"She tamed it... so she could triumph."
Fourth edition cover
|Publish Date:||1 January 1983|
|Editions:||Hardcover, paperback, e-Book|
|Book Cover Gallery:||Book Cover Gallery|
- Ratha and her clan are the Named, a band of intelligent wild cats whose society is based on herding deer. The Named have laws, language, traditions, and leaders. They also have enemies. The predatory raiders of the Un-Named are driving them close to the edge of survival. Then Ratha, a mere yearling, discovers what she calls the Red Tongue... fire. Her new weapon gives the Named a new defense, but it also rouses the ire of Meoran, the tyrannical clan leader. Soon Ratha finds herself in exile among the Un-Named, but determined to survive.
- "...the setting is richly realized, characters have vitality and credibility both as felines and as inteligent beings, and the theme of rebellion cum advancement and brilliantly developed, making this a powerful, moving, and memorable story that will draw readers right in and hold them to the final page."
- - Booklist, March 15, 1983, Starred Review
- "Powerfully written, the reader is immediately enveloped in a vividly recreated past world that could have easily be happening now or in the future....Despiet the turbulence of life around her, Ratha is portrayed with such sensitiviy that her very fears, thoughts, frustrations and anxieties are humanly comprehensible."
- - Language Arts, Vol. 60, No. 7, Oct. 1983
- "At once a wonderful fantasy and an intricate allegory....The great wild cats, themselves a mixture of human intelligence and animal instinct, lend the story a visceral power that is impossible to ignore....A remarkable book."
- - Book Talks
- Ratha and her people (the Named) are a clan of strong self-aware cheetah-like prehistoric big cats. They have laws, languages, and traditions and live by herding the creatures, dapplebacks (horses) and three horns (deer). Surrounding the Named are the more numerous non-sentient Un-Named, who prey on the clan’s herds. Mating between Named and Un-Named is forbidden, since the clan believes that the resulting young will be Un-Named animals who are not self-aware.
- Ratha, a young female, bucks the clan tradition of male dominance by training with the herding teacher, Thakur, to become a herder. All the herders are male except for Fessran, a strong-willed female who became a herder before Meoran took over leadership. Attacks by the UnNamed are driving Ratha's clan close to the edge of survival. Only her discovery and the use of fire (“The Red Tongue” and the “Creature” of the title) offers the clan a chance to survive.
- Meoran, the tyrannical male clan leader, opposes Ratha and drives her out of the clan. In exile among the Un-Named, Ratha meets a lone male and discovers that the clan is wrong about some of the Un-Named - he speaks very well and is as bright as any clan member. She calls him "Bonechewer". He teaches her to hunt, the two mate and join the trail of Un-Named who prey on the clan's herdbeast during the winter. A heavier Ratha is forced to watch as the Un-Named onslaught nearly eradicate the clan. Come spring, the two return to their territory and she bares his young. When the cubs don’t develop according to her expectations, Ratha realizes that they are probably non-sentient because Bonechewer had an Un-Named father. She flies into a rage, attacking Bonechewer and biting and crippling the female cub, Thistle-chaser. Bonechewer drives her away, stating that he won't let her anywhere near his cubs. Ratha then leaves his territory.
- Returning to the clan at Thakur‘s bidding, Ratha re-acquires “her creature”, the Red Tongue. With it, she overthrows and kills Meoran. When the Un-Named attack again, she, Thakur, and Fessran lead the clan in striking back with a new weapon, fire. The enemy flees in terror. After the battle, Ratha emerges as clan leader. She makes Fessran chief of the Firekeepers, those who build and tend fire for the clan. The Firekeepers also wield torches in battle. Ratha gives The People of The Red Tongue each a torch, and they fight the Un-Named.
- Ratha’s victory is bittersweet, however. Her mate, Bonechewer, was fatally injured in the fight and Ratha finds him dying. He tells her that she was right about their cubs, and that he could barley keep them from each other's throats. Sadly, Thakur ends his brother's misery, his last words being, "Clan leaders aren't forbidden to grieve". Despite everything, she still loves him and is wounded by his death. She is also troubled by the changes Red Tongue has made in her people. However, she knows that with the Red Tongue, the Named will survive.
Ratha's Creature has been adapted into an animated episode: Ratha's Creature (1988 short movie)
An upcoming adaptation as graphic novel is also currently in progress of being completed:Ratha's Creature (graphic novel).