Cats have held a significant role in the world of literature ever since significant roles have been recorded. From the cats of Egypt to fairy tales that cause your children look at their feline companions in a whole new light, cats play a host of complex characters. Just read any Halloween or witch story to see a cat as a “familiar” who knows far more about what’s really going on than the rest of the characters do. When you really take a look at the preeminence of cats in literature, you’ll see what an important role they play, and you’ll understand why children have such a fascination with cats. For example, consider these 6 memorable cats in literature.
One of the most revered and well known cats of all time is Aslan, a significant character in The Chronicles of Narnia. He is the good side of the realm of Narnia, always fair and wise. His heart seems to be made of pure gold and he wants nothing but the best for the inhabitants of Narnia, even if they only live there for a limited period of time before they go back home through the wardrobe. Aslan is the embodiment of courage during times when it does not appear that courage is even possible.
Before I even start writing about him, you know who I’m talking about. Granted, the Cheshire Cat may not have a book named after him, but he does play a significant role in Alice in Wonderland. I can also think of at least one cliché that involves this sly fellow. You never really know what the cat is thinking, but he is obviously entertained by the predicaments of the humans he observes. His smugness is a constant presence seen by his enormous grin.
Mrs. Norris doesn’t have her own story either, but she does play a significant role in the Harry Potter phenomenon and even brings out a glimpse of the humanity in a character that otherwise may never have displayed it. She isn’t the prettiest or best groomed kitty in the world of fiction, but she is loyal and helpful…and may be the only true companion Mr. Filch has. They seem to be a good match since they are both cantankerous and seemingly continuously frustrated by the constant presence of children.
Speaking of Harry Potter, it would be remiss to leave out Hermione Granger’s pet cat Crookshanks. Apparently this ugly-looking, squished-face cat was inspired by a real cat that J.K. Rowling knew. In the story, Hermione purchases Crookshanks during a shopping trip to Diagon Alley. Sympathetic as always, she buys him out of kindness because nobody wants this crazy looking, crazy acting feline.
Puss in Boots
In every variation of a tale that includes Puss in Boots, you’ll find a cat that has charisma as well as honor. He fears nothing with his trusty sword in hand, his amazing acrobatic skills, and the ability to always land on his boot-clad feet. To maintain the illusion, let’s just assume that his lack of fear has nothing to do with his nine lives and instead just let him be the naturally fearless creature that he is, bound by his own laws and code of honor. Don’t forget his ingenious creativity either. Not just any cat can make a marriage between a princess and a Miller’s son come to fruition!
The Cat in the Hat is such an important character that he has his own book. In fact, he had a starring role in a movie bearing his name. While the Cat in the Hat may have some unusual methods of getting things done, you have to admit there is always fun to be had and a lesson to be learned when he’s around.
There are many other timeless feline characters in literature. The lasagna-loving Garfield; Sylvester—who is always in trouble; bouncy Tigger, who guided so many people through the joys and follies of childhood; Hobbes, who made Calvin’s childhood a lot more memorable than it would have been otherwise; and let’s not forget the relatively new “Grumpy Cat” who has a lot of hilarious wisdom to share. There are even characters who try to be cats rather than people, like Cat Woman. When you think about all the comical things cats do, it’s no wonder so many of them play an important role in literature.
Did I leave out your favorite? Are there any cats in literature that influenced the way you feel about our feline friends?
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell