Animal Folklore: The Cat Who Walks Alone

For this collection, I wanted to also add in some of my own favorite folktales that were read to me as a child. The first is a story written by Rudyard Kipling in his Just So Stories, a collection of folktales meant to be read aloud by parents to their children. My favorite of these stories, “The Cat That Walked by Himself” is a folktale describing the reason cats have never been truly domesticated like other animals, including dogs and horses. The story opens describing the early age of man, before humanity had domesticated animals. It then describes the process of domesticating animals like the dog, cow, and horse. The man’s wife tried to domesticate the cat, but the cat refused, claiming “I am not a friend, and I am not a servant. I am the cat who walks by himself.” He wants the benefits of free food and shelter but refuses to live under the domination of the woman and the man. Instead, he attacks their young child and is driven out by the man and the other animals, who vow to hate him and chase him always. It is meant to explain the solitary nature of cats and how they often do not get along with other animals or their human masters.

As the author of major children’s stories like The Jungle Book, Kipling has a very animated style of writing that really is expressed when read aloud. He starts the story with “hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O best beloved.” The phrases were very nostalgic. In fact, my mother had adopted that as my childhood nickname—Best Beloved. I had my mother read a part of the story to me over the phone and it felt like I was transported back into my childhood. Although I could not see her facial expressions or hand gestures, she had read the story to me so many times I could still picture them vividly in my head. Moreover, her enunciations of the words were spot on with my memory, which helped me better with the visualization of the performance she was expressing on the other end of the phone line.