Little Miss Muffet

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"Little Miss Muffet"
("Little Miss Muffet")
Roud #20605
Little Miss Muffet 1 - WW Denslow - Project Gutenberg etext 18546.jpg
William Wallace Denslow's illustrations for "Little Miss Muffet", from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose
Written by Traditional
Music by Traditional
Published 1805
Written England
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme

"Little Miss Muffet" is a nursery rhyme, one of the most commonly printed in the mid-twentieth century.[1] It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 20605.


Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.[1]

Origins and meaning[edit]

The rhyme first appeared in print in 1805, in a book titled Songs for the Nursery. Like many such rhymes, its origins are unclear. Some claim it was written by Dr Thomas Muffet (d.1604), an English physician and entomologist, regarding his stepdaughter Patience; others claim it refers to Mary, Queen of Scots (1543–87), who was said to have been frightened by religious reformer John Knox (1510–72).[2] The former explanation is speculative and the latter is doubted by most literary scholars, who note that stories linking folk tales or songs to political events are often urban legends.[1]

Alternative lyrics[edit]

There is also an alternative set of lyrics which has been taught in some countries where whey is not a common food stuff.[3] In the nineteenth century the rhyme existed in many alternative versions including: 'Little Mary Ester, Sat upon a tester' (1812); 'Little Miss Mopsey, Sat in the shopsey' (1842). These rhymes may be parodies of whichever is the original.[1]

In the 1960 revue Beyond the Fringe, the English humourist and musician Dudley Moore sang "Little Miss Muffet" in the style of Peter Pears to music parodying Benjamin Britten.

Use in popular culture[edit]

The book Along Came a Spider by James Patterson, the first in the Alex Cross series and its film adaptation comes from the nursery rhyme. The Eagles also make clever wordplay on the fifth, sixth, and final line of the rhyme, by using it in the song "James Dean" to describe his 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, Little Bastard. (Along came a Spyder/And picked up a rider/And took him down road to eternity)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd ed., 1997), pp. 323–4.
  2. ^ 'Was Little Miss Muffet a local girl?'. Brookmans Park Newsletter, retrieved 02/04/09.
  3. ^ A. Sorby, Schoolroom Poets: Childhood and the Place of American Poetry, 1865–1917 (UPNE, 2005), p. 80.