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Borders and Warriors - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Borders and Warriors
I feel like talking about something frivolous, yet oh-so-weighty, and I don't have anything special to say about Harry Potter right now (I'll probably do a re-read before the release, and have periodic posts), so I think I'm going to talk about clan boundaries in Warriors, k? I'll try to include enough for people who haven't read them to have some clue what I'm talking about. My old review is here, and pretty spoilery.

I don't have my books with me, so I'll start with a failure to recall which place it was observed, or in which precise words, but at one point, Firestar (-heart?) makes the wise, if not entirely original, observation that "The lines that divide us are also the lines that join us to each other."

For me, this is an interesting repeated theme throughout the series. The clans may--even must--work together on a frequent basis, and the pointless hatred is always portrayed badly... but so is any attempt to merge the clans. There have always been four clans in the forest, Firestar insists, only to be corrected by StarClan... no, they say: There have always been five. StarClan alone has cats of all clans working together all the time. (There is a neat conceptual difference between cat heaven--all cats kind of eternally together, heaped up in cosmic sleeping pile--vs. cat hell, where they are alone and friendless and there is no prey, but that's a whole different topic.)

Throughout the books, there are two opposing instincts--to bring the clans together and to keep them separate. There are love stories across clan lines that make you want to get out the water spritzer at these irritating cats who won't let Graystripe and Silverstream be together, but then there's the horrifying prospect of Tigerstar uniting ShadowClan and RiverClan and threatening the two remaining clans with destruction if they don't join together (under his leadership, of course), because the time of four clans is over. WindClan, an early casualty of ShadowClan's ambition, has to be brought back to the forest by ThunderClan, but the restoration of health doesn't happen until they re-establish their hold on the territory. Firestar refuses to leave the forest without all four clans working together, but as soon as they get there, they must separate back into their camps.

Thankfully, Hunter doesn't go into a didactic explanation of the whys and wherefores of this, which isn't the place of fiction, but it's worth thinking about, and I think the reasoning really is encapsulated in the bit about the lines that separate the clans are the lines that join them.

Each clan has a camp, a safe center where the clan cats go about their daily business. They have their own rituals and habits. (Tigerstar, a Thunderclan outcast, obscenely apes the geography of the ThunderClan camp by building a hill of bones to replace the Highrock, from which the clan leader speaks.) Each has its own sort of preferred prey, and roughly the right amount of territory, though of course they argue about this. They have different hunting styles based on their preferred terrain. Mostly, they get along as little sets, and their problems are usual community drama--so and so thinks he should have been deputy, the other one is insulted that she wasn't chosen as a mentor, the leader has to decide between loyalty to a missing friend and the needs of the clan. There are distinct areas for elders, nursing queens, warriors, apprentices, medicine cats, and leaders, but they are crossed respectfully on a regular basis. It's mostly a good life... at least until you get to the real borders. The borders are often violent, often in flux, and the focus of much of the cats' attention.

Because the borders are where things happen. Cats are chased across them, ambitious leaders try to move them, prisoners of one clan find safety on the opposite side of a line. Cats save each other and kill each other at the borders, they fall in love and meet secretly along the lines. Where the borders meet, at FourTrees or on the island (in TNP), the truely dramatic incidents occur, the things that change the directions for everyone. These aren't all the horrifically violent events (the worst, the murder of Tigerstar, happens at the place where the borders all meet, but the second worst, the murder of Stonefur, happens well-inside RiverClan territory after Tigerstar has effectively taken over). These are the places where things are created.

I don't know if I'm drawing a real conclusion here; it's just an interesting point about the books, especially in gearing them toward children, and not the message we're used to hearing. Maybe it boils down to the need to have borders but to for heaven's sake stop being absurd about them. I don't know. Just thought I'd write a little bit about it. (I started before, but didn't get far.)
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cheddartrek From: cheddartrek Date: April 22nd, 2007 03:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I guess I'm one of the few people who read your posts that has also read the Warriors books.

I don't really know what to say in response to this, except that I've thought about it as well. On one hand, I want to tell the cats to just join up completely and be one big happy clan. They eventually had this down pat when they were moving in TNP. On the other hand, I see why it's important to have more than one clan. If they're spread out, then the prey situation is better, and there's also some sort of checks and balances; there's four leaders of equal rank in the forest and all that.

I don't know what conclusion to draw here either, but it's still worth thinking about.

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