Posts filed under ‘THE CAT IN THE WELL’
THE ROLE OF CATS IN NURSERY RHYMES
by Sarah Hartwell
Ding, dong, bell, pussy’s in the well.
Who put her in? Little Tommy Thin,
Who pulled her out? Little Tommy Stout,
What a naughty boy was that,
To [try to] drown poor Pussy Cat.
[Who never did him any harm,
But killed the mice in his father’s barn!]
Ding, dong, bell, pussy’s in the well!
Who put her in? Little Tommy Lin.
Who pulled her out? Dog with long snout.
What a naughty boy was that
To drown poor pussy-cat,
Who never did any harm,
But kill’d the mice in his father’s barn.
The bracketed words “try to” cater for the different outcomes in different versions of the verse. In some renditions the cat is drowned, in others the cat is rescued alive by Tommy Stout (also called Tommy Trout) after Tommy Thin (also known as Tommy Lin or Tommy Green) tried to drown it in the well. In older alternate versions the cat is retrieved by a dog. The “ding dong bell” (also rendered ding, dong, dell) can be interpreted as either a nonsense line or a funeral bell for the drowned cat. The optional justification for rescuing the cat is that it is a good mouser. Until quite recently it was accepted practice to drown surplus kittens and even adult cats.