When I was in the sixth grade, a certain book series was all the rage amongst my peers. It wasn't Harry Potter. It wasn't The Hunger Games (that hadn't even come out yet). It was Erin Hunter's Warriors, a set of book cycles about anthropomorphic cats trying to survive in the wilderness. Not exactly the kind of fare you'd expect to catch on at an all-girls' school, but hey, who am I to try to explain the psychology of middle school-aged kids? In any case, my friends and I were straight-up obsessed. We always carried a Warriors volume in our backpacks to read during breaks. At home, when I logged on to Neopets in order to feed my virtual tigers (a girl's gotta have hobbies, you know), I also checked the new posts on my guild forums. Remember guilds? They were for Neopets users with common interests to get together and chat...and my guild was entirely dedicated to Warriors-style roleplaying, post by post.
The thing was, that wasn't even weird. Everyone I knew read these books. The plot lines were ripped straight from other fantasy books, like Redwall and Lord of the Rings, or from TV dramas. If you haven't read the books, imagine The Sopranos, but with cats. That's pretty much what the books were like. None of us cared about the books' originality, though. All we cared about was finding out what happened to Fireheart and his furry friends in the next installment of the series.
Now, ten years after the craze ended, I'm revisiting Warriors. There's actually quite a lot going on in the books...and most of it is weird. Besides the obvious fact that the series is about talking cats, I mean. Below are six of the strangest facets.
1. Cats Have a Strict Social Hierarchy
Anyone who has ever met a cat can tell you that felines generally don't give a rip about any creature other than themselves. However, the cats of the Warriors books seem to have transcended their inherent standoffishness and have created a social system more organized than a German car factory. Every clan has a leader, a deputy, a medicine cat, warriors, queens, and apprentices, which means all the clan's needs are provided for.
Ain't no one fresher than my kitty clique.
Who needs a hospital when you can just get the medicine cat to bind your battle wounds with moss, am I right?
2. ...And Yet ThunderClan Still Takes In Rusty
The protagonist of the first series, a housecat named Rusty, escapes from what I guess is supposed to represent the dream-killing doldrums of the suburbs and goes to live a fuller life in the forest. This is after several cats from Thunderclan show up in his backyard and jump him. Imagine sunning on your back porch and seeing a bunch of dudes leap over your fence, intent on taking you down in your own territory.
After all that nonsense, the leader of Thunderclan, Bluestar, is like, "Great, ditch your owners and come live with us!" All this despite the strict social rules and disdain for all non-feral cats. So Rusty becomes Fireheart, generally kicks butt all around, and eventually takes Bluestar's place as leader.
Didn't see that coming.
3. Graystripe Has a Forbidden Love Affair
Graystripe, one of Fireheart's best friends, falls in love with Silverstream, a cat from another clan. Apparently, this is forbidden, although each clan is so small that inbreeding levels must be off the frickin charts. Silverstream tragically dies while giving birth to Graystripe's kittens, which is when everyone finds out that Graystripe has been sneaking around at night in order to make the beast with two backs, if you know what I mean. One, that's really weird because of all the illicit cat sex it implies. Two, these cats are roughing it in the woods, trying not to get killed by mountain lions. Why do they care who's doing the dirty with whom?
4. Cats Take Down a Pack of Feral Dogs
In one of the books, a horde of terrifying dogs invades the forest where Fireheart and his brethren live. Despite the fact that the dogs physically outmatch the cats in every way, Thunderclan is able to defeat their enemies by luring them over a cliff to drown in the river below (I guess dogs can't swim in this world?).
Unless the dogs are as unresponsive as this, in which case it totally makes sense.
Also, the dogs only repeat the words "kill, kill" when they attack, which makes them sound like Emperor Palpatine, only furrier and with less Force lightning.
5. Tigerstar Goes Full Scar on his Kids through Dreams
First, a note: these cats are religious, some of them fanatically so. They have an ancestor-worship-based system and believe that their ancestors communicate through omens and dreams. Usually, these communications are pretty hard to interpret because they involve a lot of symbols. But in the second Warriors book, Tigerstar, the antagonist of the first series, literally strolls into his sons' dreams and tries to convince them to betray everyone who trusts them.
I imagine those scenes looking pretty much exactly like this, featuring a somewhat-bigger feline supervillain.
The weird bit? Tigerstar bit the dust several books ago. (Wikipedia describes him as "an evil cat who is dead," which is 100% on the mark, if a little blunt.)
6. Cats Make Advanced Medicines Despite No Opposable Thumbs
You know how each clan has a medicine cat? These mystical felines are not only in charge of interpreting omens from the aforementioned ancestors, they also tend to any sick or injured members of the clan. This involves using herbs and leaves to make poultices or infusions or whatnot. That's cool and all, but it raises a question: how the dickens does a cat mash up herbs to make a poultice, then apply it to another cat's wounds, all without opposable thumbs? In several instances, the medicine cat binds an injured warrior's broken bones with sticks and cobwebs. How do the medicine cats do this?
I just have a lot of questions, guys. A lot of questions.
Images: Wikimedia Commons; Giphy (5)