GUEST POST: SNUGGLE the Cat by Frank Hinks

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THE TALES OF RAMION:

The Dream Thief

The Land of Lost Hair

Frankie and the Dancing Furies

Creatures of the Forest

Frank Hinks (www.ramion-books.com)

Perronet Press

£12.99 each

To mark the release of Frank Hinks’ quriky new childrens series, The Tales of Ramion, I’m very happy to welcome Frank to Reader Dad, and present a character study of one of the series’ key characters: Snuggle the Cat.

Sadly no longer with us, Snuggle was the misnamed family cat: fearless, imperious, lord of all he surveyed.

As a three month old kitten Snuggle went next door and killed three of the Vicar’s chicks, the inspiration of the story The Vicar’s Chickens. As told in The Land of Lost Hair one day when we went for a walk a large black dog followed us home to The Old Vicarage. As soon as the dog saw Snuggle (a small kitten) sitting outside the kitchen cleaning his paws, it barked and ran at him, jaws open, saliva oozing between its teeth. Snuggle showed no concern. Calmly he continued to wash his paws. But at the last moment as the jaws closed on his head he reared up and slashed the dog across the nose: the dog ran off blood dripping.

The children loved him. When as babies they slept on the lawn, he would lie nearby, keeping an eye on them. When they were a little older, he would walk in the garden with them. But they had to treat him with respect. On one occasion as a young child our eldest son teased him. Snuggle went up on two paws and like a mother cat boxed first one of Julius’s ears, then the other. The boy did not cry (Snuggle was careful to keep his claws hidden) but was completely stunned. Thereafter he and his brothers treated Snuggle with total respect.

In the stories the rabbit Scrooey-Looey is an anti-hero: rude, greedy, saving (or trying to save) the boys by gambling, cheating at cards. In contrast Snuggle is an old-fashioned foot soldier, an old-fashioned hero. Sent by the Gardener to protect the boys from the witch Griselda (who wants roast Julius, stewed Alexander and Benjamin on toast), Snuggle will always come to the rescue, will always put his body between the children and danger.

Dream lord and super hero with each incarnation Snuggle must discover once again his mission and his magic powers. If only he fully understood them, these powers would be very considerable. He can change into a warrior, half man half cat, standing 6 foot tall with sword and shield in hand. He can even change himself into an inanimate object: in Gary the Frog Prince he turns himself into a rocket propelled tunnel borer to escape from the subterranean kingdom of the man-eating frogs. But he makes mistakes. He sometimes gets carried away. In The Dream Thief he should not have taken the children into a cave where they could see their possible future lives on the walls. He is not noted for his sense of humour. His singing of ancient ballads like Cuddles the Conqueror is ghastly. But he is never less than brave and is always totally loyal to his master the Gardener and those whom the Gardener wants him to protect.

Snuggle in the books knows his position. In real life he acted as master of all he surveyed, even walking down the nave of the church with tail proudly swishing in the air. In the books he serves the Gardener. As Dream Lord he will fight to protect a person’s dreams, but he is not the creator of those dreams: he knows that it is not for him to say who should have any particular dream: that is for his master.

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