The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

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The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
by Edward Lear
Edward Lear's illustration of the Owl and the Pussycat
IllustratorEdward Lear
CountryUnited Kingdom
Publication date1871
Full text
The Owl and the Pussycat at Wikisource
Reading of "The Owl and the Pussycat"

"The Owl and the Pussy-cat" is a nonsense poem by Edward Lear, first published in 1870 in the American magazine Our Young Folks: an Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls[1] and again the following year in Lear's own book Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets. Lear wrote the poem for a three-year-old girl, Janet Symonds, the daughter of Lear's friend and fellow poet John Addington Symonds and his wife Catherine Symonds. The term "runcible", used for the phrase "runcible spoon", was invented for the poem.


"The Owl and the Pussy-cat" features four anthropomorphic animals – an owl, a cat, a pig, and a turkey – and tells the story of the love between the title characters who marry in the land "where the Bong-tree grows".

Unfinished sequel[edit]

Portions of an unfinished sequel, "The Children of the Owl and the Pussy-cat" were published first posthumously, during 1938. The children are part fowl and part cat, and love to eat mice.

The family live by places with strange names. The Cat dies, falling from a tall tree, leaving the Owl a single parent. The death causes the Owl great sadness. The money is all spent, but the Owl still sings to the original guitar.[2]


The "piggy-wig" in the land of Bong-trees
  • Beatrix Potter wrote a prequel, The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, telling the background story of the pig character.
  • The story has been set to music and animated many times, such as by:
  • It was the main topic of The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See..., a 1968 children's musical play about Lear's nonsense poems. The play was written by Sheila Ruskin and David Wood.[5]
  • In 1996, Eric Idle published a children's novel, The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, based on the poem. Idle's narriation of the audiobook was nominated for the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children.
  • In 1998, Naxos Records produced album "Seven Ages: An Anthology of Poetry with Music" which contains a recording of John Cleese reading The Owl and the Pussycat on track 15.[6]
  • Composer Deborah Kavasch of the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble (established at the University of California, San Diego, 1972) composed The Owl and the Pussycat, a setting of the poem, for the ensemble. It was published in 1980 by Edition Reimers.[7]
  • American avant-garde artist and composer Laurie Anderson’s 5th album, Bright Red (1994) features the track ″Beautiful Pea Green Boat″ with additional lyrics from the poem.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lucy Larcom, ed. (February 1870). "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat". Our Young Folks: an Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls. VI (II): 111–112. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  2. ^ Lear, Edward. "The Children of the Owl and the Pussy-cat".
  3. ^ Stevens, Denis (1970). A History of Song. Vol. The Norton Library 536. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 179. ISBN 0393005364..
  4. ^ "Details of the 45 rpm record of Elton Hayes' recordings of Edward Lear songs". Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  5. ^ "The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See..." Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  6. ^ "SEVEN AGES - An Anthology of Poetry with Music - NA218912". Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  7. ^ Kavasch, Deborah. The Owl and the Pussycat. Edition Reimers. OCLC 11872626.

External links[edit]