Sunday, December 9, 2007
How a New Mythology is Created
The world of Cats always has been fascinating and mysterious to human beings. In an earlier post, I mentioned the work of Erin Hunter, creator of the 'Warrior' series. As some one who always loved cats, I was drawn personally towards a series of books devoted to a feline civilisation but as I read book after book in the series, I became aware of the fact that 'Warriors' was far more than a compelling tale: it is a powerful and timeless mythology that appeals to readers from every culture and every age group.
The difference between a wonderful story and a new myth is universality. Logic plays a part here as well, although it is a philosophical logic rather than logic based on 'hard facts'. The greatest myths are inspirational and that is another element that can be found in Erin Hunter's work.
A myth embodies universal concepts and sets them in a foundation that resonates with the psyche. One of the functions of a myth is explanation. A myth explains concepts that reside in the collective unconscious as it were.
For example, one of the concepts where cats are concerned is the idea that cats possess nine lives. Many tales have been written as to why or how this idea came into being. Erin Hunter, however, manages to weave it effortlessly into the Warrior saga, as well as every other concept relating to felines.
Erin Hunter, as befits a teller of myth is not a single human being. In fact, she is a composite of three different women. Together they tell the sagas of the Warrior Cats but 'Erin Hunter' is the voice by which the tales are told to the world.
Did Erin Hunter invent her concepts or did she 'discover' them in the same way that Tolkien claimed to have 'discovered' the history of Middle Earth? I would be inclined to believe that Erin Hunter has managed somehow to tap into the collective wisdom of the ages and to pull forth a mythology that will endure and come to represent the 'truth' as it is passed down from age to age.
The 'Warriors' saga is appropriate to readers of any age group and I believe further that it will be recognised as one of the 'classics' in time. Like all great epics, it embodies the most important inspirational elements that can be found in any tale: friendship, loyalty, courage, conflict and triumph in the face of adversity. There is great pain and loss as well as great fulfillment. Tears came to my eyes again and again. As I read towards the end of the last book in the first saga of the Warrior cats, I barely could see the words on the page for the tears that clouded my eyes.
The tale of Fireheart as he is transformed from 'kittypet' to 'warrior' and finally to the leader of his clan, is truly inspirational and cannot fail to resonate in the soul of any reader, whether or not that reader particularly loves cats. I thought about that actually this morning. Would a reader without any personal relationship with the feline species be captivated by these books? I believe the answer to this is in the affirmative. Like any story that focuses on another species, there is an anthropomorphic element to the tale. Erin Hunter has the ability and knowledge to capture the unique characteristics of cats and their behaviour patterns and yet there is nothing 'foreign' to a reader in the emotional responses of the characters in her series. A reader must respond as the writer intended, with hope and fear, hatred and love, regret and triumph... and feel these emotions as powerfully as he/she would were the characters human rather than feline.
One of the reasons the Warrior sagas transcend ordinary tales and achieve the status of myth is because the writers are extraordinarily spiritual individuals themselves. The 'Warrior' vision of feline spirituality is at one with human spirituality in a sense, although totally feline in nature. After all, humans and cats both are subordinate to the rule of Nature and the Elements. The vision of a cat when viewing the Milky Way or Starpelt will differ from that of a human, but the stars shine down on both from age to age.
Anyone who fails to read the 'Warrior' sagas will be cheated of an incredible mythology that will enrich any reader's life forever. I envy those who find these books in their childhood and who therefore are able to take the magnificent visions and lessons with them into adulthood. Those of us who are closer to the age of the writer must count ourselves fortunate to be able to experience the world of Warriors at any age. No human being ever should outgrow the love of mythology and epic tales.
N.B. I have included photographs of one of the book covers in the second Warriors series as well as some fan art devoted to the 'Warriors' series. Proof that Erin Hunter's work truly belongs in the category of universal myth can be found in the multitude of fansites dedicated to the Warrior Cats. There are forums for Warriors as well as sites created for fan art. The picture of Firepaw as he begins his journey from kittypet to Clan leader was drawn by an artist named Oha. The fansites I discovered have been created by individuals from every corner of the globe.
Please visit the official site for the 'Warriors' series at:
Official Warrior Cats Site
It will give you some idea of the potent magic that Erin Hunter is able to perform.