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"Goosefeather, tell no one else about your vision. I don’t want any cat to panic. We can say that we are preparing for the chance of a hard leaf-bare, but no cat must know what you have foreseen."
Doestar to Goosefeather in Goosefeather's Curse, chapter 8

The Great Hunger is a starvation epidemic that took place in Goosefeather's Curse, killing several ThunderClan cats.[1]

Description

Premise

Goosefeather, one of ThunderClan's medicine cats, sees a vision of his Clan starving in the leaf-bare.[2] Goosefeather, Doestar, Pineheart, and Cloudberry discuss ways to prevent this prevent this hunger, and decide to dig holes in the ground to store prey for the leaf-bare.[2] However, after the Clan digs the holes,[2] it rains badly, spoiling the prey that was buried beneath the ground.[1]

Overview

Harepounce is the first cat to die from hunger, and soon after, Flashnose, Stagleap, Hollypelt, and Nettlebreeze die from illness.[1] The ThunderClan cats are forced to eat even tree bark and worms to alleviate their hunger.[1] Goosefeather and Cloudberry spend great periods of time searching for herbs, and Pineheart the deputy sends out many patrols to find more prey, although all are unsuccessful.[1] When the prey begins to come back and the sun begins to shine again, Doestar makes Moonflower, Poppydawn, Heronwing, and Rabbitleap warriors for fighting like lions during the hunger.[3] However, Doestar herself dies that night from sickness, leaving Pineheart to get his nine lives and become the leader of ThunderClan.[3]

Summary

The Omen

After Goosefeather watches Doestar refuse to eat the remains of a squirrel, despite Cloudberry's insistence, he looks down at the plump, thick-furred vole he chose and thinks that if StarClan continues to send them such healthy prey, they will hardly notice leaf-bare.
However, Goosefeather opens his eyes to find that the air in the medicine cats' den is bitterly cold. He pads out of the den, noting the crisp ferns and frozen ground underpaw, as well as the cold, still air that is hard to breath it. A faint moaning comes from one of the dens, and as Goosefeather rushes into the clearing, he stops at the sight of his Clanmates staggering around him, ribs sticking out of their pelts and eyes bulging from their sharp-edged faces. The air is thick with wails of pain and the keening of a cat lost in grief. Squirrelwhisker and Rooktail are seen clawing where the fresh-kill pile once was, but it is now empty save for a few scraps of fur and some tiny bones. A ginger shape slumps in the middle of the clearing, eyes open and clouded, but none of the other cats pay attention to it, and simply step over the dead cat's crumpled legs, blind and numb from hunger.
A few cats watch from the edge of the clearing, their pelts sleek and glossy, bellies plump with food, but at seeing their sorrow-filled eyes, Goosefeather knows that they are the StarClan cats he sees every day among his Clanmates, and waves of grief come from them at seeing the living cats starve. Goosefeather notices that he is standing in thick snow and a bleary, hunch-shouldered cat lurches close to him. Goosefeather asks if it it Daisytoe, but the she-cat doesn't hear him and stumbles to the fresh-kill pile, leaning on Rooktail. She rasps that he said he would go hunting, and he growls that he did, but that there is no prey in the snow. Squirrelwhisker wails that they will all die, but Goosefeather yowls that he won't let it happen.[2]

Digging up the Ground

Goosefeather bursts into Doestar's den and frantically shares his vision. Pineheart enters the den and asks if everything is alright, and Doestar updates him on what has happened. Pineheart asks Goosefeather if his vision showed him how to survive what is coming, and Goosefeather admits that he hasn't, though he says that they must do something. At Doestar's request, he fetches Cloudberry, and after she is told of Goosefeather's vision, Doestar wonders if they should expand the territory or send cats into Twolegplace. Pineheart suggests setting borders around the Treecutplace, but Cloudberry mentions that when she was a kit, RiverClan had a very cold leaf-bare, where the river froze and trapped the fish. She recalls that some warriors broke off a piece of ice at the edge of the river and brought it back to camp, and it had contained a frozen fish that tasted like perfect fresh-kill when the warmth of the dens had melted the ice. She goes on that the ice kept the prey fresh, and suggests finding a way to keep their own prey fresh when they have nothing else to eat. Doestar points out that the earth freezes when it gets very cold, and suggests burying the fresh-kill so it would freeze, and they could dig it up when needed. Goosefeather agrees that if they send out extra hunting patrols the next moon they could store enough food to last until newleaf, and Pineheart adds that half of the dawn patrol can hunt, and that apprentices could hunt instead of battle train. Doestar tells Goosefeather not to tell anyone about his vision, as they will say that they are preparing for the chance of a hard leaf-bare.
Three sunrises later, the camp's clearing is dotted with large holes, each a full fox-length apart, and dug by the cats with the sharpest claws and strongest front legs. When asked by Stormtail about the purpose for digging up the ground, Goosefetaher tells him that Doestar wanted to be prepared for leaf-bare. Goosefeather waits and watches Flashnose and Rainfur put a pigeon and two mice they caught in their hunting patrol, into a hole dug by Rockfall and Heronpaw. The dark brown apprentice is dusted with earth, a claw bleeding, and Goosefeather thinks that he will check all the apprentices' paws at the end of the day.[2]

