The Big Twenty is Shur’tugal’s twenty week long series of in depth discussion and theorizing, all centered around twenty core questions, loose ends, and theories in the Inheritance universe. The Big Twenty is the ultimate fan guide to happenings in Book 4 — and we hope you’ll join us for the adventure! To learn more about the Big Twenty, view our announcement article.
Werecats. Christopher Paolini’s unique spin on the classic were-villains in fantasy, scifi, and horror has produced one of our favorite fantasy races in recent memory: Alagaesian werecats. These unique creatures carry the appearance of large cats… But don’t be fooled; these cunning, unique, and adventurous creatures are also able to turn into a humainoid form at will, appearing around the size of a human child.
Prior to Book 4, werecats were few and far between – in fact, we had only encountered two. Things changed when Christopher decided to tease fans with the first excerpt from Inheritance entitled “King Cat”, which introduced readers to the werecat king and the race as a whole. Now the group has allied themselves with the Varden and will join the fight to overthrow Galbatorix. How will they contribute in Book 4? What are they capable of? How will their prophecies help alter the course of the war? We explore all of these questions and more in this week’s installment of The Big Twenty!
What exactly is a werecat?
Werecats are a spin on the common idea of werewolves in fantasy, scifi, and horror – but much cooler. Werecats are a mysterious and intelligent race of creatures who walk Alagaesia in secrecy, preferring their privacy to the conflicts of the world. Werecats are able to change shape between their large cat-like form and a humanoid form, offering them the opportunity to blend in fairly well in human-heavy situations as well as allowing them an advantage on the battlefield, as we saw with Solembum in the Battle of Farthen Dur.
Unlike werewolves of legend and folklore, Alagaesia’s werecats do not appear to be dependent upon the moon’s cycle to change into their cat form. In addition, a bite (or scratch) from a werecat does not appear to change an individual into a werecat; instead, werecats relying on reproduction to bolster their race’s numbers. This information may come as a relief to any individuals caught on a werecat’s bad side!
Werecats vary in appearance. We’ve encountered multiple werecats to date, three of which have stood out to Eragon. Each werecat’s human form is similar in size to a dwarf’s, but their actual appearance is quite far from that of a dwarf. Some werecats look similar to human children, while others have small bodies and aged appearances, as is the case with Maud. Others, however, look entirely unique, as with Grimrr Halfpaw:
Grimrr Halfpaw, however, looked unlike any person or creature Eragon had ever seen. At roughly four feet tall, he was the same height as a dwarf, but no one could have mistaken him for a dwarf, or even for a human. He had a small, pointed chin, wide cheekbones, and, underneath unswept eyebrows, slanted green eyes fringed with winglike eyelashes. In the front, his ragged black hair hung low over his forehead, while on the sides and back, it fell to his shoulders, where it lay smooth and lustrous, much like the manes of his companions. His age was impossible for Eragon to guess.
Information like the above only opens more questions: What determines a werecat’s appearance? Do they grow more unlike humans as they age? If so, is odd appearance an indicator of a werecat’s age?
Fun fact: When originally writing the werecats, Christopher Paolini had a very specific species of cat in mind: the caracal! The caracal is “a fiercely territorial medium-sized cat ranging over Western Asia, South Asia and Africa.” This offers readers an interesting glimpse into the direction Christopher was originally taking with this race.
Werecats are known to be independent and private creatures. Calling or insinuating that a werecat is anything more than a companion (avoid the dreaded word “pet”) will earn the wrath of a werecat, for everyone knows that a werecat chooses their company and in most cases, chooses no company at all. Some werecats, such as Solembum and Maud, have chosen to stick close by to important figures within the world of Alagaesia, including Angela the Witch and Islanzadi, queen of the elves.
The Race and their Secrecy
Readers have traversed Alagaesia through the eyes of Eragon Shadeslayer, visiting dozens of cities, towns, and villages along the way… but throughout all of these travels, Eragon – and readers – have only managed to spot two werecats. Two werecats throughout most of Alagaesia. If we were to assume that these numbers accurately reflect the werecats’ population, they would be bordering extinction as are the dragons.
But Book 4 has revealed a well-kept secret: the werecats are many. Their unique appearance as cat-like creatures has allowed them to blend within local scenary as mere cats, allowing them to travel, live, and hunt where they please – without being recognized as the intelligent werecats they are.
Christopher crushed popular fan theories which assumed that the race of werecats had a capital city much like the elves or humans. Instead, the author has told us that werecats choose to live “here and there” throughout Alagaesia, coming together only for momentous occasions (such as the one at hand). However, Christopher did mention that some werecats may choose to live together within small colonies:
[They live] here and there. Remember, they can pass as regular cats at a distance. Oh, I wouldn’t discard them entirely. Not all of the werecats wanted to be around humans or other species. I’m sure that some of them were living in a far-off place of their own.
