The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918)

A fable from Aesop provided the inspiration for this book. It tells of a country-mouse and a town-mouse who each visit the other’s life, but cannot stand the noise, and return “home”. The story illustrates the truth that different people have different preferences.

Potter’s own preference for country-living led her to propose first the title Timmy Willie (after the eponymous hero) and then The Tale of a Country Mouse, before finally being persuaded to accept The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse. This necessitated changing the opening words from “Timmy Willie went to town by mistake in a hamper” to “Johnny Town-Mouse was born in a cupboard. Timmy Willie was born in a garden.”

I think I prefer Potter’s original idea, and am tempted to produce in addition to this “canonical” version an author’s cut version with Potter’s own prefered wording and title… what do you think?

Beatrix Potter made a complete set of new paintings for this book, unusual in her later publications. Though I have included one ring in, can you spot it?

Read aloud: audio and video