Literature / Tailchaser's Song

Tailchaser's Song is a Fantasy novel written by Tad Williams and published in 1985. The story follows several feral cat communities, united in their beliefs and by their service to the Queen of Cats residing at Firsthome, the ancestral birthplace of Catkind.

The cats of the novel have their own mythology: they believe that everything was created by a feline god called Meerclar Allmother. The world was originally populated with cats, children of the Two: Harar Goldeneye and Fela Skydancer. Notable among the children of the Two are the three firstborn: Viror Whitewind, Grizraz Hearteater, and Tangaloor Firefoot. Driven by his jealousy of his siblings, Grizraz creates a demon hound to kill everyone. Whitewind succeeds in stopping it, but dies in the process; later, Tangaloor traps Grizaz beneath a tree. Grizaz, after being trapped underground for a while, is blinded by the sun, and digs a hole into the Earth, where it is said he still remains....

Fast forward, and we meet Fritti Tailchaser, a tomcat in the Meeting Wall Clan. His family mysteriously disappeared some time ago, and he was left with no one but his friend, Hushpad. Later, she disappears too. As it happens, quite a few cats have been disappearing, and the Clan Elders send an envoy to Firsthome to ask the Queen for help. Tailchaser is not selected, so he sets out on his own with his lovable friend Pouncequick. Other members of Tailchaser's fellowship are a crazy cat named Eatbugs and Firsa Roofshadow, a sole survivor of a cat massacre.

Tailchaser's Song also has its own brand of T. S. Eliot-inspired honorifics. They are born with their "heart name" (equivalent to the Japanese first name—such as Fritti, Tangaloor, Firsa, etc.) that only family, close friends and lovers can use. They are appointed a "face name" at an old enough age (equivalent to the Japanese last name—Tailchaser, Roofshadow, Pouncequick, etc.) which is their commonly used name. They have to discover their third and most special name, their "tail name," by themselves.

Tropes evident in this work include:

  • Beneath the Earth: Grizraz's fortress lies entirely beneath the ground.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Prince Fencewalker.
  • Bokukko: Roofshadow.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Eatbugs.
  • Creation Myth: "In the Hour before time began, Meerclar Allmother came out of the darkness to the cold earth. She was black, and as furry as all the world come together to be fur. Meerclar banished the eternal night, and brought forth the Two."
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Fritti finds Hushpad living a plump, comfortable (and, it's implied, spayed) life with humans. He leaves her to return to the cats who still live free.
  • Driven by Envy: Grizraz was jealous enough of his siblings' talents to summon a demon-hound in response.
  • Dynamic Entry: Quiverclaw and the Firstwalkers first "greet" Tailchaser and Pounce by ambushing and kidnapping them.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Roofshadow returned from a walk one morning to find her entire clan either missing or dead.
  • Fantastic Light Source: Cats have extremely good night vision; this is depicted in the story as the earth and rocks of the caves appearing to glow.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: One composed entirely of cat deities, including a primordial creator, the Two, progenitors of mortal cats, and the three Firstborn, who take a more direct role in the story—one of them is the Big Bad. Interestingly, none of these gods seem to embody concepts like “traditional” gods do.
  • Fictionary: The Higher Singing of the cats.
  • The Film of the Book: Upcoming.
  • Grim Up North: To the north of the cat lands lie the vast Ratleaf forest, unknown human lands where Hushpad was taken to, and of course the Big Bad and his minions' little hell-on-Earth fortress.
  • Hellhound: The demon-hound, Ptomalkum, its briefly-mentioned parent, Venris, and arguably the Fikos.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: “M’an” are not portrayed as inherently alien and unknowable, but are still unpredictable, wholly outside the usual worldview of the feral cats, and generally dangerous to be around—cats who linger too much around them can become… changed note .
  • I Will Find You: Tailchaser to Hushpad
  • "Just So" Story: the cats have a range of stories to explain various aspects of the world around them, including human beings.
  • Kitten Sidekick: Pouncequick
  • Living Legend: Grizraz Hearteater and Lord Tangaloor Firefoot are both Shrouded in Myth, Crystal Dragon Jesus, Physical Gods. Tailchaser, by virtue of his adventures and Touched by Vorlons status, is as much a legendary hero as cats can have.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Vastnir collapses on itself on Grizraz Hearteater dies.
  • The Lost Woods: The Ratleaf forest, a vast and mostly unexplored forest north of cat lands. Dark, foreboding, distressingly close to the Big Bad's fortress and even home to a Barbarian Tribe of squirrels.
  • Meaningful Name: Every cat has one as their face name.
  • Mooks: The Clawguards are mook-ier than the Toothguard or the Boneguard, although they are still incredibly dangerous and violent.
  • Mythopoeia: The cats have a fairly complex mythology detailing how the world came to be and was shaped by the actions of various gods, presented under the form of oral traditions.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Grizraz Hearteater. Justified in that the second, descriptive name of a cat is given to them after they have grown old enough for their personality to become evident, and one imagines the cats would also project this onto their mythic figures.
  • Pals with Jesus: Eatbugs was Lord Tangaloor Firefoot all along. Slightly subverted in that he really was insane at the time.
  • Power Trio: Tailchaser, Pouncequick, and Roofshadow
  • Proper Lady: Hushpad seems to be the cat version of this.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Fencewalker. If only the same could be said for his parents.
  • Shout-Out: To Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (feline naming conventions) and The Elric Saga (the cat goddess is named "Meerclar").
  • Spiritual Ancestor: To Warrior Cats.
  • Talkative Loon: Eatbugs
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Eatbugs is Lord Tangaloor Firefoot with amnesia.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: In one myth, Firefoot is allured by a beautiful cat who turns out to be a neutered tom (such a thing was unheard of at the time).
  • Warrior Prince: Prince Fencewalker
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Pouncequick, after his ordeal in the mound and his time with Whitewind.
  • Xenofiction: The book is told from the point of view of feral cats, and does a fair job of portraying the point of view of beings who rely on smell as much as on sight, and don’t fully understand humans.

Alternative Title(s): Tailchasers Song