiled at the beautiful cat. “She is very lovely. Does she belong to your daughter?”

The wife hesitated. “This cat … she is my daughter.”

Stunned, the prince stared at the royal wife, speechless. As he opened his mouth to protest, the wife held up her hand. “Please listen to me, Your Highness. Our king had demanded that we give him an heir, or he would severely punish us. We weren’t able to produce our own child, but one of our cats gave birth to this beautiful creature you see here. We passed her off as his daughter—the king doesn’t know, and he mustn’t ever know. We no longer fear for ourselves, but we fear what the king may do to our Rohini if he finds out. Please, have pity on her—you don’t need to do anything, just … no one can know …”

Pitying the woman, Prince Amulya smiled gently and inclined his head. “My lady,” he said, “I see how much you love this cat. It would hurt me as well if anything should happen to her. I will keep your secret. I will take her back to my palace and keep her in my chambers, where she will be safe. Not even my mother or father will know the truth.”

With that, the prince went to his future father-in-law and reported that “Princess Rohini” was all that he dreamed of. The king was beside himself with delight, and immediately ordered for a grand wedding to be held. Amulya played his part, smiling knowingly at the harem wives throughout the ceremony. The princess cat was kept hidden inside a covered palanquin so know one could see her, and once the festivities were concluded, Prince Amulya announced that he wished to bring his new bride home as quickly as possible. He ordered two of his men to carry the palanquin while he rode beside it, leaving the king of Kashmir and his many wives behind with tears in their eyes.

Upon returning to his kingdom, Prince Amulya ordered for the palanquin to be brought straight to his room, and he ordered all of his servants and guards out. After making sure the doors were securely locked, the prince opened the palanquin and drew beautiful Rohini out. At first, she was confused and frightened by her new surroundings, but the prince was gentle and smiled kindly at her. When he was in his chambers, he petted and played with the lovely cat, brought her treats and trinkets. Prince Amulya grew to adore Rohini and, very soon, Rohini fell in love with the handsome prince.

From the moment the prince and his cat-bride returned to his palace, his father the king and mother the queen insisted on meeting their new daughter-in-law. The prince refused them, politely at first, more fiercely as his mother began to pry. The queen was especially worried about her son’s behavior; he had never been so abrupt with her or anyone before. What had changed him? Was his new bride so beautiful that it caused the prince to become possessive and jealous, so much so that he wouldn’t even let the servants inside his quarters?

As time went on, the queen began to feel more and more pity for her daughter-in-law, sadden that the princess was locked up like a criminal day and night. One day, while Prince Amulya went out to attend to his duties, the queen approached his locked chamber doors and knocked on them.

“Daughter-in-law,” the queen said, hoping the princess inside could hear her. “I am so sorry that my son keeps you locked away like a prisoner. It must be so dull for you! I do not know what’s come over him, but I do hope you know that we all care for you. I have told all the servants and guards to stay away from these chambers and gardens so that you may come out if you’d like. You may come out without fear of seeing anyone at all. Would you like that? I wish you would come out. I just want you to be happy.”

The queen’s kind words broke the cat’s heart, and Rohini bowed her head, weeping as a human woman would. She did not like being shut away, she missed her mothers, but above all, she was devastated that she could never love the prince the way she wanted to. She knew that she would die here, unfulfilled and miserable.

The cat’s sobbing carried through the air, wafting up until it reached the ears of the radiant Parvati, the goddess of love. Parvati looked down to the palace, heard the Rohini’s weeping and saw the tears streaming down her little face. Heartbroken for the beautiful creature, Parvati at once went to her husband, the mighty god of war Shiva, and told him of what was happening below on Earth.

“Is there anything we can do?” gentle Parvati pleaded. “This poor cat should not have to suffer this way, used as a tool, kept prisoner, and then denied the love she feels for the prince.”

For all his ferocity, Shiva was not an unfeeling god, and the plight of the cat moved him. “Indeed, there is a way to help her. Go to the cat, Parvati, and tell her to rub oil onto her fur, and it will turn her into a human woman. She will find the bottle in the prince’s chambers.”

