Little Miss Muffet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"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
English title Little Miss Muffet
Written England
Published 1805
Form Nursery rhyme
Writer Traditional
Composer Traditional
Language English
The "Little Miss Muffet" scenario explained by Denslow
1940 WPA poster using "Little Miss Muffet" to promote reading among children.

"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] Several novels and films including Along Came a Spider take their title from the poem's crucial line.

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.

The Eagles (band) referred to the Porsche 550 Spyder and the death of James Dean in the song "James Dean", using the popular poem in the song.

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.