The King o’ the Cats is a folk tale from the British Isles. The earliest known example is found in Beware the Cat, written by William Baldwin in 1553, though this story itself is related to the first century story of “The Death of Pan”.
Other notable versions of this cat tale include one in a letter written by Thomas Lyttelton first published in 1782.
M. G. (Monk) Lewis the English novelist and dramatist, told the story to Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816, and a further version was adapted by Joseph Jacobs, the Australian folklorist and writer, from several sources, including one collected by Charlotte S. Burne (the first woman president of the Folklore Society).
Walter Scott reported that ‘the King O’ The Cats’ was a well known nursery tale in the Scottish Highlands in the eighteenth century. It can be categorised as a “death of an elf (or cat)”. It is a common type of tale you can look up on the webpage Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification of Folk Tales
“Well Osc I never knew that an “elf” was a cat! …. mind you you’re a bit of an impish elf yourself on occasion”
On to the story…I suggest you turn down the lights…and turn off all distractions … :- )
The King O’ The Cats
One winter’s evening the sexton’s wife was sitting by the fireside with her big black cat, Old Tom, on the other side, both half asleep and waiting for the master to come home.
They waited and they waited, but still he didn’t come, till at last he came rushing in, calling out, ‘Who’s Tommy Tildrum?’ in such a wild way that both his wife and his cat stared at him to know what was the matter.
‘Why, what’s the matter?’ said his wife, ‘and why do you want to know who Tommy Tildrum is?’
‘Oh, I’ve had such an adventure. I was digging away at old Mr Fordyce’s grave when I suppose I must have dropped asleep, and only woke up by hearing a cat’s Miaou.’
‘Miaou!’ said Old Tom in answer.
‘Yes, just like that! So I looked over the edge of the grave, and what do you think I saw?’
‘Now, how can I tell?’ said the sexton’s wife.
‘Why, nine black cats all like our friend Tom here, all with a white spot on their chestesses. And what do you think they were carrying? Why, a small coffin covered with a black velvet pall, and on the pall was a small coronet all of gold, and at every third step they took they cried all together, Miaou — ‘
‘Miaou!’ said Old Tom again.
‘Yes, just like that!’ said the sexton; ‘and as they came nearer and nearer to me I could see them more distinctly; because their eyes shone out with a sort of green light. Well, they all came towards me, eight of them carrying the coffin, and the biggest cat of all walking in front for all the world like — but look at our Tom, how he’s looking at me. You’d think he knew all I was saying.’
‘Go on, go on,’ said his wife; ‘never mind Old Tom.’‘Well, as I was a-saying, they came towards me slowly and solemnly, and at every third step crying all together, Miaou –‘
‘Miaou!’ said Old Tom again.‘Yes, just like that, till they came and stood right opposite Mr Fordyce’s grave, where I was, when they all stood still and looked straight at me. I did feel queer, that I did! But look at Old Tom; he’s looking at me just like they did.’
‘Go on, go on,’ said his wife; ‘never mind Old Tom.’
‘Where was I? Oh, they stood still looking at me, when the one that wasn’t carrying the coffin came forward and, staring straight at me, said to me — yes, I tell ‘ee, said to me, with a squeaky voice, “Tell Tom Tildrum that Tim Toidrum’s dead,” and that’s why I asked you if you knew who Tom Tildrum was, for how can I tell Tom Tildrum Tim Toldrum’s dead if I don’t know who Tom Tildrum is?’
‘Look at Old Tom, look at Old Tom!’ screamed his wife.
And well he might look, for Tom was swelling and Tom was staring, and at last Tom shrieked out, ‘What — old Tom dead! then I’m the King o’ the Cats!’ and rushed up the chimney and was nevermore seen.trad.