Captain's Cabin

Pirate Lord of the Platinum Coast
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Monday, December 17, 2007

Myth Monday - The Cat-Maiden

A lot of young humans are often read tales from a collection known as Aesop's Fables, which are little morality lessons that employ animals. Aesop lived in the mid-sixth century BC in ancient Greece and was thought to have been a slave. Most of the tales in the collection of fables come from various sources, many of which originated before Aesop actually lived. Aesop gets credited with them because he wrote down many of what were, at the time, oral tales.

The collection then went through a lot of rewriting and translation by Socrates, Demetrius Phalereus and Babrius.

There are many Cats that show up in Aesop's Fables, both as domestic Cats and as Lions, Leopards and the like. Perhaps the best known one deals with the mice who wished to put a bell on the Cat to warn them when the Cat is near. "That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?" an old mouse is quoted as saying in the tale.

There are two tales that are very similar. One is the The Cat Maiden, and the other is the Cat and Venus. These go as follows:

The Cat-Maiden

The gods were once disputing whether it was possible for a living being to change its nature. Jupiter said "Yes," but Venus said "No." So, to try the question, Jupiter turned a Cat into a Maiden, and gave her to a young man for a wife. The wedding was duly performed and the young couple sat down to the wedding-feast. "See," said Jupiter, to Venus, "how becomingly she behaves. Who could tell that yesterday she was but a Cat? Surely her nature is changed?"

"Wait a minute," replied Venus, and let loose a mouse into the room. No sooner did the bride see this than she jumped up from her seat and tried to pounce upon the mouse. "Ah, you see," said Venus, "Nature will out."

The Cat and Venus

A Cat fell in love with a handsome young man, and entreated Venus to change her into the form of a woman. Venus consented to her request and transformed her into a beautiful damsel, so that the youth saw her and loved her, and took her home as his bride. While the two were reclining in their chamber, Venus wishing to discover if the Cat in her change of shape had also altered her habits of life, let down a mouse in the middle of the room. The Cat, quite forgetting her present condition, started up from the couch and pursued the mouse, wishing to eat it. Venus was much disappointed and again caused her to return to her former shape. Nature exceeds nurture.

While I'm sure the Cat was better off as a Cat than as a human, I have to wonder why the humans did not seem to value the ability to catch a mouse by a human, when in fact is it was one of the most prized abilities of the cat?

Do humans think they are above the hunting of mice and rats? And if so, why then do they have "exterminators" who will come out and hunt them?

Also, I think Venus cheat on the bet in the first tale as she'd already turned a Cat into a young woman in the second and knew that it would chase a mouse released in the room.

I think a Cat changed into a human would probably be much better human than one that was born a human. We are certainly a superior species and would not believe that catching a mouse is beneath our dignity.

We also didn't read these silly morality tales when we were growing up, so we don't fall into the trap of believing what they tell us.

Meanwhile, my Bean wants to know if, while I'm transmuting things, if I can transmute her into a cat with a nice, long, warm fur coat. I can sort of understand that, it is actually a bit chilly out this morning!

2 comments:

jan said...

Our cat, or I should say the cat that hangs around at my house, catches mice and then brings them to the humans instead of quietly eating it like the books say she will.

They praise her for it, it's kind of a disgusting spectacle.

Misty the alpha Poodle

Gattina said...

I agree with your Bean I would love to be a cat especially here in my house, lol ! The cat was even a godesss in ancient Egypt !
Sorry that you couldn't see the pictures on my cat blog, it must be your computer because they work fine.I didn't have any remarks about it.