Marie Stuttard
& Denese Moore,
The Sacred Cat
(self-published, 1998)

Marie Stuttard, a New Zealand teacher of speech and communications and a writer with a proven track record, teams up with skilled photographer Denese Moore to create a beautiful book, a labor of love and homage to cats and a very special cat in particular. The Sacred Cat harmoniously blends more than 60 photographs and text to tell the imaginative story of a young cat of the distinctive-looking Birman breed (darker "points" -- face, legs and tail -- long, silky fur, white feet, blue eyes), who embarks on a daunting quest traveling the world to seek the home of his ancestors, the Sacred Cats of Burma.

The authors use the charming legend explaining the origin of the felines Birman breeders cherish for the source of their inspiration. The tale recounts how a heroic cat named Sinh who, when finding his beloved priestly caregiver killed by robbers, defied the murderers with his fierce demeanor, thus encouraging the surviving sacerdotes to fend off the maldoers. The Goddess rewarded the brave creature by changing his appearance to the look we know today (the white feet symbolizing purity), and he and his fellow cats would guard sacred temples ever after and be honored by having their spirits guaranteed entry to paradise when they passed on. A re-telling of this myth opens The Sacred Cat, the text being narrated by its feline protagonist who recounts how he loved hearing this story and became obsessed with the desire to become a Sacred Cat himself, especially since his name, Lao Tsun, means "dwelling place of the gods." There follows Lao Tsun's account of his maturation, growing up preparing to undertake a seemingly impossible journey, and when he finally does so, persisting despite extreme dangers, physical deprivations and mental challenges.

The Sacred Cat, full of adventure told from a "cat's-eye view" that will appeal to all ages, entertains on that level and also enriches with its allegorical, inspirational portrayal of the heroic spirit -- the triumph of an individual who, despite fearsome obstacles, achieves a dream. Published in a glossy, large-format trade paperback, this book, every page graced with lovely full-color photos carefully conceived to complement the text, offers a winning combination of visual delight and a charming, thoughtful story. Ailurophiles in particular will be ecstatic over The Sacred Cat, but Stuttard and Moore's efforts will also give ample pleasure to anybody who loves superb photography and heartwarming, uplifting tales. This book is worth pursuing to the ends of the Earth in New Zealand.

[ by Amy Harlib ]
Rambles: 3 November 2001

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