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January 20, 2021 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Sure and pleasant, but stranger

birds in courtroom holding a murder trial (USPD)

How funny. It’s all about the birds, isn’t it? (USPD)

Let it be known that two things are true: 1). it is pointless to making instructional videos for birds, and 2) it’s not what it looks like.

Despite recent events have revealed that local birds desperately need strategies to cope with territorial infringement by wintering tourist birds, it has been determined by RC Cat (who has infinite delusions experience in Realm defensive strategies) that birds are simply too flighty to learn to help themselves.

Cat attacking bird (USPD)

“After leaping from your hiding spot, one should gaze into the eyes of prey victim opponent fiercely and…Wait! The lesson isn’t over. Stop. Don’t fly off yet. Dunderbirds. (USPD)

Unable to put aside hard-wired unfounded cat distrust prejudices – and lacking the abilities to accept help from a former rival during troubled times – the birds simply got all aflutter during practice demonstrations.

RC shrugged and said with regret, “Some simply do not have the killer instinct.”

She suggested the local birds contract out with purrrcenaries.

But it was revealed that wings, an angel do not make.

robin with arrow. (USPD)

“If feathers are used for arrows, then there is nothing wrong with me using the finished product. Only at tin cans. Oh, the dead body over there? Must have been standing too close to the tin can.”(USPD)

Robins and sparrows, seemly meek and mild, actually have a long, violent, Hatfield and McCoy feud-type history.

  • The “Death of Cock Robin” or “the Death and Burial of Cock Robin” is an English nursery rhyme describing the murder and funeral of a robin. (Deemed appropriate for children of all ages. So do not mention modern video games violence as not being instructive for children. It’s tradition.)
  • 1744 seems to be the first published Robin version in “Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book” with only four verses.
  • Popular demand? 1770 there was an extended version. There were many parodies and spin offs. Byron even used it in “Who killed John Keats”.
  • The “Trial and Execution of Sparrow for Killing Cock Robin” followed shortly with a court case, witnesses, and interrogation. (The English are apparently serious about their birds…and justice). Who was the murderer: the sparrow or was it the cat? In this version, Judge Hawk decides the accused is guilty and deals out the punishment with his own beak. (No appeal process there).

Appalled at the stuffed unmatched pall bearers? Funeral ceremonies differ widely. (USPD)

  • 1861 A taxidermist created a tableau of each of the rhyme’s stanzas using 98 embalmed birds. He featured a bullfinch tolling the bell instead of a bull reflecting the early versions. (Before you flinch and talk about gross, consider the modern exhibit “Body Works and the Cycle of Life” with preserved human specimens…)

As with many rhymes and childhood poems, actually history is frequently suggested and linked.

  • Could be Celtic. Could be Norse. Could be from Germany.
  • But old nursery rhyme probably revised to reflect European and English politics. Could refer to 1100 death of King William II (called “Rufus” which means red) who was killed by an arrow in the woods. Might be derived from a similar political dead bird story, Phyllyp Sparowe, written by John Skelton (poet/political satirist) in 1508. Very likely connected to fall of Robert Walpole’s 1742 government.

We know why and how the caged bird sings. 

(To keep the head firmly attached to the body.) 

Insect. Fly costumed as human (USPD)

Well, some reading specialist possibly was involved with the text: high frequency words, rhyme, and rhythm appropriate for beginning readers. Maybe the illustrations are to keep the adults engaged. My, how children’s books have changed. (USPD)

If intrigued by old book illustrations, some the best and most elaborate of this robin’s tale are here in the Project Gutenberg e-book from 1865. (See sample above. No political agenda.Obviously simply written and illustrated for a child, right?)

RC Cat has grown weary of beak speech and has abandoned ideas of instructional videos for the local birds. Some recently discovered educational materials (shown below) may work better. Her work proclaimed done, HRH has returned to her sunny spot. 

