Belling the Cat

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The mice meet together to discuss putting a bell on the cat -- engraving by Gustave Doré, c. 1868

Belling the Cat, also known as The Bell and the Cat or The Mice in Council is a story which has become a traditional part of European and Western culture.[1]

History[change | change source]

The story may have come from Aesop.[2] The earliest recorded versions are from the Middle Ages.[3]

Story[change | change source]

The story is about a group of mice who talk about what to do about a cat which threatens them. One wants to place a bell around the cat's neck. All agree. Then one mouse asks who will volunteer to put the bell on the cat? Not one stepped forward.[1]

The story is about the difference between a good idea and what may be needed to convert an idea into action.

Idiom[change | change source]

The story gives us the idiom to bell the cat, which means to try an impossible or near-impossible task.[1] In other words, it is easier said than done.[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Reeves, Dougals B. (2007). Making Standards Work, p. 7.
  2. Detlor, Theda. (2012). Teaching With Aesop's Fables, pp. 12-15.
  3. Jamieson, John. (1808). An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, p. 6; Perry, Ben Edwin. (1965). Babrius and Phaedrus, p. 487 n373.
  4. Howard, Peter. (2004). Basic Reading Skills Years 3-4, p. 7.