Technology advances at a break neck speed, military technology usually leading the way. We’ve gone from rocks and sticks to lasers and nuclear fire in the cosmic blink of an eye. But obviously along the way there have been intermediate steps. Like, you know, strapping 16th century rockets to 16th century cats to unleash on 16th century war.
Germans: always forward thinking and technologically innovative. Their engineering standards are precise and demanding, and their war machines in particular are often far ahead of their time in terms of design innovation and implementation–not bound by traditional thoughts of form and design and always pushing the envelope of, not what is, but what can be. So it’s with that in mind that these recently translated 16th Century German siege warfare texts seem at once very and extremely NOT very German. Rocket Cats!
F’n Rocket Cats, man! No-no, let me say it again since I don’t think you’ve appropriately appreciated it: Rocket Cats! And now that you’ve heard that, unhear it, because apparently that’s not actually what this is.
Tipped by a friend to these illustrations appearing in a 1584 manuscript called “Feuer Buech,” University of Pennsylvania’s Mitch Fraas (being human and therefore incapable of resisting the lure of cat images) investigated further.
“I didn’t think it was a rocket pack,” Mr. Fraas stated, no doubt piecing together the fact that this was from 1584, a time most notable for its general lack of rocket packs. “But (I) was intrigued.”
Of course he would be! Who wouldn’t? I mean, ROCKET CATS! But no, oh no, University Buzz Killologist Mitch Fraas couldn’t let us have just ONE little Rocket Cat. However, as he discovered, these might have actually been equally awesome weapon designs.
Apparently the idea was that the enemy would capture cats that stray outside of fortified cities, take “a small sack like a fire-arrow” and “bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.”
Horrible? Yes. Practical? Hardly. But German engineers have never been particularly bound to the old rules of design and innovation. Not like, you know, a 16th century tabby might be bound to a flaming sack of sneaky death. Oh Germany, you’ve always been crazy-tacular.