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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....

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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 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, Sresla, 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.

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Tailchaser's Song provide examples of:

  • Animal Naming Conventions:
    • It's implied that animals reject the names given to them by their owners. The few pets seen don't refer to themselves by any standard pet names.
    • Cats have three names: their "heart" name given to them by their mother that only those very close to them may use, their "face" name that is given in a Naming Ceremony and is what they're normally referred to, and their "tail" name which is something they must figure out and are never supposed to mention to anyone. Examples of names include (Fritti) Tailchaser, Pouncequick, Thinbone, and Quiverclaw. A cat's heart name comes from the ancient cat language while their face name comes from the language all animals use.
    • Squirrels refer to each other with titles. Lord Pop, Mistress Whir, Master Fizz, Lord Snap, etc.
    • Dogs use names with hyphens like "Huff-so-Gruff" and "Bite-then-Bark".
  • Animal Talk: There are two languages—Common Singing and Higher Singing. Common Singing is the generalized language that's use cross-species while Higher Singing is the tongue only known amongst the species itself. It's mentioned that cat's Singing is heavy on body language, meaning even a mute cat can largely be "talked" to.
  • Beneath the Earth: Grizraz's fortress lies entirely beneath the ground.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Prince Fencewalker.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The book uses both Conlang and this (presumably with the latter being due to Translation Convention). Some of the terms are used alongside their English equivalents as well:
    • Afternoon is "(Hour of) Stretching Sun", early evening is "(Hour of) Unfolding Dark", evening is "(Hour of) Deepest Quiet", and early morning is "(Hour of) Final Dancing". Summer is "Hour of the Smaller Shadows". A month is an "Eye", and the moon cycles are referred to as the eye "shutting" and "opening".
    • Animals are referred to both by their human names and by cat names. Dogs are "Growlers" while rodent and rodent-like animals such as mice and squirrels are collectively known as "Squeakers". Humans are referred to as the "Big Ones". Cats refer to themselves as "the Folk" and adult cats are called "hunters". There are also Conlang terms for animals such as "m'an" for humans, "rikchikchik" for squirrels, "ruhue" for owls, "fla-fa'az" for birds in general, and "visl" for foxes.
    • The moon is referred to as "Meerclar's Eye" and as a result the equivalent of "tomorrow night" is "eye-next". Meerlar Allmother is the creator god of cats. Eclipses are referred to as "Blind Night". The planet is the "World-Forest" and the ocean is "Big Water".
    • Cats refer to becoming monogamous mates, the equivalent of marriage, as "Joining".
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Eatbugs.
  • Conlang: Cats and some other animals are shown to have their own languages. The book includes a glossary.
  • 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.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • Tailchaser: Tailcatcher (Italian), Tailhunter (Dutch), Dreamhunter (German), Whiptracker (French), and Hunter (Polish).
    • Hushpad: Fleecepaw (Italian), Quietpaw (Dutch), Goldpaw (German), Velvetpaw (French), Silent Paw (Polish), and Soft Paw (Spanish).
  • 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.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Thinbone mocks Tailchaser's commitment towardss Hushpaw he says "I think I see your fur falling out already! And your tail is going limp!"
  • 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, and its briefly-mentioned parent Venris. And arguably the Fikos.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the final portion of the book, several characters sacrifice themselves in a fight against the Fikos.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs:
    • Cats say "Your Furriness", not "Your Highness". "Regal Softness" is also used.
    • At one point Tailchaser says he's "made a m'an of myself", not "made an ass of myself", using humans as an equivalent to asses.
  • 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 . Tailchaser originally feared all humans until he was saved by one. Afterwards he came to the conclusion that the Big Ones, just like cats, had varying dispositions from individual to individual.
  • Humans Are Not the Dominant Species: According to the domestic cat Creation Myth, cats were the first animal and everything else came second. The world was predominantly ruled by cats. Humans came to be when a demi-god cat deformed a prince as a punishment and forced his species to become servants to cats. Humans are now the dominant species, and cats do realize their power, however most are still under the impression that humans work for them.
  • 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:
    • Cats and dogs hate each other because a cat once tricked a dog king. Dogs have never been able to forgive cats from that embarrassment.
    • Humans were created when a cocky prince made fun of an old cat who was actually Firefoot in disguise. His tail and fur were torn out and he was deformed into a human. Firefoot cursed his descendants so that they must serve cats.
    • Meercat Allmother created the sun from a spark in order to warm her and brighten the world. She threw it into the sky after animals started becoming lazy because they liked its heat too much.
    • Cats Hate Water because Firefoot tricked a shark into taking him across the ocean, only to get it stuck on water and eat it. It's also explained this is why cats only eat fish they can acquire without getting too wet.
  • Kid Sidekick: The kitten Pouncequick to Tailchaser.
  • 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 when 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.
    • Clawguard and the rest of Hearteater's minions have these types of names. "Longtooth", "Scratchnail", "Bitefast", "Snoutscar", etc.
  • Naming Ceremony: Cats are given their face names at three months old in a ceremony.
  • Night and Day Duo: Dayhunter and Nightcatcher. They're identical twin brothers with contrasting personalities. Dayhunter is very chatty and extroverted, while his mute brother Nightcatcher is more aloof and serious.
  • Oh My Gods!:
    • There's a great many used throughout the novel. In general, "Harah" is exclaimed often. Others include: "Skydancer's/Blueback's/Fela's Whiskers!", "By the Tails of the First Born", "Harah knows", "For the love of Whitewind", "Tails and nails", "declaws", "teats on a tom", "Blueback's Hindbristles", "Skydancer's Ears and Tears", "Heavenly Viror", and "Dugs of the Allmother". Most of these refer to famous kings, queens, or mythical cats, rather than the creator god Meercat Allmother.
    • One of Hearteater's minions exclaims "By the Blood-light".
    • Amusingly, Lord Firefoot (one of the first cats created) uses "By my mother".
  • Pals with Jesus: Eatbugs was Lord Tangaloor Firefoot all along. Slightly subverted in that he really was insane at the time.
  • Pardon My Klingon:
    • "Mouse-gummer" and "squeaker-friend" are a few of the cat insults used.
    • Clawguard hate sunlight and use sun-related insults like "Sun sizzle you" (instead of "goddamn you").
    • "Me'mre" roughly translates to "droppings" and gets used by characters as "shit".
  • Pets Versus Strays: It's only lightly touched upon but there seems to be a point of contention about cats who live away from humans and cats who prefer to be taken care of by m'an. It's never clarified if cats like Hushpad who live amongst humans see them as simple servants or if they care for them on a deeper level. At most, Hushpad seems to tolerate her owner and uses him for food.
  • Power Trio: Tailchaser, Pouncequick, and Roofshadow.
  • Predator-Prey Friendship: Subverted. Tailchaser attempts this with squirrels but ultimately realizes how unnatural it is.
  • 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:
  • Stray Animal Story: A Trope Codifier that has inspired numerous other xenofiction books, Tailchaser's Song is about the lives of various feral cats.
  • Talkative Loon: Eatbugs.
  • Translation Convention: The books translate the Conlang of the animals into something humans can understand.
  • 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.

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