The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse is a children's picture book by the British author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. It was first published in December 1918. The story is an adaptation of the Aesop's fable "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse". This is acknowledged in the book's dedication, which reads, "To Aesop in the shadows."
In the book, a country mouse named Timmy Willie is accidentally carried to a house in the town in a hamper full of vegetables. The town house is home to a great many mice, including the title character Johnny Town-Mouse. Although Johnny Town-Mouse tries hard to make Timmy Willie feel welcome in his new home, Timmy Willie does not like the food or the noises in the town and is afraid of the cat in the house. He eventually leaves the town the same way that he came. Several months later, following an intense effort to rid the house of mice, Johnny Town-Mouse visits Timmy Willie's country home with a view to possibly staying there permanently. He soon finds, however, that country life does not suit him.
Beatrix Potter made extensive use of people, animals and buildings that could be found near her home in the village of Near Sawrey, Cumbria as models for the book's illustrations. Johnny Town-Mouse himself is modeled on Dr. Parsons, a friend of Beatrix Potter's husband William Heels. William Heels and Dr. Parsons had a private golf course built in Near Sawrey. This is referenced in the cover illustration for The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse, which depicts the title character carrying a bag of golf clubs. Due to Beatrix Potter's failing eyesight, The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse was the last of her books for which she colorized her own illustrations by painting them.
The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse has been adapted for film and television.
Timmy Willie is a mouse with a very short tail. He is born in a garden in the countryside and lives there his entire life. One day, he sneaks inside a hamper full of vegetables, eats some peas and goes to sleep. He wakes up to find that he is on a very bumpy journey to a town. The hamper is delivered to a house in the town. Timmy Willie is frightened by the noises that he can hear outside. When the house's cook opens the hamper, she screams at the sight of Timmy Willie. She calls for the cat and for a poker with which to strike the mouse. Timmy Willie quickly gets out of the hamper, finds a mousehole and goes inside it.
After going inside the mousehole, Timmy Willie falls for about six inches and lands on top of a table. Ten mice are sitting around the table and having a dinner party. One of the mice, Johnny Town-Mouse, is very surprised at first to see a strange mouse land on the table. Soon afterwards, however, he introduces Timmy Willie to the other nine mice and invites him to join the party. Although the other mice notice Timmy Willie's short tail, they are too polite to say anything about it directly. Timmy Willie has never seen any of the foodstuffs that are being served before. When he finds out that the two young mice who are bringing food from the kitchen to the mousehole are having to evade the cat, Timmy Willie loses his appetite completely.
Johnny Town-Mouse invites Timmy Willie to sleep in what he genuinely believes is the best place in the house, a cushion with a hole in it on the sofa. Timmy Willie finds that the sofa smells of cat and decides to sleep in front of the fireplace instead, even though it is not comfortable there.
Timmy Willie spends several days in the town house. Although Johnny Town-Mouse tries hard to make him feel welcome there, Timmy Willie is not happy in the town. He does not like the noises, he is not used to the food and he lives in fear of the cat. Johnny Town-Mouse tells Timmy Willie that he can leave the town the same way that he came. The empty hamper is returned to the country every Saturday. Timmy Willie follows Johnny Town-Mouse's advice. Before Timmy Willie leaves, Johnny Town-Mouse vaguely implies that he will go to visit Timmy Willie in the country one day.
After having returned to the country, Timmy Willie resumes his happy life. He sometimes looks at the hamper, although he now knows better than to go inside it. Months pass and he almost forgets about his time in the town.
The following spring, Timmy Willie is pleasantly surprised to see Johnny Town-Mouse walking down the garden path. Johnny Town-Mouse explains that the family that owns the house where he lives has gone to the seaside. The cook has stayed in the house and has been told to clean it and get rid of all of the mice. There are now also four kittens in the house as well as the cat. Timmy Willie hopes that Johnny Town-Mouse will stay with him forever. Johnny Town-Mouse, however, is frightened by the sounds of cows and a lawnmower and finds the country damp, muddy and dull. He returns to the town as soon as he is able.
Johnny Town-Mouse appears as a character in the 1971 Royal Ballet film The Tales of Beatrix Potter.
The eighth episode of the British anthology series The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, first shown on BBC1 on June 29, 1994, presents an animated cartoon that is an adaptation of both The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse and Potter's 1905 book The Tale of Two Bad Mice. In the episode, Johnny Town-Mouse is voiced by Hugh Laurie. Timmy Willie is voiced by the British author, playwright, screenwriter and actor Alan Bennett.
- ↑ In the book's closing sentence, "For my part I prefer to live in the country, like Timmy Willie", Beatrix Potter is clearly expressing her own personal opinion. Although she was born in London, Potter spent most of her adult life in the village of Near Sawrey, Cumbria.
- ↑ Other segments in the 1971 film Tales of Beatrix Potter are based on The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, The Tale of Two Bad Mice, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, The Tale of Pigling Bland and The Tale of Peter Rabbit.