English Fairy Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in July 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse

TITTY Mouse and Tatty Mouse both lived in a house,

                Titty Mouse went a leasing and Tatty Mouse went a leasing,

                So they both went a leasing.

                Titty Mouse leased an ear of corn, and Tatty Mouse leased an ear of corn,

                So they both leased an ear of corn.

                Titty Mouse made a pudding, and Tatty Mouse made a pudding,

                So they both made a pudding.

                And Tatty Mouse put her pudding into the pot to boil,

                But when Titty went to put hers in, the pot tumbled over, and scalded her to death.

                Then Tatty sat down and wept; then a three-legged stool said: “Tatty, why do you weep?” “Titty's dead,” said Tatty, “and so I weep;” “then,”  said the stool, “I'll hop,” so the stool hopped.

                Then a broom in the corner of the room said, “Stool, why do you hop?”  “Oh!” said the stool, “Titty's dead, and Tatty weeps, and so I hop;”  “then,” said the broom, “I'll sweep,” so the broom began to sweep.

                “Then,” said the door, “Broom, why do you sweep?” “Oh!” said the broom, “Titty's dead, and Tatty weeps, and the stool hops, and so I sweep;”  “Then,” said the door, “I'll jar,” so the door jarred.

                “Then,” said the window, “Door, why do you jar?” “Oh!” said the door, “Titty's dead, and Tatty weeps, and the stool hops, and the broom sweeps, and so I jar.”

                “Then,” said the window, “I'll creak,” so the window creaked. Now there was an old form outside the house, and when the window creaked, the form said: “Window, why do you creak?” “Oh!” said the window, “Titty's dead, and Tatty weeps, and the stool hops, and the broom sweeps, the door jars, and so I creak.”

                “Then,” said the old form, “I'll run round the house;” then the old form ran round the house. Now there was a fine large walnut-tree growing by the cottage, and the tree said to the form: “Form, why do you run round the house?” “Oh!” said the form, “Titty's dead, and Tatty weeps, and the stool hops, and the broom sweeps, the door jars, and the window creaks, and so I run round the house.”

                “Then,” said the walnut-tree, “I'll shed my leaves,” so the walnut-tree shed all its beautiful green leaves. Now there was a little bird perched on one of the boughs of the tree, and when all the leaves fell, it said: “Walnut-tree, why do you shed your leaves?” “Oh!” said the tree, “Titty's dead, and Tatty weeps, the stool hops, and the broom sweeps, the door jars, and the window creaks, the old form runs round the house, and so I shed my leaves.”

                “Then,” said the little bird, “I'll moult all my feathers,” so he moulted all his pretty feathers. Now there was a little girl walking below, carrying a jug of milk for her brothers and sisters' supper, and when she saw the poor little bird moult all its feathers, she said: “Little bird, why do you moult all your feathers?” “Oh!” said the little bird, “Titty's dead, and Tatty weeps, the stool hops, and the broom sweeps, the door jars, and the window creaks, the old form runs round the house, the walnut-tree sheds its leaves, and so I moult all my feathers.”

                “Then,” said the little girl, “I'll spill the milk,” so she dropt the pitcher and spilt the milk. Now there was an old man just by on the top of a ladder thatching a rick, and when he saw the little girl spill the milk, he said: “Little girl, what do you mean by spilling the milk, your little brothers and sisters must go without their supper.” Then said the little girl: “Titty's dead, and Tatty weeps, the stool hops, and the broom sweeps, the door jars, and the window creaks, the old form runs round the house, the walnut-tree sheds all its leaves, the little bird moults all its feathers, and so I spill the milk.”

                “Oh!” said the old man, “then I'll tumble off the ladder and break my neck,” so he tumbled off the ladder and broke his neck; and when the old man broke his neck, the great walnut-tree fell down with a crash, and upset the old form and house, and the house falling knocked the window out, and the window knocked the door down, and the door upset the broom, and the broom upset the stool, and poor little Tatty Mouse was buried beneath the ruins.


SOURCE: Halliwell, p. 115.

