According to an article by National Geographic, these recently digitalised 16th Century German manuscripts show how “cats and birds could in theory be used to set fire to a besieged city, according to a University of Pennsylvania scholar.”
Key word “in theory”.
Apart from not loving the idea of setting fire to any animal, this theory seems a bit problematic.
First of all, I remember trying to clip a peg on my cat’s tail when I was little. I know that trying to put anything onto a cat isn’t easy. I was unsuccessful and the cat was pissed off. I also know what it’s like to try to de-worm and de-flea a cat. They don’t stay still. They’re known to be scratchy and bitey and for things so small, they’re very powerful. I remember one time being pushed back by the force of my cat springing away from me during a de-worming session, so I can’t imagine how strapping a back pack on a cat would work. Let alone a bird.
Second of all, you have to hope that you definitely have the city besieged. I can’t see anyone casually strolling up to the gates of a castle with a cat tucked under his arm, trying to look innocent, while his army loiters in the background as he’s being questioned: “Excuse me, but why is your cat wearing a back pack? And why is it glowing?”
“What this? It’s just a new top of the line heater… yeah, that’s what it is. A heater. Only twelve pennyfarthings and it’s yours.”
(Because back then, pennyfarthings were currency. Read up on it.)
Or, assuming that you had the castle of your choice nice and besieged, wouldn’t flaming torches and fire arrows be just as effective?
DISCLAIMER: At this point you might realise that I’m not an expert at 16th-let-alone-any-century-warmongering… and you would be right.
The third problem: What if the cat doesn’t run into the castle or village of choice? What if it runs in the other direction, leaving a trail of fire in the fields as it goes? Any castle guard/s would see that and 1. know that isn’t normal and 2. figure that something is up and 3. see your army giggling in the bushes. I think explosive birds setting fire to neighbouring trees would also be a dead give-away.
“He’s at it again, King Arthur.”
“Another burning bush? Moses has some explaining to do.”
The fourth problem: Oxen are reportedly stubborn. (I know we’ve jumped from cats to oxen, it was a logical transition.) Yes, it would be much easier to strap something on it’s back, but getting them to move with their firey inferno of death? While you’re trying to get them to move, the castle has woken up to sounds of: “MOVE you bastard! GO! You’re an arsonist dammit go arson!” and the sight of an army trying to push a few grumpy, irritated oxen through your gates.
Should have stuck with the Trojan horse. Unless it was a flaming Trojan horse, in which case it would have been a bit obvious what your intentions were.
I would actually like to debunk this theory as ridiculous (and needlessly cruel) and propose a theory much more logical: Given that these rocket animals have popped up through-out manuscripts in Europe and Asia, I think it’s more likely that they were racing each other to invent the first rocket jetpack for pets and working animals.
Think about it, it would be quicker, more efficient, and a great marketing tactic.
Want to send a letter to your Emperor that his uncle is plotting his death? Forget about carrier pigeon… Rocket Jetpack Pigeon gets your missive there in no time! Your Emperor is saved, you’re promoted and the uncle dies a dishonorable death. All’s well that ends well.
Trading fruits and vegetables with the neighbouring village? Sick and tired of waiting weeks for your goods? Never fear, Rocket Jetpack Mule is here! No more stubborn asses, no more tired hoofs and feet, BAM! And the mule is gone!
I think the biggest problem is that neither Europe nor Asia could figure out how to stop the fire trails in the animal’s speedy wake… what’s the good of trading produce if you’re just going to end up setting fire to their village?
On the plus side, you’ve inadvertently conquered their village… and will forever be known as those traitors who massacred their friends.
And that’s why we don’t use pennyfarthings as currency today.
Please feel free to print out this historically accurate essay to use it as a teaching guide, or even in your bible study group. You’re welcome.