Mice and cats have been enemies since the time of Aesop. In this updated fable, a mouse suggests tying a bell to the cat's tale. Great idea! But who is going to put it into practice? And if you live in the USA, check out our new sponsor, Little Passports Promo Code Story for a great way to learn about the world from home.
Read by Jana
Adapted by Bertie
Picture by Milo Winter
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The Cat that Went Ting-A-Ling
Hello, This is Jana, and I’m here with two fables by Aesop. Aesop lived in ancient Greece and wrote stories with morals - such as the boy who cried wolf or the Hare and the Tortoise. I’m sure you’ve heard them, and we have versions here on Storynory. I’m now going to tell you two of his not-quite-so famous fables, but they are still really fun. They are probably more for our younger listeners.
In between the stories, I’m going to welcome a new sponsor to Storynory - Little Passports - so listen out for a great special offer - because you know how Mums and Dads like to save a little money!
But first here’s the story of The Cat With A Bell.
A family of mice lived in an old house. When I say a family, I mean a big family, with lots of cousins, and second cousins, and third cousins, not to mention aunties and shanties, and relations whose names I’m not even sure of.
Fortunately the house was large, and the family of humans who lived there liked to eat well. They were always well stocked with cheese, ham, crackers, granary bread, biscuits, apples, cakes,and lentils,pulses - and all the things that mice like to eat just as much as humans do. At night there were plenty of delicious crumbs in the kitchen and dining room, just waiting to be picked up, because the family were lazy and only liked to sweep up in the morning. Well the mice did some tidying up for them.
Unfortunately, the family had bought a kitten the previous year, and now the kitten had grown up into a young cat-about-the-house. The children thought the cat was extremely cute - which he was if you were a human. He was a rag doll with sky blue eyes and dark markings on his nose and paws. He was very friendly and cuddly - to humans - and liked to play games like chasing a piece of wool.
But if you were a mouse, he was anything but cute. Cats have claws, and teeth, and they mistake mice for toys. They like to stalk and pounce on them - and if you are a mouse - well that’s not nice. For the first time ever, the family of mice started to get smaller rather than larger.
Great Grandpa Mouse called a family meeting to discuss the crisis. The mice met under the floorboards of the boy’s bedroom where they felt safe, even when they were squeaking. Secretly the boy liked mice and thought they were cute, so he didn’t tell his dad when he heard squeaking in case he set mouse traps!
I have to say I disagree with that boy. I’m not a fan of mice but everyone has a right to their own opinion, I suppose.
Anyway, let’s return to the meeting under the floorboards. It was very crowded and the mice were jostling for a good position to hear the main speaker.
“Quiet, QUI-ET!”called out Great Grandpa Mouse.“Everyone Stop Squeaking. We have serious business to discuss. This is a life and death matter.”
“So, it’s an existential crisis,” said a mouse called Judith, who lived under the TV in the living room and heard the language the TV people used to sound smart.
“Exactly!” said Great Grandpa Mouse who had never heard the phrase before. “The cat is a threat to us all. We need a plan to solve this terrible problem. Does anyone have a suggestion?”
“Let’s move house,” said a small brown mouse.
“Oh yes, let’s live beside the seaside,” chipped in another.
“The sea is far away and besides we might get eaten by a shark or pinched by the crabs,” said Great Grandpa mouse, adding, “Which is no better than becoming a cat-snack.”
The mice squeaked for a while but none of them came up with a solution.
“Silence! Silence!” declared Grandpa Mouse. “You are all talking nonsense.”
“It’s all noise and no signal,” added Judith, the mouse who kept up with the news.
At last a young rodent called Jimmy piped up, “I know, Great Grandpa Mouse, someone should tie a bell to the cat's tail. Then every time he comes to get us, we shall hear ‘ting-a-ling’ and know that we must scamper for cover.”
“Ting-a-ling eh?” said Great Grandpa Mouse. “That’s cute and clever. Well done lad. . What did you say your name was?”
“Well, Jimmy ladie, well done for volunteering to tie a bell to the cat. Extremely brave I might say. Now everyone, show your appreciation for a courageous mouse for making the highest sacrifice in the cause of the greater good. Say your farewells to young Jimmy. There’s a good chance this is the last time we’ll ever see him, but if he succeeds we shall all be mighty grateful.”
“Oh no, Mr Great Grandpa Mouse sir, I didn’t mean that I would tie the bell to the cat,” declared Jimmy, who really had no intention of volunteering to tie the bell to the cat.
But nobody heard Jimmy’s plaintive cry because they were squeaking their appreciation. They all squealed so loud that the human boy woke up and said: “Eh mice, stop that silly racket or I’ll sleep with the cat on my bed and then you’ll be sorry.”
That very same night, little Jimmy mouse had no choice but to sneak out through a hole in the skirting board. If he had refused to venture forth, all the other mice would call him a coward for the rest of his life. Now his life might be rather short but at least it would be glorious.
“Oh dear, I don’t want to be a hero. There must be a moral in this story. Something like, ‘better to keep your foolish mouth shut than to squeak up and be a smarty pants’.”
