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elogo bottom Mother Goose: A Scholarly Exploration
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Three Blind Mice

ECLIPSE Image Number 01020001
Visual Interpretations

The Dowdy Wife Is she running toward or away from those mice?

Alternate Herbs? Now what can I do with these tails?

Three Mice in Holland Who?s chasing whom here?

One Merry Mouse But what of the other two?

Why Are They Following Her? Don?t they know they are in danger?

Jovial and Unaware Are these mice high-stepping toward disaster?

Three Mice and Two Women Does the farmer?s wife need backup here?

Come Along Now The journey is better than the destination

The New American Gothic Will there be mice tails for dinner?

Textual/Historical Information

Although there is no definitive proof as to the original inspiration for the nursery rhyme, Three Blind Mice, some propose it is a statement concerning England?s Queen Mary I, who became known as ?Bloody Mary.? According to various websites, including Henry VIII and Patch Theatre: the "farmer's wife" was Queen Mary I of England, so called because her estates included a lot of farmland. She was displeased with three ratty noblemen, but she didn't dismember them as the rhyme suggests. She simply had them burned at the stake. As with many nursery rhymes that may have originated in political commentary, the illustrations are not overtly connected to the historical figure. The illustrations presented for this study do not always include the ?farmer?s wife;? and when they do, she does not resemble Mary I.

Exactly what the primary focus of the rhyme is differs according to its illustration. In some, it is the farmer?s wife; in others, it is the mice, and in some, the wife and the mice share the spotlight. These main characters are oftentimes distinctly depicted, with variations in realism, personification, and demeanor. The phase of the action --- whether before, during, or after the cutting off of the tails --- also differs; however, in the cases of the cutting or post cutting, blood is never present. Consequently, such consistent inconsistencies in the illustrations create contrasting moods. These key elements define the illustrations.

http://www.editec.net/Three_Blind_Mice/ A digitized version of Three Blind Mice . Cover by John W. Ivimey; illustrated by Walton Corbould.

http://www.ajcongress.org/pages/RELS2002/APR_2002/apr02_02.htm Fascinating take on the tale; relating to American Jewish Congress paper.

http://www.tammyyee.com/printmouseblind.html Origami & Three Blind Mice provides directions to create the object

http://www.schenkerguide.com/ursatz2.html A musical Schenkerian analysis

Visual Synthesis

This nursery rhyme is less than fifty words in length, including the two repeated phrases, yet its central focus is debatable. Is the subject the wife? The mice? Their severed tails? Their blindness? The various illustrations create conflicting moods and invoke conflicting responses from the audience, ranging from indifference to curiosity, and from disgust to compassion. Even the compassion varies ? at times it is for the mice, at other times, it is for the farmer?s wife. The rhyme asks, ?Did have you ever see such a sight in your life as three blind mice?? Clearly, now the answer is yes, and in many different ways.

http://www.braillenovelts.com/caneshirtinfo.htm: This shirt was designed to encourage discussion about Orientation and Mobility, the use of the long white cane, and to spread the message that blind and visually impaired travelers, can and do get around independently.

http://eclipse.rutgers.edu/goose/socialpolitical/todays3bm.aspx: This rhyme has frequently been used in political satire.

Versions and Variants

Textual Versions and Variants - A complete listing of the versions and variants of this rhyme

Visual Versions and Variants - A comparative listing of all associated within Eclipse

Rhyme Specific Bibliography

The Eventful History of Three Blind Mice. Illustrated by Winslow Homer.Introduction by Maurice Sendak. Afterword by Joseph W. Reed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Moorat, Joseph. Thirty Old-Time Nursery Songs. Arranged by Joseph Moorat & pictured by Paul Woodroffe. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Thames & Hudson, [c1980] Reprint of the 1912 edition.

Three Blind Mice. Illustrated by Lorinda Bryan Cauley. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1991.



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Supported in part by a grant from the Pilot Projects Program of the Rutgers Information Sciences Council (ISC)

Principal Investigator: Kay E. Vandergrift, Professor Emerita

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