A Huge Catastrophy

At a Gathering, when Doestar announces that ThunderClan has three new litters of kits, Houndstar of ShadowClan mutters that the warriors won't like having to catch so much prey in leaf-bare, but Doestar says that ThunderClan is well prepared for leaf-bare. However, as the Gathering comes to an end, it begins to rain, and each of the Clans leave Fourtrees. The ThunderClan cats race down the side of the ravine and bound into the camp, and the cats go into their dens. The rain continues the whole night and the clearing is soon awash with rivulets. Warriors run from den to den hunched against the rain, and the fresh-kill pile sits in a brackish puddle. Pineheart says that they will have to move it to higher ground, but Mistpelt asks whose idea it was to dig up half of the clearing, as they will sink to their necks if it keeps raining. Goosefeather looks at the freshly marked soil, each bubbling with liquid, and he pictures the prey underneath, soaking and festering. Goosefeather tells the deputy that they must dig up the fresh-kill and take it somewhere dry or it will be ruined, but the dark brown tom protests that they just buried it, and that the ground will be soaked everywhere in the forest. However, Goosefeather says that they can't waste time worrying about that and he begins to scrap at the nearest patch of mud. Pineheart summons all of the warriors to help, and Harepounce helps Goosefeather dig until they find a lump of sodden fur. She pants that it is a vole and hauls it out, but when the prey is pulled free, Goosefeather sees that its flank has caved in, and the flesh is eaten away by maggots that writhe in the shriveled fur. The remains of the creature stinks worse than crow-food, and greasy slime oozes out of it, soaking Goosefeather's paws. Harepounce whispers that it is ruined and all around them, warriors dig up more rotten, soaked, maggot filled prey. Pineheart promises Doestar that he will send out more patrols to restock the stores, but Goosefeather knows that his vision will come true, and there will be nothing he can do to save his Clanmates from starvation.[1]

A Wave of Deaths

Harepounce is the first to die, as she refuses to eat a mouthful from the moment they dug up the rotten prey, and instead she gives all of her meager share to her kits. The snow comes, and the forest is pierced by pain and hunger, but the many patrols that Pineheart sends out return empty-pawed. Goosefeather and Cloudberry also have troubles searching for herbs to sooth bellyaches and ward off coughs; Flashnose dies from a bout of sickness that racks her body with terrible spasms, and Stagleap and Hollypelt also die soon after. By the time that Nettlebreeze had passed away, sprawled in the middle of the clearing on his way back from the dirtplace, none of the cats are strong enough to move his body. A circle of StarClan cats gather around the dead tom, their pelts noticeably shiny among the dull-eyed, mangy warriors. Swiftbreeze almost trips over Nettlebreeze's legs, and her eyes are noted to be clouded and vacant. A scrap of bark clings to her whiskers, and Goosefeather notes that some of the warriors had attempted to start chewing twigs in an effort to ease their hunger.
Cloudberry comes to Goosefeather and whispers that they did everything they did, and that it is not his fault that they couldn't stop it from happening, as the rain was just bad luck. Goosefeather says that there is no such thing as bad luck but only destiny, and notes that he only made it worse. The gray tom runs toward the gorse tunnel, where churned slush shows where a patrol had gone out in hopes of finding food, and he scrambles up the ravine and into the forest. Pearnose encounters him there, and she murmurs that she sees what is happening in ThunderClan, and her heart is breaking for them all. Goosefeather exclaims that he can't believe there was nothing they could do to stop it, since he knew what was coming.[1]

Newleaf Is Here

Eventually, the snow melts and the days lengthen, while the chill leaves the air. The forest echoes with the sound of dripping water, and tiny green buds appear on the trees. The ThunderClan cats emerge, weak and blinking, from the moons of darkness and horror. On the first day of sunshine, Doestar summons her Clanmates and gives the apprentices their warrior names- Moonflower, Poppydawn, Heronwing, and Rabbitleap. She states that they have fought hunger alongside them with the courage of lions and the loyalty of true warriors. Goosefeather cheers her sister's name, noting that she had never given up hope or stopped looking for food or caring for her Clanmates during the hungry moons. After the ceremony, Goosefeather notes that Rainfur, who had brought her kits to watch, had suckled all five kits since Harepounce's death, and looks like a ragged pelt draped over empty bones. However, the kits survived, and Rainfur is given first choice of every piece of fresh-kill with the prey returning to the forest.[3]

