Hey Diddle Diddle

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"Hey Diddle Diddle"
Hey Diddle Diddle 2 - WW Denslow - Project Gutenberg etext 18546.jpg
Illustration by William Wallace Denslow
Nursery rhyme
Published c. 1765
Songwriter(s) Unknown
In this Randolph Caldecott rendition, a dish, spoon, and other utensils are anthropomorphized while a cat in a red jacket holds a fiddle in the manner of a string bass.

"Hey Diddle Diddle" (also "Hi Diddle Diddle", "The Cat and the Fiddle", or "The Pig Jumped Over the Moon") is an English nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19478.[1]


A common modern version of the rhyme is:

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed,
To see such a sight,
And the dish ran away with the spoon. [2]


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.[3] 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.[2]

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.[4]

The name "Cat and the Fiddle" was a common name for inns, including one known to have been at Old Chaunge, London by 1587.[4]

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.[2]


There are numerous theories about the origin of the rhyme, including: James Orchard Halliwell's suggestion that it was a corruption of ancient Greek, probably advanced as a result of a deliberate hoax; that it was connected with Hathor worship; that it refers to various constellations (Taurus, Canis Minor, etc.); that it describes the Flight from Egypt; that it depicts Elizabeth, Lady Katherine Grey, and her relationships with the earls of Hertford and Leicester; that it deals with anti-clerical feeling over injunctions by Catholic priests for harder work; that it describes Katherine of Aragon (Katherine la Fidèle); Catherine, the wife of Peter the Great; Canton de Fidèle, a supposed governor of Calais and the game of cat (trap-ball).[2] 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'.[5] Most scholarly commentators consider these to be unproven and state that the verse is probably meant to be simply nonsense.[2]


The melody commonly associated with the rhyme was first recorded by the composer and nursery rhyme collector James William Elliott in his National Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs (1870).[6]


  • 1978 Soviet animated film "A Fantastic Tale" (Russian: Чудеса в решете) by Andrei Khrzhanovsky, based on translation of Samuil Marshak.[7]
  • Hey Diddle Diddle was featured in Jim Henson's Mother Goose Stories.
  • Hey Diddle Diddle Right Up the Middle, a slang term for a military strategy of frontal assault
  • A version of Hey Diddle Diddle was featured in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • The Black Sabbath song Supernaut from Vol. 4 mentions being on the moon and looking for the dish that ran away with the spoon
  • It features in a reggae song by Sylford Walker – "What a Lie".
  • The illustration appeared as a backdrop when Dennis Hopper was offered a cup of coffee by Luana Anders at a merry-go-round in the 1961 movie Night Tide.
  • In the musical Rent, the character Maureen sings a version of the rhyme, entitled "Over The Moon".
  • In the animated movie Shaun the Sheep Movie, an homage to the nursery rhyme is shown in one scene.
  • In the animated series American Dad! Season 6 episode 6 There Will Be Bad Blood a cow is seen jumping over the moon only to fall to Earth near the end.
  • Canadian Hip-Hop artist Buck 65 references the nursery rhyme towards the end of the track "Wicked And Weird" from his 2003 record "Talkin Honkey Blues".
  • In the series "Twin Peaks: The Return" episode 6, Mr. C says "The cow jumped over the moon" on his prison cell phone call, after mentioning the dog "Mr. Strawberry".


  1. ^ "Roud Folksong Index S298441 Sing hey , diddle 'diddle, the cat and the fiddle". Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. English Folk Dance and Song Society. Retrieved May 20, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 203–4.
  3. ^ "Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts" (Penguin Random House, 2016, 1st ed), Christopher de Hamel, p323
  4. ^ a b C. R. Wilson and M. Calore, Music in Shakespeare: a Dictionary (London: Continuum, 2005), ISBN 0826478468, p. 171.
  5. ^ S. H. Gale, Encyclopedia of British Humorists: Geoffrey Chaucer to John Cleese (London: Taylor & Francis, 1996), p. 1127.
  6. ^ J. J. Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk (Courier Dover Publications, 5th edn., 2000), ISBN 0486414752, p. 502.
  7. ^ Animator.ru: «A FANTASTIC TALE»