Overjoyed, Parvati rushed down to earth, appearing before the disconsolate Rohini. The merciful goddess bent down and stroked the top of the cat’s head, wiping the tears away from her whiskers. “You don’t need to shed another tear, darling,” she said, smiling as Rohini’s gold eyes widened in awe. “My lord Shiva has instructed me to tell you that if you rub oil onto your fur, then you will be turned into a human woman. The oil you need is there, on the table.”

Seeing where the goddess pointed to, Rohini managed to contain her excitement enough to gratefully wind her body around Parvati’s golden ankles before racing to the bottle, set on a low table. Easily springing up, the cat swatted the bottle over, then, working both paws around the top, wriggled the stopper free. Scooping up the oil in her paws, Rohini quickly rubbed the liquid into her fur. Before her very eyes, she saw the striped fur melting away on her arms, her paws turning into hands. She splashed the oil on her face, feeling the whiskers evaporate, her pink nose reshaping, her ears shrinking. The cat worked the oil all over her body, changing her back paws into feet, turning the fur atop her head into hair, and making her tail vanish. In the end, the cat was no more; in her place stood a beautiful human woman.

Of course, Rohini was just as clever as her human mothers claimed her to be; fearing that her beloved prince would not recognize her in her new form, she left a small patch of her fur remaining behind one shoulder, to prove to him who she was.

That evening, Prince Amulya returned, unlocked his doors and entered his chambers. He opened his mouth to call for his dear cat, but choked, leaping in fright when his eyes fell upon the loveliest woman he had ever seen sitting on the foot of his bed, waiting for him.

“Who are you?” he shouted. His fists tightening, he scanned the bedchamber rapidly. “Where is Rohini? My cat, what did you do with her?”

“Prince Amulya, please, be calm.” Smiling nervously, the woman stood up. “I am Rohini. Gracious Parvati came down from heaven and showed me how to turn myself into a woman … because I love you.”

Amulya’s narrowed, but before he could speak another word, the newly transformed Rohini turned around, so he back was to the prince. Pulling her luxurious black hair away, she revealed the patch of fur she had left behind her shoulder. “See, Your Highness? That is what remains of my fur.”

Astounded, for a moment all Prince Amulya could do was stare open-mouthed at the fur, recognizing the golden-brown and black tiger-stripe pattern. As he stepped closer for a better look, Rohini turned and gazed at him, with the same expression she had shown him every day and every night since he brought her back to his palace.

Prince Amulya’s heart skipped a beat. “I know you … I know your eyes. You are Rohini.”

Rohini’s smile grew brighter, and Amulya laughed, pulling her into his arms, instantly falling in love with his cat-bride.

Once their excitement was contained, Prince Amulya was more than happy to introduce his wife, Princess Rohini, to his parents, alleviating their fears and bringing them great joy. The couple returned to Rohini’s kingdom, where she was properly introduced to her would-be father. The king was beside himself with pride at having so beautiful and intelligent a daughter and, seeing how happy she was with her husband, knew that he made the right choice. In time, Rohini and Amulya inherited her father’s kingdom of Kashmir, and they ruled together as two of the most illustrious and loving monarchs the world had ever seen.

Myth Monday: The King o’ Cats (Scottish Folktale)

Myth Monday: The King o’ Cats (Scottish Folktale)

By Kara Newcastle

The sun had barely disappeared over the horizon by the time Keir MacRae got home. The gravedigger burst through the door so suddenly that his two children, his daughter Gunna and son Earvin nearly leaped out of their skins with fright. Hearing the children screech in alarm, Bradana, their mother and Keir MacRae’s long suffering wife, came racing out of the pantry to see what the fuss was about. Discovering it was only her husband, Bradana scowled. “Well, well … look what the cat dragged in.”

“For God’s sake, don’t say that,” Keir hissed as he bolted the door. Swallowing hard, he ran a hand through his oddly mussed hair and minced over to the front window, peering out into the settling dark. “Ye would not believe the night I’ve had.”

