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Research - Why a Cheetah?


By rath8325 - Posted on 18 February 2009

Why base Ratha on a cheetah-like animal?

Originally I thought of the Named as  puma-like, and described them based on that image, although I did add in a little lion-pride behavior, such as the cub nursery.  When CBS Storybreak did an animated adaptation of Ratha's Creature in the mid 1980's, the Named were portrayed as "a civilization of mountain lions" on another world.

As I developed the characters, especially the herding teacher, Thakur, they took on more cheetah-like characteristics. Thakur's speed and his enjoyment of running, is described in Clan Ground. The Named herders also have to make fast dashes to cut off straying or unruly herd-beasts. These runs would be similar to cheetahs sprinting after their prey.

There was also an interesting graphic development that pushed me toward the cheetah-like concept.

Covers for the later Ratha books showed a very cheetah-like animal, since the illustrator had also done a cover for Tomorrow's Sphinx, which is about cheetahs in past and future Egypt. Internet fans of the series began to think of the Named as very cheetah-like, and I agreed, since I liked the image.

Here's the cover of the original Sphinx hardback edition. The same artist did the Ratha's Challenge cover.

Tomorrow's Sphinx hardcover

 

Ratha's Challenge hardcover 

Art for both covers by Glen Harrington. Both photos by Clare Bell 2006.  The bottom image is a very lovely blend of puma and cheetah.

 

Scientists had also discovered that the puma and cheetah appeared to be closely related.  The North American cheetah-like cat Miracynonyx is also thought to be ancestral to today's mountain lions.  (put in Miracynonyx pic?)

So it wasn't that large a step from a puma-like animal to a cheetah-like animal.  However, I did not change the earlier books when they were reprinted. People liked them as they were, and everyone forms their own vision of the Named anyway.

But I still had an annoying little inconsistency.  The jacket flap copy for Ratha's Creature, the first in the series, said that the story was set 20-25 million years ago in the early Miocene. Cheetahs and cheetah-like ancestors such as Miracynonyx didn't exist at that time.  They appeared much later, in the Pliocene. Acinonyx jubatus, the present-day cheetah, appeared in the Pleistocene era, no more than 5 million years ago.

There was no resolution, so I just let things be, at least for a while. It wouldn't mar anyone's enjoyment of the books.

 

Random image

Clan Ground Firebird cover

Join other Named Series fans on the Ratha Series Forum.  Hunt up information in the Fire Den, read the new Twitter creation, "Ratha's Island", or strut before the clan to introduce yourself in the Fire Dance.

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