Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Anjolie York
English 225
Explorations Project
Spring 2012

Kipling's Cat

The Explorations Report

Part 1:

Part 2:

Reflective Piece

Once I put my Explorations Project together, I was actually quite pleased with it. I had initially thought that a lot more research was required, and part of me really wanted to dive into it but I knew it was going to possibly take hours of time that I just didn’t have. After talking with my professor about it, I realized that I already had all the materials I needed and my presentation came together quite quickly.

I was happy with the response that I got back from my professor as well as the class. People seemed to really be engaged with what I was talking about, which sort of surprised me. Some expressed a lot of interested in the feminine aspect of the tales, which surprised me even more. I had wanted to go into that a lot more but was afraid of sounding like I was on a feminist adventure, when that wasn’t where I had intended to go.  That being said however, it now is. I wouldn’t just look for connections between the feminine and the feline however, I would keep that open-minded view point which allowed me to find the two similar tales in the first place. I think it would be really amazing if I could find the approximate origin of the cat stories in the Jakata tales and see if the feminine element is there and then broaden the search back out again and look across cultures for other cat domestication tales.

The funny thing is, Rudyard Kipling was a bit of a whim. I’ve always loved his storytelling: the funny words, the exotic places, the wild explanations for why things are the way they are. It felt like a flight of fancy in a world that was always telling me how things really were. It wasn’t until I was searching for a piece of cover art for this portfolio that I realized I’d read this story as a small child. I can almost visualize the book. It had a cloth cover. I will have to check with my mother and see if it’s still around anywhere though it’s been years and years since I’ve seen it. At any rate, it had the woodcut illustrations that I believe were done by Kipling himself. You can see the woodcut for “The Cat Who Walks by Himself” on the cover page of this portfolio. I think I was nearly as captured by the art as I was by the stories as a child and perhaps this explains my fondness for woodcuts and printmaking.

I think what I really learned from this project was that taking on a research project doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it’s felt in the past. I actually really enjoy researching but I’ve had the impression that I had to know what it was that I was after before I could really begin. In this instance, I had a direction (which I usually do before I begin) but the search itself kept taking me to new places. Though I didn’t get to go as in depth as I’d have liked, I have a great place to pick this project back up and I believe that I will. It may happen during my next two years pursuing my bachelor’s degree or it may end up working into a project in my graduate studies. I can see a lot of potential here and I feel like the project could be as big or little as I wanted it to be…and most importantly, the idea of working on it more really excites me. From sitting on the steps of the reading room in the children’s section of the library, to researching the Jakata scrolls, who knew? It just goes to show me how being curious and open-minded can lead you to places you would never think of on your own.

I hope that the others who watched my explorations project got more out of it than just entertainment value, but if that’s all that happened, I’m okay with that as well. I hope that it sparked that curiosity in their own selves about tales that they were told as children, perhaps folk tales and the like. I believe that so much culture is to be found in our folk tales, just like mythology, and that that something deeper about the human psyche can be discovered there if one is so inclined to delve into them.  I don’t know that it’s something obvious or easy to define or that it will necessarily show up in some analytical break down of an old story…but I don’t know that it has to. The value of shared experiences, which is so much of what a folktale is to me, is immeasurable. How many times a tale has been told through how many generations and peoples and perhaps even cultures all shapes it. How many directions could this cat tale have gone? What elements are almost always present? Does the feminine relationship with the cat endure? What does that say about how a culture views its women and how might have these tales been interpreted in the past? And then compare that to how we view them today? There doesn’t have to be any concrete answers to these questions, but just the asking of them piques my interest and makes me wonder what is out there to be discovered about them.

Works Cited

Ashliman, D.L. “The Jataka Tales.” 2002. University of Pittsburgh, Revised 30 Jan. 2002. Web. 14 May. 2012.

Cowell, E.B., “The Jataka.” Web. 14 May. 2012.

"Jataka".  Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 14 May. 2012

"Just So Stories".  Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 14 May. 2012

Kipling, Rudyard. “The Cat That Walked By Himself.” Just So Stories. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1987. Print. 78-87.

Mandela, Nelson. “The Cat Who Came Indoors.” Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2002. Print. 12-14.

"Rudyard Kipling".  Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 14 May. 2012

Copyright 2012
Anjolie York


Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA