Hello, everyone! There’s snow falling peacefully outside my window, and I didn’t have to go to work today, so I feel like getting lost in the magical world of bizarre fairytales. Today we’ll be discussing another unique little entry in The Golden Book of Fairytales, “Kip, The Enchanted Cat.” The table of contents gives this tale no author and says only that it’s “from the Russians,” but I couldn’t find any more background information on this story except a Wikipedia summary of an almost identical story called “Kisa the Cat” which is an Icelandic fairytale. So Russian, Icelandic, who knows, the important thing is that this story, like many fairytales, is just plain strange, and trying to understand the message behind it is no easy task. But that’s what this column is here for! Rain, snow, or shine, we will try our best to make sense of senseless fairytales, or die trying.
The story begins as so many do, with a queen who has everything: a husband, a palace, a jewelbox, and servants of the highest quality. Most importantly, however, she had a cat. How relatable.
The cat was pretty, with smoky-gray fur and sky-blue eyes. She liked to amuse the queen. She danced, chased butterflies, leapt after her tail, and was as entertaining as a cat could be. The cat led an easy life. She went everywhere with her queen, and ate royally in a cat way.
Imagine an Instagram famous cat whose sole job in life is to frolic and look beautiful, and you might come close to the glamour of the queen’s cat. I’m not sure what eating royally in a cat way means, but I imagine that this cat is eating a lot better than the peasants in this queen’s kingdom. Not that we ever hear about them!
The queen’s peaceful idyll with her supermodel cat could not last forever, as one day the queen’s cat had a kitten, which she named Kip, as if it were a little British chimneysweep. Like all women, the sight of another creature having a baby threw her into the deepest despair, as her barren womb had failed her and now she was just a queen with a husband, palace, jewelbox, servants, and fancy cat, but no child. And we all know that’s the only thing that really matters.
“You’re luckier than I,” said the queen. “I may be queen, but I have no babies. And now you’ll leave me, to care for your kitten.”
“Don’t cry, Majesty,” said the cat, who was sensible as well as affectionate. “Crying never helps. Besides I promise you that, as far as babies are concerned, you’ll soon be as well off as I.”
The queen’s cat is definitely something of an influencer in the royal cat sphere. Not only is she pretty, but she’s also wise, and knows how to spread her wisdom with only a few banal phrases like “crying never helps.” Personally, I would be far happier to have a talking cat than a baby, but the queen takes such things for granted. After all, she already has everything (except a baby).
Well-connected as most influencers are, the queen’s cat goes to the forest to find her fairy friend and convinces her to impregnate the queen. Instead of being terrified, the queen is delighted and soon gives birth to a girl, who was “gay and sweet and pretty,” a.k.a the three qualities necessary in this world to be an Instagram influencer (figures since the cat had a hand in this) and names the baby Ingrid. So are these people in Iceland? It’s really starting to seem like it. I, too, would like a magical talking Icelandic influencer cat.
Baby Ingrid and Kip soon become fast friends, with Ingrid babbling in baby-speak, and Kip replying in what I can only assume is a thick Cockney accent. Alas, their life-long friendship was not to be. as one evening “Kip went off on some cat-like errand, and she didn’t come back for a long time.” Where did she go? Was she trying to create interest in a spin-off Instagram account based on the adventures of a traveling cat? It’s tiring, even for beautiful cats, to be known as “the British chimneysweep daughter of that gorgeous talking cat who ate royally.”
Years later, Princess Ingrid was playing in the garden. She threw her ball as high as high, to see how it would come down. The ball came down and rolled under a thicket of rose bushes. Ingrid braved the thorns to reach for it.
She heard a voice say, “Hello, Ingrid.”
She looked, and saw a pretty tiger-striped cat. “How do you know my name?” asked the princess.
“I’m Kip,” purred the cat. “I used to sleep in your arms. But children have short memories, not like cats.”
I’ve always thought cats lived in the moment, but this fairytale makes them seem incredibly philosophical. They go on cat-like errands, probably to Buddhist cat monasteries, and reflect on the ever-changing nature of life, while humans are still learning to crawl and play with balls. No wonder they feel so superior to us.
Not everyone regards cats with the same respect as Ingrid and the queen, and when Ingrid’s governess sees Kip, she shoos her away into the forest. Curious about the cat, Ingrid lulls her governess to sleep the next morning and heads into the forest, hoping to find her new cat friend. Unfortunately, being gay, sweet, and pretty, did not prepare the princess for the realities of venturing into the forest. If only she’d been following Kip’s Instagram…
Suddenly, there was a crashing noise. She looked around, and there behind her was a monster of a black-bearded giant. He grabbed Ingrid’s arm and said roughly, “Come with me.” He walked so fast Ingrid had to run to keep up. Her bare feet hurt and she did not dare ask if she could go back and put on her shoes.
Her tears made the giant furious. “I hate cry-babies,” he shouted. “I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Thereupon he pulled out his knife, cut off her feet, and put them into his pocket. Then he strode off alone into the woods.
This passage is a lot to digest, so let’s recap. Princess Ingrid is minding her own business in the forest when a black-bearded giant comes and kidnaps her. She starts crying, as children do, and he decides that instead of just leaving her there, he should cut off her feet, and then leave her there. I have so many questions. Why did the giant decide to kidnap Ingrid, but leave her the minute she showed resistance? Why did he put her feet in his pocket? Why does he have a black beard? Why does he hate cry-babies?
