Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

These are traditionally Witches' familiars and/or agents of the Devil, thanks to their strange eyes, aloof grace and lapses into (in human eyes) diabolical sadism when toying with prey. Black cats bring luck, good or bad; being lightfooted, they have nine lives; in ancient Egypt they were sacred to the cat-headed Goddess Bast. A cat jumping over your coffin may make you a Vampire, like Florimel in James Branch Cabell's Jurgen (1919). The aloofness was captured in Rudyard Kipling's Myth of Origin for the cat's near-domestication, "The Cat that Walked by Himself" in Just So Stories (coll 1902). The ruby-hearted glass cat Bungles of L Frank Baum's Oz is so determined not to show emotion that when implored to bring help she sets off very slowly and runs only when out of sight. In an exaggerated metaphor of elusiveness, the Cheshire Cat of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) literally fades from view. The cat as Trickster is epitomized as Puss-in-Boots. Sexual connotations of furry litheness give an erotic charge to most Shapeshifting into cat form – e.g., "Ancient Sorceries" in Algernon Blackwood's John Silence (coll 1908) and the various Cat People movies. There are also innumerable catlike aliens in sf by Fritz Leiber, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven and many others. Notable cat familiars include Seraphin in Robert A Heinlein's Magic, Inc. (1940) and Svartalf in Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos (1971). Among memorable non-familiars are: Saki's unpleasantly epigrammatic Talking Animal Tobermory in The Chronicles of Clovis (coll 1911); the good and bad Nibbins and Blackmalkin in John Masefield's The Midnight Folk (1927), which are also talking animals; the heroic kitten Gummitch in Leiber's "Space-Time for Springers" (1958), who in his own terms (see Perception) works Magic to remove a Possession; and such amiably murderous cats as Throgmorten in Diana Wynne Jones's The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988) and Greebo in Terry Pratchett's Discworld. [DRL]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.