Fairy tale analysis: Dick Whittington and His Cat

What is so different about the fairy tale of Dick Whittington and His Cat? This is a fairy tale with a touch of truth. There really was a Richard Whittington.  He was born somewhere around 1350. No one seems to know anything about a cat, but he was the Lord or Mayor of London and he made his money in the shipping industry.

It was recorded as a pantomime by Sam Pepys in his diary dated 1668. Some things definitely stand out in this fairy tale as different than most. Most fairy tales have no historical references that are known as factual. Most fairy tales have some magical quality. The cat, who turns out to be one of the real heroes of the whole story is quite normal. The cat did nothing magical. He was just a good mouser.

For those who may not be familiar with the story, here is the short version. Dick Whittington lived in a small town and his parents were killed. He heard great tales about the streets of London being paved with gold. His goal was to get to London and become the Lord of London.

He made it to London to find that the streets were not made of gold and times were just as tough there. He did find work helping a cook for a ship master. He had to sleep in the barn that was overrun with mice and rats. He purchased a cat who kept his sleeping quarters free of rodents.

The cook was very mean and the ship master’s daughter got word of it and reprimanded the cook so the Dick would be treated better. The boy was given a room in the home.


The ship master called all his help and offered to take something of their possession to sell on his next voyage. All that Dick had to offer was his cat. When the ship master arrived at his destination, they were overrun with rodents. The cat makes Dick a very wealthy man. He married the ship master’s daughter and became the Lord of London.

In the analysis of this fairy tale there a few things that can be learned. For example, Dick Whittington had a dream and he stuck to it. He found out that people had lied to him, treated him badly and offered him very little help. His response to the situation was to keep his eye on his goal, not complain and keep on doing the best he could do. It seems like a good lesson for everyone to learn.

The cook was very mean to Dick, but he still did what was expected. He had no clue the daughter of the ship master was watching. He was simply doing as he was asked.

When asked to send something with the ship master,he gave the only thing he had. How many people who have enough trust to give their only possession and hope for the best?

Of course, to get the full impact of this great pantomime and fairy tale, it is probably best to take the time to read the whole tale.



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