Nothing but chirp

Phil, the Philosopher of the Hedge

Birds. Robin's dead. (USPD)

Robin’s dead. Who dun it? Justice! Will nests go up in flames? (USPD)

Several birds sitting over a dinner table with pie and wine. Book included 30 neatly colored engravings. (USPD)

Cock Robin and his wife Jenny Wren enjoying dinner with pie and wine. Incoming. Incoming. “Duck, Robin, duck. Sorry, I meant, move it.” Surprise attack just like with diners in DC. (USPD)

Writing from old book (USPD)

In this version, it’s a wren, not a dove that mourns Cock Robin. This sequel to the book above includes the lamentation of Jenny Wren, the apprehension of Sparrow, and the Cuckoo’s punishment. Victimhood and crime literature is so marketable. (USPD)

Scenes of birds in court and trial. Book about Cock Robin who was murdered. (USPD)

Here comes the Judge. Here comes the Judge. Looks serious. No fluff here, but some great vocabulary. (USPD)





  1. easyweimaraner / Jan 20 2021 6:38 am

    thanks for sharing… we saw that some things are still up to date,…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate Crimmins / Jan 20 2021 6:42 am

    Sometimes it’s better not to know these things!

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 20 2021 6:59 am

      It all started with the perky Robin song and a stain glass window with a robin in it… then the weird (“children’s”) story and assorted illustrations showed up. Wacky world, indeed. Thanks for ducking under this tree

      Liked by 1 person

  3. disperser / Jan 20 2021 9:33 am

    Interesting; I’d peripherally heard of the two protagonists, but didn’t know the basis for it (never heard the nursery rhyme as my childhood was in Italy and we don’t have kids).

    . . . still not as gruesome as birds pecking other bird’s fledglings to death, to tossing them from the nests. In two years, none of the cardinal nests I was aware of survived to the birds fledging.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 20 2021 5:42 pm

      Actually I had never heard/read this one before. The names were vaguely familiar: I think Jenny Wren was a European singer that toured the Wild West? There was some fuzzy image of a robin in a top hat with a cane (Disney style) that I thought was the Robin of “bob, bob, bobin’ along” song – Wrong about that.
      As usual the ordinary common objects reveal more about an era than the printed history books (which changes as modern perspective changes)
      I guess the gruesomeness wasn’t too out of the ordinary considering local animals at the time…chickens, too, are notorious for singling out an innocent ( not necessarily weak) chick then picking, clawing, pulling feathers out and basically attain until death. There are “aprons” you can buy to protect tormented chickens in a flock.
      Real life is a battle for some.
      Thanks for adding the cardinal info. Whew. No wonder the local birds are upset at the potential by feathered tourists.
      Thanks for the flyby and comment

      Liked by 1 person

  4. sustainabilitea / Jan 20 2021 12:41 pm

    Purrrcenaries? Ha, ha, ha!! People seem to think that fairy tales are for children, but if you read those by the aptly named Brothers Grimm (although being German they got an extra letter in their last name), they’re mostly grim! However, seeing violence really is different than reading about it, so I’d still be careful about what children watch (and I know you’re not saying we shouldn’t be careful.)


    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 20 2021 5:32 pm

      Children then are much different than children now…childhood much shorter and less protected. Books also always had so life lesson for moral to the story. Wonder if this one was about if ya’ murder someone, here, comes the scary judge? HA HA.
      I loved old original fairy tales – we had books and books of them from different countries. Books never gave me nightmares, slasher movies however…shiver.
      Thanks for adding a comment to this shelf

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ally Bean / Jan 20 2021 2:21 pm

    “Who saw him die? I, said the fly. With my little eye, I saw him die.”

    Those lines I remember from childhood, but not the pictures. I never was much for fairy tales when I was a kid. Maybe that was for the best– considering what you’ve discovered here.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 20 2021 5:28 pm

      That line wasn’t familiar to me, but it’s clear why kids ( especially those with siblings) would remember those! Kids are much less grossed out about things.
      It reminds me of that rhyme: “The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly” (Insects again!)
      Children’s book illustrations are mostly the sanitized Disney style now. Adults are mush less uncomfortable about them HAHA
      Thanks for ferrying a comment to this dock

      Liked by 1 person

  6. cat9984 / Jan 21 2021 12:53 am

    I had forgotten about this rhyme. When I first saw it (as an adult), I remember it had some connection to British politics. Must be the Walpole government fall.


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