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White Cat

by on November 10, 2010

She was raised by fairies, of course she’s every inch the princess – the long gold hair, perfectly curled, the blue eyes, the tiny ankle. The grace, courtesy, wit, learning; even the playfulness which I so enjoyed when first we met. Our subjects adore her. Even Hans likes her, and he’s been in my service since we were teenagers, and can be a mite possessive.

And I owe her so much – the kingdom, the quest, meeting my father’s ridiculous requirements. We still have the dear little spaniel, he’s quite a favourite of mine – he doesn’t fit into a walnut any more, but an egg cup holds him comfortably. She used the impossibly fine silk cloth as a wedding veil.

She’s really very sweet, and still curls up in my lap so affectionately. Given that tradition dictates I marry some lovely lady, I could have done a lot worse.

But then there are … the eccentricities. The balls of string. The milk: she laps very daintily, but it’s still not quite polite. And the mice are a real problem. So far she’s only done it in front of me and Hans and he’s very discreet, but I have no idea how we’ll hush it up if she pounces in the middle of a diplomatic function. And the crunching noises are so distressing.

And, of course, her … other proclivities. I do my duty as manfully as I’m able, but I’m not really the biting type, and the yowling is becoming embarrassing. Fortunately Hans has a really good salve for the scratch marks.

It’s not that I wish she wasn’t a woman – I mean, obviously I do, but we all know that’s doomed. I just miss my white cat, and it hurts to be reminded of those simpler days.

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10 Comments
  1. I loved all the little cat traits and how you described them. I can’t help but feel that he is secretly wishing for his simpler days, that the charm of his life is wearing off – it’s his secret confession, his inner turmoil that no one will ever know about.

    I did feel like I’m missing something with the second paragraph. I can’t see how it connects – sorry.

    My only thing was “It’s not that I wish she wasn’t a woman – I mean, obviously I do”, I first thought he didn’t want her anymore but I think that may just be my reading habits and the feel I got from the rest of the piece.

  2. When I posted this I agonised for ages over whether or not to immediately comment with the key, as it were… I decided to see if it stands on its own, but clearly it doesn’t, and I’m sorry it confused you. This fic is a direct response to a specific fairy tale, Mme d’Aulnoy’s “The White Cat”, which you can find here. The second paragraph of the fic may make more sense if you know the tale.

    You may also find it illuminating to consider the effect on me of discovering that all three translations of the story I read refer to the youngest prince as “young and gay”, or “of a gay and merry disposition.” And reading between the lines of the story, he seems most sincerely attached to the princess when she’s a white cat. You have to ask yourself what’s with that…

    • Much more sense 🙂

      And he does appear to be quite in love with a cat – it is decidedly odd.

  3. Pam Sykes permalink

    Lovely. The White Cat, as retold and illustrated by Errol le Cain, was/is one of the most treasured books of my childhood. And yes, I have wondered about what he and the cat did together all that year…

    • I think The White Cat would have been better for me if I hadn’t read this first. I created ideas about the character and it make it difficult to see him in another light even though he is described as “of a gay and merry disposition.”

      It’s was a bit like reading a piece of fanfiction, deciding what the characters are like and then being disappointed with the original – how dare the author have their own ideas 😛

      I have to say I do prefer this to the original.

    • The advantage of the translations from the original French is that, in the peculiar manner of eighteenth-century French fairy tale, the story spends a whole bunch of time on apparently irrelevant detail, for which read an exhaustive depiction of courtly pursuits. It’s all terribly mannered and refined and, given that it’s all done by cats, at times horribly twee, but it’s deeply essential to the effect of the tale. But it’s precisely that long-term desexualised companionship that provokes me about the tale, given the strength of the affectionate bond they seem to have. All very odd ;>.

  4. I enjoyed this – found it light and amusing. The original source is unknown too me but also made for some interesting reading.

    Love the little touches – ‘ the crunching noises…’ – great.

    Also enjoyed the last paragraph and liked the way it brought a bit more thematic seriousness to the piece.

  5. I’m also one of those who aren’t familiar with the story. I still enjoyed it, though. It reminded me of fantasy stories that I used to enjoy as a child (well, maybe a bit more explicit 😛 But I can’t remember them well enough). But I have a feeling that I’ve missed out on a lot when reading this piece.

    I enjoyed the tone of the piece the most: kind of formal, a bit distant, a bit supercilious in parts (especially the paragraph beginning, “But then there are …”) and a bit self-pitying in others (like the last paragraph).

  6. Another hand up for not knowing the original.
    I did feel like I was missing a layer or a reference or two, but then I often feel that way with your stories! (I dint do much book lerning when I wuz a young ‘un)

    I did enjoy your story a lot, though, even without the cat background.
    Your ways with words continue to impress and inspire.
    The build up to the CatWoman reveal was gently played, and I enjoyed the slashy Hans subtext (who didn’t, right? RIGHT?).

    The last paragraph was kinda poignant, but actually I found I didn’t have much sympathy for him. Came across as a bit spoilt and whiney. Like I appear to be tonight.

  7. cbraz permalink

    I thoroughly enjoyed this. It read like a fairytale and I do love their turns of phrase. I also didn’t know the original and so found some parts of this opaque when I first read it, while still enjoying it. The elements in the second paragraph fit with a few such “challenges must be performed to win something or someone” stories – the walnut, the impossibly fine lace. Thanks for providing the key, though. It added a lot to the story, knowing its inspiration.

    I love the humour in it and the logical follow on from the situation in the original story.

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