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1001 Stories Collection

The Owl and the Pussy-cat

1001 The Owl And The Pussycat
Added on 15th August 2020

Author Edward Lear
Fist published 1871
Publisher R J Bush

A great nonsense poem written by a master of nonsense poetry.

Story

The Owl and the Pussy-cat is a three verse nonsense poem about an owl and cat who fall in love and sail away to marry ‘in the land where the Bong Tree grows’.

Why we chose it

The Owl and the Pussy-cat is a cheerful and memorable poem learned by many children. It is loved for its amusing images (‘pea green boat’, a wedding ring from a Piggy-wig’s nose), soothing rhythms (‘you are, you are…’) and happy ending (‘they danced by the light of the moon’). It added a new term to the language - ‘runcible spoon’.

Julia Donaldson chose The Owl and Pussy-cat as her favourite story characters for the Story Museum’s 2014 exhibition, 26 Characters.

Where it came from

The poem was written by Edward Lear to entertain a friend’s three-year-old daughter when she was ill. It was published in 1871 in Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets.

Born in 1812, Edward Lear was a sickly child with a talent for drawing who went on to paint birds and landscapes. He began writing absurd verse as a child, and in 1846 published A Book of Nonsense, the first of several books of funny drawings and rhymes which made him famous. He is now also recognised as a leading bird painter.

Where it went next

The poem originally appeared with Lear’s own illustrations, but has been re-illustrated many times, set to music and adapted as plays and animations.

Many writers have created prequels, sequels and alternative endings, such as Roald Dahl, Monty Python comedian Eric Idle, and Julia Donaldson whose The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat, illustrated by Charlotte Voake, evokes Lear’s charm and rhyme.

Beatrix Potter’s Little Pig Robinson is a prequel about the early life of the pig who supplied the ring. Lear began a sequel, The Children of the Owl and the Pussy-cat, but this was never finished.

Associated stories

Young readers may also enjoy other classic nonsense poems by Lear, such as The Jumblies, The Dong with the Luminous Nose and The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

Added on 15th August 2020

Author Edward Lear
Fist published 1871
Publisher R J Bush