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Literature / The Tygrine Cat

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A sedicia is a wildflower, a banished flower. Where no water seems to flow, under the darkness of rocks, almost without air, it grows... It wills itself to be, and so it is.

Two Low Fantasy Xenofiction books by Inbali Iserles, (a.k.a. one of the Erin Hunters). It's about cats, but has much more of a focus on supernatural elements than the Warriors series.

At the beginning of time, Te Bubas, the first cat ever created, realized she was alone and cried two tears as she wished for children. From each tear, a kitten appeared: a gray spotted one embodying her killer's instincts, and a russet-furred one embodying her insightful nature. The descendants of these two are the Sa Mau and Abyssinia Tygrine dynasties, who have been at war since ancient times.

The Tygrine Cat is story of a young cat named Mati, newly arrived in Europe as a stowaway on a cargo ship. He tries to fit in with the locals, but it's obvious there's something different about him. Thanks to a forgetting spell cast by his late mother, he doesn't know he's the only surviving Abyssinia Tygrine, sent far away from his home in Egypt in an effort to protect him from the Sa Mau. He is also unaware that, like all Tygrine and Sa, he has Psychic Powers and the ability to enter Fiåney, the mysterious Spirit World, whenever he chooses.

The second book, The Tygrine Cat On The Run, has Mati journeying further into Fiåney, having to protect his friends from a new threat sent by the Sa.

