Sav takes a closer look at Mapleshade.
Is Mapleshade a Villain or a Victim?
I’m sure you’re all familiar with Mapleshade. She is mentioned several times throughout Omen of the Stars and we get to see a glimpse of the tortoiseshell in the Dark Forest. From what we’ve seen Mapleshade is cruel, murderous, and a little scary. No Clan would raise their own Warriors to be this way, and she certainly didn’t start out that way, so what caused the once gentle she-cat to have such a drastic change in character?
Mapleshade was a ThunderClan warrior during the leadership of Oakstar in the forest territories. It is revealed to us at a Gathering that Mapleshade is currently seeing a RiverClan warrior named Appledusk. Mapleshade shares the news of bearing kits with him and they’re equally excited. Unfortunately, Appledusk is the same warrior who killed Birchface, Oakstars beloved son, in a battle for sunning rocks along with his apprentice Blossompaw. Because of this, Oakstar and his daughter, Frecklewish, have bad blood with the RiverClan warrior. Mapleshade recommends to Appledusk that they should wait until after the kits are born to meet again because of the bad blood between RiverClan and ThunderClan. He agrees and goes to join a she-cat named Reedshine.
Soon, the news of Mapleshades pregnancy spreads across the camp and she tells the warriors she will be raising the kits alone. Frecklewish is eager to assume that Birchface is the father. Mapleshade neither confirms nor denies this, instead letting Frecklewish believe that Birchface was the father. We are fast-forwarded to Mapleshade giving birth and the kits are introduced to us. Their names are Larchkit, Petalkit, and Patchkit. One day when the kits are around three moons (months) old, Mapleshade decides to take them out to the river to watch them play. The kittens easily play in the river and it’s obvious that these are part RiverClan cats. Mapleshade and the kits later run into a RiverClan patrol that Appledusk is in. Appledusk takes the kits back to Mapleshade and they have a very brief, sweet conversation. On the way back to camp Mapleshade runs into Ravenwing, the ThunderClan medicine cat. Ravenwing describes a vision he had and then questions her about the kit’s father. Mapleshade becomes defensive and Ravenwing guesses that Appledusk in the father. He runs to go tell the Clan the truth and Mapleshade nervously shuffles back to camp. As they arrive Mapleshade and her kits are exiled from ThunderClan territory. Mapleshade decides that RiverClan is where they should go since Appledusk lives there.
(It gets sad here folks, I actually cried when I read this part!)
As Mapleshade and her kits approach the river, they don’t realize it’s flooded. Mapleshade tries to safely save all her kits from drowning and in the midst of struggling a RiverClan patrol sees and they try to save her kits. Appledusk is part of this patrol and he asked her why they’re crossing the river. Mapleshade tells the patrol that ThunderClan exiled her and one of the RiverClan warriors tell Mapleshade that her kits died. Mapleshade wails and goes into immediate mourning, begging Patchkit to stay with her since early that day he promised his mother to always be with her (cry). The patrol gathers the bodies and leads her to the camp where they tell the RiverClan leader, Darkstar, what happened. When it is revealed that Appledusk is the father of these kits Darkstar and the majority of RiverClan is disgusted. Reedshine defends him and Mapleshade realizes that Reedshine is Appledusk’s new mate. Mapleshade’s heart breaks even more and Darkstar decides to exile Mapleshade, saying “the death of your kits is enough of a punishment for breaking the warrior code” and she is sent away without another word.
Mapleshade begins to suffer from hallucinations. She can “hear” the wails of her kits begging for her help and it drives her to decide to murder the cats she claims are responsible for the deaths of the kittens. Mapleshade begins to trace back her downfall to Ravenwing, as she decides to kill him when he’s alone. Mapleshade decides to ambush him at Mothermouth and waits for him, spending the day sharpening her claws. When night falls, Mapleshade decides that killing him in the open is risky considering that other medicine cats would soon be on their way, so she follows him into Mothermouth and briskly tells him why she has come here and kills him. Mapleshade discovers that the other Medicine cats have buried him. She digs him up and hopes that crows will eat him. Mapleshade notices that Larchkit has stopped wailing for her and she realizes that in order to “set them free” she has to seek revenge. On her back to the Clans, Mapleshade collapses in a ditch on ThunderClan territory and an apprentice tells her that Frecklewish saw her kits drown. Mapleshade is fed herbs by the apprentice and she decides who to kill next.
Mapleshade lures Frecklewish into Snakerocks and tells Frecklewish why she decided to kill her. Frecklewish attacks Mapleshade, and Mapleshade dodges the attack which leads Frecklewish to land right onto an adder den. The adder blinds her and Mapleshade runs off. Petalkit is silenced and Mapleshade decides to kill Reedshine and Appledusk next. She sneaks onto RiverClan territory and kidnaps Appledusks apprentice. Appledusk and Mapleshade face off and she kills him, but not without suffering from serious wounds on her neck. Reedshine scoffs at Mapleshade and tells her that Appledusk will live on in her kits and she leaves Mapleshade to die alone. Mapleshade wakes up in the Dark Forest and vows to always make the Clans suffer for what they did to her.
