Tybert the Cat castrates the village priest in a 15th-century woodcut

The illustration comes from The History of Reynard the Fox. In this 15th century woodcut, we see Tybert the Cat castrating a village priest. Incidentally, “Tybert” is spelled in two other ways, namely ‘Tibert’ and ‘Tybalt’. Unusually, there is absolutely nothing on the Internet which would explain why Tybert the Cat castrated a village priest in the 15th (or earlier) century!

Please click on the link below to see this illustration of Tybert the Cat castrating a village priest. The illustration has to be on a page where there are no adverts. This is because it is a little bit gruesome 😕 and some advertisers won’t like it. Sorry about that but you will remain on this page so you can get back to it by clicking on the tab or the back button on a smartphone.

Tybert the Cat castrates a village priest in a 15th-century woodcut illustrating The History of Reynard the Fox

Reynard the Fox is a “beast epic” in the words of Katharine M Rogers in her book “Cat”. She tells me that it was ‘written down’ in 1250. It portrays a ruthless world in which the ruling class are the large predators and the peasants are the small predators. The relatively weak small predators had to survive on their wits. Tybert the Cat is cunning, but second in cunning to Reynard the Fox himself.

The cat has to have guile as a useful ‘resource’ for the small predator who deserves sympathy. Reynard the Fox is a mediaeval fable. Fables are stories in which animals are anthropomorphized i.e. humanized to tell a story about morality. Reynard came up against Tybert the Cat and caused trouble for other animals.

RELATED: Effects of Castrating a Cat (and a man)

Tybert is also called the ‘Prince of Cats’. He is a secondary character to Reynard in the fables. Apparently, he is often mocked and tricked by Reynard and gets up to some strange adventures.

I’ve not read the book as you can imagine. I’m trying to work out why Tybert the Cat is castrating a village priest! I would like someone to explain in a comment, please.

It’s almost impossible to work it out without knowing more. Perhaps I might suggest something from a modern 21st-century perspective. The human is the top predator on the planet. The cat is a small predator, as explained, and demands sympathy. The human has persecuted the domestic and feral cat and still does in many places and under some cultures. Think Aussies for instance! Click this to read a recent article.

Arguably the human is procreating too quickly – David Attenborough has called humankind a disease. In ever greater numbers and therefore in ever greater activity humankind is destroying the planet through climate change a.k.a global warming.

The human is also destroying the habitats of wild animals in many other ways. In the woodcut, the cat is symbolically stopping humankind procreating in order to save the planet and himself 🙂 .

It’s an amusing idea because I have taken a 15th-century illustration and made it relevant to the 21st-century.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Sly and underhand cat immortalized in a bas relief at Mahabalipuram, India

In a famous Indian fable in the Panchatantra, an ancient collection of animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose from 200 BCE-300CE, the domestic cat is portrayed as sly, underhand and hypocritical. The fable which I describe below is immortalised in a famous bas relief at Mahabalipuram in southeastern India, on the coast.

The cat in the bas relief stands on his hind legs with arms extended towards heaven, in a parody of the posture of a pious ascetic (disciplined, religious person). The cat is an imitation of a holy man with plump mice to his right.

Arjuna’s Penance: 7th-8th century Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, India
Arjuna’s Penance: 7th-8th century Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo in public domain.

The fable

A partridge and a hare go to consult with a neighbouring cat. The cat lives as a hermit with an excellent reputation for holiness and compassion.

When they approach him, the cat sanctimoniously recites sayings about the importance of righteousness and the evil of harming other creatures including humans.

They trust the cat and beg him to settle a dispute between them. The cat responds by asking them to come closer as he is old and has poor hearing. He wants to fully understand their story.

They come closer. When near him, he pounces and kills them.

The story is told all over India according to Katharine M Rogers in her book ‘Cat’. And, as mentioned, it is figuratively carved into rock as a bas relief in Mahabalipuram.

I wonder if this ancient story, an animal fable, has had any impact on the relationship between Indians living in India over about 2,000 years? The bas relief was constructed in 7th-8th century and is called the ‘Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna’s Penance’. It is in Tamil Nadu, India.

The fable certainly does not do the domestic cat any favours. It adds to the already dubious reputation in many developing countries of being the harbinger of evil, a superstition harking back to the Middle Ages.

Notes (and below are some more pages on India and cats): (1) Fable: a short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral, and (2) Bas relief: a sculptural relief into limestone on this occasion (believed) in which the projection from the surrounding surface is slight.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

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