“Oh, do tell,” Bradana sniffed, arching an eyebrow as she watched her husband look this way and that. “It must be a good story if it’s kept us all waiting an hour for ye to get home so the little ones can eat supper.”

“Oh, a good story it is, all right.” Keir grabbed each of the window curtains in either hand and yanked them shut. “The house is all locked up, aye?”

“What’s this all about?” Bradana demanded.

“Just tell me the house is locked up!”

“Aye, ‘tis!” Bradana felt her ire draining away as Keir finally turned to face his family. His face was as white as the driven snow, and his eyes darted wildly about. “Mr. MacRae, what’s gotten into ye?”

“I …” His shoulders sagging, Keir ran a hand over his face, his wide, rough palm hovering briefly over his eyes for a moment. He drew in a deep breath, but it shuddered the whole way in and out. “Earvin, lad, fetch yer da an ale, aye?”

Bradana frowned as Keir shuffled towards his chair before their fireplace. “I don’t know if ale’s the right thing for ye at the present.”

“Well it can’t hurt me none.” Waving for his bewildered son to hurry on, Keir came around his chair—and stopped dead.

Mystified, Bradana hurried towards her petrified husband, following his huge eyes down to the seat cushion of his favorite chair. Seeing the black lump, Bradana slowly raised her eyes to Keir. Keir continued to stare down at the shape, his mouth slack, a gleam of sweat forming along his brow.

He looked terrified.

Hesitating, Bradana slowly reached out and gently pressed the tips of her fingers against Keir’s forearm. “Keir,” she whispered, “’tis only the cat.”

For a moment, Keir didn’t stir a muscle, didn’t respond to her touch or her voice. He stared down at the big, sleeping black cat, looking for all the world as though he were staring down the mouth of hell itself. The cat itself was unperturbed, half twisted onto its back, its neat paws tucked up in front of the white blaze on its chest.

Confused by her father’s rigid state, little Gunna edged around him, closer to the chair. “Would ye like me to move him, Da?”

Keir jerked violently at the question, his body whipping from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, as though he were fighting free of a nightmare. “No!” he shouted, the ferocity of his voice causing Gunna to gasp and Bradana to shoot a hand out, catching her daughter by the shoulder and wrenching her away from her father, pushing her behind her skirts.

“Keir, what has gotten into ye?” Bradana cried, feeling Gunna quaking even through her petticoats. “Ye’re frightening the children!”

“I—?” Blinking, Keir snapped his head up. He looked at Bradana, bewildered. His eyes fell to Gunna, who scurried further behind her mother, then up to the pantry door where Earvin stood, a stein of ale clasped in both hands. His father’s roar had startled the boy so bad that he had jumped and sloshed the ale onto his shirtsleeves.

Seeing the shock on the faces of his wife and children, Keir grimaced, looked down at the cat—who, as usual, hadn’t batted so much as a whisker in his direction—and slowly backed away. “No … no dear, leave him be. I’ll just sit myself here at the table. Earvin, the ale if ye would?”

Earvin looked as though he’d rather chew his own hand off than go near his suddenly lunatic father, but the boy summoned up a bit of courage and tiptoed forward, hastily shoving the tankard across the rough table as Keir slumped into his usual chair at the head. He sat there looking almost boneless, his neck too weak to support his head.

Bradana knotted her hands into her apron. “Well, Mr. MacRae …? Will ye tell us what happened to ye tonight?”

Keir shook his head. “Ye’ll nay believe me.”

“I’ll believe anything at this point,” Bradana snapped, motioning for bewildered Earvin to back away. “I’ll believe anything if it explains why ye’ve gone out of yer senses!”

Keir frowned. He lifted his head, gazed into the worried and furious face of his wife, then sighed. “Aye. All right, so I had just finished digging a grave—for Mr. Fordyce, ye recall—and I right difficult time I had of it too. Moving all that dirt, the stones, cutting through the roots, I wore myself out so much that when I sat down to rest inside, I dozed off.”

Bradana frowned, resisting the urge to say she wasn’t surprised.

