I have already written an article on Sir Eanrin, the blind poet-knight. Nevertheless, I felt that his other nature, the cat named Monster, deserves a bit of a spotlight himself!
Monster had a nameless bit in the short-story draft of Heartless. That is, it was mentioned in passing that the princess had a cat: “She was a rather lonely princess, but happy on the whole. She had a family who loved her, a royal cat to serve, lands over which to preside, subjects to oversee.”
And that was the extent of Monster’s role. I really didn’t think anything of it, but when I started expanding the book into a full-length novel, I automatically kept the cat. Still no specific reason. He was just there. I named him “Monster” because my family has a tradition of naming all our cats ‘M’ names: Marilla, Montgomery, Myles, Mimi, Molly, Minerva, Marmaduke . . . etc.
Monster was a natural choice, though I did have a few early readers ask why I would give such a mean name to the cat! I had no real answer. He was just a black cat who shadowed my princess around, sat on her lap, sometimes tangled her embroidery threads, and otherwise had very little role in the story.
Except . . .
Except when the Dragon came, Monster kept cropping up in places. I didn’t plan it and didn’t have any real explanation for it. I figured it was simply my Crazy-Cat-Ladyness coming to light. But there were little things that may or may not have been important. For instance, it was Monster who first recognized the Dragon for exactly what he was. It was Monster who found Prince Felix on the hillside after the Dragon’s attack and led him to safety. When Felix returned to Oriana later on, it was Monster who found him a way inside.
Yet he was nothing but a cat? Hmmmm . . .
It was after Heartless had already sold that Monster really got a chance to expand into his full glory. My editors particularly liked the cat and suggested that I expand his role, make him more obviously part of the action. They suspected, even from that early draft, that he must be Faerie or at least highly intelligent, but there was nothing specifically said. Their comments got me thinking.
I already had Sir Eanrin as a character saved up for later books. I was even in the midst of writing a story that featured Sir Eanrin (an as yet unsold novel called Goblin Son . . . I hope you’ll get to read it someday!). And, as I considered my editor’s comments, I thought, “Why couldn’t Eanrin be the cat?”
The rest of the character exploded from there. Significant changes had to be made to the original Monster, of course. Eanrin was golden, so the cat became a big orange tomcat with a plumy tail. Eanrin, by this time, had also met with a terrible accident that cost him both his eyes, so suddenly Monster had to be blind. Eanrin also could not have been Una’s pet for very long . . . He is a knight of Farthestshore. It’s not as though Una could have picked him out of a litter of kittens!
He must have been sent by his Master, the Prince of Farthestshore, to guard Una against the oncoming attacks of the Dragon. So I reworked the story to make the beginning be when Monster arrives, walking out of Goldstone Wood and establishing himself as Una’s pet/guardian. Proving that Prince Aethelbald was concerned for Una’s safety long before he arrived in person.
But also proving how powerful the Dragon is, for there was only so much Monster could do against him. When the Dragon sent terrible nightmares to Una’s subconscious, Monster could smell them but could not block them. He could only wake her up. When the Dragon arrived in Parumvir, Monster could recognize him and do what he could to guide and protect the royal family . . . but Una had left him inside when she went down to the bridge that day! He couldn’t prevent her from inviting the Dragon inside.
Nevertheless, though cats are renowned cowards, we see how brave Monster is. He makes certain Felix and Fidel are safely removed from Goldstone Hill and taken to the town of Dompstead. Then he goes at once to report to Prince Aethelbald and make him aware of the doings in Sondhold City. When the Prince sends him back, Monster at first believes the Prince wants him to face the Dragon. And, though he knows he would die in such an encounter, he says, “As you wish, my Prince.”
Monster certainly has an embellished role in Heartless, serving the family he’s been sent to protect even in the most difficult times. And even when Una is safely married, he seems to be sticking around Parumvir. After all, Prince Felix was poisoned by dragon claws and did not receive his full healing. Somehow, I don’t think Monster is going to abandon Felix to his fate.
But will Monster be able to protect the young prince when dark forces deep in the Wood desire to make use of Felix's poisoned body? Watch for Moonblood, coming April 2012, to find out!