The Scratching Log

Blog for Ratha series home-page website. Posted by author Clare Bell.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Ratha's Creatures -- Treelings, Part 2

So, to what species do Thakur’s little friend Aree and Ratha’s little companion Ratharee, Thistle-chaser’s Biaree, Bira’s Cherfaree, and other treelings in the clan belong?

Some readers have guessed a squirrel or other type of rodent, perhaps a kangaroo rat. Others have guessed some early member of the raccoon family, Procyon, or a flying squirrel or sugar glider. Still other readers, perhaps more astute, have placed their targets in the primate family; say, an early monkey. The big-eyed tarsiers and bush babies comprised other speculations. Or maybe the author just made up the creature. Authors do, and often get away with it!
Many readers, after studying Aree’s description in Clan Ground and other treelings in Ratha and Thistle-chaser and Ratha’s Challenge, have narrowed their primate choices down to members of the lemur family, the relatively long-snouted (for a primate) long-limbed ring-tailed climbers that bound from tree to tree as if they were flying. Those folks are right. Aree and the others are members of the lemur tribe, probably descendents of the early North American lemur Notharctus. Their appearance is drawn from the ring-tailed lemur of Madagascar, and some of their behavior from the sifaka, also from that island.
How do treeling names work? Well, when Aree had young and members of the clan adopted the little treelings, they were called Ratha’s Aree, Bira’s Aree and so on. These got shortened into Ratharee, Biraree, etc. “Biraree” was hard to say, so Bira turned it into “Biaree”. Thakur just kept the original “Aree” name for his treeling.
(In the early part of Clan Ground, Aree is called “he”, since Thakur doesn’t know that Aree is female until the treeling has babies.)
Other clan members who get treelings will follow the same pattern, so we may get Fessaree, Dranaree, Bundaree, Misharee (from Mishanti, the cub that Thistle rescues and adopts) and so forth.
Hey wait a minute! Why then does Thistle-chaser have Biaree and Bira has Cherfaree?
In Ratha’s Challenge (which will soon be released), Bira gave her treeling to Thistle for a special task. Biaree and Thistle developed a strong bond, so Bira kindly gave the treeling to Thistle. Bira got another from Aree’s next litter. She named this one Cherfaree, after Cherfan, the big herder that she likes and sometimes teases.
I made one goof with the treelings, or maybe I can just attribute it to poetic license. In Clan Ground, I depicted Aree with a prehensile tail, like a New World monkey. I had a scene where Aree carried a lighted torch by curling her tail around the shaft. I might add that Thakur quickly put a stop to that so that the treeling would not burn her back! In fact, today’s lemurs do not have prehensile tails. That scene was why some readers guessed that the treelings were something like squirrel monkeys.
One could argue that in the millions of years that lemur-like primates have existed, from the Eocene to the present, at least one could have evolved a monkey-like prehensile tail. After all, the New World or American monkeys may have evolved from lemur-like primates. Interestingly, many Old World, or African and Asian monkeys do not have the prehensile tail of their New World cousins.
Many creatures, including domestic cats, have a surprising ability to coil their tails around things, including human legs and fingers. My little silver kitty Athena, moves her tail with amazing sinuosity and grace so that it almost looks prehensile. But I never have, and probably never will, find her hanging from her tail on the shower curtain rod when I come home.
Perhaps, if cats survive and/or succeed humans as masters of this planet (as in Andre Norton’s wonderful novel Breed to Come), evolution will grace them with a prehensile tail to serve instead of hands. Or, they might just domesticate the remaining lemurs or other primates as Ratha and the clan do in the books. Who knows; maybe the Named will live in the future as well as the past.

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