Not noticing her sour look, Keir went on. “I fell asleep. I woke up just as the sun was almost gone. A cat’s meow woke me.”

From the chair by the fire, the MacRaes’ big black cat opened one sage green eye, stretched and said, “Meow.” It was a soft, little sound, but it was enough to make Keir MacRae jolt as though he had been struck by lightning.

Keir swallowed hard. “Aye … l-like that.”

“Ignore the wee thing,” Bradana said, waving her hand to draw Keir’s terrified face back to hers. “Ye said a cat’s meow woke ye?”

“Uh … a-aye.” Shaking his head, Keir noticed the stein of ale on the table and grabbed it, taking a deep gulp before continuing. “So, aye, I heard a meow. It struck me as odd, so I stood up and looked over the edge of the grave, and what d’ye think I saw?”

“I haven’t a clue.”

“I’ll tell ye what I saw—nine cats! Nine black cats, all with white marks on their chests, much like …” Keir faltered. His eyes flicked back to their cat, who now was fully awake, rolled over onto its paws, watching Keir through half-lidded eyes.

Keir licked his lips. “Like our cat there,” he whispered.

“All right, ye saw nine black cats like ours,” Bradana said, barely sparing their own feline a glance as she spoke. “What of it? Ye’ve seen cats in the graveyard before.”

“Not like these!” Pausing to take another fortifying swallow, Keir ran the back of his hand over his upper lip. “Nay, these cats—can ye believe it?—these cats were walking on their hind legs, like people! One big one was in the lead, and eight of them, they were carrying a coffin!”

Silence settled over the household as Keir stopped for breath. Their big black cat’s eyes widen as young Earvin asked haltingly, “A coffin?”

“Aye!” Keir exploded, making Bradana and their poor children leap with fright. “A coffin! And not just any coffin—it had a black velvet pall on it. And on top of the pall was a golden crown! A golden crown, did ye hear me? A golden crown, and every third step these cats took, they’d say ‘meow’­—”

The MacRaes’ cat sprang up onto its feet. “Meow!” it cried.

His fear forgotten, Keir jabbed a finger at their cat. “Like that exactly! That’s what they did! They said meow, and their eyes were glowing green, I swear, like lanterns … Look at the cat, it’s like he knows what I’m talking about. Look at the way he listens to me!”

“Never mind that!” Bradana spat. “What happened next?”

“I’ll tell ye what happened next,” Keir exclaimed. He pointed to himself. “The big one, the one in front, he saw me, and he walked over to me and said—I swear on everything that’s holy, this is what he said—‘Tell Tom Tildrum—‘”


“I’m getting at it! The big cat said, ‘Tell Tom Tildrum that Tim Toldrum is dead.’ That’s what he said! He spoke to me like a man and told me to tell this Tom Tildrum blighter that Tim Toldrum is dead. I don’t know any Tom Tildrum, and I have no way of finding out, and I was right afraid to tell them all that, so I just nodded and lit out of there. Came straight here.” Keir flung his arms up in the air. “That’s the night I had! What d’ye all say to that?”

“I’ll tell you what I have to say!”

 Her head whipping around at the voice from the chair, Bradana’s eyes flew open and she screamed in horror, grabbing her two shrieking children to her. “God in heaven—look at the cat!”

Keir was looking. They all were—they were all staring in disbelieving terror as their big black cat with the white blaze on his chest rose up on his back legs, his tail excitedly lashing through the air. Grinning in delight, the cat threw his front paws up in the air.

“Tim Toldrum is dead?” the cat cried. “By Jove, that means I’m King o’ Cats now!”

Meowing in glee, the MacRaes cat—Tom Tildrum, the new king of the fairy cats, the cat sith—sprang off Keir’s favorite chair and leapt headlong into the fireplace, scrambling up the flue and disappearing from sight forever. To be sure the creature was gone, Bradana MacRae swatted around the inside of the chimney with her broom, while her beleaguered children tried to slap Keir Macrae awake, as he had fainted away at the sight.

