My name is Jackat. Chief Miaow was my grandfather. Five years have passed since his death. I have to keep Miaow’s flame alive for future generations. General Jack, who I never met, lit the flame. I was born one year after the Battle of the Five Kingdoms. Grandad had become a difficult person but I was one of the few whose company he enjoyed. He was fond of me. Was it because Dad named me after General Jack? He shared his loneliness with me. I was the only person who understood his inner journey. No one else understood him not even my father. No one could come to grips with his behaviour.
Every day, Dad despatched me with food for Grandad. I regularly checked on Grandad when he scribbled under the W-shaped tree. We conversed for hours there. I read his journal as he wrote it. The animated discourses I had with Grandad were no different to the ones General Jack held with the younger star-struck Miaow. Only, now I was the wide-eyed pupil, he was the mentor. Likewise, these discourses had a profound impression on me. They moulded my character and my outlook to life. With time, I formed my impressions on the nature of the protagonists’ personalities during the liberation.
Miaow was a weak character replete with flaws. In the pre-war period, he displayed a lack of initiative despite being opinionated. He was prejudiced and had no sympathy for others, like the snakes and Noisy the crazy parrot. He was also unforgiving. He was quick to point an accusing finger when things went awry, for instance against the elephants or gazelles. He could be spiteful and almost executed the scouting birds and the parrot when they crossed him.
War brings out the best or the worst in a character. In Miaow’s case, it begot his nobility of spirit. Injustice roused him into an enterprising cat prepared to fight for his principles. He delivered on all fronts. More importantly, the newfound sense of mission ignited the three cardinal virtues of life in him – faith, hope and charity. All other good qualities emanate from those three. For the latter virtue, he scored high in friendship but otherwise persistently fell short. His relations with for instance, his family, his critics or supplicants were far from charitable. He vented his frustrations on them. Even during the war years under the inspirational influence of General Jack, he remained conflicted. He shared General Jack’s empathy for Champ despite his treachery. For Miaow, Champ the monkey was a tragic figure, a good soul who had lost his way. Miaow’s heart went out for him. By contrast, he could not fathom why the treachery of Olaf the wolf and George the fox was not punished. He poured scorn on the crazy parrot and was resentful over the choice of such a hapless creature as an assassin. Although he was cognisant of Noisy’s harmlessness, he almost executed him.
In the post war years, Miaow degenerated again as a character. He sank lower than in the pre-war years. He lost his motivation. He became conscious of his ineptness. The weakness of his character came to the fore again. He relapsed in a bad way. He slid down a spiral of low self-esteem and self-pity. This culminated in a full-blown protracted depression. He exhibited characteristic symptoms of depression. If he had access to drugs or alcohol, he might have drowned his sorrows in them. During the war, he felt fulfilled. Expectations were high. After the war, he recognised he could not fulfil those expectations. He was a failure. Life lost its meaning for him. He was rudderless. He could not make sense of the pervading chaos after the collapse of Feline Rule. The animal world was in sixes and sevens.
It was his strong sense of justice that redeemed him from this self-destructive spiral. In the mists of time, the Truth had become history. History became legend. Legend became myth. The myth became a malicious lie. This malevolent engineering of the truth irked him. For Miaow, organised slander was an injustice. Injustice once again rekindled the fire of the three cardinal virtues in his breast. He considered it another type of war. This brought out the best in him again. He redeemed himself by finding his vocation as the Defender of the Truth. In other words, he became the pioneering founder of journalism in the animal world. He became the first journalist of the New World.
Unknown to himself, he was fighting another battle as well- a battle within a battle. He was fighting a psychological battle within the battle for the Truth. He fought a personal battle against his inner demons. He died in that renewed state of self-fulfilment. My aunt Twinkle remarked on his psychological condition when he lay on his deathbed. It was not happiness. It was not joy. It was something much deeper and satisfying. It was peace of soul.
Once, Miaow referred to his inner secret garden. He said it had always been barren and unproductive. The soil was caked and parched.
