Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

The Tragical Tale of Little Mitchell

(An inadequate tribute to that mighty genius The Great McGonagall, which also seems to be inadvertently channelling Ogden Nash, Hilaire Belloc and Spike Milligan, often all at the same time …)






Listen well to this tragical tale, all those young and those old and those between,

Who would learn of the fate of the finest stuffed frog that in this whole wide world has ever been seen,

Who was grievously sent his Maker to meet while still in the first flush of youth

After a most unfortunate encounter with the wolf on the hearth, red in both claw and tooth.


Splendid young Mitchell  was full in his prime, most plump and fluffy and green but

Dread Nano the Dog saw not his colour because he was no more than a mutt

And therefore was he  full colour blind you see. As we should all on this earth be,

Which is another poem I must pen at some time, for of such guidance we are sorely in need.


Little Mitchell the Frog did live a most splendid life in a toy emporium and thought

The world was indeed a marvellous place where people went hither and thither and bought

Young creatures like him to delight their offspring who would pamper and fondle and tuck

Them up at night. But alas and oh woe, Mitchell was bought for a dog, which did most mightily suck.


Because dogs are base creatures with no care for propriety

Who attend to their intimate personal needs in full glare of society

Which is what marks us out from the beasts I may say

For you never will see a banker cleaning his attributes in full light of day.


So poor Little Mitchell, with his hopes of a quiet life most mournfully dashed

Did first lose an eye to the beast as the wretched hound gnashed

At his head. Fast followed an ear*, which was just as well for then he

Only half heard Nano’s Ma scream “Oh please show him some mer-cee …


That cost me a packet, you ungrateful mutt. How do you expect

Me to feed my family and still keep you in toys, or else face neglect

Charges from the animal police for not keeping you amused and

Helping you to achieve your full potential or something equally grand?”


But Nano had found the seam up the back of the poor froggie’s head

And was fully engaged in dragging out his brains until he was dead.

And twas good that he was, for the heartless beast next hauled out the stuffing

That served for his guts and spread them o’er the shagpile as if they were nuffing.


And so ended the life of poor Little Mitchell who was made for enjoyment

But most tragically was not designed to withstand, not to any extent,

The full-on attentions of a pet with a propensity or indeed bent

For destruction of anything into which it could sink its teeth, not being a gent.


There he lay, all bereft of his substance and spread on the parquet**

Like a latter-day martyr and not feeling any too larky

His poor little being extinguished before it had started

And his mortal remains off to the wheelie bin unceremoniously carted.


The moral of this tragical tale is very simple but I’ll take a few words

To expound it in full because I know that you all have the IQs of birds

And need it spelled out in tortuous detail and much mangled scansion.

For poetic appreciation is totally missing from both hovel and mansion.


Good people of England of whatever degree

When you purchase a dog toy, make quite sure that it be

Fit for purpose. To prolong the toy’s life may I suggest you secrete

Within all that stuffing some ferro-concrete.






(Photo credits: Many thanks to Petit Hiboux on Flickr  … it was her photographs of the tragic aftermath of Mitchell’s titanic struggle with Nano that inspired this poetic gem.)


*    I KNOW frogs don’t have sticky-out, chewable ears. Haven’t you heard of ‘poetic licence’?

** I also know that’s not a parquet floor. But ‘quarry tile’ doesn’t rhyme with ‘larky’.

(George Simmers’ guest post will now be appearing tomorrow, due to a scheduling mix-up/rapidly encroaching senility/delete whichever you think is the least likely. Apologies to everyone waiting to read it.)

9 comments on “The Tragical Tale of Little Mitchell

  1. annebrooke
    October 10, 2012

    A work of true genius! “Stuffing/nuffing” is inspired … 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Kate
    October 10, 2012

    LOVED the feminine/’weak’ ending of ‘green but’, and stuffing/nuffing, and the bankers … But I too have known (and washed, and retrieved, and mended, countless times) a stuffed frog with sticky-out ears: one Goggy, infant solace of daughter no. 2, and now a patched and faded pink rag in a box in the attic. You expressed the trauma of seeing an beloved but inanimate object being disembowelled very movingly, I feel.

  3. kirstyjane
    October 10, 2012


  4. rosyb
    October 10, 2012

    So upsetting! Poor poor Mitchell.

  5. Hilary
    October 10, 2012

    It’s the touchingest story, movingly told. *Snf*. I agree, the tragic and violent demise of a pristine new toy does deserve to be told in heroic verse. Moira, you tortured the scansion brilliantly – even more pathetic fallacy.

  6. Lisa
    October 10, 2012

    So beautiful, so devastating.

  7. Katrin
    October 10, 2012

    Oh poor Little Mitchell. Glorouis Little Mitchell. May this be your memorial stone.

  8. elizabethashworth
    October 10, 2012

    An inspirational poem that pushes the use of the English language to its outer limits. I am in awe.

  9. Moira
    October 11, 2012

    Thank you so much. It’s lovely to know that Little Mitchell did not depart this earth in vain.

    But I learnt something very interesting from the exercise … that the easiest people to parody aren’t necessarily the ones you think should be. McGonagall seemed like an easy target … but I’ve come to conclusion that, for me at least, he is literally inimitable, because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t take it seriously and so I missed the bathos – simply because I was too knowing.

    But by golly – it was fun trying. 🙂

    (And I’d like to record my thanks to Kirsty and Hilary for their guidance, advice and laughing like drains …).

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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