Miss Cuddlywumps considers a very old law about cats and hamlets
"Hywel Dda" artist unknown -
National Library of Wales,
Licensed under Public domain
via Wikimedia Commons.
Today we are visiting Wales in the 10th century, the time of one King Hywel Dda (Howel the Good) who was known as “the king of all Wales.” His reign—beginning about 910 in just one part of Wales and lasting until his death in 949 or 950, by which time he ruled over nearly all of Wales—was marked by the codification of Welsh law. The one code became three (the Venedotian, Dimetian, and Gwentian codes), all of which mention cats in various ways.
One fundamental mention of cats appears in a law about hamlets. According to Hywel Dda, certain specific ingredients were needed to make a lawful hamlet (a hamlet, by the way, is smaller than a village and is “the smallest incorporated unit of municipal government,” according to Merriam-Webster). These essentials were
- 9 buildings
- 1 plough
- 1 kiln
- 1 churn
- 1 bull
- 1 cock
- 1 herdsman
- 1 cat
Presumably you would also need people to work the plough, kiln, and churn, though apparently no certain number of human inhabitants was needed. She of Little Talent wonders why the bull and cock are mentioned, but cows and hens are not. Also notice the lack of a dog. And old SoLT would like to know why a cat is considered necessary. To control vermin? As a symbol of luck or fertility?
But this is a silly question. Clearly, cats are essential to civilized life. Nearly everything else is superfluous. This we always knew.
Van Vechten, Carl. Cats! The Cultural History. Kindle edition. Burslem Books, 2010. First published as The Tiger in the House, 1936. Location 1996.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. "Hywel Dda," accessed August 11, 2014, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/273547/Hywel-Dda.