In it, nothing grew apart from weeds. These never stopped growing. They let nothing else grow. They choked out any new life. He cut them but they grew again. General Jack helped him clear out the garden and turn over the soil. The General added sustenance to the soil and planted a seed. Together, Miaow and the General tenderly nurtured the seed. It grew into a wonderful, colourful garden. Under their constant attention, it did not only grow. It flourished. The fragrance that the secret garden emitted was magical. All the non-feline animals picked up the scent and fell under its spell. With fortitude and perseverance, Miaow constantly cleared the weeds, so his secret garden could thrive. He was so proud of it. He constantly referred nostalgically to those glorious days. With the departure of General Jack, Miaow tried to keep it up. Despite his best efforts, the weeds grew and the secret garden wilted. He kept at it though. He never gave up. The strain wore him down. Despite the endless presence of weeds, he found the impetus to make the garden grow. Although it could not attain its former splendour, he was contented nonetheless. He had done it by himself. He had managed to pick up the pieces and give renewed meaning to his life.
General Jack had set the bar high. By assiduously clinging to his coat tails, Miaow easily reached the standard. Once the General was gone, Miaow realised he could not reach that standard. Even worse, he could not even hold up that bar. The painful disillusion ate him up. In later life, he surreptitiously found a new way of holding up a different type of bar for all to see. In so doing, he unwittingly managed to reach that standard which previously eluded him. He regained his self-respect.
Miaow won the mother of all battles late in his life. It was victory over himself. It was the fulfilment of his destiny. Previously, he was dependent on General Jack for everything. Now, he did it on his own steam. He had matured to that extent in spite of himself only in his later years He may have lost his battle for the Truth, as he was isolated. However, the unjust challenge on the part of the gullible masses reawakened the three cardinal virtues in him. Such is the collective power of these virtues when sincerely practiced; they vanquished his inner demons. This inner benevolent dragon swept the demons away and won the field for him. He found hope when there was none. He made the impossible possible. He triumphed despite his material defeat. He succeeded in spite of his many flaws. During this time, he remained hot tempered and intolerant, almost bigoted. These blinkered traits were the battle scars of his psychic wars compounded by righteous indignation. His personal triumph in the eternal struggle despite his myriad flaws, rendered his spiritual victory all the more impressive. Now he has his eternal reward for which he worked so hard.
Miaow is the true hero of the saga. He was an ordinary cat who performed extraordinary acts against the odds.
George the fox was wise. Miaow could appreciate wisdom though he was not wise. He developed that wisdom only in his later years. However, George was wise by nature. He was the consummate unprincipled opportunist. He used anyone as a means to an end. He knew he could never be king but he craved to be the power behind the throne. He did not care who was in that throne as long as he was the one to place the contender on the throne.
He was far sighted. Like Miaow, he saw the potential in General Jack. For Miaow, the General was the end in itself. Miaow indulged in hero worship. George was cynical. For him, General Jack was a means to an end. He used others out of self-interest. Everyone was expendable. He used Olaf the wolf and tried to use Miaow as well after the battle. George used them as pawns in his power games. After he attained what he could from the General, George plotted to have him removed. At that juncture, George acknowledged that what he desired was poles apart from what the General was toiling for. George wanted absolute power. The General was aspiring for sharing of power. This is not dissimilar to the way the Roman Empire split up into nations. In this narrative, we see a hint of that happening in the aftermath of the Month of the Seven Missions- the carving out of the western tiger domain, the southern lion domain, the eastern cougar/panther/jaguar domain and another territory in the middle reserved for all the others.
Miaow realised he was incompetent yet he was honest and admitted it. George the fox knew he was inadequate for the task as indeed were all the survivors of the Battle of the Five Kingdoms. However, George tried to cover for his deficiencies by distorting the truth. He was dishonest. It riled Miaow’s modesty. It was the spark that electrified Miaow out of his apathetic state.
