Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘He that walks in darkness’ – that terrible presence which waits in the shadows and whom every cat knows it will meet one day.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Imelza smiles wearily, at one with every proud mythological queen who has at last produced the longed-for heir. Widow Mogs, the honoured midwife, holds up an orange ball of fluff, presenting it with suitable pomp to the glittering heavens. The stars wince in foreboding, but the comet passes in a graceful arc overhead, bathing the scene in a nimbus of celestial fire. The bats take flight from the nearby church, muttering about how they bliddy knew it n’ thank the Lady we won’t live to see how this pans out. All over London, rats get the inexplicable urge to bow down. Somewhere in the depths of Deptford, a Hobber ritual goes awry with fatal consequences for everyone involved.
I think Jupiter’s arrival into the story deserves some sort of award for sheer grandiosity. Born in an unhallowed graveyard, encircled by the coils of a fearsome stone dragon as winter grips all London in its deathly embrace, murmured of by the farseeing bats and heralded by an honest-to-goodness comet? I mean we know he’s going to grow up big and strong and all that, but talk about OTT. Simba ain’t got nothing on this guy.
While I was rereading this chapter I couldn’t help but laugh imagining a descendant of Widow Mogs being present during the events of The Final Reckoning. All the other cats are cowering or frozen to death or whatever, and she’s there with her knitting, watching it all unfold from a safe distance, nodding sagely. “My great great great great great great granny delivered that’un, y’know. Strangest call she ever had. ‘Watch out fer Imelza’s sprogs,’ me ol’ mum used to say. ‘One of ’em is still around, pox on ‘im! He’ll make trouble for us all eventually.'”
Matt’s Thoughts: Two words: cat midwives. For me, this is the most genius thing in the whole chapter, if not the book so far. You could have easily dropped the midwife on the cutting room floor. Imelza could have just wandered into the graveyard and had three kittens by herself.
But, no, there are apparently two cat midwives in London. And that just makes this chapter awesome.
There are also tantalising bits of mythology that I wonder about here. First of all, the mention of ‘he that walks in darkness’, which I put in the quote above. I love that one. But the one that I’d never noticed before is in the opening of the chapter. When describing St Anne’s Blackfriars (the graveyard still exists, by the way), the chapter reads: ‘Inside St Anne’s the gospels were preached but beyond its walls the dangerous realm of the old goddess flourished.’
Maybe this is explained elsewhere, but I’d be fascinated to know which goddess is being referred to and what this dangerous realm is. Is it a feline realm? Or a human realm? We’re familiar with mice and rat beliefs, but cats are a whole new level.
Anyway, it’s a cracking concept and that moment where we first see Jupiter can’t but help send a thrill down the spine of all Deptford Mice lovers.