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    Series-wide tropes: 
  • Aerith and Bob: There are ordinary names like Domino and Arabella, more unusual names like Hanratty and Mati, real words that are not usually names like Trillion and Sparrow, and pure fantasy names like Mithos and Etheleldra.
  • Ancient Egypt: Seeing as the Ancient Egyptians are widely believed to have been the first people to domesticate cats, it's unsurprising that they would be of some importance. The Sa Mau palace is in Zagazig, a city near the ruins of Bubastis which was the center of the Bastet cult in ancient times. According to Word of God, humans know Te Bubas as Bastet and Jess's old man has a statue of her.
  • Animal Religion: The Suzerain is usually seen surrounded by ominously chanting priests.
  • Arboreal Abode: Etheleldra lives inside a hollow oak tree.
  • Arc Number: 3. Each book is divided into three parts. There are the Three Pillars (Instinct, Judgment, and Spirit, the philosophies that guide the Tygrine), three Gates of Fiåney, and the Phantom is three spirits merged together.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Cats of exceptionally noble character become Spirits in Fiåney after death.
  • Astral Projection: How one enters Fiåney
  • Badass Normal: Pangur, the Cressida leader, is a formidable individual despite not having any supernatural abilities.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: The Sa Mau represent cats' fighting and hunting abilities, while the Abyssia Tygrine protect the Second Self. It's known that if the Tygrine were wiped out, every single cat's Second Self would cease to exist.
  • Big Good: Mati's mother, before her death.
  • Big Bad: The Suzerain of the Sa Mau, a.k.a. the Cat Lord.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Dogs are "oolfs" and humans are "hinds". "Amma" is the word for "mother".
  • Cat Stereotype:
    • Arabella is a snooty Persian.
    • Domino is a friendly but weak black-and-white .
    • Jess is a kind tortoiseshell.
    • Fink is a mean Siamese.
    • Etheleldra is white and The Mentor.
    • Hanratty is a villainous black cat.
  • Dark Is Evil: Played mostly straight, but the second book introduces Ipanel and Lamet, two sympathetic Sa Mau characters not in total agreement with the Suzerain.
  • The Dragon: Mithos in the first book, and the Phantom in the second.
  • The Dreaded: Great Spirit Alia. Everyone, including the Suzerain, seems to be terrified of her.
  • Dream Spying: Possible in Fiåney.
  • Fantastic Honorifics: Sparrow teaches Mati the Cressida honorifics, which are quite complex:
    • A high-ranking cat's title is prefaced with the sound "pirrup" (described as a trilling noise), followed by "the courageous" (if one's most notable accomplishment involves fighting) or "the sagacious" (if one's most notable accomplishment involves wisdom or intellect), their rank (Chief, Lord, Lady, etc.), their given name, and then some description (e.g. Defender of the Territory) that denotes their most worthy accomplishment. For instance, Pangur's official title is "pirrup: The Courageous Chief Pangur, Lord of the Realm."
    • Mati is the only known cat to receive both the "courageous" and "sagacious" honorifics.
  • Feuding Families: The Abyssinia Tygrine and Sa Mau dynasties originated from a Cain and Abel dynamic between the two daughters of Te Bubas, the first cat to live on earth. The Tygrine believe that cats can benefit from living alongside humans, while the Sa view this as disgraceful. As a consequence, both sides seek to eradicate each other.
  • Flower Motifs: Sedicia flowers, amber flowers that appear and blossom for a fraction of a second when willpower alone is used to create a miracle. The Sa refer to Mati as "the sedicia," suggesting that someone's capability to transcend reality can be somehow detected. One appeared when life itself was first created, and another appears when Mati kills Mithos just by looking into his eyes.
  • Foil: Mati's mother and the Suzerain. Both are leaders of opposing armies and have No Name Given, but the Tygrine Queen was beloved by her subjects while the Suzerain is a terrifying Bad Boss.
  • Functional Magic: It is known that the Tygrine and Sa can cast spells, often by using incantations.
  • Gainax Ending: Both books are a minor example.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mati's mother allowed the Sa to kill her so Mati could escape.
    • In the second book, Binjax and Pangur both get one to save the Cressida Kin from the Phantom.
  • The High Queen: Mati's mother was beloved and admired by her subjects as both a skilled fighter and a kind, honorable leader.
  • Kid Hero: Mati
  • Last of His Kind: Mati, the last Abyssinia Tygrine cat.
  • MacGuffin Super-Person: Mati, because of his status as the last Abyssinia Tygrine. The Sa Mau want to kill him but everyone who knows him is aware that if he dies, every cat's Second Self will cease to exist.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Alia is an Arabic name meaning "sublime, exalted", which fits her status as a powerful spirit.
    • Lamet is very close to lament.
    • Obelghast is a portmanteau of obelisk and ghast, which calls spirits and Ancient Egypt to mind.
  • Minor Major Character: Mati's mother. Despite being the main character's beloved mother, the last Tygrine queen, and personally known by several others, we don't even know her name.
  • Momma's Boy: Mati desperately misses his mother. Justified in that he's still a child.
  • Monster Progenitor: Though the trope name implies evil, this is the only way to describe Te Bubas, the First Cat. The Tygrine and Sa are the direct descendants of two kittens that came into being from her tears when she wished for children.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Pangur is named after Pangur Bán, a cat owned by a 9th-century Irish monk who is the subject of a famous poem.
  • No Name Given: Mati's mother, the Suzerain, all human characters.
  • Obviously Evil: Mithos and the Suzerain. Mithos smells like rotten eggs and human babies start crying when he passes by, while the Suzerain is a Dark Lord with Black Eyes of Evil.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Etheleldra and her oak are an apparition. She spent so much time in Fiåney that her physical body faded away.
  • Our Souls Are Different: The body is known as the First Self and belongs to the everyday world. The Second Self is a cat's spirit or consciousness, which can enter Fiåney. Damage to the Second Self affects the First Self, but not the other way around.
  • Our Spirits Are Different: Cats of "exceptionally noble character" become spirits that wander Fiåney after death, at the cost of forgetting their past lives. According to Lamet, most spirits cannot even tell if they used to be a Tygrine or Sa but they can choose who to assist. It's also known that there is some sort of hierarchy, but it's never elaborated on.
  • Posthumous Character: Mati's mother dies in the prologue, but her son continues to search for her and others frequently talk about her.
  • Precursors: Te Bubas repeatedly mentions "the Creators." All that's known is that they created the Earth.
  • Prophet Eyes: Etheleldra.
  • Psychic Powers: Mati has the power to sense events that happened recently in the past or are currently occurring, and can also understand human speech despite never having lived near people. He is also capable of Astral Projection into Fiåney.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Inverted, and of the one-way variety— some cats can understand human speech, but it doesn't work the other way around.
  • Spirit Advisor: Alia for the Suzerain, Bayo for Mati, and Obelghast for Lamet.
  • Spirit World: Fiåney, also known as the Dream-Wake, is described as "the maze between wakefulness and sleep." It seems to be a dimension consisting of the collective memories of all cats, and like a Dream Land has no real concrete structure. The ability to enter and traverse it at will seems to be limited to spirits, shalians, and those descended from the Tygrine or Sa, but all cats pass through when falling asleep. It is known that one can become permanently lost or injured here.
  • Stray Animal Story: Feral cats with their own cultures and histories.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Te Bubas and all of the Abyssinia Tygrine.
  • Supervillain Lair: The Sa Mau palace under Zagazig
  • Talking Is a Free Action
  • This Is My Human: Being a housecat is called "owning" (as in owning a human). It's actually viewed as a business deal in which the human provides food and shelter in exchange for a cat's protection and companionship.
  • Words Do Not Make The Magic: Upon trying to access Fiåney on his own for the first time, Mati realizes he's forgotten Etheleldra's chant. However, Sparrow's mealtime song about "mackerel, mackerel, smoked and sweet" is enough to work. He disregards using chants from then on.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Cressida Lock. Since it's clearly in an English-speaking country and Pangur and Hanratty have Irish names, one might guess it's in Ireland.
  • Xenofictional Literature

    The Tygrine Cat provides examples of: 
  • All of the Other Reindeer: The Cressida Kin generally disapproves of Mati for his odd appearance and lack of knowledge of their customs, until he saves them from Mithos.
  • Cain and Abel: Pangur and Hanratty, twin brothers and leaders of rival Kins around Cressida Lock.
  • Dramatic Irony: Used heavily, to suspenseful effect
  • Empty Shell: What every cat would become if Mati were killed, since the Tygrine represent the soul.
  • Evil Smells Bad: Mithos smells like rotten eggs.
  • Fantastic Racism: Arabella displays a little of this.
    "Are you sure he's one of ours? I mean, he looks rather... African wildcat, if you know what I mean."
  • From Bad to Worse: Mati sees the apparition of his mother across the road. He runs towards her... and is hit by a car. He falls into a coma and is taken to an animal shelter of some sort by the car's occupants. The veterinarian there makes plans to euthanize him as she is doubtful he will ever wake up.
  • Heart Beatdown: Mati destroys Mithos by realizing who he truly is, releasing his inner sedicia.
  • Jerkass: Binjax is generally rude to Mati, and even when Mati saves his life, he shows no concern when Jess reports that Mati has been hit by a car.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Mati suffers from this, remembering only vague snippets of his childhood. Justified, as his mother performed a forgetting spell on him to help him hide from the Sa. It doesn't help him.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Mithos the Destroyer
  • Quest for Identity: Somewhat of one for Mati.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: When Te Bubas shows Mati the creation of life from an empty desert.

    The Tygrine Cat on the Run provides examples of: 
  • Body Horror: The Phantom is essentially three cats clumsily merged into one huge, obviously unnatural one with three tails and six eyes.
  • Commanding Coolness: The Suzerain meets with the various commanders in his army, and Lurian introduces himself as Commander in Chief of the Army of the Abyssinia Tygrine.
  • Elemental Plane: The three realms at the heart of Fiåney: the Harakar, which contains Primordial Chaos and represents the virtue of Instinct; Sienta, residing place of Te Bubas and the desert where life was first created, which represents the virtue of Judgment; and Ra'ha, the equivalent of Heaven, which represents the virtue of Spirit.
  • Foreshadowing: Sparrow's "tale of the happy tuna," in which a tuna is lost, halfway around the world away from the warm place he used to live. He almost dies but by sheer luck, he ends up on a ship that takes him back to his home. Replace "tuna" with "Mati" and you have the basic plot of the book.
  • Heaven: Ra'ha, the realm behind the Third Gate. It's an endless field of flowers where it's always summer.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Said by Lurian after Mati returns from the abyss— "No one has ever fallen through it and returned."
  • Primordial Chaos: The Harakar, the realm behind First Gate, is a dark fiery place reminiscent of Hell, but is simply the place where the chaos is contained for eternity. Dark Is Not Evil.
  • Racial Remnant: Mati is the last pureblood Tygrine, but there are others of mixed blood living in the territory of their ancestors.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: Mati goes through the Harakar to attack the hawks stealing Pritin's children in the physical realm.
  • Sequel Hook: The Suzerain repeatedly mentions that he is planning a Final Battle. There is also the matter of Lamet, who is introduced in a manner that makes her seem significant in some way. Where the Cressida Kin will live after leaving Cressida Lock is not resolved either.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Phantom was once three Tygrine kittens who became lost in Fiåney. Their bodies perished, trapping them there for eternity. The Suzerain told them that if they kill Mati, he will reunite them with their mother.