George was also unscrupulous. When he found out about Olaf the wolf’s plans, though he did not agree, he sought personal advantage from the assassination. He rationalised it. This cynicism contrasts with the sincerity and integrity of his innocuous feline rival. Miaow had no qualms to reveal his foolishness, when he rectified his misreporting of Noisy the crazy parrot’s actions. Moreover, Miaow was humble enough to seek out the parrot and ask for his pardon. This episode in itself, testifies to the reliability of Miaow the journalist‘s reporting.
Miaow maintained the Battle of the Five Kingdoms split animal time in two. In his modesty, he credited General Jack solely for this historically sensational achievement. He was truthful as after all, it was General Jack’s doing. Miaow by himself, could not do it. But it was equally true that General Jack could not have succeeded without Miaow’s loyal and decisive contribution. Granddad played a larger part than he was prepared to admit in begetting this great epochal event.
The battlefields of the Battle of the Five Kingdoms mirrored Miaow’s innate battleground. Before his association with General Jack, his behaviour was no different from that of the protagonists of the battle. Like him, they instinctively ran away from conflict and from danger. Although General Jack infused him with the courage to right the wrongs of the animal world, he constantly struggled to beef up the flesh to match the demands of his spirit. Insecurity continued to plague him. He did not trust himself. Nonetheless, he finally faced conflict head on. His seemingly futile painstaking efforts ultimately bore the fruit of eternal victory. Thus ended chief Miaow’s journey.
The onus is now on me to continue Miaow’s journey. I have to pick up where he left off. He achieved so much for the animal world, but there is still much to be done. I have to extend to the animal world of my time the meaning and sense of direction which Miaow cultivated in his inner self. Only that way can the animal world bring order to the chaos of these muddled times.
General Jack and Miaow live on.
A fire burns within me.
Through me, General Jack and Chief Miaow live on!
Victory may sometimes be disguised as defeat.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
AUTHOR’S EXPLANATORY NOTES
I.NATURE AND WILD LIFE
Some curiosities concerning nature in the novel.
Did you know that?
Europe and Asia form one huge land mass, separated by the Ural Mountains. Russia (and Turkey) straddle both continents. The events of the book play out in Europe west of the Urals and the Mesopotamian desert. The Dark Land is Asia.
Europe is named after Europa- the wide gazing, broad faced princess in Greek mythology. Europe is considered the old continent. The people in it have migrated westward, eastward and southward to colonize the outlying continents.
It is possible that the wild life of the old continent migrated in a similar way in earlier times. The wild life of the old continent now consists mostly of domesticated or “tame” wild animals. The fiercer or more exotic animals reside outside Europe
Panthers and Jaguars inhabit Latin America. Cougars and their black cousins-the pumas, share North American territory with the other descendants of the Western Train-the grizzly bears, the grey wolves, the coyotes, the moose and the bison. Elephants are distributed in the Far East together with the tigers. These are the heirs of the opposing armies in the Western battleground. Elephants also live in sub-Sahara Africa together with the other descendants of the Southern Train - the rhinos, hippos, hyenas, zebras, giraffes, gazelles and antelopes. This green land is also the habitat of the lions, cheetahs and leopards. The Sahara Desert is the home of camels. This fantasy adventure explains how and why these exotic animals came to populate these lands.
The python is found in Africa. It is not venomous but it kills its prey by constricting it. By contrast, the cobras and rattlesnakes particularly the copperhead, are venomous. They are distributed in Asia and the Americas respectively. The viper is the only venomous snake in Europe.
In ancient times known as the ice age, the oceans were frozen. It is posited they melted because of global warming.
The vibrations of underwater earthquakes generate a tsunami. In the past, they have also arisen from meteorite impacts.
Various theories have been proposed to account for the extinction of dinosaurs. The most plausible is a massive asteroid impact.
The bulk of dinosaur remains have been exhumed in the Americas and in the Far East, predominantly North America and China respectively. Very few remains have been unearthed in Europe, and then these have been discovered almost exclusively in the south of England.
Mammals including elephants, suffer from red- green colour blindness.
Lions fear elephants, rhinos, wolves and hippopotamuses. The lion dominates the cheetahs and leopards. Besides, tigers fear the lions and leave their food for them. The rhinos and the hippos are the most unpredictable and dangerous of animals. Their charges are particularly frightening.
The elephant is uneasy in the presence of the mouse. The small agile mouse is able to evade the slow thundering steps of the elephant. The rodent climbs up the elephant’s legs unseen, tickling and nibbling at its belly. The elephant is vulnerable as it cannot swipe it off nor can it ignore the mouse.
II. FAMOUS BATTLES
There is a saying “History repeats itself.” There is another saying, “History does not repeat itself. It is the same history, never broken, never halted.”
Which saying is true?
Can you see any parallels between the following military observations and the novel?
The cavalry decided the battles of the English Civil War. The royalist cavalry lead by the dashing Prince Rupert were superior but too undisciplined. After a successful cavalry charge, they continued chasing the dispersed enemy for miles well out of the battlefield confines. When they returned to the battlefield tired hours later, the battle would be over. Their departure left a vacuum that was exploited by the slower but disciplined Cromwellian cavalry. These never left the confines of the battlefield and always regrouped to relaunch several new cavalry charges that ultimately overwhelmed the enemy.
In the famous Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon’s grand army fought the huge armies of three superpowers. He managed to keep the three armies separate, preventing them from linking up and defeated each army in turn.
Napoleon used to reconnoitre the battleground himself incognito on the eve of the battle. He surveyed the terrain to position his army in a strategic favourable position with the intention of facilitating the devastating impact of his artillery.Moreover, Napoleon identified the disadvantageous area into which he manoeuvred the enemy army. The Duke of Wellington outdid him at Waterloo. Thunderstorms and heavy rainfall delayed the arrival of Napoleon’s own troops. By the time his army arrived on the battlefield, Wellington’s troops had already been deployed on a ridge in such a way that they were protected from the full force of Napoleon’s artillery.
The main reason for Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo was the fact that one third of his army under General Grouchy went missing. This army never made it to the battlefield for reasons that are unknown to this day. Consequently, Napoleon’s army was heavily outnumbered in the latter part of the battle.
General Robert E. Lee fought ten major battles in the American Civil War. His armies were always heavily outnumbered and under-resourced. All these battles were defensive except Gettysburg. He never lost a defensive battle and inflicted massive losses on the Northern army. It is much easier for an underdog army to fight a defensive battle. At Gettysburg, the Confederates lost because there was incoordination between the main divisions resulting in mistimed attacks.
At the Battle of Hattin in Palestine, the tumultuous famed charge of the Crusaders was nullified by the opening up of a wide passage in Saladin’s Saracen forces that allowed the entire cavalry to pass through into empty space. An aerial montage in Ridley Scott’s film “Kingdom of Heaven” portrayed this.
In the German wars of expansion, the wily Chancellor Bismarck deliberately provoked the naïve emperor Napoleon III into declaring war on Germany. He provided the French emperor with his casus belli or justification for war. This was the prelude for the disastrous Franco-Prussian War that was another humiliation for France. It heralded the decline of France as a military superpower. Karl Marx said on this nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, “Hegel reveals somewhere that all great world historical facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgets to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
St Louis IX had the passionate desire to liberate the Holy Land from the occupation of the Saracen forces. He spent years preparing for this crusade ignoring the impatience of his peers. He was extremely methodical and orderly. He painstakingly laid down every minute detail of the campaign personally. When the army finally arrived in the Middle East, the entire campaign broke down practically overnight, mostly because of factors that were beyond the king’s control. His army never made it into Palestine. He himself spent most of his time in Palestine as a prisoner rather than a liberator.
General George A. Custer was an accomplished young general who suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Indians won this only major battle of the Indian wars. General Custard relied on outdated intelligence that drastically underestimated the size of the Indian army. That together with the Yankees’ overconfidence ensured that the Indian braves coming at them from all angles routed the Yankee army.