Deaths as a Result of the Epidemic


Major Characters

Goosefeather

Goosefeather was able to see visions since when he was a kit, and he became a medicine cat apprentice when he was only four moons old, after receiving a vision from StarClan about where a lost apprentice was. After watching Doestar refuse to eat a piece of prey, he has a vision of the Clan starving, and immediately reports this to his leader. Doestar, Pineheart, and Cloudberry help to come up with a solution, of digging up the ground to store the prey, but the Clan leader tells Goosefeather that he must not tell any cat about his dream. After the ground is dug up, Goosefeather is questioned on the purpose for doing so by Stormtail, who had once tried to kill him with a badger, and Goosefeather replies that they are preparing for an early leaf-bare. When it begins to rain after a Gathering, Goosefeather is the one who tells Pineheart that they must dig up the prey, and he is the one to dig out the first spoiled food. During the Great Hunger, he and Cloudberry also troubles searching for herbs to sooth bellyaches and ward off coughs. He is told by Cloudberry that being unable to stop the hunger wasn't his fault, but Goosefeather believes that he only made it worse. Right after, he goes into the forest and encounters Pearnose, who sympathizes him, but Goosefeather is angered that there was nothing he could do to stop it, since he knew what was coming.

Doestar

Doestar was the leader of ThunderClan before the epidemic began. After Goosefeather receives his vision of the Great Hunger, he rushes into Doestar's den and shares his dream. With Cloudberry and Pineheart, they discuss ways to prevent the problem, and when Cloudberry mentions that as a kit in RiverClan, they would use ice to freeze their fresh-kill, Doestar says that they could use the ground as a storage. However, she tells Goosefeather that he must not share his vision with any cat. At a Gathering, after Doestar announces ThunderClan's three new litters of kits, Houndstar of ShadowClan mutters that ThunderClan will have to catch great amounts of prey in leaf-bare, but Doestar says that ThunderClan is well prepared. however, she is proven to be false, as the stored prey is ruined, and many cats die during the cold season. As the cold begins to go away, Doestar names Moonflower, Rabbitleap, Heronwing, and Poppyfrost's as warriors. However, right after she is noted to stumble into her den, and though Cloudberry tries to care for her and heal her throughout the day, she dies over night. Her Clan aren't allowed to share tongues with her as she had a sickness, and the Clan is too weak to have it spread.

Pineheart

Pineheart was ThunderClan's deputy. When Goosefeather shares his vision, it is noted that Pineheart didn't show him much respect, and didn't entirely believe him. When it rains after a Gathering, Pineheart says that they will have to move to higher ground, and protests when Goosefeather says that they will have to dig up the prey. When Goosefeather convinces him that they have no other option, the deputy calls all the warriors to help dig up the prey, and when the ThunderClan cats realize that the prey is ruined, Pineheart tells Doestar that he will send out more patrols, although Goosefeather knows that it will be hopeless. When the weather gets warmer and the prey begins to come back, Doestar gets sick and dies, and the next day, Goosefeather takes Pineheart to the Moonstone to get his nine lives.

Cloudberry

Cloudberry was ThunderClan's medicine cat, and Goosefeather's mentor, as well as the cat who decided that he must become a medicine cat apprentice before turning six moons old. When Goosefeather shares his omen with Doestar and Pineheart, he is asked to fetch Cloudberry too, and when the cats search for a way to prevent the Great Hunger, Cloudberry offers that when she was a kit in RiverClan, fish would freeze in the river and warriors would take the piece of ice back to camp, so that it would taste fresh and unspoiled when the ice melted. During the Great Hunger, Cloudberry and Goosefeather search for herbs to sooth bellyaches and ward off coughs resulting from the cold, but have troubles in doing so. As spring begins to come to the forest, Doestar falls ill and Cloudberry takes care of her, but is unsuccessful in keeping her leader alive. As the ThunderClan cats walk by their dead leader, Goosefeather sees a vision of the white she-cat lying beside her, and knows that a vigil for the ThunderClan medicine cat will be held soon. Cloudberry offers to bury Doestar and tells Goosefeather that he must take Pineheart to get his nine lives, as she is too weak for the journey.

