Thistleclaw Is Inexcusable by Dralkyrie

Dralkyrie shares their opinion of the former ThunderClan warrior, Thistleclaw.

Art by Vialir

So, this is my first article on here, so if my writing is a bit sloppy or awkward, please bear with me. As you can probably judge from the title, the character I’d like to talk about is Thistleclaw. I’ve noticed that he’s one of the most controversial characters in the fandom, with a certain group of people claiming his actions weren’t as horrible as other people make it out to be, while others compare him to characters like Ashfur and Mapleshade. However, my personal take on him as a character is that Thistleclaw’s actions are completely inexcusable. For the sake of formality and structuring this article properly, I’ll refute some common arguments I hear in the fandom defending Thistleclaw, and then move on to why I believe he should not be defended as a character.

Argument #1: Bluestar’s perspective of Thistleclaw was biased

Alright, this is one of the most common arguments I’ve heard, and while I don’t disagree, I don’t think is exactly a valid argument for defending Thistleclaw because yes, while Bluestar undoubtedly resented Thistleclaw on a very personal level and as such, that would naturally make her villianize him, but I’d like to refute that argument with bringing up Spottedleaf’s Heart and The Rise of Scourge. I know some people don’t consider Spottedleaf’s Heart canon, but regardless, in the Rise of Scourge, it was clearly shown that Thistleclaw urged Tigerpaw to attack Scourge/Tiny when he was practically a kit, and hence, the sensible thing to do would be to just chase him off, but instead, Thistleclaw urges Tigerpaw to attack him, which would almost certainly have resulted in his death had Bluestar not interfered, but in every book that shows that scene, it is ALWAYS depicted as bad.

“The kit scrabbled its paws in the dirt but before it could stand, Tigerpaw pounced on it and held it down. He raked its muzzle with bare claws, then slashed down its flank. Bright red lines of blood sprang onto the glossy black fur. “Show it your teeth, Tigerpaw!” Thistleclaw urged. The apprentice bit deep into the kit’s shoulder. The kit let out a terrible screech and tried desperately to get away. Spottedpaw gathered her haunches beneath her, ready to spring out and rescue the helpless little cat. No kittypet deserved to be treated like this!” -Spottedleaf’s Heart

“Tigerpaw lunged at the kit, sending it flying like a piece of prey. The kit skidded across the rough earth
and landed, gasping for breath. Get up! Tail bushed in terror, the kit tried to scramble to its paws. But Tigerpaw pounced again. The tabby apprentice pinned the kit to the ground. With claws unsheathed, he swiped at its muzzle, then raked its
flank. The kit squealed in agony. “Show it your teeth, Tigerpaw,” Thistleclaw goaded. Tigerpaw sunk his teeth into the kit’s shoulder and hauled it to its paws. The kit yowled and struggled, its paws scrabbling helplessly on the ground until Tigerpaw, his eyes gleaming, flung him away.” -Bluestar’s Prophecy

(I can’t show the scene from Rise of Scourge as it’s a manga, but I think you get the point by now.)

So, is Bluestar biased? Perhaps. But does it justify Thistleclaw urging his apprentince to attack a kit almost to the point where he would die? Absolutely not.

Argument #2: Him training in the Dark Forest wasn’t that bad, other cats did that as well

While it’s true that many other cats trained in the Dark Foresst but wouldn’t be considered evil by most people, their circumstances were widly different. For example, there are cats like Crookedstar who was completely manipulated by Mapleshade into believing she was a StarClan cat and didn’t find out until much later. However, when he does figure it out, you have to understand Crookedstar was in a very hard position. He was neglected by his mother, looked down upon by his Clan because of his crooked jaw and being apprenticed late, and with his name being changed to add more salt to the wound, he was in a very difficult position and it’s only natural that he would want to take any opportunity to become a stronger warrior somehow. Thistleclaw’s situation was wildly different. From Spottedleaf’s Heart, it was extremely clear that Thistleclaw was aware of where he was and whom he was training with, having killed an unnamed she-cat in the Dark Forest without any remorse or hesitation. With that, it doesn’t seem like a far stretch to say he’s killed many more cats in the Dark Forest prior to that one time. If you want to compare it to the cats who trained in the Dark Forest in Omen of the Stars, it’s not as big as a stretch as comparing him to Crookedstar, however, I feel that there are still key differences. The key thing to note here is that from what I could see, warriors like Blossomfall, Ivypool, and Birchfall were lured in because they thought becoming stronger would be for the good of the Clan, while Thistleclaw tries to use that excuse too, I think it’s pretty clear he relishes fighting his enemies and spilling blood of other cats. Learning how to be stronger so you can defend your Clan better is one thing, but deliberately learning killing moves and planning to use it for your ambition to attack other Clans is an entirely different thing. Thistleclaw was an experienced warrior and clearly knew what he was doing and wasn’t being manipulated in any way, but yet he himself chose to continue training in the Dark Forest until his death, which is why he ended up going there after his death, by the way. Unlike Thistleclaw, all the other warriors who trained in the Dark Forest fought with the Clans in the end at The Last Hope and genuinely showed remorse for what they did, while Thistleclaw never showed any remorse for what he did in the Dark Forest and likely never would have, as shown when Spottedpaw asked him to choose between her and training in the Dark Forest, he chose the latter.

