The Owl and the Pussycat

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Edward Lear's illustration of the Owl and the Pussycat

"The Owl and the Pussycat" is a nonsense poem by Edward Lear, first published during 1871 as part of his 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 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 Pussycat" 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".

The Owl and the Pussycat set out to sea in a pea green boat with honey and "plenty of money" wrapped in a five-pound note. The Owl serenades the Pussycat while gazing at the stars and strumming on a small guitar. He describes her as beautiful. The Pussycat responds by describing the Owl as an "elegant fowl" and compliments him on his singing. She urges that they marry; however, they do not have a ring. They sail away for a year and a day to a land where Bong trees grow and discover a pig with a ring in his nose in a wood. They buy the ring for a shilling and are married the next day by a turkey. They dine on mince and quince using a "runcible spoon", then dance hand-in-hand on the sand in the moonlight.

Portions of an unfinished sequel, "The Children of the Owl and the Pussycat" were published first posthumously, during 1938. How the pair procreated is unspecified but the children are part fowl and part cat. All love to eat mice. The family live round places with weird names where their mother the cat died falling from a tall tree.This made their dad the owl become a single dad. The death caused their father, the owl, great sadness. The money is all spent but father still sings to the original guitar.[1]


The "piggy-wig" in the land of Bong-trees.

See also


  1. ^ The Children of the Owl and the Pussy-cat
  2. ^ Denis Stevens, A History of Song, The Norton Library 536 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1970): 179. ISBN 0393005364.
  3. ^ [1] Details of the 45 rpm record of Elton Hayes' recordings of Edward Lear songs (accessed 7 October 2011)
  4. ^ "The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See...", the Ruskin/Wood play (accessed 8 February 2011).
  • The Owl and the Pussycat public domain audiobook at LibriVox
  • The Owl and the Pussy-cat translation collection
  • Reely's Poetry Pages - audio of The Owl and The Pussycat (Anthology of English Verse, Vol. 1)
  • "Pea Green Boat", by comedian Stewart Lee.
  • Free audio of the Owl and the Pussycat by Storynory
  • mp3 by Dawn Miceli from The Dawn and Drew Show
  • Tales of Curiosity short video, text and images of The Owl and the Pussy-cat
  • Setting of poem as a song by Ronald Corp performed by Mark Stone and Simon Lepper
  • The Owl & the Pussycat. Elton Hayes.
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