Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terri Windling's "Feline Folklore"

Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in the U.S.! Just before the holiday, I thought I would give everyone a link to a wonderful, brief article I have found on Feline Folklore. The article is by Terri Windling, author of The Wood Wife and co-editor of the former Journal of Mythic Arts, which we miss. The article is a wonderful tracing of cat lore across cultures and centuries, from the early associations of the cat with the mother goddess to recent retellings of fairy tales by such luminaries as Jane Yolen and others. Someone had asked on Sur La Lune if anyone knew of a fairy tale in which a human princess gives birth to kittens, and that set me on the track.

I offer the first paragraph of Windling's essay here, and I hope you will read the whole article:

A friend of mine once dreamed that she was in the throes of giving birth — not an unusual dream for a woman to have, but in this case instead of a human child, she gave birth to a litter of kittens. "Were you frightened?" I asked. "Not at all," she replied. "In fact, strange as it sounds, it was quite a lovely experience." I thought of my friend when I read Laurie Kutchin's poem "Birthdream," published in The New Yorker: "This time I had given birth to a child with a remarkable tail. Part animal, part girl. . . . I held her briefly in my arms, stroked her tail before we parted, her eyes nursing the dark moons. . . ."

Also, if you know of other tales in which a human mother gives birth to kittens, please visit Sur La Lune and add your knowledge to their message board. The only other tale I have been able to find is an Indian folktale, Roshni's Feast, in which a child is exchanged for a kitten in the cradle.

If you don't know of Sur La Lune already, it is a wonderful site that includes both a thriving message board devoted to fairy tales, and an online encyclopedia of fairy tales. So very worth checking out.

The painting above is Gertrude Jekyll's nineteenth-century Puss in Boots.

Editor, Dante's Heart

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