[Mapleshade in a fighting stance on an orange background]

A Defense of Mapleshade by Twilightfall

Twilightfall defends Mapleshade.

Art by XemiDraws

Unlike the infamous Ashfur, Mapleshade’s fate in the dark forest is far less contested. Due to her leading role in the Dark Forest, her outright cruelty to Crookedstar, and killing of Spottedleaf, she tends to be a rather unpopular character, typically only appreciated for her villany. But cats are judged on how they lived, not their actions after death. And while she was alive, just like Ashfur, Mapleshade’s only true crime was loving too much.
In the novella Mapleshade’s Vengeance, Mapleshade is banished from Thunderclan due to bearing a Riverclan tom’s kits. She attempts to take them across the river to their father’s clan, but all three die while crossing and Appledusk blames her. She then takes vengeance against the cats who she believes caused their death before dying and going to the place of no stars. Yet with careful examination, Mapleshade is sentenced to the Dark Forest for crimes other cats have been excused of.
The key thing to fully understanding Mapleshade’s actions in the novella is that she is clearly mentally unstable during most of the titualar “Vengeance.” Before meeting Appledusk, most descriptions of Mapleshade emphasize her loyalty an potential to become deputy and perhaps even leader. In fact, in the Warrior Cats Ultimate Guide, Unlike Thistleclaw, Hawkfrost, or Tigerstar, her motivations don’t lie in ambition or power; instead, all she wants is to stop the crying of her dead kits. She regularly hallucinates her dead kits, and seems to genuinely believe she is being told to take revenge by Starclan, literally thinking at one point: “StarClan, why are you doing this to me? I fell in love, that’s all! And now I am made to suffer more than any cat has before.” At the end of the novella, she still has this lack of stability, believing that the Place of No Stars is for cats who have suffered as much as her, which really doesn’t place Starclan in a positive light if that’s the case.
The first murder Mapleshade commits in the novella is that of Ravenwing, who outed her kits as half clan and caused them to be banished, resulting in their death. While this may seem unforgiveable and a certain sentence to the place of no stars, this is really no different from Hollyleaf’s murder of Ashfur. Compare the two scenes:
Hating his power more than he ever had before, he had reached out to his sister’s memories. She was stalking Ashfur along the WindClan border stream, treading lightly, avoiding boulders where her claws might scrape or ferns that would brush against her fur. Ashfur, intent on hunting, never noticed she was there. Hollyleaf followed him like a shadow until they came to a place where the bank was steep and slippery, and the stream was a foaming snake far slippery, and the stream was a foaming snake far below. She pounced on him from a rock, gripping his shoulders with her forepaws and twisting her head around to sink her teeth into his throat. Inside the red mist that clouded her senses, Ashfur was nothing but prey, something that had to be killed to protect the warrior code and the future of her Clan.
Mapleshade froze, convinced that her heart was thudding loud enough for the medicine cat to hear. But after a moment Ravenwing carried on, his paw steps the softest whisper in the silence. Faint gray light appeared ahead, silhouetting the medicine cat’s ears. The Moonstone! Mapleshade realized she had dropped into the hunting crouch and was stalking forward once step at a time, her tail flattened behind her. She reached the opening to the cave and almost gasped out loud at the sight of the Moonstone glittering in the silver light. Ravenwing knelt in front of it, his head bowed. With a hiss, Mapleshade sprang forward, claws extended. She landed on his back, sending him rolling onto the smooth cold stone. She caught a glimpse of his eyes, bright in the reflected moonlight. “Mapleshade!” Ravenwing choked. “What are you doing here?” Mapleshade let her claws sink into the fur around his throat. “Avenging the death of my kits,” she snarled. “If I could kill you three times over, I would!” She knew she had nothing to say to the medicine cat. Nothing would bring back her kits. He simply did not deserve to live.
These scenes really aren’t fundamentally different. If anything, Mapleshade is far more justified due to Ravenwing already telling her secret and causing the death of three cats while Ashfur merely threatened to. In addition, Hollyleaf is fully aware of her actions and their weight, often questioning what Starclan thinks of her. In contrast, Mapleshade actually believes that Starclan is telling her to murder him. This can also be applied to Mapleshade’s action of blinding the warrior Frecklewish for doing nothing while her kits drowned. Frecklewish did break the warrior code, and if Hollyleaf can get away with murder on the virtue of Ashfur being a scumbag, it’s not really far to judge Mapleshade, as stated before, a very unstable cat, for the act of blinding someone.
While Mapleshade’s murder of Appledusk may seem unjustifiable, other cats have gone to starclan despite committing or attempting to commit similar crimes. Take, for example, the scene where Hollyleaf (A current member of Starclan) attempts to kill Leafpool by feeding her deathberries for lying to her and breaking the warrior code.
“See those deathberries? You’re going to eat them—or I’ll make you!” “What?” Leafpool sounded bewildered. “Eat them! You deserve to die.” Hollyleaf crouched, ready to spring, when the medicine cat made no move toward the deadly berries. “I’ve killed once,” she snarled. “And I can do it again.”
“Hollyleaf,” Leafpool meowed. “I have lost my kits, the one cat I loved, and my calling as a medicine cat. Which do you think would be easier for me, to die or to go on living?
There was only one answer to that question. Silently Hollyleaf stood aside, and Leafpool padded past her and out of the den.
Hollyleaf clearly does not spare Leafpool for any moral reason in this scene. She literally keeps her alive because she will suffer more having to live with the consequences of her actions then dying. (This is quite similar to Mapleshade’s treatment of Crookedstar, in fact.) The same goes for Ashfur, who knew fully well that having her world torn apart would hurt Squirrelflight far more than her death. Given that both of these characters fully considered killing to punish for honestly far less serious actions and only decided against it only to hurt their victim more and went to Starclan, Mapleshade’s actions against Appledusk seem far less terrible. Ashfur also seemed to be perfectly willing to kill Hollyleaf, Jayfeather, and Lionblaze because Squirrelflight wouldn’t date him. Appledusk legitimately caused harm to Mapleshade, and is implied to have lead her on in some ways, due to Reedshine being heavily pregnant relatively soon after Mapleshade kitted.
(And just a side note, if you think that Mapleshade should be in the Dark Forest due to having kits with a Riverclan tom and causing them to die with reckless behavior, I’d like to introduce you to a little cat called Bluestar)
In conclusion, in life, Mapleshade wasn’t really much worse than several Starclan cats, yet was still banished to the Dark Forest. When Mapleshade’s actions are closely studied, she appears to be less of a cunning mastermind and more of a lonely, unstable cat who could never be satisfied until every cat had felt the same pain she had. If she had lived longer, perhaps she might have reformed like Hollyleaf, but her life was cut off, leaving her in the Place of No Stars with a firm belief her destiny was to place her suffering upon others. Mapleshade was put down a path of tragedy as soon as she became mates with Appledusk. Perhaps if she had chosen a Thunderclan mate, she might have been a great warrior of Thunderclan rather than an angry force of vengeance.

