I HAVE BEEN ASKED (believe it or not):
Sly talks to people, fine. He talks to dogs also?
This is nuts that I have to explain this but,
OK, here we go.
DOGS . . .
have a sophisticated language due to the thousands of years they have been intimately associated with man. As a babe, Sly had been picked on by everyone, but dogs were the worst. Mastering Dog was a survival skill. He learned early that if you could keep a bully laughing, you were more likely to walk away intact. His vocabulary is rudimentary, and his grammar is abysmal. (Maybe that’s why Corisande’s yip-yaps were so contemptuous of him.) But the shock of being cussed out in your own tongue by a cat sends the baddest bad-ass canine running, generally.
He grew up on a farm, and was fascinated by animated oinker conversations. Pigs are very intelligent creatures, and delightful kibitzers, as you’ll see see if you stick around to meet Hislop in book three.
Same deal. Early exposure and the drive to keep at it. (Cow, very dependent on tone, is not an easy acquire.) On his farm his chore was to police the barn. He built himself a pirate ship (out of a washtub) and he and his friend Ferd (a frog) spent their time stalking treasure ships–yelling avast, me hardy!–while they kept an eye peeled for rodents. The cows so convulsed at the sight of him that, he on hand at milking time, they were unable to settle down for a drain.
He’s got that covered too, luckily. He’ll be running into beaucoup rats in the North German town of Hameln, to which he and the scientist John Dee repair after they’ve worn out their welcome at the English court. Made aware of an opportunity to pick up a nice chunk of change, they jump on it. Dee was always short of funds. His position at court paid mostly in prestige.
Sly talks to dogs, enough to get by. This is not magic here, he can’t talk to anyone under the sun. With some critters he relies on body language. He arches his back. Gives them the raspberry. Cocks a shook.1 Blows a fart. Etcetera.
Which brings us to Sha-Sha.
Sly falls for Aiesha, Queen Elizabeth’s pet monkey, in A Fool In Love. No way does the cat speak monkey. He assumes, because she responds to situations appropriately, that she has some English. But with Sha, it’s the appearance of understanding, not understanding itself. A pose of participation in a conversation is all her mistress requires of her. She has a repertoire of knowing looks and smiles that one may make almost anything of. Sly, for once in his life, is slow to catch on. He finds her sexily aloof, and is captivated.
* * *
- Cock a shook is a maneuver Sly picked up during his time in London. Rowdies wishing to express displeasure would stick a thumb up the nose and wag their fingers. In Sly’s case, no digit fit into his petite nostril. He would carefully insert a claw and wiggle his toes in solidarity with his band of street toughs.
Many loose ends here.
What happens to Danel? To Pirka? Bittor? To Zagi and D’Ollot?
We’ll find out in
The Prodigal Returns.