Quotes

"[Goosefeather] ran into the clearing and stopped dead in horror. His Clanmates staggered around him, ribs sticking out of scabby pelts, eyes bulging from sharp-edged faces. The air was thick with wails of pain and the low, steady keening of a cat lost in grief. Two cats, Squirrelwhisker and Rooktail, clawed at the place where the fresh-kill pile had been; it was nothing now but a few scraps of fur and a scattering of tiny bones. A ginger shape lay slumped in the middle of the clearing, eyes open and clouded. To Goosefeather's dismay, none of the other cats paid any attention to it. Instead they stepped over the dead cat's crumpled legs, blinded and numb from hunger."
—Goosefeather's vision of the Great Hunger Goosefeather's Curse, page chapter 8


Doestar: "We'll have to find a different source of prey. Should we expand the territory? Send cats into Twolegplace?"
Pineheart: "I can't see our warriors being happy about that. But perhaps we coud set borders around the terrcutplace. I don't think we'd be challeneged if we wanted to hunt there."
Cloudberry: "There is something we could try. I remember a very cold leaf-bare when I was a kit in RiverClan. The river froze, tarrping all the fish. Some warriors broke off a piece of ice at the edge of the river and brought it back to the camp. It contained a fish, stone-cold and dead. But when the warmth of the dens melted the ice around it, the fish was perfect fresh-kill. Somehow the ice had kept it fresh."
Goosefeather: "Are you saying we should wait for the river to freeze, and eat fish?"
Cloudberry: "No. I think we should find a way to keep our own prey fresh for when we have nothing else to eat."
Pineheart: "But we don’t have enough water on our territory."
Doestar: "Maybe not. But what if the same thing happens in the ground? We know the earth freezes when it gets very cold. If we buried the fresh-kill, wouldn't it freeze too? Then we could dig it up when we need it."
Goosefeather: "If we send out extra hunting patrols for the next moon, we could store enough food to last until newleaf!"
Pineheart: "I’ll split the dawn patrol and send half out to hunt. And the apprentices can hunt instead of battle training later on."
Doestar: "We don’t want to risk the strength of our Clan in battle."
Pineheart: "The greatest risk is starving to death, wouldn’t you say?"
Doestar: "Goosefeather, tell no one else about your vision. I don’t want any cat to panic. We can say that we are preparing for the chance of a hard leaf-bare, but no cat must know what you have foreseen."
—Doestar, Pineheart, Goosefeather, and Cloudberry coming up with a plan to prevent the Great Hunger Goosefeather's Curse, page chapter 8


"Within three sunrises, the camp had been transformed. The clearing was dotted with large holes, each a full fox-length across, dug by the cats with sharpest claws and strongest front legs."
—Goosefeather thinking about the dug-up camp Goosefeather's Curse, page chapter 8


Doestar: "I am proud to announce three new litters of kits in ThunderClan."
Houndstar: "So close to leaf-bare? Those warriors won't like having to catch prey for so many hungry mouths!"
Doestar: "ThunderClan is well prepared for leaf-bare. My Clan will grow strong through the coldest moons, and I will bring you our new apprentices when the warm weather returns!"
—Doestar and Houndstar at a Gathering Goosefeather's Curse, page chapter 9


Mistpelt: "Whose idea was it to dig up half the clearing? If it keeps raining, we'll all sink up to our necks!"
Goosefeather: "Pineheart! The fresh-kill will be ruined! We have to dig it up and take it somewhere dry!"
Pineheart: "But we’ve only just buried it! Where else can we put it? The ground will be soaked everywhere in the forest."
Goosefeather: "We can’t waste time thinking about that. We have to dig it up before it rots!"
—Pineheart and Goosefeather when it rains Goosefeather's Curse, page chapter 9


"All around them, warriors were digging up more rotten prey. Soaked, maggoty, and wasted away to nothing, their precious stores were useless. Goosefeather looked up and saw Doestar standing below Highrock, her eyes dark with fear. Pineheart was standing beside her, his tail lashing as he promised to send out more patrols, restock the stores. But there was a weight in Goosefeather's belly like cold stone. His vision was going to come true. There was nothing he could do to save his Clanmates from starvation."
—Goosefeather thinking about the ruined prey Goosefeather's Curse, page chapter 9


"The snow did not last forever. The days lengthened, and the biting chill left the air. The forest echoed with the sound of dripping water, and tiny green buds appeared on the trees. The ThunderClan cats emerged, weak and blinking, from the moons of darkness and horror."
—Narrator about the end of the Great Hunger Goosefeather's Curse, page chapter 10

See Also

References and Citations

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Revealed in Goosefeather's Curse, chapter 9
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Revealed in Goosefeather's Curse, chapter 8
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Revealed in Goosefeather's Curse, chapter 10

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