Myth Monday: Cat Sith, the Fairy Cat (Scottish Legend)


Myth Monday: Cat Sith, the Fairy Cat (Scottish Legend)
By Kara Newcastle


I’m sure a great many of you are somewhat familiar with fairies. They’re small (not
always), they’re beautiful (usually, but looks can be deceiving), they have gossamer wings (occasionally), and they have their fairy pets.

Aha! I see the surprise on your faces. “Pets?” you’re asking. “Fairies have pets?” Yes, they do. They have fairy horses, fairy cows, fairy dogs … and fairy cats, called the Cat Sith (pronounced cat shee, and no, not the character from Final Fantasy VII.) Fairy animals abound in various mythologies of Great Britain and Europe, but the Cat Sith is best known
in Scotland, as you’ll soon see why.

The Cat Sith was said to be huge, the size of a large hunting dog—or even bigger. It was solid black, save for a white patch on its chest, and had intense yellow eyes that held intelligence that seemed to go beyond the range of any ordinary cat, big or small. It was frequently seen with its back arched and fur bristling along its spine, its ears laid back and huge fangs bared. It was not a friendly kitty.

Unlike some fairy folk, the Cat Sith was always ferocious, and while it didn’t actively seek out humans to harass, it was known to go after humans who had hurt other cats. A Cat Sith will never give an offender a warning—it will launch immediately into a vicious attack as soon as it is provoked because it is always ready for a fight. This made it the perfect heraldic animal for many Scottish Highland clans, such as the MacBains and the Mackintoshes. Please, no Simpsons or Brave jokes here.

At Samhain (the original name for the festival we now call Halloween), the Cat Siths were known to roam the land at night (this is why black cats are associated with Halloween!) If a family wanted to make sure that they were on the Cat Sith’s good side, they would leave a bowl of milk out in front of their door on Samhain. Like all cats, fairy and otherwise, Cat Sith loves milk and will bless the family that left them the treat. If a family neglected to leave milk out, the Cat Sith would curse them so that all their cows would stop giving milk.

However, in the Scottish Highlands, Cat Sith was known particularly for stealing the souls of the recently dead and carrying them away to the fairylands. All the Cat Sith had to do was spring over the corpse and snatch the soul straight out of the air as it hovered there, waiting to move on to the Otherworld. To prevent their loved ones’ spirits from being forced to eternally serve the fairies, Highlanders would hold a wake called the Feill Fadalach, or Late Wake, to make sure the Cat Sith didn’t jump over the dead body. Unlike
other wakes where sad people gathered to mourn, the Feill Fadalach was held all day and night until the body was buried, and it was essentially a party. The Highlanders would try to divert the lurking Cat Sith with riddle contests, music, and dancing, wrestling, not lighting any fires because the Cat Sith (like all cats) loved warmth, and—get this—spreading catnip throughout the house.

Apparently, even fairy cats are not immune to the ‘nip.

As Christianity took hold in Britain and the isles, the Cat Sith’s identity began to change, especially when the savage witch hunts began. Instead of being a fairy cat, Cat Sith was now believed to be the form a witch could shapeshift into to either cause chaos in the community or escape pursuers. It was believed that a witch could transform into a black cat eight times, but if she turned into a cat for a ninth time, then she would be stuck in that form forever. This is partly where the myth that a cat has nine lives comes from (nine was considered the perfect number by many pagan/pre-Christian cultures, because,
once broken down, it was three equal groups of three, and three was associated with Triad goddesses—I could go into it more, but that would make this blog way longer) and why  cats—especially black ones—are linked with witches.

Sightings of actual Cat Siths were reported in Scotland for years, but most people dismissed the reports out of hand—no way could there be that big of a black cat with a white chest patch roaming around the highlands and moors. There had never been any proof of anything larger than the native wildcat (sometimes called the Highland Tiger, with good reason) living in Scotland, and even then those cats looked like hefty striped tabby cats. Anything that was found had to be a hoax. The Cat Sith existed only in legends …

And then one was captured.


