Saturday 24 August 2013

The Complete Version of Ye three Blind Mice

Having enjoyed reading about this book over at Vintage Jane, I was surprise and delighted to walk into The Winchester Bookshop and find a copy of the exact same book! How’s that for a strange coincidence? It was published fifty-odd years ago so there can't be that many copies around. Maybe I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't read about it a few days earlier or would I have found it anyway? I have no idea but the decision to buy was made almost before I saw it!

This is one of those familiar nursery rhymes most of us take for granted. But, have you ever thought about the words?

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

The cruelty of the farmer’s wife is bad enough but have you considered how the mice lost their sight? The illustrations in The Complete Version of Ye three Blind Mice by John W. Ivimey are illuminating (excuse the pun!)

Three small mice
pined for some fun
They made up their minds to set out to roam; 
Said they, "'Tis dull to remain at home," 
And all the luggage they took was a comb, 
These three small mice.

Three bold mice,
Came to an inn.
“Good evening, Host, can you give us a bed”,
But the host he grinned and he shook his head.
So they all slept out in a field instead,
These three bold mice.

Three cold mice,
Woke up next morn.
They each had a cold and a swollen face,
Through sleeping all night in an open space;
So they rose quite early and left the place,
These three cold mice.

Three hungry mice,
Searched for some food.
But all they found was a walnut shell,
That lay by the side of a dried up well;
Who has eaten the nut they could not tell,
Three hungry mice.

Three starved mice,
Came to a farm.
The farmer was eating some bread and cheese;
So they all went down on their hands and knees,
And squeaked, “pray, give us a morsel please,”
These three starved mice.

Three glad mice,
Ate all they could.
They felt so happy they danced with glee;
But the farmer’s wife came in to see,
What might this merry-making be
Of three glad mice.

Three poor mice,
Soon changed their tone.
The farmer’s wife said, “What are you at,
And why were you capering round like that? 
Just wait a minute: I’ll fetch the cat”
Oh dear!  Poor mice.

Three sad mice,
What could they do?
The bramble hedge was most unkind:
It scratched their eyes and made them blind,
And soon each mouse went out of his mind,
These three sad mice.

Three blind mice,
See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with the carving knife.
Did you ever see such a sight in your life
As three blind mice?

Three sick mice,
Gave way to tears
They could not see and they had no end;
They sought a chemist and found a friend
He gave them some “Never too late to mend”
These three sick mice.

Three wise mice,
Rubbed, rubbed away
And soon their tails began to grow,
And their eyes recovered their sight, you know;
They looked in the glass and it told them so.
These three wise mice.

Three proud mice,
Soon settled down.
The name of their house I cannot tell,
But they've learnt a trade and are doing well.
If you call upon them, ring the bell
Three times twice.

This gruesome tale is supposedly based on the life of Queen Mary 1, the daughter of King Henry VIII and the wife of Philip II of Spain. Mary was known for her persecution of Protestants and her attempt to reinstate Catholicism in England. When three Protestant bishops were convicted of plotting against Mary, she had them burnt at the stake. However, it was mistakenly believed that she had them blinded and dismembered, as is inferred in the rhyme. 

The Complete Version of Ye three Blind Mice is now sold, thank you for your interest. 

I was looking around to see if I could find any ‘mouse related’ items to use in my pictures. I only came up with an old T-Towel and a little ceramic mouse eating strawberries. I thought it worked quite well until I noticed the fox on the left of the picture appears to be stalking the mouse. Maybe it’s not the perfect picture after all. Just think what might have become of the three blind mice had they encountered a fox!

I used to sing the three blind mice to my son without giving the words a thought.  Is it something you sing to your children or grandchildren?  



    Good morning Barbara! Yes, I saw this over at Vintage Jane's and it brought back so many great memories of kindergarten fun. You just didn't want to grow up, even back then....have a super day! I think I'm off to go hunt for some vintage treasures today! Anita

    1. Hello Anita, I think most mums (including mine) did – it doesn't appear to have done any of us any harm but those poor mice!
      Thank you for your good wishes. Enjoy your day, wish I could come! Barbara xx

  2. I would love to own a copy of this book.

    The full tale is more gruesome than I could have imagined, I would never have bought this for my daughter, she'd have had nightmares, I'm sure, although I did used to sing the rhyme to her, without putting much thought into their meaning.

    Another great post - thank you as always, for sharing : )

    I'm pretty sure your birthday has passed, I hope you had a wonderful time and did something memorable to mark the occasion x

    1. Hi Yvonne, I had no idea how gruesome it was either until I read about it over at Vintage Jane. It was odd how I found a copy so quickly.

      Thank you for your birthday wishes, it’s in a couple of days, but I’ve already enjoyed a lovely meal out with Terry and my sister and her husband, and we are having a meal with friends next week. I do enjoy being spoilt!

  3. What a great story. I used to sing it to my daughter. Perhaps if I'd bothered to read it all I might have thought twice.

    1. I think we all would!
      Have you had any news yet? Keeping all my fingers and toes crossed is getting uncomfortable, so I’m hoping you will have good news soon.

  4. I work with little children, and sometimes sing this song to them. But I just can't make myself sing that line about chopping off their tales... So I make up something that totally does not rhyme, but is better suited to 2 and 3 year olds. I'm so glad that the little mice in this book were able to regain their sight and regrow their tails. :-)

    1. I’m afraid I just used to sing it chopped of tails and all. I was trying to find a rhyme for you but can only come up with rife, strife or afterlife! (O:

  5. I had not heard this rhyme before. Poor mice, but luckily they regained their sight and regrew their tails in the end.
    Great post, Barbara, and interesting :)

    1. Thanks Hilde, all the best stories have a happy ending!

  6. I used to love to sing this song with my kids. I always thought it was a little gruesome. Thank you for shedding some light on it. I'd never known the whole story.

