Lilypaw takes a deep dive into Mapleshade’s character
We all know the amazing Mapleshade. She is a renowned villain, known for the controversy on whether or not she was truly evil at the time of her death. Because of this, she has ingrained herself in people’s minds, leaving a lasting legacy. Mapleshade is highly debated as being good or evil, but what if it is more complex than that?
When I first read her story, I became fascinated and there was one question I was left with: What? What was this story truly about? Aside from the obvious, revenge. But what truly pushed her to do it? To be the hero of her story, Mapleshade would’ve had to be good (which she wasn’t). Her story explores the true nature of good versus evil, the question, what pushes a good cat to do bad things? What affect do others have on someone’s life and the person they become? (SPOILERS FOR OOTS AHEAD)
Mapleshade started off similarly to Bluestar or Leafpool, falling in love with a forbidden cat. The Juliet of her time. After this beginning though, things took a twisted turn. Each of these three cats made different choices and each had different motivation. Leafpool hid her kits inside the Clan, something Mapleshade attempted to do by lying about their birth father. This was her first poor decision. When she was found out, however, she attempted to run away and accomplish the same thing Bluestar later does. Only her story doesn’t end as well.
Mapleshade was betrayed, a betrayal that proves to be a consistent theme in her story. She is betrayed by her Clan first, the ‘good guys’ of the story. Later, when she reaches RiverClan, she is betrayed by her mate, right after losing her children thanks to a previous betrayal. From there, her path of carnage begins, seemingly spurred by her dead kit’s voices.
This is where our deep dive begins. In the beginning of her story, one line that stuck out to me later was when she said that warriors must be merciful. This shows how much the death of her kits and her Clan’s betrayal have affected her later on, seeing as the story’s title is ‘Mapleshade’s Vengeance.’ After being betrayed by ThunderClan, Mapleshade is quick to reassure her kits that the Clan will see reason later on.
Let’s pause for a moment and analyze ThunderClan just then, because they are all experiencing the same thing Mapleshade later goes through. They look at Appledusk and see a murderer and they look at Mapleshade and see a liar. They feel betrayed and are blinded by that, banishing her. This is where her story differs from Bluestar and Leafpool’s. The warriors they mated with never wronged ThunderClan, Crowfeather proved to be helpful to ThunderClan quite a few times. This may be why neither of them were banished when their lies came to light and Mapleshade was.
Back to the story, this is the point where the kits reach the river and subsequently die. Directly after their death, Mapleshade faces a betrayal she wasn’t expecting, Appledusk’s. Appledusk refuses to speak to her or ask about their kit’s names, something Mapleshade notices. Appledusk spins a tale back at camp, blaming the events of that night on Mapleshade and scorning their relationship. Mapleshade is banished for a second time, after finding out Appledusk had already moved on.
This is where Mapleshade truly begins her decline. She relies on words of affirmation, those are what lure her and make her feel safe and loved. She trusted Appledusk because he told her he loved her. Later, Appledusk denies it.
This is where speculation can begin. Mapleshade is delirious, a seething, broken hearted mess. She is going through the stages of grief without time to truly process them. First, she denies their death. She wants to stay with her kits and begs them to wake up, reliving their death over and over. Later comes pain and guilt, she blames herself, thinks of everything she could’ve done differently. Then comes the breaking point, anger and bargaining. Her blame switches to other cats, Ravenwing, Frecklewish and Reedshine. She takes her revenge on two of them, killing Appledusk instead of Reedshine however. All of their deaths center around her kits’ supposed voices and she bargains their lives for the ones she takes.
In OOTS, we are truly introduced to the Dark Forest and learn of their power to walk in dreams. We also learn of how they prey on broken minds, cats who long for more. They turn their ambition or anger or guilt into weapons, using it to form an army. I believe the Dark Forest had a hand in creating the villain Mapleshade becomes.
The Dark Forest had existing warriors long before Mapleshade, Tigerstar, Hawkfrost or any of the other villains we have come to know. Tigerstar was not the first to recruit warriors in my opinion. Villains have existed since the beginning of time and those villains are the ones who manipulated Mapleshade. They saw a betrayed cat, dealing with depression and emotions she couldn’t control. They exploited those feelings, guiding her own a path to her own destruction. If you have seen Miraculous Ladybug, it is similar to Hawkmoth akumatizing people.
“Mapleshade’s Vengeance” was about her revenge but also the path leading up to it. It explored good and bad and the grey in between, and how the line drawn between the two isn’t as clear as it seems. In Mapleshade’s case, it blurred, with dozens of outside factors manipulating it. This was a story about revenge, yes, but also about what happens when you take a broken person (cat in this case) and offer her a chance to give as good as she got. When you give someone with no voice, a voice. In this scenario, the Dark Forest offered Mapleshade a way out and she took it, giving into the dark side of grief and depression and loss. The Warrior’s arcs as a whole have many themes of loss and recovery, in Mapleshade’s case, she never had a chance. She wasn’t given a moment to recover, to breathe, to process. It is possible the Dark Forest abused that and twisted it, turning her tale into something far different than it could’ve been. People change people, that is a fact. A commonality. One that is clearly displayed in Mapleshade’s story.
What would’ve changed if Appledusk wasn’t her mate?
What would’ve changed if her kits never died?
Is this truly a case of Nature versus Nurture?
What would’ve changed if she had the chance to grieve healthily?
Would she still be the same villain we know today?
We will never truly know.