Fables of Aesop, The | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in September 2018 with all known ATU Classifications. Aesop Fables have Perry classification numbers which have been included in the End Notes to each of the tales. They were also used in the ATU field when no ATU classification was available for a fable. Note that Aesop as an author and Greece as the geographic location for these fables are loose categorizations due to the murky nature of Aesop's Fables in general. Read the Introductory materials to this collection to learn more. For convenience, Aesop and Greece have been used in the classifications for convenience despite the inaccuracies involved.

Belling the Cat

LONG ago, the mice had a general council to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. Some said this, and some said that; but at last a young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought would meet the case. “You will all agree,” said he, “that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured, and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the Cat. By this means we should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she was in the neighbourhood.”

This proposal met with general applause, until an old mouse got up and said: “That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?” The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Then the old mouse said:

“It is easy to propose impossible remedies.”


La Fontaine, ii. 2, who probably got it from Abstemius, who may have derived it from the Fables of Bidpai. L'Estrange, 391. It is admirably told in the Prologue to Piers Plowman, texts B. and C. M. Jusserand, in his recent monograph on Piers Plowman (Eng. ed. p. 43), gives a representative of this fable found on the misericord of a stall at Great Malvern, the site of the poem. In a conspiracy against James III. of Scotland, Lord Grey narrated the fable, when Archibald Earl of Angus exclaimed "I am he who will bell the cat." Hence afterwards he was called Archibald Bell-the-Cat (Scott, Tales of a Grandfather, I. xix.). The Cat in Plowman's apologue is John of Gaunt. Skelton alludes to the fable in his Colin Clout. We get the expression "bell the cat" from it.

SurLaLune Note

Perry 613

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Belling the Cat
Tale Author/Editor: Aesop
Book Title: Fables of Aesop, The
Book Author/Editor: Aesop & Jacobs, Joseph
Publisher: Macmillan & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1902
Country of Origin: Greece
Classification: ATU 110: Belling the Cat

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