Fan Articles

37 comments

  • While I admire you defending a seemingly chaotic evil DF cat, there’s one thing that can shut the argument down:
    You quoted this yourself: “Nothing would bring back her kits.” If that was the case, why would she kill those cats if she knew that to be the truth? I can answer that with absolute certainty and with one of the themes of the book: Revenge.
    Mapleshade is furious about Appledusk sending her away and while it would make sense to kill Ravenwing and maybe even Frecklewish, Appledusk played no role in her kits’ demise. In fact, he conceived them and did not personally wrong them in any way. So why would it be Patchkit who was crying because of Appledusk? The answer is because even though Mapleshade suffered from schizophrenia doesn’t mean she should kill other cats, nor did her kits explicitly say that she had to kill those specific cats to free them from their pain. These are the vengeful thoughts of Mapleshade alone, and it’s ultimately her decision to murder those cats.
    Your comparison to Hollyleaf doesn’t add up in he way that Mapleshade did nothing to redeem herself in service of her clan as Hollyleaf did.
    Great job on that article though, this was one I had not expected to surface. 🙂

  • Mapleshade still isn’t in the right and reminds me of the gif; cool motive, still murder. Like Appledusk and the others might have been terrible and shouldn’t have acted the way they did, but Mapleshade shouldn’t have killed them. It’s still morally wrong even if she had a reason to.

  • Great aricle! I agree with your points, and after thinking about it, I don’t think that Mapleshade should go to StarClan, but rather Hollyleaf should go to the Dark Forest!

    • Lemme rephrase something (and I’m not trying to be mean)
      Mapleshade stopped being nice when she started killing cats.
      Hollyleaf made up for what she did to Ashfur by being loyal and helpful to her clan.
      Mapleshade didn’t.
      That is why Hollyleaf is in StarClan and Mapleshade isn’t.

  • Thank you!
    This article is amazing, well researched and even having direct quotes from the books!
    Mapleshade didn’t deserve what she got. All she wanted was to have the cries of her dead children cease!

  • This is a great article! But the Dark Forest exists as a way to punish cats. I understand cats must be forgiven, but if you murder three cats then you deserve to go there. Everyone is evil for a reason, and just because Mapleshade had a reason to be evil doesn’t mean that she didn’t deserve the Dark Forest. I personally love Hollyleaf, but I think she would have gone to the Dark Forest if she hadn’t of sacrificed herself for Ivypool in the end.

    • I feel like if they want to forgive cats for bad deeds, they should at least make it consistent. Ashfur should be in the Dark Forest and Hollyleaf basically saved the clan from a psycho who could’ve killed them all. But Hollyleaf has to “prove herself” to starclan by dying, even when she did so many other great things. Ashfur did nothing to deserve his place and didn’t have to prove himself.

    • Even without sacrificing herself, Hollyleaf probably wouldn’t have gone to the DF because (let’s assume she died here) she fought against them. If she didn’t die, she’d probably prove herself in more ways and end up redeeming herself further.

    • Keep in mind she was hallucinating her dead kits, she could physically hear them beg for vengeance.
      If insanity is cause for mercy in the real world, it must be taken in consideration for this too.
      I know a guy, he’s married to a close friend of mine, who has psychosis. He literally hears voices, and gets into delusional states of mind, and when he’s in that state, he has become violent.
      He’s gone to jail for it, but kept in a medical ward.
      Because it’s not his fault really, it’s his sickness
      Doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it’s a reason to show mercy

  • I agree! Anyways, I think that if Ashfur deserves StarClan, Mapleshade does too. In addition, she loved HER KITS too much. Very understandable, unlike Ashfur’s crazy girlfriend chase.

  • Great article. Although I love Mapleshade, I don’t think I agree with you. She knew perfectly well what she was doing when she killed Ravenshine and Appledusk, unlike Hollyleaf to Ashfur. Hollyleaf felt like she was protecting her clan by killing him so he wouldn’t say anything at the gathering. But still, it was interesting to read your opinion. 😀

    • I think her point was that Hollyleaf tried to make Leafpool kill herself at the end of the book, and that’s something that’s hard to argue with, but Leafpool somehow seems it be okay with that… soooo

  • I like Mapleshade, and I get why she murdered 3 cats, I think she would go to the “Starforest” 😛 (the middle of Starclan and DF)
    Nice article

Latest Art

More BlogClan Art