Argument #3: He was a good mate to Snowfur and genuinely cared about her/He was just traumatized when Snowfur died

I don’t even know why this is relevant, but I’ll go ahead and break it down anyways. Yes, Thistleclaw did genuinely care about Snowfur, but I’m not sure why that’s relevant. That doesn’t justify any of his actions, especially given that his relationship with Snowfur is not related to any of the horrible things he’s hated for, and hence, cannot be used as a valid excuse to defend any of Thistleclaw’s actions. Alongside that, I’d like to add that in Spottedleaf’s Heart, when Spottedpaw and Whitepaw were sparring each other, he urged Spottedpaw to use a Dark Forest move targetting Whitepaw’s eye, which could have blinded his son or caused serious damage to his eyes. With that said, I’d like to call into question whether Thistleclaw is a competent parent figure, as when Whitepaw grew up, he openly implied that he preferred Bluestar to Thistleclaw, which says something about him.

Additionally, another argument people bring up is that Thistleclaw was traumatized or that somehow, Snowfur dying turned him into this way. This argument is just so absurd and one-sided that it seems like a joke that I’d have to actually explain this to anybody, but there are countless characters whose mate died (e.g. Hawkwing, Gray Wing, Graystripe, and many, many, more) and yet, none of them ever went to the point of nearly allowing their apprentince to kill their kit, deliberately learning killing moves from evill cats, and suggesting to mark their territories with blood. Losing your beloved ones is not an excuse for you to turn evil. About every cat in this series has lost someone they’ve cared about, and all of them eventually just move on and go along with their lives. End of story.

(Warning: Argument #4 includes me discussing a sensitive topic for some, so if you are sensitized to those kinds of topics, please skip it.)

Argument #4: Thistleclaw and Spottedpaw’s age gap isn’t that bad because there’s plenty of other relationships with age gaps

…This argument is just absolutely absurd. First of all, the age gap isn’t necessarily the reason why so many people hate this ship. Even in real life, there are plenty of couples with 10-year age gaps, but it’s perfectly acceptable because they are both fully mature adults. Spottedpaw, on the other hand, was a naive teenager who was only barely over 6 moons at that time. She wasn’t emotionally mature enough to be in a relationship with a grown adult such as Thistleclaw, but yet, Thistleclaw actively groomed her and even claimed there was an omen from StarClan that they were destined to be together. He manipulated her and used her emotions to try and get her to go with him in the Dark Forest, telling her to “prove her love for him” and not telling anyone else about their meeting. Their relationship was a very toxic and manipulative one and it is not in any way comparable to relationships like Sorreltail and Brackenfur or Thornclaw and Blossomfall, who were all mature adults who had the maturity annd responsibility to make decisions like that. In fact, apprentinces and warriors shouldn’t be in relationships at all because of their difference in power. Period.

With all that out of the way, I can conclude that Thistleclaw is inexcusable and by all means, fully deserved to go to the Dark Forest. He’s goaded his apprentince to attack a defenseless kit without any concern for possibly killing him, likely killed several cats in the Dark Forest with no remorse and continued to do so even after his death, and him flirting with Spottedpaw and using her feelings for him was extremely disgusting. He fought against the Clans even in The Great Battle on the Dark Forest’s side, which makes me doubt that he was truly loyal to the Clans to begin with.

That’s my take on Thistleclaw as a character. Feel free to share your opinions below!

Fan Articles


  • I hate Thistleclaw. If he didn’t teach Tigerstar/Tigerclaw to be cruel and ambitious, Tigerstar wouldn’t have achieved those things like becoming leader of ShadowClan, and he wouldn’t have killed Firestar. I believe that Thistleclaw is the bad one that triggered Tigerstar to be ambitious.
    Awesome article!

    • 🐅🌟Tigerpaw/shine (Tiger Dashing Under Shining Sun/Tiger Shine/Tiger) (mae/mim/mair/mairself, rav/rae/raven/ravenself, she/her/her/herself)🐅🌟 says:

      how did you do that

  • I personally don’t consider Spottedleaf’s heart canon and that extends to the dark forest training as well. That being said, I also don’t think he shouldn’t have gone to the dark forest. A character having reason for how they act doesn’t nesessarily mean their actions are excusable.

    My headcanon reasoning for why he ended up in the dark forest is bitterness over Snowfur’s death. I think he dealt with it in a very unhealthy way and became violent and aggressive. At first he blamed Bluefur for it, but later directed his anger toward the other clans, as the Shadowclan tresspassers were the reason she ran onto the road. I like to think he then saw the other clans as a threat and became obsessed with defending Thunderclan’s borders and was willing to resort to violent training as a result.

    I’m not making excuses for him. I know he did bad things. I just like to see him as a layered (dark-)gray character and it’s a shame the Erins couldn’t do the same. They just had to stuff in extra reasoning for why he went to the dark forest as if being bitter and violent wasn’t enough

  • I swear, if I see one more argument about Thistleclaw being good, I WILL TEAR THEM APART.
    I don’t mean to be rude to anyone who (for some reason) like Thistleclaw as a character, but GREAT STARCLAN! The best way I can compare Thistleclaw is to Whirlpool from Wings of Fire. All WoF fans know what I’m talking about, and to put it short, Whirlpool was trying to marry a one year old and/or a NEWLY HATCHED DRAGONET to get the thrown. Thistleclaw is basically the same concept, yet so many people stick up for him.
    (Whirlpool, on the other hand…)

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