Three Blind Mice Nursery Rhyme-Lyrics, History, Video, Lesson Plans & More


Three Blind Mice is a famous English round nursery rhyme passed from generation to generation centuries since it was first published.

But did you know this song has a pretty intriguing story linked to the Oxford martyrs? Of course, the subject is three blind mice but then speculation is rife that the mice refer to actual historical people.

That intrigued me enough to have me search more on the history of the famous rhyme. If you have the same questions then you’re at the right place.

Let’s dive in.

LYRICS

Three Blind Mice lyrics tell the story of the mice, with six lines of the song sang repeatedly.

Lyrics for Three Blind Mice As Sung Today

Three blind mice, Three blind mice
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life?
As three blind mice?

Full Original Lyrics for Three Blind Mice

The original lyrics are markedly different from what we sing today. There’s no mention of the farmer’s wife cutting off the tails of the mice. In the lyrics, it isn’t a farmer’s wife but a miller’s instead. Also, the word blind has a different spelling.

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

The History Behind Three Blind Mice

When Did Three Blind Mice Rhyme First Appear?

Three Blind Mice originated back to 1609 when a teenage Thomas Ravenscroft published a version of the song. He published it in a book known as Deuteromilia or The Seconde part of Musicks Melodie.

The song, as originally written, didn’t allude to the gruesome cutting off of tails. Later in 1842, James Halliwell-Philipps published the song in his collection of round folk songs.

That could be the action that changed it from a regular song to the children’s song we sing today.

How Old Was Thomas Ravenscroft When He Came Up with Three Blind Mice?

Thomas Ravenscroft lived between 1582 and 1635. He wrote Three Blind Mice in 1609. So that made him 27 when he published the rhyme in 1609.

However, some accounts say he was still a teenager when he edited and published Deuteromilia—but calculating the age based on the reported publishing time and the author’s birth doesn’t seem so.

The inspiration for the song is thought to be London City. London back in the day wasn’t as grand as it is today. The poverty rate was high, and the quality of life was quite dismal.

The Complete Version

Three Blind Mice, like any other nursery rhyme, also has multiple earlier versions. But the most prominent of all is the Complete Version by John W. Ivimey.

He illustrated the song in a children’s book, tweaking the lyrics and coming up with a story loosely based on the mice. The song went by the title The Complete Version of Ye Three Blind Mice.

In this version, a farmer’s wife takes in three mischievous mice. They misbehave and have a tiff with her, and she chases them out of her house. The mice rush into a bramble bush that makes them blind.

Later, the mice encounter a butcher’s wife who cuts off their tails. However, the story ends well for the mice since they use a tonic to get back their sight. They also grow back their tails. And they also get to have a happily ever after ending after getting a house to live in.

Hearing the song as sung today, how wild does this story sound? Pretty wild, I’d say.

WHAT DO THE WORDS MEAN? DEFINITIONS:

What Are Mice?

Mice are small rodents with long tails, large ears, and big eyes. They also have a rather sharp snout.

Mice are relatives of rats and can be pretty destructive though some consider them excellent pets. Perhaps their destructiveness can explain why the farmer’s wife cuts off their tails in the song!

What Does Blind Mean?

To be blind is to lack eyesight. Therefore, in this context, the mice couldn’t see.

What’s a Carving Knife?

A carving knife is a long-bladed kitchen instrument chefs use to carve large pieces of cooked meat into small slices.

It doesn’t have to cut meat alone, as the mice found out to their detriment!

INTERESTING FACTS & QUESTIONS ANSWERED

The Connection to Queen Mary I and A Dark Meaning

While children sing along happily to the song innocently, it’s thought to have much darker connotations. The song is believed to be connected to England’s Queen Mary I, a catholic ruler who had a notorious reputation for persecuting and killing protestants who wouldn’t convert to Catholicism.

The story goes that the three blind mice refer to three protestant bishops burned on the stake for refusing to agree to Queen Mary’s demands.

But how does burning at the stake relate to being blind and having your tail cut off? Christian scholars compare being blind to lacking faith. In those days, going against the catholic church was heresy and a lack of faith hence blindness.

What is interesting though is that the burning of the bishops happened almost a century before the song was recorded in writing. Also, by the time the song was published for the first time in 1609, Queen Mary I had been dead for many years.

It is possible though that the story of the execution was passed on from generation to generation in much the same way as many other nursery rhymes.

If that’s the case, then it would make sense for someone to come up with a song detailing the killing of the bishops.