The race appears to be represented by one king who leads the race in times of great need, such as war. This king remains largely unknown to leaders outside of the werecats – another result of their extreme privacy.
Known Werecats – Who are they?
Solembum, companion to Angela the Herbalist: Solembum was the first werecat encountered in the Inheritance Cycle. Prior to Eragon’s discovery of the rare creature in Angela’s herbal shop, the young farmboy believed werecats to simply be myths. Oh, how wrong he was!
Solembum is said to have many names, though the name we hear is the name he most prefers. We learn through Maud and Grimrr that werecats tend to have many names and titles, so it’s curious that we have yet to encounter any more for Solembum. The werecat, in his feral form, appears as a shaggy black and overly-large cat with multi-covered eyes. In humanoid form, his appearance is similar to that of a human boy’s with shaggy black hair matching the fur on his body as a werecat. He often chooses to fight with a dagger.
Solembum chooses to travel with Angela the Witch, an odd and eccentric character whose company Solembum apparently prefers to loneliness. We don’t blame him – Angela always seems to appear where activity is brewing. He’s also developed a fondness for Saphira, Eragon’s dragon, since first meeting her in Farthen Dur. The pair have been seen napping together and chatting on numerous occasions.
Solembum is perhaps best known for the prophecies/advice he delivered to Eragon. These two sentences have played a vital role in Eragon’s journey through Alagaesia thus far, including his discovery of the brightsteel under the Menoa tree, which allowed the forging of Brisingr. We have yet to discover the location and meaning of the latter part of his advice, the elusive Rock of Kuthian and Vault of Souls.
Maud (Quickpaw, The Watcher, The Dream Dancer): Maud was the second werecat encountered by Eragon and Saphira during their travels throughout Alagaesia. Maud chooses to spend her time among the elves of Du Weldenvarden – and more specifically, Ellesmera – as a companion to Islanzadi, queen of the elves.
Maud is one of the more interesting and unique werecats we’ve encountered thus far, as she bears the appearance of an elderly woman in a child’s body. The werecat is noticed by her stiff and shaggy hair, accented by bangs at the front of her brow; rows of sharp teeth line the inside of her mouth, intimidating opponents with a quick flash. Her silver eyes are noticeable even in the darkest light.
Most curiously, Maud appears to be fond of Solembum – she purrs at the mention of his name. Long-lost friends? Lovers? Family?
Grimrr Halfpaw (His Most Exalted Royal Highness, King of the Werecats, Lord of the Lonely Places, Ruler of the Night Reaches, and He Who Walks Alone): What a name! We haven’t officially met this character yet, as his story does not begin until Book 4 hits store shelves in November, but we have encountered him through officially-released excerpts from the upcoming novel. This character is exactly what you’d expect from the leader of the werecats — bizarre, arrogant, full of pride, and unique.
It is interesting that, although the werecats are a disorganized race, they have a single leader — Grimrr — that speaks for the entire population. This is a fact that Grimrr seems exceptionally proud of. Grimrr also has a particular dislike of Angela, at one point even hissing at her (her “Cheep Cheep!” reply did not please him either). Nasuada compares his highness to a dwarven lawgiver given his demands for the battle and the future kingdom.
Prophecies and Magic – What are they capable of?
We have yet to see a werecat perform actual magic, though it may not be out of the question. Christopher has never specifically stated that only certain sentient races are capable of using magic, and if humans, dwarves, dragons, and elves are all gifted with the ability to cast spells and manipulate energy, one would assume that the werecats can use magic too. However, until Christopher confirms this, it’s pure speculation.
Prophecies or foresight are considered to be a werecat’s greastest talent. This interesting power was showcased by Solembum during his first encounter with Eragon, where he offered the young Rider key advice from his future.
“Listen closely and I will tell you two things. When the time comes and you need a weapon, look under the roots of the Menoa tree. Then, when all seems lost and your power is insufficient, go to the Rock of Kuthian and speak your name to open the Vault of Souls.”
We have since seen the first prophecy play out, providing Eragon with an incredibly powerful weapon. Christopher has since confirmed that the sub-title for Inheritance (Book 4) will be “Vault of Souls”, which seems to imply that the second part of Solembum’s prophecy will play a main role in the final book. This was confirmed by the author in a recent interview:
Mike Macauley: Random House released a video showing you writing the final words of Book 4 and hand-delivering the manuscript to your editor Michelle at the Random House offices in New York City. The video also revealed a piece of information that excited fans – the book’s subtitle, “Vault of Souls”. Is it safe to assume from the subtitle that this will play a core role in the final book?
We learn in Inheritance (through the “King Cat” chapter, released in the Brisingr paperback) that werecats have the ability of commanding regular cats, which may prove to be an invaluable ability during times of war, both for fighting and for use as spies.
