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Tigger Heraldry

by Seamas Mac Daibhid

First presented at Cracked Anvil Collegium, February, AS XXIX (1995)
Last Updated March XXXIX (2005)

YEARS AGO, at an event at the Shire of Smythkepe (my home group), I saw a shield on which its owner, Duke Sir Kane Redfeather, had emblazoned a charge he called a Tigger. Having lived through both reigns of TRM Kane and Ilissa, I was inclined to think it a joke. Two or three years later, when I chanced on an elderly volume wherein were several examples of Tigger, I thought it was a form of Tyger (a monstrous relative of the heraldic Lion).

However, during my otherwise unproductive period as a Pursuivant-at-Large, I returned to that elderly volume and dug a little deeper. Although no such charge as Tigger is listed in Boutell's Heraldry or catalogued by Fox-Davies, my research has led me to believe that the Tigger is a distinct and authentic, if obscure, medieval heraldic charge. (I am, however, still uncertain whether the Tigger is properly classed as a Beast or a Monster. Comments are invited.)

One of my most surprising discoveries was that there are two distinct forms of the heraldic Tigger. Although the two forms are substantially different in emblazon, no distinction is made between them when blazoning a device. The older form, which I call the Classical Tigger, is fairly rare (although it has its fiercely-dedicated adherents); the newer form, or Modern Tigger, is substantially more common.

T. shepardensis

Figure 1 - T. shepardensis

T. disneianus

Figure 2 - T. disneianus

Another surprising aspect is that although the Classical Tigger, dating from the dawn of heraldry, appears throughout the SCA period, while the Modern first appears in the French Renaissance, yet there are no transitional forms with intermediate features. The two variants often appear to be completely unrelated charges.

Figure 1 shows the Classical Tigger (T. shepardensis). Note the simplified and stylized body lines (more like a stuffed animal than a beast), the absence of a mouth (though a tongue is often shown), and the irregular, almost abstract striping. Compare Figure 2, the Modern Tigger (T. disneianus), which shows greater detail, a considerable mouth, and more conventional striping. (N.B. In most later images, striping is omitted to reduce image size and download time.)

A major difference, perhaps the definitive one, between the two forms is in tincture. The Classical Tigger always appears argent, striped sable (that is, white/silver, striped with black) whereas the Modern Tigger always appears or, striped sable (yellow/gold, striped with black—in fact, the Modern is usually painted such a virulent shade of or that one is tempted to call it orange). These restrictions distinguish them not only from each other, but also from other heraldic Cats, which may appear in any tincture at all.

There are other significant differences between Tiggers and other heraldic Cats. Neither Tigger ever appears armed (that is, with claws and teeth of a separate color) because Tiggers do not have claws or teeth. (The Modern Tigger, does however, usually appear nez gules, or with a red nose.)

Tiggers also do not appear in the familiar Lion and Tyger postures such as rampant (rearing on one paw), salient (springing from two paws), statant (standing), or passant (walking past—Tiggers are never seen in any walking posture at all).

Bounçant (Classical)

Figure 3 - Bounçant

Bounçant (Modern)

Figure 4 - Bounçant

In fact, the most common posture for Tiggers is bounçant, or bouncing. The Classical Tigger (Figure 3) may appear to be seated, but in fact all four feet are in the air. Note again the strong contrast between the horizontal Classical Tigger and the erect Modern Tigger (Figure 4), as well as the different positions of the tails. For Modern Tiggers, the curious zig-zag tail may be described as sprung, or as flouncie.

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Bounçant Affronté (Classical)

Figure 5 - Bounçant Affronté

Bounçant Displayed (Modern)

Figure 6 - Bounçant Displayed

Bounçant Displayed Inverted (Modern)

Figure 7 - Bounçant Displayed Inverted

For both Classical and Modern forms, variations may be seen on this basic attitude. Figure 5 shows the Classical bounçant affronté (facing forward). Figures 6 and 7 show the Modern bounçant displayed (wings or limbs spread) and displayed inverted.

Note that in all Modern bounçant postures, the eyes are tightly closed, while the mouth is gaping widely; it is not clear if this is intended as a threatening attitude.

Pounçant (Classical)

Figure 8 - Pounçant to Sinister

Pounçant (Modern)

Figure 9 - Pounçant

Even as the Lion is sometimes seen vorant (or devouring its prey), the Tigger is often seen in an attacking posture. Figure 8 shows the Classical Tigger pounçant (pouncing). Note the marked similarity to bounçant; for the Classical Tigger, in fact, the only difference between bounçant and pounçant is the presence of a victim. (In Figure 8, the reversed posture is incidental. In this case, the full blazon would be Tigger pounçant to sinister upon a demi-Eeyore issuant from sinister.)