It so happened that the kids of the house had a little wooden fire truck with bells on. The boy would pull it along on a string and it would go ‘ting-a-ling’. You might never have seen one of those, but back in the days gone by, before the world became virtual, kids played with real toys. And they also used to read, draw, play ball in the park, climb actual trees, graze their knees, and listen to stories read aloud like this one -oh you are listening to this story so you probably do those other things too. Well good for you … because those are the things Storynory kids like.
Anyway, our brave little mouse took the string of the fire truck in his mouth and pulled it along very slowly hoping that the bells wouldn’t ring and wake the cat. When he reached the basket where the cat was curled up asleep, he looped the string over the tip of its tail, hoping very much that it did not awaken.
Hmm. If the cat is pretending to be asleep, and watching him through the slits of its eyes, this will be a very short story, and I can go and put my feet up.
“At least the end will be quick,” he thought, trying to look on the bright side.
The cat purred from deep inside its stomach. Jimmy froze.
“I think he’s only dreaming,” he said to himself.
Little Jimmy tied a sailor’s knot around the cat’s tail. How did he learn to do that? Well don’t ask me, I can’t tie knots. But he did pull it tight and make his escape.
When he returned to the chill out zone under the floorboards, his friends crowded round and asked him to tell his story. They were all amazed by his bravery.
“Getaway, you don’t say,”
“Wow! You’re a hero!”
“Are you sure it’s safe to go out?” they asked.
Eventually, Great Grandpa Mouse called everyone to attention.
“Now little Jimmy has done a very brave thing, and survived. we need another brave little mouse to go forth. I need a volunteer. Give me a phrase, Judith, I need something inspiring.”
And Jimmy Mouse certainly hoped that he wasn’t the only hero.
The mice were unusually quiet, because mice are not cut out to be heroes, and they had all seen that little Jimmy’s suggestion had very nearly got him killed. But the silence did not last long because they soon heard a sound coming from above them:
“That’s the firetruck, the cat’s on the move!” called out Jimmy.
“Squeak! Squeak!” said all the mice excitedly.
A moment later a brown mouse called Cousin Gordon dived through a hole into the chill room. He was in possession of a huge crumb of banana cake and more importantly, his own life.
“The Bells! The Bells!” he cried out with wide open eyes!
“It seems the advance warning solution has worked!” declared Judith and Grandpa mouse agreed.
Everyone squealed in delight so loud that they woke up Mum and Dad in the next room.
“Ah, We’ve been invaded by an army of mice!” declared Mum, who shared my view of rodents.
Well I don’t have to tell you what happened next, but I can tell you that at the next family meeting, the surviving mice held a vote, and all but one declared that they wanted to move to the seaside, which they did. They found a nice cafe by the sea where they all lived very happily. I won’t tell you the name of the cafe in case they sue me, but I won’t be going to eat there myself.
And that was the story of the Cat that Went Ting-A-Ling.
Don’t go away because we’ve got another fable from Aesop coming up. But I’m still wondering what the moral of this story was, if any. I’m scratching my head. What do you think, Bertie?
Hmm. I’m not sure. I’ll just look up what Milo Winter said about it. He wrote the version that I read before I cooked up this one. Ah, here it is:
It is one thing to say that something should be done, but quite a different matter to do it
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So in just over a minute’s time , I’m going to be reading you a bonus story from Aesop. It’s called The Wolf and the Kid
We’ll keep it short and sweet. But first….
So before we go, here’s a short and sweet tale by Aesop
THE WOLF AND THE KID
There was once a little Kid goat whose growing horns made him think he was a grown-up Billy Goat and able to take care of himself. So one evening when the flock of goats started home from the pasture and his mother called, the Kid paid no heed and kept right on nibbling the tender grass. A little later when he lifted his head, the flock was gone.
He was all alone. The sun was sinking. Long shadows came creeping over the ground. A chilly little wind came creeping with them making scary noises in the grass. The Kid shivered as he thought of the terrible Wolf. Then he started wildly over the field, bleating for his mother. But not half-way, near a clump of trees, there was the Wolf!
The Kid knew there was little hope for him.
"Please, Mr. Wolf," he said trembling, "I know you are going to eat me. But first please pipe me a tune, for I want to dance and be merry as long as I can."
The Wolf liked the idea of a little music before eating, so he struck up a merry tune and the Kid leaped and frisked gaily.
Meanwhile, the flock was moving slowly homeward. In the still evening air the Wolf's piping carried far. The Shepherd Dogs pricked up their ears. They recognised the song the Wolf sings before a feast, and in a moment they were racing back to the pasture. The Wolf's song ended suddenly, and as he ran, with the Dogs at his heels, he called himself a fool for turning piper to please a Kid, when he should have stuck to his butcher's trade.
And the moral is
Do not let anything turn you from your purpose
And that was the Wolf and the Kid originally by the ancient Greek fabulist, Aesop. This is the version by the American writer, Milo Winter, who was best known as an illustrator.
I do hope that you enjoyed these two Aesop fables, and don’t forget your special offer at little passports promo code Story