All I need is one chapter told from the giant’s perspective so we can have more insight into his wild state of mind. Perhaps a glimpse of his childhood, where his angry giant father would shout at him for being a “cry-baby” and beat his feet. Something traumatizing had to happen to this giant for him to hate crying so much that he would cut off a little girl’s feet. To be fair, Ingrid’s gayness and sweetness is probably really annoying to a black-bearded giant forced to live in the forest like Shrek in his swamp. I’m not trying to excuse kidnapping and feet severing, but I do believe there is more to this story. In my modern remake, you’d get both sides. But back to Ingrid.
Ingrid fainted. When she came to, she saw that she wouldn’t be able to walk without her feet.
“Coming,” cried someone. It was Kip. She was driving her own horse and carriage. Gently she picked up poor Ingrid, and put her into the carriage.
When Ingrid next opened her eyes, she was on a soft bed. Kip fed her warm milk. Her ankles didn’t hurt anymore, for Kip had bandaged them with an ointment made from magic healing herbs.
Imagine, for a moment, a tiny cat driving a carriage. How does she hold the reins? She doesn’t have opposable thumbs. Not only can Kip drive a horse and carriage, but she also is a licensed naturopath. It’s actually a huge part of her brand. You can buy her herbs on Etsy.
Because Ingrid is gay, sweet, pretty, and now footless, all she can do is lay in bed while Kip goes to reclaim her feet. I think that Ingrid probably would have died of shock and blood loss from her sudden amputation before Kip magically arrived, but that’s neither here nor there, because it’s a fairytale and biology doesn’t apply.
Kip sneaks into the forest and eavesdrops on the giant having a hilarious conversation with his wife.
“A disgusting cry-baby,” he stormed. “I should have killed her.”
“Go get her tomorrow,” said his wife. “She’ll make us a tasty supper.”
“She’s too young. They don’t taste as good at that age,” grumbled the giant.
Again, I ask, why did the giant kidnap Ingrid in the first place? Was he expecting her to be some sort of pretty little maid he could order about? Did he want to learn table manners from a verified princess? I was expecting more motivation for this crime. Usually giants kidnap people because they want to eat them, but since Ingrid is too young to be tasty, what is this all about?
We’ve seen that these giants are not the sharpest tools in the shed, and we know that Kip is a brilliant philosopher and herbalist, so we’re expecting a brilliant plan to steal back Ingrid’s feet. Instead, she just dumps a lot of salt into the giant’s soup so that they become so thirsty that they have to go to the brook for a drink. I find it hard to believe that these giants don’t have some sort of drinks in their house. I mean, they have soup, but no ale? Perhaps Kip’s brilliance lies in understanding the consumption habits of irritable and unpredictable giants. Her plan works, and she steals Ingrid’s feet.
Because of magic, there is no surgery required to re-attach Ingrid’s feet; just some bandages and a stern warning from Kit that Ingrid better not walk for a few days. As if she could! After Ingrid heals, Kip drives Ingrid back to the queen, who is obviously very happy to find her daughter alive and well and not murdered by giants. She asks Kip what reward she would like in return for bringing Ingrid home safely, but Kip accepts nothing, and mysteriously says that she may need a favor in the future. Then she disappears in a cat-like puff of smoke.
Months pass and Ingrid remains depressed at the loss of her cat-savior Kip. Or perhaps it’s because her feet were cut off. Who can say for sure?
Her mother bought her new party dresses, baskets of fruit, exciting new books. But nothing would interest her.
“I don’t know what to do,” said the queen to the king. “I’ve tried everything.”
“Not everything,” said the king thoughtfully. “Suppose we find her a husband. Perhaps that would interest her.”
Listen up, Dads! If your daughter is depressed because she was kidnapped and mutilated, and then her savior disappears without a trace, the easiest fix to get your little girl back into peak sweetness is to find her a husband. Girls don’t want party dresses, fruit baskets, or exciting new books. Can they even read? No, they want husbands.
I appreciate that the king’s one contribution to this story is to force his daughter into marriage. It’s very in character for fairytale kings in general, and I’m glad that he’s not rocking the boat.
So the queen invites all of the eligible princes in the land to meet Ingrid, and she smiles at one of them, so naturally they are betrothed. After Ingrid’s marriage feast, Kip appears and asks for a simple favor: she wants to sleep on Ingrid’s feet that night. Delighted to have her cat back, and a foot-warmer as well, Ingrid agrees.
The next morning on the cushions where Kip had slept, lay a beautiful young princess. She quickly told her story. She and her mother had been enchanted by a cruel fairy. They were condemned to be cats until they had accomplished something truly amazing. Her mother had died without succeeding. But Kip had profited from the cruelty of the giant. She’d done something very special indeed. Now she was free, and a princess again.
Now it all makes sense. The giant had no motivation to kidnap Kip because it wasn’t his idea to begin with. All he wanted to do was eat soup and meditate on cry-babies, but Kip, brilliant, philosophical, manipulative Kip, tricked him into kidnapping Ingrid and cutting off her feet so that she could re-attach them and be returned to her human form. Diabolical, yes, but also understandable considering she was cursed into being a cat.
Being only gay, sweet, and pretty, Ingrid doesn’t have the ability to comprehend Kip’s double-dealing, so she rejoices at finding a new friend and quickly marries her to a prince so that she can be rich.
Long after, when Ingrid and Kip would sit under the trees at the edge of the forest, their grandchildren would come and ask for a story. What story do you suppose they liked best of all to hear?
Um, I hope not the story where one of their grandmothers had her feet cut off. That does not seem like an appropriate story to tell children.
So what did we learn from this fairytale?
The dubious moral: Trust cats above anyone else. They will put you in harm’s way, but they will also save you from certain death. Don’t go into the forest if you want to keep your feet. And don’t teach your sons not to cry, or they will take out the pain of years of repressed tears on helpless little girls looking for their lost cats.