Why blind mice?

Years ago when we lived  in Italy I brought Italian friends a jack in the box for their daughter’s one year birthday. I’d gotten it at an American store, assuming this was a classic international toy. FYI, nope. 

Since the young celebrant was taking a nap, I demonstrated the box. When a waving, madly grinning clown burst out of the box, the parents looked at each other, not with delight.

“It seems a little—scary for a small child,” Gabriella said.

I had to admit that if you don’t know the concept, if you haven’t seen it all your life, a clown out of box isn’t what you expect.

“And what’s that tune?”

“Three blind mice. It’s a classic,” I added, although heard with fresh ears, the tune was a little frenetic. 

“Why are the mice blind?” Fabio asked.

This wasn’t going well. “I don’t know,” I said, “but there’s a little poem that goes with it.”

“About blind mice?”

“Well yes.” It’s true that blind, scurrying mice out of the soothing context of familiarity, were seeming a little disturbing, but I was in too far to stop. Gabriella, an ESL teacher, wanted to know the song.  So I related the blind mice chasing the sadistic, knife-wielding farmer’s wife, and the observer’s apparent delight in the gay scene.

“They’re blind but they’re chasing her?  How?” Gabriella asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe they smell her.” The whole mouse-wife thing was becoming a miniature horror film. “You don’t have to tell Cecilia the poem,” I offered.

“No,” Gabriella said firmly, “we won’t. Thank you for the present, though.” She looked at me curiously. “American children like this?”

“They do,” I said, asking myself the question on everyone’s mind: Why?



Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Intercultural relations, WWWS
2 comments on “Why blind mice?
  1. Betty Pagett says:

    Interesting story to tell during holy week, as someone wrote, violent, gritty, with stories of betrayal, arrest, perjury, torture, mobs, death, burial, …not a children’s story!.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Do we need to rethink our Mother Goose and other tales or is that too “counter culture”? Love this piece as it has us look more closely at our childhood and adventures.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts.

Join 2,018 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: