Friday, February 23, 2007

Protected by the ‘Mark’ of Carabas

My all time favourite bedtime story is Puss in Boots. I love the way that clever, cunning little creature has the whole world chasing after their tails, from his rather foolish master, to the even more gullible king and his pretty (vacant) daughter, to the peasants who plough the fields, to the evil ogre whose wickedness would only ever be equalled by a cuddly little kitty in a pair of Cuban heels.

I love the way that, right from the beginning of the tale, Puss is all fluffy innocence and vulnerability as he cries out in mock fright, “Oh Master, please don’t eat me! I’m but a harmless, defenceless animal”, but in the next breath, seemingly with nary a moments thought, he lists off everything he needs - “Just give me a sack and a spanking pair of fine boots, and I shall make sure you never go hungry again” - in order to play-out a curiously elaborate plan to commit medieval impersonation, fraud, extorsion and murder.

Hmm, Puss, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you’d been hatching that one for quite a while, and such a plan doesn’t quite seem fitting from the recently afore-labelled “harmless, defenceless animal”, but nevertheless, Puss is granted his wish; he is newly shod and sent out into the world to create mayhem.

Mostly what I love about the story is Puss’ smug, self assuredness. The little feline has got all the sass, all the moves, all the smarts and all the cunning of a criminal genius, and you just know that the whole, grisly business would have been conducted with Puss spouting off witty one-liners and casting a mutually roving eye at all the girly cats down by the wharf! Ah, that Puss, definitely the Fonzie of medieval Europe!

But the thing that always jars with me when reading this story, is that nobody; neither Puss’ master, the king, the peasants or the ogre ever once questioned the existence of a talking cat. As well as the talking thing, no one seems all that surprised that Puss manages, in the space of three days, to design and execute a flawless, elaborate plan which sends his clueless master from grim to bling, and Puss doesn’t do too badly for himself, either, becoming a great and wealthy Lord.

It strikes me as a bit odd, and gets me to wondering about how these animals have been viewed throughout history. And it does seem that humans have been somewhat aware, and wary, of the crafty, cunning and possibly magical potential of those outwardly torpid tabbies. In Egypt, ancient tombs have been discovered in which pharaohs were laid to rest with cats, who were said to have possessed the power to transcend the mortal veil and guide the spirit of the great kings into the afterlife.

Or if you like, take, for example, north-eastern USA in the late 17th century, where sex-starved Presbyterian madmen would burn any voluptuous young woman just for having a big, black pussy (sorry, y’knew it had to happen eventually, I thought I might as well get it over with and out of the way). Or perhaps look at the story of Dick Whittington, who, as far as I can gather, was nothing but an aspiring, treacherous politician, whose record, three-times tenure as Lord Mayor of London is to this day mysteriously attributed to the fact that he owned and travelled with a cat, and not “cos of all dem murders ‘e done!”.

Our forefathers certainly had some inkling that the there was more to these fastidious, furry felines than met the eye; something mysterious, and maybe something powerful to be feared. And this, you’ll be happy to hear, brings me to the point of this little reflection.

While I was in Kathmandu last weekend (that has nothing to do with the story, by the way, I just wanted to let you know that I went to Kathmandu last weekend, ‘cause it’s an awesome place), I was staying at a friend’s house, and overnight had a prolonged bout of my regular, recurring nightmare – the one where I am being haunted by ghosts and I eventually try to swallow my terror, and stand up to the fearful phantoms by shouting obscenities at them, only to find that in the dream, and indeed in real life, I am unable to articulate the words. Instead, I scream out incoherent nonsense, which Mrs Donkey confirms makes me sound like the one who is possessed by an evil demon.

Unlike on most occasions, when this dream comes to its babbling climax, I wake up, Mrs D comforts me and then I go back to an untroubled sleep, there seemed to be something about the house last weekend, which kept the ghastly ghouls coming back for me all night. By early morning, I was a wreck, and Mrs Donkey was getting worried. Again I fell into a troubled slumber, and again I was drawn along that dark corridor to the sinister room at the end where the wicked wraiths awaited me, but as I passed through the entrance to the hallway, there, just beside my left foot, sat my sixteen-year-old pet cat, Sammy, whom I had thought to be safe at home in Melbourne with my folks.

Sam stretched, and smiled, inviting me to pick her up, which I did, and at her urging, together we approached the violently shaking, and seemingly angry door. With Sammy in my arms, I kicked it open and went on through … and I slept soundly until late into the morning.

So last weekend, Sammy, sans footwear but displaying a similar commitment to protecting her troubled master as that of Puss, transcended the spirit world, and travelled halfway around the globe to save me from my own mental ogres. Is it just me, or is there a lot more going on around here than we are usually aware of? Thanks for saving me, Sammy.

And there she is, my sixteen-year-old, feline protector, who travelled halfway around the world to save me. Pic: Mama Donkey.


Stewart Sternberg said...

Hi Donkey. You know I've written, or rather rewritten, two fairy tales. "King O The Cats" and "The Frog Prince". I think I will look into redoing "Puss In Boots".

DonkeyBlog said...

Mr Sternberg - good idea - I think there are plenty of elements of horror that could be really worked up in the story - in fact, told in the right way, cute little Puss could become a really chilling, Thomas Wholsey-type hatchet-man.

The Man at the Pub said...

Hi donkey. You're a pissa! I really like your blog.

I never knew the story of Puss in Boots. But then again, I've never seen Shrek (a fact many of my friends cannot messes with their sensibilities,....and I love it!)

Question.... what were you doing in the Solomons? Working for an NGO?
I had the good fortune to visit Bougainville a few years ago. Stunningly beautiful place too.

tkkerouac said...

Aww, dont you love puss stories.

DonkeyBlog said...

Always great to see new faces - thanks for dropping by, TK

sabrina said...

Ha ha ha...assertive asses!!! Donkey, donkey, donkey