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"Little Miss Muffet" is a nursery rhyme, one of the most commonly printed in the mid-twentieth century.[1] It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 20605.

"Little Miss Muffet"
Little Miss Muffet 1 - WW Denslow - Project Gutenberg etext 18546.jpg
William Wallace Denslow's illustrations for "Little Miss Muffet", from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose
Nursery rhyme
Published 1805
Songwriter(s) Unknown



Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider[2]
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.[1]
(the "her" in line 3 in older versions is "of".)

Origins and meaningEdit

The rhyme first appeared in print in 1805, in a book titled Songs for the Nursery. Like many such rhymes, its origins are unclear. Some claim it was written by Dr Thomas Muffet (d.1604), an English physician and entomologist, regarding his stepdaughter Patience; others claim it refers to Mary, Queen of Scots (1543–87), who was said to have been frightened by religious reformer John Knox (1510–72).[3] The former explanation is speculative, and the latter is doubted by most literary scholars, who note that stories linking folk tales or songs to political events are often urban legends.[1] Several novels and films, including Along Came a Spider, take their titles from the poem's crucial line.

Alternative lyricsEdit

There is an alternative set of lyrics which has been taught in some countries where whey is not a common foodstuff.[4] In the nineteenth century the rhyme existed in many alternative versions, including: 'Little Mary Ester, Sat upon a tester' (1812) and 'Little Miss Mopsey, Sat in the shopsey' (1842). These rhymes may be parodies of whichever is the original.[1]

In the 1960 revue Beyond the Fringe, the English humourist and musician Dudley Moore sang "Little Miss Muffet" in the style of Peter Pears, to music parodying Benjamin Britten.

The Eagles (band) referred to the Porsche 550 Spyder and the death of James Dean in the song "James Dean", using the popular poem in the song.

A humorous, and profane, remake was also done by the American comedian Andrew "Dice" Clay, as well as the 2 Live Crew in the song "Dirty Nursery Rhymes" on As Nasty As They Wanna Be.

Students of medicine learn the following version of the nursery rhyme, which describes two of the physical signs of chronic liver disease and its association with alcohol:

Little Miss Muffet/ Sat on her tuffet/ Drinking whisky and gin./ Two red hands and a spider/ Sat down beside her,/ Such are the wages of sin.

The "two red hands" refer to the physical sign of palmar erythema (red palms) and "a spider" refers to spider naevi (enlarged, spiral arterioles that branch out on the skin of the upper body, blanch on pressure and re-fill from the centre).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Opie, I. & Opie, P. (1997) [1951]. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 323–4. 
  2. ^ Earlier versions mention ″little spider.″ See, e.g.: Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes. A Collection of Alphabets, Rhymes, Tales, and Jingles. L., George Routledge and Sons, 1877, p. 263
  3. ^ "Was Little Miss Muffet a local girl?". Brookmans Park Newsletter. Retrieved February 4, 2009. 
  4. ^ Sorby, A. (2005). Schoolroom Poets: Childhood and the Place of American Poetry, 1865–1917. UPNE. p. 80. 

External linksEdit

  Media related to Little Miss Muffet at Wikimedia Commons