So, what does this mean about Mapleshade’s character development throughout the story? While it is very arguable whether or not Mapleshade is evil or not, we can all agree she wasn’t bloodthirsty at the beginning of the story. I’m not saying Mapleshade didn’t ask for it when she let a lie fool her clanmates, but Oakstars banishment is against the Warrior code, as is Frecklewish watching the kittens die. The Warrior Code seems very valued and respected in this era of the clans, so why was Mapleshade treated so sourly compared to the codebreaking of the other cats in the story? Well Appledusk was seen as responsible for the deaths of Birchface and Blossompaw to ThunderClan, and it was a feeling of betrayal when Mapleshade “lied” about the kits’ bloodlines. Oakstar and Frecklewish were starting to see Mapleshade as an in-law. It seems like the odds are stacked against her considering that ThunderClan and RiverClan are feuding and that Appledusk had to be the one to kill Birchface. I personally feel like Oakstar let his anger blind his judgment in how he responded to Mapleshade. A queen is to be respected by all Warriors according to the Warrior code and no kit should be left in danger. Ah yes, the Warrior code is ignored again.
Fast-forward to the death of Ravenwing. Ouch. I can only defend Mapleshade so much this time considering she killed him in front of StarClan themselves and then went overkill to unbury his body. This is our first hint that Mapleshade is a tad bit evil. Mapleshade begged Ravenwing to keep quiet, and he ignored her. Ravenwing didn’t try to defend her during her exposure? That might be incorrect grammar I’m not sure- I don’t think Ravenwing was personally responsible for the deaths of the kits. He had been lied to and he knew the truth must be shared. I blame the first cat as Oakstar. I’m not explaining why either because this is so long already.
Onto Frecklewish! I found Frecklewish particularly annoying throughout the beginning of the book. She was extremely clingy to Mapleshade and the kits, and she started the lie. (Even if it was on accident, she still LiEd about it). Frecklewish broke the warrior code by attacking Maplesahde (gasp because in this book one must never break the warrior code) and then watching the kits drown. I do blame Frecklewish for the deaths of the kittens. Anger aside, if you see a child drowning and their mother is struggling to save that kid you should help. It isn’t confirmed if Frecklewish dies after the adder bite, but I love what Mapleshade said about it. She saw the kits drown and didn’t help, so she’d never see again. Literally an eye for an eye.
And now we’re on our last cat, Appledusk. Before I defend him, I just want to clarify that the reader always knows more than the background characters like Appledusk himself. Let’s start with Mapleshade recommending that the two should spend some time apart to avoid suspicion. It was very clear in the beginning that Reedshine was very interested in Appledusk. For two to three months, Appledusk doesn’t see his mate nor his kits. He is also being surrounded by someone he can legally love. Imagine the doubs running through his mind. Whilst there isn’t much of a reason why couldn’t have remained loyal to Mapleshade. Afterall, he did get the she-cat pregnant. But this is easily more said than done. What I mean by this is that we are comparing our personal lives and experiences to those of Mapleshade and Appledusk, more specifically Mapleshade. Imagine being a Warrior in an era of the Clans were forbidden love means exile. You haven’t seen the she-cat you love in 63 to 72 days. There’s been no contact, and the only thing you hear about her and her home (or her Clan) is about how awful and horrible they are. You start to feel lonely and possibly depressed without seeing her. Then, someone appears to help lift you out of that state and give you everything you need to make you happy. Mapleshades and Appledusk’s relationship was far from healthy. Yes, they loved each other. But the distance plus the hostile behavior from their clanmates from one another both impacted their lives negatively. Reedshine was good for Appledusk and lets be honest, if Appledusk didn’t really love Mapleshade anymore, but he kept her on as a mate wouldn’t that be unfair to both of them? Don’t they both deserve an equal and happy relationship? I highly doubt that Appledusk knew that Darkstar was going to exile her.
Afterall, he admitted to everyone that he was seeing another she-cat from another Clan and he got her pregnant. Reedshine defends him and he chooses her as his mate. While we see how painful this is to Mapleshade, we have to realize that Reedshine is the perfect cat for Appledusk. She defends him for cheating on her- i’m mean seriously, the perfect girlfriend award goes to Reedshine. I’m not saying that Appledusk was justified in what he did, and the situation was far from healthy and perfect, but Appledusk had to be suffering a little too. He not only just lost his kits after never meeting them, but he also has been feeling lonely without a mate. I still don’t really like Appledusk, but I understand his struggles personally. Distance relationships are hard and it’s easy to get distracted or forgot how tight that bond is with another person or in this case, cat.
Anyway, here’s the conclusion. Mapleshade is both. Mapleshade really was a victim of a lot of things. She was treated like dirt by most of the characters involved. In fact, the only kind cat to her throughout the entire book was the apprentice who gave her herbs. This unkindness also helped her negative character development throughout the story. I found this novella very interesting compared to what we see from the more modern villains. She has an actual vengeance with ThunderClan, and she isn’t obsessed with becoming a leader, just ruining the Clans. It’s also worth mentioning that Mapleshade spent her entire time in the Dark Forest plotting how to use her undead and forgotten status to manipulate the living to her own will to help destroy ThunderClan and all its glory. This what makes it more unique to me anyway. Ashfur was another unique character but I don’t personally like what his character has become. That’s a story though. What are your opinions on Mapleshade’s status as a villain or a victim?
– – – – – –
Thanks for reading!
– 𝙨𝙖𝙫 | 𝚞𝚛 𝚕𝚘𝚌𝚊𝚕 𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