Known alternately as Ding Dong Dell and Ding Dong Bell, this nursery rhyme is surprisingly old. The first documented use is in 1580 when it was recorded by an organist at Winchester Cathedral John Lant. It tells us the story of a cat that is drowning in a well after being placed there by a boy and then later saved by another.
Such was the popularity of this rhyme that William Shakespeare used in several of his works, such as the Tempest. With themes of animal cruelty in the rhyme thought to be inappropriate for children, more modern versions have tempered the original language. It is a moral story that aims to teach the importance of showing compassion to animals.
Tommy Green, the naughty boy who attempted to drown the cat in the rhyme, is believed to be related to Tom O Lin, another popular rhyme from the 16th century.
Ding Dong Bell Lyrics
Ding dong bell,
Pussy’s at the well.
Who took her there?
Little Johnny Hare.
Who’ll bring her in?
Little Tommy Thin.
What a jolly boy was that
To get some milk for pussy cat,
Who ne’er did any harm,
But played with the mice in his father’s barn