Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Cat And The Fiddle

Scottish Song By Robert Burns

The Cat And The Fiddle (also known as Hey Diddle Diddle, Hi Diddle Diddle, or The Cow Jumped Over the Moon) is an English nursery rhyme, which may date back to at least the sixteenth century.

The name "Cat And The Fiddle" was a common name for inns, including one known to have been at Old Chaunge, London by 1587.

There are numerous theories about the origin of the rhyme. This profusion of unsupported explanations was satirised by J.R.R. Tolkien in his fictional explanations of "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late"

The rhyme may date back to at least the sixteenth century. Some references suggest it dates back in some form a thousand or more years: in early medieval illuminated manuscripts a cat playing a fiddle was a popular image. There is a reference in Thomas Preston's play "A lamentable tragedy mixed ful of pleasant mirth, conteyning the life of Cambises King of Percia", printed in 1569 that may refer to the rhyme:

They be at hand Sir with stick and fiddle;
They can play a new dance called hey-diddle-diddle.

Another possible reference is in Alexander Montgomerie's The Cherry and the Slae from 1597:

But since you think't an easy thing
To mount above the moon,
Of your own fiddle take a spring
And dance when you have done.

The earliest recorded version of the poem resembling the modern form was printed around 1765 in London in Mother Goose's Melody with the lyrics:

Hey diddle diddle,
The Cat and the Fiddle,
The Cow jump'd over the Moon,
The little dog laugh'd to see such Craft,
And the Fork ran away with the Spoon.

Related Scottish Country Dances

The Cat And The Fiddle

The Cat And The Fiddle Song

Here is a common modern version of the rhyme:

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed,
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

The Cat And The Fiddle Song Video

The Cat And The Fiddle Song - Information Video
The Cat And The Fiddle Image
The Cat And The Fiddle


Dance Information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.
Text from this original Hey Diddle Diddle article on Wikipedia.
Image Copyright Nursery_Rhymes.djvu: Edward Cogger derivative work: Theornamentalist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Back to the top of this Scottish Country Dancing Instructions 'The Cat And The Fiddle Song' page