Whilst browsing through a book of Grimm fairy tales (as you do) I was struck by the title of one story, Cat and Mouse in Partnership. As we all know, cats and mice rarely, if ever, team up. I have neither seen a cat and mouse crime-fighting duo nor have I seen a cat and a mouse present a cookery program on TV. A gap in the market? Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm clearly thought so. I will tell you the story of ‘Cat and Mouse in Partnership’. It’s a re-telling of the story that includes quotes from the original, so if you want to read the original story, see the Works Cited section at the end of this post.
Cat and Mouse in Partnership
There was a certain cat who felt “great love and friendship” (p6) for a certain mouse. The merry two decided to live together.
One day, the cat suggests that they put aside a supply of food for the winter. A sensible cat, we are led to believe.
The cat and mouse buy themselves a “pot of fat” (p7). That wouldn’t be my first choice, but each to their own. The cat suggests that they hide the pot of fat in the church because nobody will steal from a church.
Some time passes and the cat realises she has a strong “yearning” (p7) for the fat, so she makes up some story about having a cousin that had asked her to be godmother to their child. She tells the mouse that she will be out all day at the christening. I’m not sure if we are to expect that the cousin of this cat is a fellow cat and therefore that the fictional god-child is a god-kitten. It is possible that the Brothers Grimm encouraged their characters to engage in inter-species breeding. However, in this post, I’m going to assume that we are dealing with a god-kitten rather than, for example, a god-parrot or god-piglet.
The cat, who we’ve discovered is female (why are cats in stories always female?), heads off to the church and the fictional christening, locates the pot of fat, and licks the top off it.
When the cat arrives home, the mouse greets her cheerfully, “no doubt you’ve had a merry day” (p7). The mouse, who we discover is also female, inquiries as to the name of the god-kitten and the cat tells her, “Top off” (ibid). The mouse notes that this is a very odd name, to which the cat replies “it is no worse than Crumb-Stealer as your god-children are called” (ibid). The cat’s got a point there, mouse.
It isn’t long before the cat is seized by “another fit of yearning” (p7). I don’t know whether this fat is laced with crack, but is must be some damn good fat. Anyway, the cat makes up another cock-and-bull christening excuse and heads off to the church. This time she eats half the pot of fat. Upon her arrival home, the mouse inquires as to the name of this kitten. “Half-done” (p8) replies the cat. Half-baked more like. This cat is clearly not a gifted liar. Why couldn’t she have chosen an ordinary name, like James?
The mouse is puzzled, understandably, but she lets it go. I am touched by the apparent trusting nature of this mouse. She seems like an honourable mouse, if I may be so bold as to say so.
A few days later, the cat rolls out another christening excuse. “All good things go in threes” (p8) says the cat. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. I wouldn’t say that a trilogy of kicks to the shin is a good thing.
While the cat is away, the mouse does not play. In fact, while the cat is away eating the rest of the fat, the mouse busies herself cleaning the house. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind having this mouse as a housemate.
When the cat returns home, she tells the mouse that the name of the god-kitten at this christening was “All-done” (p8). The mouse remarks that this is the most suspicious name of all of the three names she has heard. However, she forgets about it and falls asleep. I’m starting to think that not only is this mouse honourable and tidy, but it may be a bit dim too.
Winter comes and the mouse suggests that they go to the church to get their pot of fat. The cat agrees and they head off to the church. When the mouse discovers the empty pot, she cries “now I see what has happened…You have devoured all when you were standing godmother”. Unbeknownst to this honourable mouse, the truth is much worse. Not only did she steal the fat, but she made up the whole god-mother story. What a scoundrel!
The poor mouse feels deeply betrayed and hurt, and while she is trying to process these difficult emotions, the cat pounces on her and eats her.
“Verily, that is the way of the world” (p8) say the Brothers Grimm.
Oh dear. Some partnership that turned out to be. What lessons can we glean from this tale? We might have learned one, or all, of these three things:
- Never trust a cat, if you are either honourable, tidy, or a bit dim. Cats are selfish liars.
- No matter how honest you are, it is always possible that a cat might eat you.
- A church might be a good place to hide something, unless you tell a cat about it.
Grimm, J. & Grimm, W. (2002) Complete Fairy Tales, Routledge Classics.