Why Johann's Daughter Died

All the cats followed Her with unquestioning faith. Her silver and black fur gleamed in the noon sun.

"Those appendages that they constantly groom us with are tongues." she said, "Ten tongues attached to those monstrous front legs."

What else was there to say? What else needed to be said? At that minute they turned against Man and sucked the breath from our children?



Commentary

Ungeheuer actually had quite an affection for cats.

"I cannot tolerate the unthinking obedience bred into the dog, but in the house cat lies the unbreakable strength of instinct that will never shake its wild roots and can never be totally domesticated."

This story came about after the sudden death in the night of the daughter of a fellow German expatriate living in Lisbon. The German was quite superstitious and, insisting that the family cat was at fault for his daughter's death, drowned the animal. Ungeheuer reacted in shock and horror.

"I felt sadness for the girl whose appointment with death was made at such an early age, but I felt a terrible pain for the cat whose death was not written by fate but by the hands of a single man."

Another interesting characteristic of this story is the mention of "the noon sun". Some of the most horrible things in Ungeheuer's world occur at noon. It was the true witching hour according to him.

"Terrible things happen most when we would least expect them. That's part of what makes them so awful. You always hear the term 'in broad daylight' added to a description of a crime as if the term were an exclamation mark. People are too nervous at night, too prepared. Real terror occurs in the daylight."