A Surprise Alliance
The Varden has been hurting. Despite their best efforts, defeat looms in the background; the Empire’s army vastly outnumbers their own, and Galbatorix and Murtagh are significantly more powerful than Eragon. Every addition to the rebel army pushes the Varden a step closer to victory. The dwarves turned the tide of battle in the Varden’s favor during the Battle for the Burning Plains in Eldest, eventually enabling the Varden to emerge as the victor. The elves have attacked from the north, conquering key cities along the way and dividing the Empire’s army. But the gates of Uru’baen have yet to be breached, and their numbers are growing weaker as every battle leaves the rebel army with hundreds of casualties.
At this point, every ally counts. Was anyone expecting the werecats, known for their extreme secrecy and distaste for conflicts in Alagaesia, to surface and ally themselves with the Varden? Nope.
Christopher released the first excerpt from Inheritance, “King Cat”, in the back of the Brisingr paperback edition earlier this year. This excerpt introduces readers to the werecat race – expanded beyond our glimpse at only two werecats throughout the first three books – lead by His Most Exalted Royal Highness, Grimrr Halfpaw, King of the Werecats, Lord of the Lonely Places, Ruler of the Night Reaches, and He Who Walks Alone. (We’re still blown away by the name!)
Role in Book 4 – Will they turn the tide?
As we mentioned above, the resistance army has been hurting and is in need of any allies they can get. The werecats are a ferocious and determined race of cunning fights. Whether you’re being clawed in the eyes by an angry werecat or stabbed in the shins by a humanoid-werecat, it’s no good: you’re going to run screaming.
Their alliance bodes well for the Varden on a number of levels. For starters, it bolsters their numbers, allowing them to reach further in their attacks. It also signals understanding for their movement; the werecats waited to come out of hiding until they knew were sure that the Varden has a fair shot at winning the war. Their confidence in the Varden’s abilities says a number about the Varden, and if understood in this way by the rebel leaders, should help strengthen their morale in the days ahead.
We also know that werecats have the ability to foresee future events – we just don’t know how. Whether this ability is controllable or not has yet to be explained to us, but having a race of individuals capable of determining key events before they happen, or at least able to get a glimpse at these events, will prove to be invaluable as they fight a powerful magician and his evil regime.
The werecats will be an incredible asset to Nasuada, Orik, and Islanzadi. Their pride (which some would simply call “egos”) may prove to be tricky to maneuver around, but it’s a downside worth accepting for the greater good. And can you imagine the look on the Empire faces when a hoard of angry werecats or humanoid-werecats walk their way into their cities, stabbing them with daggers and clawing at their faces? Priceless.
The werecats are largely secretive in Alagaesia, a trait which may allow them to continue moving in secret within the Empire’s borders. It is entirely impossible that Galbatorix will overlook them as enemies, either because they have almost always remained neutral throughout Alagaesia’s conflicts, or because they look so similar to cats that he’s never bothered to take notice. Either option will allow the werecats to assume a new role: ninja cats. Given their ability to control and command feral cats, the werecats can raise a substantial amount of havoc from within, and may also be successful in retrieving several hidden items, including dragons eggs and Eldunari…
It is entirely possible that many feral cats and/or werecats live within the capital of Uru’baen; these creatures could potentially enter the well-protected (against humans, elves, dwarves, and dragons… but what about ordinary cats?) chamber for the final green dragon egg. As it has been previously noted throughout the series, even the most complex spells (like the ones almost assuredly guarding the egg) may have a flaw that allows someone to bypass the wards. While it may seem a little far-fetched to have cats stealing the dragon egg from right beneath Galbatorix’s nose, it could also make perfect sense! It would be neigh impossible for a person (whether it be human, elf, or whatever Eragon is now) to gain access to the hiding spot, but what about a cat? However strange a band of “cat burglars” or “cat ninjas” may seem, it could be entirely plausible!
The Maud Theory
We also know that werecats often choose to accompany people of import, referring to ordinary people as boring and lacking fascination. Curiously, Maud has been seen in the company of the two elven children, Alanna and Dusan, who are said to be the only children within Ellesmera. We know from Eragon’s teachings that elf children are said to be incredibly powerful, and a popular theory among Inheritance fans leads us to believe that these children will play a role in Book 4. Maud’s companionship of the two elf children appears to corroborate this theory, as we know that werecats choose to spend their time with people of importance. Interesting…
We may not know the true role the werecats will play in Book 4, but it’s certain that they will play a role that alters the outcome of the war. Do you believe that ninja cats will kidnap the green dragon egg? Do you think that Maud has chosen to remain with the elven children because of a greater role they are destined to play in the future? Did the werecats choose to ally themselves with the Varden because Galbatorix is a no-good cat-kicker? Let us know your thoughts and theories in the comments!