Today’s cat is from one of my favourite picture books of all time: Lane Smith’s The Big Pets. As the title suggests, the pets in this book are large, and not just regular-large, they’re as big as houses! On some nights, the children and their animals go to special places to play. The cats head to the Milk-Pool or the Scratching Forest, or the place where the ‘Stringy Vines tease’. The dogs and their children frolic in the Bone Gardens; and in the Grassy Plains, the pet snakes roll and tumble.
And on some extra special nights, there is an entire milky way to play in …
I’m in Taipei and visited Donburi Republic, which is store that sells Studio Ghibli merchandise. This brought to mind Jiji, the small black cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service. With those ears he might be part rabbit!
I have no idea why but I woke up this morning thinking of Felix the Cat. I was not, as a child, particularly fond of Felix and even now he seems unremarkable. A real-life Felix might be an improvement … but I have never seen a white-faced cat with a totally black body and head. Tuxedo cats usually have a white bib and paws, which Felix does not.
He’s also quite a thin cat. I am not into the lean and hungry look as far as cats go. That cocky grin is also annoying.
I didn’t know til a few minutes ago that he was created (in 1919!) by an Australian cartoonist called Pat Sullivan (I was addicted to the Australian series The Sullivans, but that’s another story), and looked quite different in the 1920s …
He appeared in animated silent cartoons from 1924 and looking like the cat above, and didn’t transition to the Felix we are more familiar with until the 50s, when his show started airing on American TV.
Behemoth is the large black cat from The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.
He is a demon, part of the Devil’s posse, a cruel and violent beast who walks on twos, carries a pistol and loves chess, vodka and pickled mushrooms. Not a nice kitty at all, but I rather admire him, maybe even want to be him.
How many Caturdays have I missed? I’m sorry, but December has been a busy month, and soon it will be 2019!
This week’s cat is from a print that I bought when I was in Hanoi recently. It is by a young artist called Xuân Lam and is one of a series of ‘remakes’ he’s done of folk art — I believe the originals were woodblock prints.
‘Red Tiger: The painting features one of the Five Tigers with red color, representing the Fire in Five Elements and standing for the South. Besides the application of Five Elements, what makes this painting distinctive is the figure of the tiger with a strong body, an imposing posture and vibrant eyes.’
I would love to get Five Tigers — they remind me of the five spirit tigers in my short story ‘All Was Still’. Well, that is yet another reason to return to Hanoi.
(From the artist’s site: ‘According to Vietnamese religious belief, tiger possesses a sacred power to keep the ghosts away. In many ancient families, there were altars specially designed to worship the tiger, with the Five Tiger painting hung above. The painting features five tigers with a balanced structure, each tiger in a unique posture: one Is standing, one is sitting, another is riding the cloud and wind. The structure, together with the strokes and colors, effectively depicts the vigorous and mighty air of the king of the forest.’)
Prints by Xuân Lam can be purchased at Tired City, 84 Quán Sứ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Quán Sứ, Cửa Nam, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam. Tel: +84 24 6270 2900.