Three Blind Mice - Origins and Meaning

Origins and Meaning

A version of this rhyme, together with music, was published in Deuteromelia or The Seconde part of Musicks melodie (1609). The editor of the book, and possible author of the rhyme, was Thomas Ravenscroft, who in 1609 was still a teenager. The original lyrics are:

Three Blinde Mice,
Three Blinde Mice,
Dame Iulian,
Dame Iulian,
the Miller and his merry olde Wife,
she scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife.

Attempts to read historical significance into the words have led to the speculation that this musical round was written earlier and refers to Queen Mary I of England blinding and executing three Protestant bishops, but problematically the Oxford Martyrs, Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer, were burned at the stake, not blinded; although if the rhyme was made by crypto-Catholics, the mice's "blindness" could refer to their Protestantism. The rhyme only entered children's literature in 1842 when it was published in a collection by James Orchard Halliwell.

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