In the Second World War, the British cracked the Enigma Code through which the German high command communicated battle orders. From then onwards, the Allies won every battle including the decisive Battle of Britain that obliterated the Luftwaffe. The British Air Force knew every detail of the German aerial offensive in advance, including the time, coordinates and number of planes deployed. The Luftwaffe on the other hand, were completely in the dark about the British operations. The only major victory of the Wehrmacht after the Enigma code revelation was in the closing stages of the war –the counteroffensive Battle of the Bulge. This victory was attributed to the fact that the German General involved did not make use of the Enigma Code in his communications. The allies were taken by surprise.
Roman legions under the Emperor Septumus Severus were held back by scorpion bombs launched by the defenders of a Mesopotamian stronghold. Earthenware was loaded with scorpions. Under this incessant rain of scorpion bombs, the Roman legions finally broke off the attack and retreated. Likewise, during the Gaullist wars, the fierce Gauls launched beehives into the invading Roman armies.
The Battle of Grunwald is the largest medieval battle that pitted the might of the Teutonic Knights against the Polish-Lithuanian Federation. The two armies faced each other on the battlefield but neither army was prepared to launch the first attack. They remained inactive in the blistering heat for most of the day. The Poles were sheltered in the woods where they were protected from the famed awesome Teutonic heavy cavalry charges. The Teutonic Knights on the other hand had dug lines of defensive trenches before the main army. In order to induce the Polish troops out of the woods, the Grandmaster tried to provoke the Poles into launching the opening attack. He sent a taunting present of two swords to the Polish king with an insulting message. However, the Polish-Lithuanian Army did not budge. Finally, later in the day, the Poles fired the opening salvo with a feinted cavalry attack/retreat. The itchy Teutonic Knights fell for the ruse, unleashing a massive Teutonic onslaught that resulted in a decisive defeat for the Teutonic Knights. It precipitated the decline of the mighty Teutonic Knights as a military power and Poland regained its independence.
What is the value of history?
Otto von Bismarck, “What we learn from history is that no one learns from history.”
III. TYPES OF GOVERNMENT
What modes of government can you make out in the novel?
Democracy is the rule by the majority. It respects the free will of the people. It has its flaws, as it does not necessarily mean that the majority is right. In addition, glitzy media manipulation can trick voters into voting for the wrong political party.
Dictatorship is at the other end of the spectrum. It ensures unity and order but is flawed, as it does not respect free will. Power is concentrated in the hands of a small minority. Since it does not permit opposition, the rulers yield absolute power. Absolute power corrupts and is abusive.
In Monarchy, a noble family based on blood ties (not based on merit) holds power indefinitely. The most powerful however, are the kingmakers, who are the powers behind the throne. It can be associated with feudalism where society is divided into strata, the lower strata being known as serfs. Most of the assets of the serfs belong to the state.
Anarchy occurs when different irreconcilable factions develop in a country. These many factions resort to violence to resolve these differences. The result is disorder. It is the prelude to dictatorship, when ultimately one faction triumphs over all the others.
IV.TYPES OF WARFARE
What types of warfare can you discern in the novel?
Total war occurs when the warring nations mobilize the entire resources of the nation to wage war. It is self- destructive for both sides particularly if both sides are balanced in strength.
A war of attrition is a long- term conflict waged by a weaker under-resourced enemy. The intention is to avoid open battle, and to conduct repeated small-scale surprise sabotage attacks. These are intended to wear down the superpower and to weaken its morale and resolve. It can also induce the superpower into awarding concessions in return for discontinuation of the debilitating hostilities.
A war of retribution is a punitive, savage campaign intended to obliterate any opposition and to discourage opposition in the future. It is a vengeful disproportionate act by a superpower in response to the challenge of a weaker enemy.
Sedition is the means whereby unrest and disorder is engendered by dissemination of false provocative information that arouses discord. The perpetrators are known as agent provocateurs. They function like fire starters attempting to create a conflagration.
Civil war occurs when two opposing factions in a country fight for their two conflicting ideals. These internecine wars are vicious and bleed the country of its lifeblood. Napoleon said that every European battle is in effect a European civil war. In a way, it is true as Europe started as one huge country or empire. It subsequently split into nations each developing their own identity and culture. Most European wars have been fought over the positioning of borders between neighbours. Many borders are arbitrary and have changed repeatedly throughout history. The EU project is a way of Europe returning to its roots as one big country or empire through economic ties.
