March 25, 2020

D is for Diddle, Dish, and Dog

        (This year’s April A to Z Blog Challenge theme is traditional English language nursery rhymes, and their block printed illustrations.  You can find the master list of all participating blogs here.)

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 dish and spoon sent a nice postcard from their honeymoon.
        What’s not to like about this tale?  It’s got something for everyone: music, sports, comedy, animals, and romance, all in four short lines.  Although clearly not everyone does approve; the 1760 nursery rhyme book with the morals says, “It must be a little Dog that laugh’d, for a great Dog would be ashamed to laugh at such nonsense.”  Some dogs have absolutely no sense of humor!  As for me, I must be a little dog, because I had a lot of fun with my illustration.  Many illustrations actually dress the
animals in clothes, and stick arms and legs on the place setting, but I didn’t like making everything so anthropomorphic.  I wanted to give the inanimate place setting a little liveliness while keeping the items in their proper forms.  And if an actual cat were to play an actual fiddle, how might it manage it?  
        As one of the most popular nursery rhymes, there were many illustrations to choose from and of course I had to leave out several that I liked a lot.  This second one has a dog that looks more like a pig and honestly, it’s not my favorite, but I’ve included it because it has a couple of unusual touches.  The touches I think are ridiculous are that the spoon and cow are wearing dresses.  The touch I rather like is that the cow is playing leapfrog with the moon.  It’s also worth noting that this illustrates a variant in which “the dish ran after the spoon,” as opposed to having them run away together.  So no romance there.
        W.W. Denslow’s illustration, up next, is probably a lithograph, not a block print, but oh well.  It’s interesting that he’s left out the cat, which C is also for, but I like his cow.
        And we end with an older wood block print, a little rough, but it pleases me.  I can’t complain that this dish and spoon are too anthropomorphic: they’re just lying there!
        This is our first rhyme of the challenge that has much in the way of fantasy, but it has plenty.  Sentient animatronic place settings?  A cow going into orbit?  Possibly it’s actually more sci fi than fantasy.  We’ve heard of dogs and monkeys in space, but apparently a cow was actually the first astronaut.  What do you think prompted this feat of extraterrestrial jumping prowess, and what did she see up there?
        A final note for impressionable children: Do not try this without proper equipment.

[Pictures: Hey, Diddle Diddle!, rubber block print by AEGN, 2001 (Image from my book);
Illustration from Mother Goose’s Complete Melodies, published by M.A. Donohue, c 1886 (Image from Hathi Trust);
Illustration by W.W. Denslow from Denslow’s Mother Goose A.B.C. Book, 1904 (Image from University of Florida);
Wood block print from Nursery Rhymes, published by W.S. Johnson, c 1830 (Image from Opie, The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book).]


Kathe W. said...

You are hilarious! Totally first class entertaining! Keep up the good work! Cheers!

Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué said...

Haha, I love your final note for impressionable children!! I remember this nursery tale, but never tryied it ;))
D is for Denim

Deborah Weber said...

I'm loving your commentary Anne, and am imagining you had a delightful time researching and creating the posts.

S. M. Saves said...

I like that you posted different illustrations with the rhyme. My personal favorite is the second one with the cow leap-frogging over the moon. How funny! :)

Jade Li said...

I'm with you on not anthropomorphizing the critters. Nicely done woodcut.

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

I know this one from Mary Poppins!! :D

The Multicolored Diary

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Great images -- with so much detail! -- for another childhood favourite :-)

An A-Z of Faerie: Duergar