Tolkien Gateway

Cats

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Berúthiel and the white cat, by Paula DiSante
"It won't sound too pretty to say you've caught the kitten and let the cat escape."
Gorbag[1]

Cats were animals that lived in Arda, as well as other fiction by J.R.R. Tolkien, most notably the poem Cat.[2]

Contents

History

Other than use as company, for which the Hobbits and Bree-folk used pets,[3][4] cats were used for the hunt[5] and for spying.[6] They were soft-footed,[5] keensighted[7] and agile.[8]

The Cats of Berúthiel

Main article: Cats of Queen Berúthiel

In the late ninth and possibly early tenth century of the Third Age, Berúthiel, wife of Tarannon, King of Gondor, kept cats, nine black and one white. The marriage of Tarannon and Berúthiel was not a pleasant one: his love for the Sea drove her mad. She hated all making, all colours and elaborate adornment, and set her cats to spy on everyone, learning their secrets. Berúthiel conversed with the cats and read their mind and memory. She even set the white cat to spy on the others, to torment them. Berúthiel's reign of terror came to an end when Tarannon put her and her cats on a ship and set it adrift. It was last seen passing Umbar.[6]

All memory to them was erased from memory (and the Book of the Kings), though legends of the cats and their ability to spy remain.[6][7]

Other cats

Though there are no other cats that play a large role in history, some are mentioned in Hobbit folklore. Bob, the ostler of the Prancing Pony, had a cat. After Frodo Baggins sang The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late (in which the ostler of an unnamed inn had a tipsy cat that played a five stringed fiddle), several patrons suggested that he'd to the same.[4] Similarly, a cat, or "four-legs", was part of an old riddle Bilbo asked Gollum.[3]

Other versions of the Legendarium

Perhaps the most important cat in the legendarium was Tevildo, the Prince of Cats. Mentioned only in early writings, Tevildo was a demonic servant of Melko, who would eventually be replaced by Sauron[9]. He is the principal antagonist in The Tale of Tinuviel.[10]

Other fiction

The poem Cat tells about a cat;[2] also, Tinker is a cat appearing in Roverandom.[11]

Inspiration

Especially in the case of Berúthiel and Tevildo, cats in Middle-earth are portrayed in a negative light. It could be argued that Tolkien was not a cat-person. When a cat-breeder asked permission to use names from The Lord of the Rings for her cats, Tolkien replied to Allen & Unwin:

"I fear that to me Siamese cats belong to the fauna of Mordor, but you need not tell the cat breeder that."
J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 219[12]

Portrayal in Adaptations

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Cats are found throughout Middle-earth, espcially in Bree-land. There is a "cat lady" who has a house full of cats. Lore-masters can also have a non-combat cat pet.

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Shelob's Lair"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, 12: "Cat"
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Riddles in the Dark"
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony"
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Journey to the Cross-Roads"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari", note 7
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Journey in the Dark"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "The Music of the Ainur", page 52
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "The Tale of Tinuviel"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Roverandom
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 219 (dated October 14, 1959)