The Cat and the Fiddle

From Tolkien Gateway

The Cat and the Fiddle: A Nursery Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked is a poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien expanding upon the nursery rhyme The Cat and the Fiddle and published in October/November 1923 within Yorkshire Poetry Vol. 2 No. 19. It was reprinted in The Return of the Shadow.[1]

Tolkien used it as the basis for a poem recited by Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings, and published as The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.[2]


George MacDonald had composed The True History of the Cat and the Fiddle (published in At the Back of the North Wind) in which he combined the nursery rhymes Hey Diddle Diddle and The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon. George Burke Johnston suggested that Tolkien was inspired by that poem.[3]

Steven M. Deyo says the poem is based on the "Harley manuscript poem 2253".[4]

Tom Shippey sees elements on the Indo-European myth of Phaethon in the Man in the Moon's horses.[5]

See also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: VIII. Arrival at Bree, Note on the Songs at the Prancing Pony: (ii) The Cat and the Fiddle" (pp. 145-7)
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "Preface"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien; Christina Scull & Wayne G. Hammond (eds), The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "Commentary"
  4. Steven M. Deyo (1986), "Niggle's Leaves: The Red Book of Westmarch and Related Minor Poetry of J.R.R. Tolkien", Mythlore 12 (3), Article 8
  5. Tom Shippey (1982), The Road to Middle-Earth (Third ed.), HarperCollins, pp. 41–42.