PARALLELS: This curious droll is extremely widespread; references are given in Cosquin, i. 204 seq., and Crane, Italian Popular Tales, 375-6. As a specimen I may indicate what is implied throughout these notes by such bibliographical references by drawing up a list of the variants of this tale noticed by these two authorities, adding one or two lately printed. Various versions have been discovered in:

                ENGLAND: Halliwell, Nursery Rhymes, p. 115.

                SCOTLAND: K. Blind, in Arch. Rev. iii. (“Fleakin and Lousikin,” in the Shetlands).

                FRANCE: Mélusine, 1877, col. 424; Sebillot, Contes pop. de la Haute Bretagne, No. 55, Litterature orale, p. 232; Magasin picturesque, 1869, p. 82; Cosquin, Contes pop. de Lorraine, Nos. 18 and 74.

                ITALY: Pitrè, Novelline popolari siciliane, No. 134 (translated in Crane, Ital. Pop. Tales, p. 257); Imbriani, La novellaja Fiorentina, p. 244; Bernoni, Tradizione popolari veneziane, punt. iii. p. 81; Gianandrea, Biblioteca delle tradizioni popolari marchigiane, p.,11; Papanti, Novelline popolari livornesi, p. 19 (“Vezzino e Madonna Salciccia”); Finamore, Trad. pop. abruzzesi, p. 244; Morosi, Studi sui Dialetti Greci della Terra d'Otranto, p. 75; Giamb. Basile, 1884, p. 37.

                GERMANY: Grimm, Kinder-und Hausmärchen, No. 30; Kuhn and Schwarz, Norddeutsche Sagen, No. 16.

                NORWAY: Asbjornsen, No. 103 (translated in Sir G. Dasent's Tales from the Field, p. 30, “Death of Chanticleer”).

                SPAIN: Maspons, Cuentos populars catalans, p. 12; Fernan Caballero, Cuentos y sefrañes populares, p. 3 (“La Hormiguita”).

                PORTUGAL: Coelho, Contes popolares portuguezes, No. 1.

                ROUMANIA: Kremnitz, Rumänische Mährchen, No. 15.

                ASIA MINOR: Von Hahn, Griechische und Albanesische Märchen, No. 56.

                INDIA: Steel and Temple, Wide-awake Stories, p. 157 (“The Death and Burial of Poor Hen-Sparrow”).

REMARKS: These 25 variants of the same jingle scattered over the world from India to Spain, present the problem of the diffusion of folk-tales in its simplest form. No one is likely to contend with Prof. Müller and Sir George Cox, that we have here the detritus of archaic Aryan mythology, a parody of a sun-myth. There is little that is savage and archaic to attract the school of Dr. Tylor, beyond the speaking powers of animals and inanimates. Yet even Mr. Lang is not likely to hold that these variants arose by coincidence and independently in the various parts of the world where they have been found. The only solution is that the curious succession of incidents was invented once for all at some definite place and time by some definite entertainer for children, and spread thence through all the Old World. In a few instances we can actually trace the passage-e.g., the Shetland version was certainly brought over from Hamburg. Whether the centre of dispersion was India or not, it is impossible to say, as it might have spread east from Smyrna (Hahn, No. 56). Benfey (Einleitung zu Pantschatantra, i. 190-91) suggests that this class of accumulative story may be a sort of parody on the Indian stories, illustrating the moral, “what great events from small occasions rise.” Thus, a drop of honey falls on the ground; a fly goes after it, a bird snaps at the fly, a dog goes for the bird, another dog goes for the first, the masters of the two dogs--who happen to be kings--quarrel and go to war, whole provinces are devastated, and all for a drop of honey! “Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse” also ends in a universal calamity which seems to arise from a cause of no great importance. Benfey's suggestion is certainly ingenious, but perhaps too ingenious to be true.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse
Tale Author/Editor: Halliwell-Phillipps, James
Book Title: English Fairy Tales
Book Author/Editor: Jacobs, Joseph
Publisher: David Nutt
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1890
Country of Origin: England
Classification: ATU 2022: The Death of the Little Hen

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