Big Bear is not the only one of our cats in The Mythic Series. The breakout star of The Mythic and the Illustrious Lie is Chester, a beautiful black and white cat of few words—and fewer braincells.

History Repeats

Big Bear helms the B-story of Book Four and I had intended him to pair him with Sybil, the uptight bureau-rat who would act as his comedic foil. Sybil’s early scenes are still there, and I planned for her to show up at Big Bear’s room the morning after he is attacked by the ninnyjas and then accompany him for the rest of the storyline.

But, exactly as had happened in Book One with Big Bear, when the door opened there stood our Chester. I was surprised as Big Bear to see him standing there. But, just I had in The Mythic, I shrugged and continued on. In real life, Big Bear and Chester are good mates so I suspect my subconscious decided to send them on a fictional adventure. 

In Black and White

Appearance-wise, Chester is almost lifted wholesale from real life. Here is his initial description:

Standing in the hallway was a cat, quite the fluffiest cat Big Bear had ever seen, and Big Bear had seen a lot of cats. This feline had fur everywhere, on his chest, his neck, his belly—his tail was nothing but an explosion of hair. His face was an almost perfect equilateral triangle, with almond shaped eyes and perky ears. The hair protruding from these ears was also fluffy, with a tufted top. Like Big Bear the cat was black and white but Big Bear would have described himself as more black than white, whereas this one was more white than black. His legs and torso were white but his back, tail, and face were black, except for a strip of white around his eyes. The effect was to make him look like a white cat wearing a black mask and cape, not unlike a superhero costume from the Beyond’s fiction. Big Bear did not recognise the breed but it was a sturdy one. Looking past the fluffiness this cat was all muscle.

As you can see from his picture, the only real change I made is that I tweaked real-Chester’s black face-and-back-markings to give the illusion of him wearing a superhero outfit. I was thinking Batman, of course.

Also lifted from real life are Chester’s sharp claws. Seriously, this cat has claws like razor blades and he knows how to use them. Conversely, Chester only fights out of necessity. He is the kindest-natured cat I’ve ever known. If threatened, he’ll see off even the fiercest foe (including dogs five times his size). But he will never throw the first scratch.

He's Like The Wind. Or Maybe He's Actually The Wind.

The joke in our house is that Chester is doesn’t know he’s a cat. He doesn’t know the rules of the world, or that there’s a world, or even what rules are. We never expect him to follow any social norms because it would be like trying to tame the wind. He’s a force of nature in cat form. He is the id personified and so in the books I imagined how he might act if he had some magical upgrades. It turns out that means he walks across ceilings, tears apart assassins thinking it’s a game, and sleeps in the middle of war-room tables during important briefings.

The wonderful opportunity of an instinctual, childlike character is showing that they’re far more complex than first revealed. For Chester that revelation is that all his seemingly nonsensical “Look?”s weren’t nonsense at all. The scene where he outs the spy elf—and especially how he deals to the malevolent pixie—is one of my all-time favourites.

A Cat of Few Words

Originally I had Chester speaking longwinded too-tall-to-be-true tales. These were taken from real life where our Chester used to vanish on adventures and then appear days later, very chirpy and chatty and we would translate these into laughably ludicrous thing he might have done or seen. But Big Bear is a garrulous character prone to hyperbole and Chester’s long-winded flights of fancy slowed down their scenes. I also couldn’t quite find Chester’s cadence. No accent or rhythm of speech did him justice.

Finally forced to try something totally different I went the opposite route. Rather than speak a lot he would barely say a word. The moment the first “Pig?” came out of his mouth I knew I’d cracked it. Chester not speaking made the cat-on-cat interactions so much funnier. Big Bear the windbag and Chester the almost-mute-battling-savant became the odd couple I wanted them to be and their scenes flowed out effortlessly.

Apart from the words that Chester parrots when spoken by others, he has a vocabulary limited to the following (almost always followed by a question mark): Chester. Play. Pig. Who. Where. Fight. Mine. And, of course, Look. That’s just eight words but it compelled me to get inventive and further upped Big Bear’s frustration with his furry pal.

Bonus Round

Recognise that distinctive “snikt” sound that Chester makes each time he uses his razor-sharp talons? It’s the sound made by the claws of a certain X-Man…