No one can prove or disprove this theory. But people love, attaching stories and histories to nursery rhymes especially darker stories with past meaning.

Either way, that doesn’t take anything away from the Three Blind Mice being a beloved nursery rhyme. We will continue singing the rhyme for years to come, dark meaning or not!

How Can Blind Mice Run after The Farmers Wife?

If you take your time to think about it, doesn’t it sound weird for blind mice to know where to go, let alone follow someone? Yet the three blind mice in this song follow the farmer’s wife!

Mice have a pretty good sense of smell, so we can assume they smelt the scent of the farmer’s wife. That’s the only explanation for how blind mice can follow someone!

 However, for normal mice, the excellent sense of smell helps them detect human presence and thus hide. But in this case, they follow the human instead of shying away. Does that even make sense?

The song alludes to that queer behavior by asking if anyone has ever seen such a sight. Chances are, no one ever has. Three curious, blind mice could easily be the title for this song.

Do the Three Blind Mice Have Names?

Most people think the three mice are Ridley, Cranmer, and Latimer from the song’s relation to the protestant killings.

The three are the protestant loyalists Queen Mary ordered burned on the stake.

Who Was the Farmer’s Wife?

Since the song refers to the persecution of the Oxford martyrs, the farmer’s wife represents Queen Mary I, otherwise known as “Bloody Mary.”

Is Three Blind Mice the Darkest Nursery Rhyme There Is?

Granted, Three Blind Mice has a pretty dark meaning; does that make it the darkest? No, it doesn’t. Plenty of other nursery rhymes have rather dark meanings.

Ring Around the Rosie, London Bridge is Falling Down, and Jack and Jill have pretty infamous backstories.

Ring Around Rosie alludes to London’s plague, while London Bridge has human sacrifice connotations. Jack and Jill has its roots in the beheading of France’s King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette.

Therefore, we can’t say Three Blind Mercy is the darkest rhyme there is. Many other rhymes would shock you with their backstories.

Does Three Blind Mice Sound Like Any Other Song?

Three Blind Mice doesn’t resemble or sound like any other song. However, there are different versions of the song that we can say are like the song.

But since they aren’t alien songs compared to the original Three Blind Mice song, we can’t say they share a tune or melody.

Does Three Blind Mice Teach any Important Lessons?

Besides entertainment, the song doesn’t offer many life lessons for kids. But you can’t deny its usefulness in helping teachers or parents bond with children faster.

Everyone loves it for its pure entertainment.

Is Three Blind Mice in The Public Domain?

Having been written well before 1925, Three Blind Mice is available in the public domain like most nursery rhymes. According to international copyright laws, anything published before 1925 is now in the public domain, and anyone can use it as they wish.

But then, different countries and territories may abide by different copyright rules, so you should always check the laws in your area before using a song. The availability in the public domain only covers the lyrics and melody.

If you use any other person’s variation of the song, then you’ll be violating copyright laws.

How Do You Sing Three Blind Mice in Sign Language?

You can sing Three Blind Mice in sign language. Below is a helpful resource I found on YouTube.

THREE BLIND MICE INSPIRED LESSON PLANS

Below is a selection of Lesson Plans. You need to click on the images to go to the websites and download the resources.

SHEET MUSIC FOR THREE BLIND MICE

Can Three Blind Mice be sung as a round?

Yes! Three Blind Mice can be sung as a round song. That means two or more different voices could sing the song each of them joining in at different lines to form a round.

Three Blind Mice is perfect for singing in a round thanks to its classical structure.

First VocalSecond Vocal RoundThird Vocal Round
Three Blind Mice
Three Blind Mice
See how they run
See how they run
Three Blind Mice
Three Blind Mice
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
See how they run
See how they run
Three Blind Mice
Three Blind Mice
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
See how they run
See how they run
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,

What Time Signature is Three Blind Mice

Three Blind Mice has a time signature of ¾ or 6/8.

HOW TO PLAY THREE BLIND MICE ON AN INSTRUMENT

You can play Three Blind Mice with different instruments. Look through the below resources to practice with the device of your choice.

Samantha

Samantha Bellerose has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Diploma in Performing Arts. She is a mom to four children and is passionate about education and learning. Samantha created Nursery Rhyme Central as the go to place for parents, teachers and carers about all things to do with Nursery Rhymes. She is also the Main Author and creator for websites Dance Parent 101 and Move Dance Learn, where she shares her knowledge and expertise for dance and learning through movement.

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