Ableism In Warriors by Mossflame

Mossflame discusses ableism in the Warriors series.

Art by Ospreyghost13

[Warning: This article touches on controversial/potentially uncomfortable topics. Proceed at your own risk.]

Disclaimer: I’m not a person with disabilities, so please feel free to correct me on things if I’m wrong. I’m also not a professional on these types of things, so please keep that in mind while you read and comment.
Warrior Cats is a very popular series, and something that makes it so good is the sheer amount of characters. While most background characters have the same personality, there’s so many main/important characters that it’s not hard to find someone you love or relate to. Warrior Cats also has a fair amount of characters with disabilities, enough that it can make people happy to think that characters with disabilities are getting represented. But I’m here to question how exactly they’re getting treated by the other cats and address the serious problem of ableism in Warrior Cats. Hello, my name is Mossflame, and in this article I’m going to go over some cats with disabilities and how they’re treated.

First off we have Jayfeather, who’s blind. I first read Power of Three when I was pretty young, maybe eight or nine, so I didn’t notice the problems with how Jayfeather was treated. However, rereading it now I do notice the problems and I’d like to start with his apprentice ceremony. Jaykit is constantly thinking about how much he wants to be a warrior, and while Firestar grants his wish, I don’t think it’s fair how he was given Brightheart as a mentor. [I’m going to hold off on Brightheart in general for now, since I think she needs her own section.] Jaypaw certainly doesn’t need a mentor with a disability just because he has one. In fact, I don’t even think Brightheart would be able to help him in terms of how he can be a warrior. She’s only blind in one eye, and he’s blind in two. Cats that are blind need to learn how to be fully blind warriors, and Brightheart can’t teach them how to do that. Brightheart knows how to be blind in one eye, but not two.
Now I think it’s time to talk about Jayfeather’s and Leafpool’s relationship. While Jaypaw is a warrior apprentice, Leafpool pressures him into becoming a medicine cat twice, even though clearly he wants to be a warrior and she should let him choose his own path.

“Dear Jaykit.” Leafpool sighed. “You must know that you
can never become an ordinary apprentice like Hollykit or
Lionkit.” […] “This has nothing to do with not being good enough,”
Leafpool meowed. “There are other ways to serve your Clan.”
-The Sight, page 35

As the series goes on, Leafpool gets increasingly grumpy with him. She pressures him into using his powers and acts like that’s all he’s good for. She also gives him looks of pity and sympathy as if he’s incompetent, even though it’s clear he hates getting looks like this. Jaypaw also worries about Leafpool naming him for his blindness, and while Hollypaw waves this away, for it to be a worry that Jaypaw actually has tells a lot.

Suddenly alarmed, Jaypaw thought over what Brightheart had said. “You don’t think Leafpool might mention that I’m blind when she gives me my full medicine cat name?” he muttered into Hollypaw’s ear.
“Like Jayno-eyes? That’s just as stupid as Berrystumpytail,” his sister replied.
“You think it’s stupid, but will Leafpool-”
–Outcast, page 18

It’s not only Leafpool who gives him looks of sympathy or pity. Many of Jayfeather’s Clanmates do it, throughout the entire series, even after he proves himself to be just as capable as any other cat.

That brings us to our next cat with disabilities, Brightheart. She loses her eye in a battle with dogs. I’m going to briefly discuss Bluestar’s treatment of her now.
Bluestar’s act of ableism toward Brightpaw was her naming the injured apprentice Lostface.

“I ask my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice. [Brightpaw] has
learned the warrior code and has given up her life in the service of her Clan. Let StarClan receive her as a warrior.” Then [Bluestar] paused, and her eyes blazed with anger that burned like cold fire. “She will be known as Lostface, so that every cat knows what StarClan did to take her from us,” she growled. […] “They will have this warrior as Lostface, or not at all.” […] “Let StarClan receive her by the name of Lostface,” Bluestar finished.
-The Dangerous Path, page 120

Now I know Bluestar was delusional because she was angry at StarClan, but that doesn’t justify her actions toward Brightpaw. As Fireheart thinks during this, Bluestar has no reason to bring Brightpaw into her battle with StarClan. It’s unfair, ableist, and just plain mean.
It’s time to go through Firestar’s ableist actions toward Brightheart! Yes, he renamed her Brightheart after Bluestar’s death, but apprenticing Jaypaw to her and not giving her any other apprentice is very ableist. She’s not incapable of teaching other apprentices, even though she may have changed some moves to accommodate her only having one eye. She probably still remembers the original moves and how to do them, and while it may be a bit uncomfortable, she’s still very capable of teaching.

Our last cat(s) for this article will be Cinderpelt/heart. Cinderpelt is a very likeable character – she’s funny, eager, and hardworking. Her clear crush on Fireheart is also very cute, and once she injured her leg in a Thunderpath incident, she no longer is a very generic character. It’s interesting to see her cope with a permanently broken back leg. But to have her be confined to medicine cat duties isn’t what should have happened. With three working legs, she can still hunt and fight just as well as any other cat. She may need to make adjustments, yes, but that’s what Brightheart did, and she’s fine, isn’t she? Three-legged dogs and cats can walk, run, and even swim, so it shouldn’t be hard for Cinderpelt to keep being a warrior. But no, she’s a medicine cat. In the series Fireheart also notices her longingly looking at patrols leaving the camp, wishing she could be a warrior like them, and the truth is, she can! Again, this may be because Bluestar is going insane, but that still doesn’t justify actions like this. Cinderpelt was treated unfairly and she clearly didn’t want to be a medicine cat.
Moving on to Cinderheart. Since Cinderheart has Cinderpelt’s spirit in her, she breaks her leg, but it’s able to be healed, unlike Cinderpelt’s injury. However, Leafpool rushes the treatment, forcing Cinderpaw to take her assessment when her leg clearly isn’t fully healed. Leafpool is a full medicine cat and has been for many moons, so it’s extremely illogical and stupid for her to say Cinderpaw is healed when she isn’t. She’s paranoid that Cinderheart will break her leg permanently like Cinderpelt, therefore she rushes the treatment and ends up indirectly breaking Cinderpaw’s leg again. It’s extremely bad that Jaypaw has to actually follow Cinderpaw for her assessment to make sure her leg holds up.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about characters with disabilities. But now I’m going to talk about why this is bad to be in a fantasy book series, because I do understand this is fantasy, not real life. It’s bad because since Warrior Cats is so popular and has many young readers, it can make them think it’s okay to treat people with disabilities like this, when it isn’t. It’s disrespectful, mean, and definitely ableist. People with disabilities and animals alike are very capable and it’s rude to think otherwise.

Well, that’s all I have for this article! Please leave your thoughts in the comments below, and please remember that I’m not a professional. And if you want me to do a part two analysing different characters with disabilities in Warrior Cats and how they’re treated, please let me know! Bye for now!
~Mossi ♡

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  • 🗻🎶🪨DIES🎵🪨IRAE🪨🎵Slate🪨🎶🗻 llll~LINGLING WANNABES UNITE~llll | 🗯(Tchaikovsky Sym. 6 & Verdi Requiem are so good)🗯 says:

    I agree!

  • This captivated me so quickly. yes, I was young when I read the books too and didn’t pick up on those then. I’m glad you pointed it out though its important

  • Great Article! I loved your writing style!
    But I like that Brightheart got to be Jayfeather’s mentor because she has a bright personality while Jayfeather has this grumpy personality. And it’s not hard for Brightheart to pretend she’s blind in both eyes so she can figure out how Jayfeather feels since she’s blind in one eye. Mentors and apprentices don’t have to be exactly similar, they can still learn a lot of things from each other.

  • Cinderpelt could’ve been a Warrior. Jagged Peak and Deadfoot both were. I think this series has an issue with cats with disabilities also being ableist? Jagged Peak makes Gray Wing feel useless in A Forest Divided, and while Brightheart definitely deserved an apprentice, I don’t think Jaypaw was the right one? Brightheart also treated him a lot differently, even prompting Jaypaw to think about her thinking she’s better than him because she has one eye.

  • Dont forget about Snowkit. He couldve been an amazing semi/main character. his mother was even training him to be a warrior too! Who knows, maybe she couldve helped him even further to become an apprentice. a WARRIOR apprentice. and im not gonna even pretend he was killed off for the plot. He wasnt. He was killed off for something dramatic to heppen. and to make the book darker, edgier, if you will. I also think he couldve met with Jaypaw when he was a warrior! Sure, they couldnt communicate, but I feel like it would give Jayfeather someone to speak to, that wouldnt feel sorry, or pity for him. It would also encourage Jaypaw to become a warrior like him!

  • I mostly agree, but I feel like under different circumstances, Brightheart could’ve been a great mentor for Jayfeather! Sure, their situations were vastly different, but Brightheart knows how to bend hunting and fighting techniques to her capabilities. Cloudtail could also have helped out, since he was the one to help Brightheart adapt in the first place. That would’ve been sweet, since Cloudtail and Jayfeather are technically kin.