How would you decide that a war is just?
Either warring faction insists that they are in the right. It is not always easy to decide which faction’s motive for war is just. It may be difficult to determine who is the aggressor and who is the victim. It makes a difference for the combatants, as they are dependent on foreign aid. The just side has a better chance of gaining sympathy and recruiting allies or resources. A set of guidelines were drafted by St Thomas Aquinas to decide if a war is just. However, even these can be misconstrued as in the Second Gulf War.
Journalism is the reporting of the truth. It is known as the fourth estate and is an important check to the power of the rulers especially in democratic countries. In dictatorships, it is suppressed.
An investigative reporter functions like a detective and assesses the information to separate myth from fact. This type of journalist attempts to extricate the truth from the lie. It can be a dangerous occupation when the power being investigated resorts to dirty tactics to prevent the truth from being outed.
If you were an investigative journalist cat born just after Chief Miaow’s death, how would you determine whether Miaow is saying the truth?
You are confronted by two different versions of events .One is propagated by Miaow; the other is propagated by the majority but originates from the theories of George the fox.
You need to interview key proponents of both versions to see which source is more credible. Since Miaow is dead, you have to interview his son Captain Purr. For the other side you have to interview George the fox.
You have to corroborate their versions with other exponents on both sides of the spectrum to see if they are consistent.
You would have to see whether the two proponents have any conflict of interest, what their motives are for sticking to those views and what they stand to gain or lose by propagating those views.
Finally, you tally those versions from the facts as you see them now with your own eyes.
VI. MAN AS GUARDIAN OF THE ENVIRONMENT
How would you rate man’s record as the master and guardian of the environment and wild life?
Very mixed I am afraid.
On one side, you have the spiritual heirs of General Jack- the environmentalists and the lovers of nature. We have the whole works- animal hospitals, animal doctors, legislators against animal cruelty, the animal rights activists, the environmentalists and many other institutions.
On the other side, we have the destruction of the environment and the uncontrolled wanton extinction of wild life, through greed for money, for power or through indifference, downright cruelty or for sports, leisure and entertainment. The environment is sacrificed on the altar of capitalism. This is the utilitarian way of George the fox.
THE CHRONICLES OF OUR LAND
How would you like to give rein to the journalistic instinct within you as Chief Miaow did? You can start now. Compose your views about Miaow’s narrative. In that way, you become part of the story and you contribute to the Chronicles of Our Land. You become the spiritual heirs of chief Miaow.
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Like Miaow, be brutally honest. Your reviews will be a tremendous help, if and when I write the third book of the Jack trilogy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Bush a medical doctor specialized in haematology. He was born and bred in Malta but left for the UK when he was in his mid- twenties. He returned to his first home in 2003 where he still practices hospital medicine. Since he gave up his private practice, he has more time to spend with the little children. He enjoys reading, swimming, travelling and doing any type of DIY job. Most of all though, he cherishes the time he spends with his young nephews Jack and Luke.
He has published many papers in international peer reviewed medical journals. He also writes analytical opinion articles for an influential political blog.
This is the second book of the Jack trilogy in which his nephew becomes a protagonist in the plot. This book is intended for middle grade readers. This trilogy-in-the-making was written for the protagonist’s real life namesake nephew to be read by him at different ages. The author believes there is no better way to ignite a love of literature in a child other than with an in-house self-published work. This arduous literary DIY undertaking was a labour of love from beginning to end.
OTHER BOOKS BY THE AUTHOR
The Joyous Adventures of Whizzojack
A five year old boy considers himself a superhero and uses his “superpowers” to protect the people of Jacktown from a host of supervillains, or does he make matters worse?
Spiderman juggles with Aesop in this 21st century Parable of the Talents.
This is the first book of the Jack trilogy. It is an illustrated chapter book intended for children between 5 to 9 years.
It is available from Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, David BushWrite a Review