Kellas cat found in Aberdeenshire on display in the Zoology Museum University of Aberdeen by Sagaciousphil wikimedia
Kellas cat on display at Zoology Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland

In 1985, Ronnie Douglas, a gamekeeper in Kellas, Moray, was stunned to find a large, black cat with a white chest patch in one of his snares. About a year later, a live one was caught by the Tomorrows World team. Soon, a total of seven additional specimens were collected by alien big cat (in this case, “alien” as in “not supposed to be from around here,” not as in, “extraterrestrials made a pit stop here so their pets could go to the bathroom”) researcher Di Francis, who gave them all to the National Museum of Scotland. There, studies revealed that some of the “Cat Siths” were actually a cross between a domestic cat and a Scottish wildcat. They were then named the Kellas cat by cryptozoologist Karl Shuker after the village where the first one had been found.

While the Kellas cat might not be supernatural, they are BIG. The snared Kellas cat measured fifteen inches tall at the shoulder and was forty-three freaking inches long! That cat was roughly the height of, and longer than, a typical cocker spaniel. Can you imagine a cat that big getting the zoomies in the middle of the night? Yeah, and whatever it howled for, you would give it without a second thought … and if you’re thinking about getting one as a pet, lemme put a stopper in that idea right now: just like its mythical counterpart, the Kellas cat is fierce, more than ready to attack, and can never be tamed. And I don’t think you want a four-foot-long wild cat getting pissed at you for any reason. Or no reason at all.

Now that it was proven that these cats were real, many researchers have gone back and reexamined depictions of the Cat Sith in legend and pagan art. One scholar, Charles Thomas, theorizes that the cat depicted standing triumphantly on a salmon in the 1,000-year-old Golpsie stone in Dunrobin Castle Museum actually depicts one of these hybrid cats. Elsewhere in England, where sightings of unusually large black cats sometimes pop up, it has been suggested that the Kellas cat might account for a few of the sightings.

With less than 400 Scottish wildcats remaining in the wild, conservation efforts are being made to limit crossbreeding with domestic cats to preserve the species. You might see a few Kellas cats in zoos now, but if the conservation is successful, the Kellas cats, like the Cat Sith, made fade away into legend once more.

Myth Monday: Why Dogs Chase Cats and Cats Chase Mice (Ukrainian Folktale)

Myth Monday: Why Dogs Chase Cats and Cats Chase Mice (Ukrainian Folktale)

By Kara Newcastle

Cats_17_2835956a by Vzatikyan wikimedia commons

Okay, the internet’s cooperating enough again that I can star posting blogs for one of my favorite themed blog months–and August is cat month!!

Many years ago in a great city in the Ukraine, cats, dogs and mice were all great friends. However, the dogs all ran wild through the city, barking at all hours of the day and night, helping themselves to whatever they could reach on the dinner table, spooking the horses, tracking their muddy paws everywhere, chewing on shoes, and leaving unpleasant messes right where everyone would walk. It wasn’t long before the human citizens of the city became frustrated with the frolicking dogs and decided that the canines must be brought under control. Several men were elected to become dog catchers, and every day they would set out and capture whatever dog they found, locking them away in a large pen with no bones to chew on.

This of course was very upsetting to the dogs; they used to run free all the time, and the thought of being penned and leashed was not an attractive one. After discussing this amongst themselves, the dogs sent a delegate of their own to approach the king and plead their case. This ambassador requested an audience with the king and, because the king adored dogs, he was more than happy to let the creature approach and speak.

“Dearest, wisest king,” said the dog ambassador, who, like most dogs, was exceptionally good at showing devotion to people. “I come to you humbly, seeking to make peace with you and your human subjects. We dogs used to roam freely and cause no one harm, but now a dog catcher has been established to chase us down and lock us away like criminals. This causes us great grief, as we have tried to serve the humans by guarding them, barking when a stranger or wolf approaches, keeping our owners warm at night by sleeping in their beds, and showing delight when they return. I ask you, dear king, is this any way to repay our love?”