The Modern Tigger may also appear pounçant, but it is a different posture altogether. In fact the only similarity between Classical and Modern pounçant is the presence of a victim. Figure 9 shows the Modern Tigger pounçant upon a Pooh Bear. (I don't know how to term a living animal lying flat on its back, but fortunately the Modern pounçant implies this supine posture).

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Regardant (Classical)

Figure 10 - Regardant

Regardant (Modern)

Figure 11 - Regardant

As has been noted, Tiggers do not appear in most standard postures of heraldic Cats. However, a familiar term does emerge occasionally, though often with altered meaning. For instance, for most heraldic beasts regardant (or reguardant) refers only to the position of the head, meaning "looking backward over the shoulder", and is normally used only as a modifier for one of the standard postures such as rampant, statant, or passant. However, for the Tigger, regardant is a posture in itself. Figures 10 and 11 show the Classical and Modern Tiggers regardant.

Couchant (Classical)

Figure 12 - Couchant

In an exception to my earlier statements, both the Classical and the Modern Tigger may appear sejant, or seated; please refer, of course, back to Figures 1 and 2. The Classical Tigger also appears couchant; that is, crouching or lying on its belly (Figure 12). This posture appears only rarely, perhaps because it is visually difficult to distinguish from the Classical bounçant.

Taîstant (Classical)

Figure 13 - Taîstant

Blottant (Classical)

Figure 15 - Blottant

Slidant or Skatant (Modern)

Figure 14 - Slidant (Skatant) to Sinister

Finally, I have found a few postures which apparently occur only with one form of Tigger or the other. Figure 13 shows the Classical Tigger taîstant, or tasting. The full blazon is Per fess azure and or, a Tigger taîstant, langued [with tongue] gules, goutted [with drops of blood or other liquid] or, of a Hunny jar vert, smeared or. The curious placement of only a portion of the main charge—the Hunny jar—astraddle of a line of division is, as far as I have found, quite unparalleled, as is the equally peculiar appearance of a main charge apparently issuant from a line of division. As with so many other postures of this curious beast, the taîstant posture implies other conditions which for a Lion would require additional description in the blazon—in this case, the appearance of only the upper portion of the beast's body, as a demi-Tigger.

The Modern Tigger is never found taîstant, but is sometimes seen slidant (Figure 14), or, as some prefer, skatant.

Last, in what I believe to be a unique usage, the Classical Tigger appears in a curious posture termed blottant. Figure 15 shows the device of the Royal South Shields Calligraphic Society (of South Shields, England, home of the Great North Dog Walk): Azure, a Tigger blottant quilled or, on a chief or three roundels gules. Curiously, the official blazon omits any indication of the Tigger's orientation to sinister.

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Addendum: Robin of Gilwell of the Barony of the Steppes, Ansteorra, suggests that the Tigger (or Tiggr) may have originated with the Irish d'Isney family. Robin also points out another feature that distinguishes the Tigger from other heraldic Cats, something so obvious, in retrospect, that I completely overlooked it: On any given device, the number of Tiggers is exactly one. "That's the wonderful thing about them," Robin comments.

A word or two here about spurious variants: When presenting the occasional live class on Tiggers I have sometimes been approached by folk who believed they knew of other variants. In particular, I have been shown examples of the Hobs or Hobbes, as in a Hobbes pounçant upon a Calvin crined [bristled] or, and of the Garfeld, as in a Garfeld dormant [sleeping] blanketed. While these may be valid historical charges in themselves, I do not believe that they, lacking as they do many of the Tigger's identifying characteristics, are true variants of the Tigger.

For one thing, neither the Hobs nor the Garfeld is ever seen bounçant (the true Tigger's most distinctive posture); for another, each is often seen to be amply supplied with teeth and claws. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Calvinist as a fleeing victim (and figure of barbed humor) does not appear until the 17th century, when the Church of England swung sharply away from Puritanism; this usage is, of course, well beyond the SCA period.

Tigger Bounçant Armed (Modern)

Figure 16 - Tigger Bounçant Armed

One final note (and apology): I stated earlier (and have for years stated in my occasional live classes) that the Tigger never appears armed. This, I have learned, is only partially true. The Tigger never appears armed in the standard sense of having teeth and claws of a separate tincture (as in a lion or, armed gules).

However, as I said in the beginning, several years passed between when I saw my first Tigger on Duke Sir Kane's shield and when I began to seriously interpret references in my sources. When a friend recently showed me an old photograph of that shield, I was reminded of details of Sir Kane's emblazoning that I had forgotten. In fact, the proper blazon of His Grace's main charge would have been Tigger bounçant armed, as seen in Figure 16. My apologies to all of those who have been slightly misinformed in my classes of years past.

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