Author’s note: All nursery rhymes quoted in this story are from “Dean’s Mother Goose Book of Rhymes,” 1977 edition.
Tabby flipped idly through the old book of nursery rhymes while Baby Faline played with My Little People on the floor. Agatha had just uncovered the dusty book from her daughter Tabby’s childhood and thought it would now be the perfect thing to be read to her granddaughter Faline. Tabby wasn’t so sure.
“These are stupid,” she said aloud to no one in particular. “They don’t make any sense. I mean, I could write stuff that was just as good as what’s in here! ‘There was an old mare who lived under a hill, and if she’s not gone, she’s living there still.’ Like, what’s up with that, and who cares, anyway?”
Faline kept on playing with only half an ear on her mother’s rambling.
Well, at least the pictures are nice, Tabby decided, staring at the illustrations that were starting to bring on a strong feeling of nostalgia. “Hmm, hmm, hmm... ooh, now there’s a dapper fellow!” Her attention was caught by a cute little sparrow with a bow and sheath of arrows, wearing a green Robin Hood hat.
Faline crawled over to see, too; and as Tabby showed it to her, her gaze went to the opposite side of the page. A robin lay on his back, an arrow through his chest, while a fish stood below catching the dripping blood. Tabby’s eyes bugged out. “My, how violent! I’ve gotta read this.”
The rhyme went:
Who killed Cock Robin? “I,” said the Sparrow, “with my bow and arrow, I killed Cock Robin.”
Who saw him die? “I,” said the Fly, “with my little eye, I saw him die.”
Who caught his blood? “I,” said the Fish, “With my little dish, I caught his blood.”
Who’ll make his shroud? “I,” said the Beetle, “with my thread and needle, I’ll make his shroud.”
Who’ll dig his grave? “I,” said the Owl, “With my little trowel, I’ll dig his grave.”
Who’ll be the parson? “I,” asid the Rook, “With my little book, I’ll be the parson.”
Who’ll be chief mourner? “I,” said the Swan. “I’m sorry he’s gone, I’ll be chief mourner.”
Who’ll bear his pall? “We,” said the Wren, Both the Cock and the Hen. “We’ll bear his pall.”
Who’ll toll the bell? “I,” said the Bull, “Because I can pull. I’ll toll the bell.”
All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing when they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin.
“Wow! What an interesting tale!” Tabby said at the end. Faline clapped and demanded more. They started over at the beginning of the book; and after only a few pages, Faline squealed and exclaimed, “Robin!”
“You’re right! It’s Robin again... and another wren! Maybe it’ll tell more of the story...”
Jenny Wren fell sick
Upon a merry time,
In came Robin Redbreast
And brought her sops and wine.
Eat well of the sop, Jenny,
Drink well of the wine.
Thank you, Robin, kindly,
You shall be mine.
Jenny Wren got well,
And stood upon her feet;
And told Robin plainly,
She loved him not a bit.
Robin he got angry,
And hopped upon a twig,
Saying, Out upon you,
fie upon you!
Bold faced jig!
“Ah-hah, the plot thickens!” Tabby declared. “Robin here was rejected by Ms. Wren. Mayhaps it has something to do with the murder.”
After a gruesome picture of a crow making off with a maid’s nose to feed to her children, the robin and wren starred once more in a rhyme:
The Robin and the Wren
Fought about the porridge-pan;
And ere the Robin got the spoon
The Wren had ate the porridge down.
“There is most definitely a rivalry of sorts between the robins and the wrens,” Tabby noted.
“More!” Faline said.
The last reference to the birds found in the book was ominous sounding for Robin:
The north wind doth blow
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor Robin do then?
He’ll sit in a barn,
To keep himself warm,
With his head tucked under his wing.
Tabby mused over this information for awhile before coming to a conclusion. “I feel certain that Robin’s death was the result of an assassination,” she declared to an intrigued Faline. “The wrens obviously hired Mr. Sparrow to do the job. And, to not arouse suspicion on themselves, of course the wrens pretended to feel saddened at the occurrence and did the job of pallbearers. It’s easy, from the porridge incident, to tell that there was some sort of feud between the wrens and the robins. And, after Robin took the job of nursing Ms. Wren, her family could have feared a misalliance was brewing and henceforth arranged for his death. Robin must have realized they were after him, so he changed his name from Robin Redbreast to Cock Robin- or perhaps his full name was simply Cock Robin Redbreast, so both names were correct- and had to hide out, like the night in the barn. Alas, Robin couldn’t escape his fate, and the hired assassin finally tracked him down. Isn’t that an interesting story?”
“Asswassin,” Faline repeated. She liked the sound of that word; she would have to add it to her vocabulary.
Meanwhile, Thomas had walked past the room in time to hear the later part of this session and Tabby’s interpretation of Robin’ death. Leaning against the wall, he groaned. “To think what she’ll grow up like...”
But the true story behind Simple Simon, whether he was a real pieman or a pieman wannabe, and how Jack Horner fit into the whole thing, will have to wait for another day!