    1. Hello Teressa, don’t you think it’s odd how we can know something all our lives but never give it a thought? Had I not seen the illustrations over at Vintage Jane, I would still be blissfully ignorant. Thank goodness it has a happy ending!

  7. Barbara, I love this rhyme and visited Vintage Jane some days ago (I know her from your blog's comments)
    I enjoyed a lot these illustrations, you were very lucky finding the book, such a coincidence...
    I did a post some time ago with these poor mice, I leave the link here, perhaps you want to visit it:


    1. Hello Silvina, your three blind mice post is amazing! I love the pathos in the illustration by Margaret Tarrant – I’ve never seen that version before. I wonder if I will find it now that I’ve said that. You must have written that post before I found your blog, one day I will read backwards and see all the ones I’ve missed.

  8. ...the things one learns! ~ blessed be! ~ dear kindred heart!...(O:

    1. Why, thank you and blessings back to you my dear!

  9. So interesting, I had no idea there was so much more to this rhyme.

    1. Hi Tracy, Neither had I. Books really are the fount of all knowledge!

  10. I remember singing this song in elementary school and now, I'm a changed woman. Who would have thought it was a political satire!! The illustrations are fabulous!! LOL
    Thanks for posting the entire poem, I enjoyed learning about the three blind mice and I love the dish towel with the fox too.

  11. Lovely song , Interesting story , loved the post :)

  12. Oh my goodness, I've never read the whole thing before! How gruesome! lol
    It is funny sometimes how just singing a little ditty of something makes it sound okay. ;-)

    1. You are so right Jamie! It's only when you read the entire thing and study the pictures that you realise just how gruesome it really is.(O:

  13. I don't recall ever reading the whole poem/book before. I do seem to remember reading a longer version, but certainly not what I read here! I used to sing this one a lot when I was little. Interesting to read about the origins and then thinking about the meaning behind the words. I love that you found this one after recently reading about it. It was meant to be! :) Thanks for sharing this with us.

    1. It was such an amazing coincidence – I agree it was meant to be. I will certainly think twice before singing it to my little granddaughters, although I’m sure they would enjoy it like we all did. Thanks for calling in Stephanie, I appreciate it.

  14. Thank you for the clarification of this story. At least it had a somewhat good ending!! I always wondered about it and thought it was quite a horrible verse, right up there with "killing two birds with one stone" ---Phrases I never say and dislike hearing!

    1. There are some pretty gruesome sayings when you start thinking about it. Another is … there’s more than one way to skin a cat …I dread to think how that one came about.

  15. I SO love these mice! Oh Barbara dearest, your comment almost made ME CRY! I love how you said "the picture of the man and the dog brought tears to [your] eyes but that [my] words made them fall." Oh my, is that poetry.....BLESS YOU DEAREST BARBARA! Anita

    1. Dear Anita, the poetry comes directly from you and your lovely blog posts. xx

  16. Oh my, I NEVER KNEW! How gruesome, and scary it must have been. They only wanted to roam a bit. (It's funny how they only brought along a comb.) Everyone needs that "Never Too Late to Mend" lotion! Think of all the hurts we can heal. As brutal as it was, it's such a delight to finally read the full rhyme. Thanks for sharing this, Barbara. I also love your towel and rat-with-strawberries ceramic. It'd have been most terrible for the mice to run into a fox, for sure!

    1. Hello Claudine,
      I’ve read all kinds of explanations about the poem, including one suggesting Queen Mary was blind to the Protestant faith hence the reference to blind mice, but I’ve found nothing about the comb. Maybe it was the only thing the author could rhyme with home!! I would be first to buy some of that never too late to mend lotion!

  17. Funny how you only ever heard the wee snippet of the whole rhyme. even before I read the whole thing felt sorry for the poor wee mites.


    1. Hello Lainy, at least it was a happy ending, thanks to the Never too late to mend lotion!

  18. I can remember being quite perturbed about the words when I was small - most rhymes were repeated without thinking about them - but this one did stick in my mind as being decidedly gruesome! I've never seen the whole story before - its so nice to know they all recovered so well in the end! Strangely even though I loved nursery rhymes when I was a child my own son knows none of them. He had too many other distractions when he was young - mainly tv shows like Tellytubbies and Barney & then all the Disney channel programs - many of the books on offer were linked to these shows - and then he became a HUGE Star Wars fan. So bizarrely while I try to promote so many old and traditional childhood images & stories from my own childhood in my blog my son would have none of them!

    1. Hello Sharon, I can honestly say I never gave the words a moment’s consideration. Looking at these pictures was something of a shock!

      My son was much the same although being born in the 70s the programmes were different. He liked things like Mr. Ben, Bagpuss, Finger Mouse, Captain Pugwash and the magic roundabout, later his favourite shows were Grange Hill, Crackerjack, Count Duckula and Worzel Gummidge! I have lots of happy memories of him coming home from school and the two of us sitting down to watch ‘his’ programmes together.

  19. Oh my. I had no idea of their so sad tale! Goodness. Well, I feel so sorry for them.

    1. Hi Donna, I must admit I was pretty shocked when I read it – I had no idea just how much they suffered.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx