Ratha's Courage - New Clare Bell Novel , Oct. 18, 2007 - Ratha and Clan July 17, 2007
Did Ratha really exist
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Ratha fireplace mosaic
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Did Ratha Really Exist
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Ratha was based on fossil cat-like species
I made these clay models. Left, Dinaelurus crassus. Right, Dinaelurus illumina sapiens (Ratha).

This is how Ratha would look if you had x-ray eyes
This is a working sketch, made before the sculptures. Click on the picture to read my notes

Did Ratha really exist?

Many readers have asked me what prehistoric cat species is Ratha based on? Originally, I chose Nimravus, a leopard-like creature from the early Miocene. However, later, I learned about a new fossil creature called Dinaelurus. There was speculation that this animal might have been a cheetah-like "cursorial predator". As I developed Ratha and the Named, they took on more cheetah-like characteristics. Thakur's speed and his enjoyment of running, for instance. Also the fact that the Named herders have to make fast dashes to cut off straying or unruly herdbeasts.

Covers for the later Ratha books showed a very cheetah-like animal, since the illustrator had also done a cover for Tomorrow's Sphinx, which is about cheetahs. Fans of the series began to think of the Named as very cheetah-like, and I agreed, since I liked the image.

However cheetahs and cheetah-like ancestors didn't exist 20 million years ago in the early Miocene. When I heard that Dinaelurus crassus, which did exist at that time, was being described as a cheetah precursor, I decided to use that creature as a basis for my fictional clan cats. Thus Ratha and the Named are descended from Dinaelurus crassus, and would be called Dinaelurus illumina sapiens.

Just to show how cover and fan art can influence writing, I added more cheetah behavior in the new book, Ratha's Courage. The "courting circle" where Fessran and the other Named females are trapped is based on observations of male cheetahs.

In order to work out for myself how Ratha and her kind may have appeared, I made a clay model of a Dinaelurus crassus skull based on several drawings in a scientific paper describing the discovery. I then did a copy of that skull and modified it, enlarging the braincase to allow for the intelligence and sentience of the Named. Both models are shown below.

Since the picture was taken, I've used the Dinaelurus illumina sapiens skull as the basis to reconstruct what Ratha and her people could have looked like. I took pictures while this was in process.

So far, researchers have only found the fossil skull of Dinaelurus crassus. They have extrapolated certain features, such as a shortened face (as compared to its cousin, Nimravus) and enlarged nasal passages (cheetahs have those in order to get enough air into their lungs while chasing prey at more than 70 mph), to guess that this animal was a cheetah-like cursorial predator.

Since Dinaelurus existed in the Miocene, 20-25 million years ago, and Acinonyx jubatus, the present-day cheetah, appeared in the Pleistocene era, no more than 5 million years ago, it may have been a "cheetah" before the present species appeared.

In reconstructing Ratha, I looked at drawings of cheetah and puma skeletons. She has the rear legs of a cheetah and the front legs of a slightly stretched puma. Like a puma, she has a slightly raised rump, and similar jumping abilities. Her top speed in a sprint is less than a cheetah, but greater than a puma.

Since this sketch was done before the facial restoration (clay model above), the head is not quite the same. And since this was a developmental drawing, it is a bit messy, with notes and ideas scribbled on it, but interesting enough to show here. You can click on the picture to enlarge it and read the various jottings. Warning -- it is a pretty large file. I may have to shrink it down a bit so it won't take so long to load.

My thanks goes to Emily Smith, who suggested that visitors to this site might like to see some more artwork showing how an author can visualize and develop a character. I enjoy working back and forth from words to images, and I am sure there are many other talented author/artists who do the same. Thanks for your email, Emily!

This is one of the photos from the sequence
Ratha - possible facial restoration.

Dinaelurus illumina sapiens.
See how the braincase has expanded compared to Dinaelurus crassus.

Another step in reconstruction
Adding the deep facial muscles

Next step
Add in the neck musculature

Now the sculpture is taking on some life
Added the whisker pad over the upper teeth, and the muscles around the mouth

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