Creekdapple shares their opinion on Tigerheart’s Shadow. Spoilers for the aforementioned SE and AVOS!
The title of this article may have been somewhat misleading, so first off, I just want to say that I don’t dislike Tigerheart’s Shadow; in fact, despite its many typos and somewhat odd premise, it’s actually one of my favorite books.
What really stands out about it for me is the introduction of the guardian cats, and that’s what I’m going to be talking about.
When the guardian cats are first introduced, Tigerheart is confronted by Fierce, Cobweb, and Ant, who are understandably wary of him. When he tells them why he came, they let him in to their shelter to be with Dovewing. We soon learn about the guardian cats’ social structure and group dynamic, different from the Clans, different from any other group of cats we’ve known so far.
Due to living essentially in a post-scarcity environment, with enough easily-accessible resources for all the city cats to share, the guardian cats have no formal territory, and no need for borders or resource disputes. There’s no one cat in charge, and though some cats tend to mostly be scavengers and others tend to be healers, there is no formal hierarchy, even a relatively egalitarian one like there is in the Clans, with each cat instead caring for one another as equals, based on their skills and abilities. Even Tigerheart eventually acknowledges that they lived by the spirit of the warrior code, though without the divisions that the code imposes.
I was captivated by this new dynamic. I was excited to finally have a group like the guardian cats. And if their ways worked for them, that was awesome. Only… they didn’t. Not with Tigerheart around.
Tigerheart always showed a sort of disdain for the guardian cats, seeing their ways as simple and dishonorable. When I first read the book, I was mentally yelling at Tigerheart to look beyond his Clan-cat prejudices and see the guardian cats for their own unique beauty. But of course, he didn’t, not until it was too late.
And then Fog’s group came and stole scraps from the guardian cat scavenging patrol, and here’s where Tigerheart starts really trying to change the guardian cats, beyond just helping them train to drive foxes out of the herb patch (which, I might add, wasn’t “their territory”, and the only problem they had with foxes living there in the first place is that the healers couldn’t gather herbs safely). Fog and her cats made a hostile move, and I would support the patrol trying to take back their scraps, but in my opinion Tigerheart went too far in trying to tell Fog and her group that they just couldn’t scavenge from the same area where the guardian cats scavenged. He forced the Clan concept of territory onto the cats of the city, whose general rule regarding property was ‘nothing belongs to you unless you’re using it’, though it definitely seemed to have different interpretations within different groups.
Anyway, the conflict is seemingly resolved after that… until Fog comes back with her cats and attempts to hunt the same rats that the guardian cats were trying to hunt, and they either fail miserably or succeed in sabotaging the guardian cats, depending on who you believe.
Then Fog’s group moves in next to the guardian cats. Dovewing and the others argue that they aren’t hurting anyone, and they’re basically right, but of course Tigerheart complains that they’re supposedly trespassing on the guardian cats’ “territory”. When one of Fog’s cats steals food directly from one of the guardian cats’ grip during the market festival thing, that’s the last straw.
Tigerheart, Dovewing, and the guardian cats work with Fog and her group to get their old home back, so it ends up working out well for everyone, right?
Well, how I see it, not really. Tigerheart escalated with Fog’s group to the point where it began to seem necessary for the guardian cats to sacrifice their ways and establish borders. “From now on, this is guardian-cat territory, and we’re ready to defend our borders”, Fierce declares, disregarding the fact that the guardian cats had no borders, that, with all the resources available in the city, there was no need for borders, and an attempt to block off a piece of land for exclusive use by a single group would be unnecessary and unfair to others who might want to go there, and have LITERALLY NO REASON they shouldn’t.
And this is why I was so disappointed. A peaceful, free group of cats, influenced by Tigerheart to give up their lifestyle to defend themselves against a threat that wasn’t a threat (and just because Fog’s group escalated to the point where it became a possible threat doesn’t mean that other cats taking resources from the same places as you is inherently bad). I really became attached to the guardian cat ways, and if possible how they might be applied to the Clans, and to see them being destroyed because of a single incident that TIGERHEART HELPED CAUSE… was just sad.
It greatly disappointed me, but it also made for a compelling and interesting story that brought Tigerheart’s Shadow near the top of my list of favorites. The best I can hope for now is that some of the guardian cats rejected Tigerheart’s ideas and somehow managed to talk some sense into Fierce.