Roberts, Nancy. "Ghosts of the Carolinas." The Witch Cat. Charlotte, NC: McNally & Loftin, Publ., 1962, p. 13-16.
Ethnic Origin: Euro-American (The South)
Running Time: 12 mins.
Power Center(s): Seeing Faye for the first time transforms the ordinary world of the miller into an extraordinary one. The violent storm shows the frailty of even a brawny man like the miller. The onslaught of the cats immediately puts the story into the horror category. Discovering that his wife is indeed a witch/cat.
Characters: Tim Farrow, the miller; Faye, his new bride; Timís small daughter (only mentioned 3 times, no name given).
Scenes: The banks of the earthen dam; inside the millerís cottage; inside the mill.
Synopsis: Tim Farrow, miller and recent widower meets beautiful damsel in distress. She comes to live with him and his small daughter. He is awestruck by her beauty, and they are wed. Timís world begins to turn upside down with talk of his wife being a witch, and with the decreasing business and series of mishaps at the mill. Tim confronts the tormentors head on and hides out in the mill, only to be castigated by a horde of vicious cats. He learns his wife is indeed a witch/cat, and dies a tragic death
Rhymes/Spcl Phrases/"Flavor": Description of Fayeís beguiling beauty; all the eerie night noises that plague Tim Farrow. The final line, delivered with deliberateness, pulls it all together: "Öand one tightly clenched hand held fast to the cleanly severed paw of a cat."
Audience: Teens/young adults: They are intrigued by sexuality, as they are exploring their own. Establishing meaningful relationships are paramount at this stage of development. Horror elicits excitement as teens are better able to assimilate concepts of horror and to distinguish them from reality, making nightmarish stories exciting rather than dreadful.
Bibliographic info on other versions/variants: from The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales by Maria Leach, Cleveland, World Pub. Co. , pp. 91-98. This is the story of a fish peddler who is attacked by cats (according to MacDonaldís Motif Index); he injures the catís head only to find the head of Mother Kominowski injured as well. This book was not on the shelf at SILS, although they are putting a tracer on it, and I can look it up as soon as it is located. The status shows "available."
The Jack Tales by Richard Chase, [Boston] Houghton Mifflin, 1943, pp. 76-82.
The similarities include themes such as women/witches turning into cats, the central character being a miller working in a corn mill, several cats appearing in the mill at night in the company of the miller, and the owner's wife losing her hand due to the miller cutting off the paw of a cat.
The differences/variations are: in the version I'm telling, there is a young, beautiful woman whose alter ego is a cat. In fact she changes into a cat at the end, whereas the cat's severed paw above turns into the old woman's hand. In my version the band of cats are huge and attack the miller. No mention is made of them being witches who wanted
to meet in the mill, like the tale above. The miller in my version, Tim Farrow, never cooks in the mill, which is what attracted the cats to the mill, to sop their dolls (paws) in the gravy. There are a series of mishaps at the mill, just as there are a series of deaths at the mill above, before Jack arrives to work there. Farrow loses his life, cat's
paw in hand, and Jack's life is spared, although the paw had changed into the hand of a woman.
Spooks, Spooks, Spooks by Helen Hoke, pp.141-146. (not held at UNC-CH).