The king nodded solemnly. “I hear your plight, and I agree with you. Dogs have done much to serve humans, and to round them up like vermin is indeed cruel. I will issue a license to you and your kind, declaring you free from arrest. Show this order to the dog catcher, and he will not take you away. But remember to keep the document safe—I can issue only one, and you must be able to show it when needed.”

The king then immediately ordered his scribes to create the document, which was rolled up, sealed and given to the dog ambassador. His tail wagging wildly, the dog rushed back to show all of his canine compatriots as they waited in the city square. There was such gleeful barking that it soon drew the attention of the city’s cats, bringing them streaming down from the rooftops to join in with the celebration.

“Congratulations, dogs,” said one cat, a mighty tom with a fluffy gray and white coat. “This is a wonderful victory for you.”

“It is indeed,” said the ambassador dog. “As long as we have this decree, the dog catcher cannot take us.”

“Where will you keep it?”

The dog’s wagging tail faltered a beat. “Keep it …?”

“Yes.” The cat stared at the dog, arching an eyebrow as the dog stared blankly back.

The cat frowned. “You need a place to keep the license safe.”

The dog blinked. “I was just going to carry it around.”

Inwardly, the fluffy cat winced; while dogs were wonderful at adulation, they typically weren’t the smartest of creatures. “Well, all right, I suppose you could do that. But what if it gets torn up or wet? It won’t do any of you any good of it’s ruined.”

“Oh, I didn’t think about that.” The dog looked down at the rolled parchment by his paws. “I don’t know where I could put it.”

The cat’s green eyes lit up. “Oh, I think I have just the place. I’ll keep it in the rafters of my home, where people can’t get at it. It’s dry, so it won’t get moldy. Whenever you need it, us cats can go and get it for you.”

All the city cats nodded in agreement and all the dogs barked their gratitude. The dog ambassador thought this was a wonderful idea, and he passed the rolled document to the cat. The cat clamped his sharp teeth down on the seal and swiftly carried it back to his house, tucking it away high in the rafters where it would be safe, in a notch just under the thatched roof.

With the decree safe, the dogs resumed their daily romps through the city. The humans were irritated, but hesitated to act, since a rumor had spread that the king had issued a decree to the dogs that they could not be rounded up and locked away. After a year of putting up with the dogs’ chaos, the humans finally lost their patience and summoned the dogcatchers.

The men went to work quickly, netting and roping all the dogs they found lounging in the sunshine or prancing down the street. The dogs yelped and whined, crying, “Stop! You can’t take us—we have the king’s permission to run free!”

“Oh really?” sneered one dogcatcher as he dragged the poor mongrels back to the pens. “Permission from the king, eh? Can you prove it?”

“Of course we can!” the dogs snarled. “Our friends the cats have the parchment. They’ll get it, and then you’ll see.”

“Fine. Bring me this mythical parchment. If it’s true, we’ll never bother you again.”

As luck would have it, the same tom who had secreted the document away witnessed the dogcatchers at work, and he rushed back to his house to find the document. Easily springing up to the rafters, the cat made his way to the corner of the roof where he had hidden the license.

As the cat approached the small notch in the wall, he jumped back in surprise as a portly brown mouse came racing out of the hole, disappearing up into the roof. His heart sinking, the cat rushed to the notch and stuck his paw inside, hooking his claw onto the parchment’s ribbon. Pulling it out, the cat gasped in horror when he saw the tattered shreds of the royal document … the mice had torn it completely apart.

Devastated, the cat collected what he could salvage and rushed back to the dogcatchers’ pens. As the smirking dogcatchers waited, and the whining dogs pressed their noses to the fence, the cat tried to piece the decree back together, but it was no use—the mice had destroyed too much of it.

The dogs were outraged. “How could you let this happen?” they howled from their pens. “You said you would keep it safe for us! You didn’t keep your word!”

No matter how much the cats tried to plead their innocence, the dogs didn’t believe them, calling them liars and traitors. From that day, cats and dogs were no longer friends. The resentful dogs chased the cats whenever they could, and the bitter cats in turn chased the mice, seeking revenge for their ruined friendship.