The plot concerns a young girl named Lucie who has a habit of losing her pocket handkerchiefs. Lucie goes out in search of three handkerchiefs and a pinafore which she has lost. She follows a path up a hill which leads to the home of a little washerwoman named Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. Lucie finds her handkerchiefs and pinafore there, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle having washed them. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle also shows Lucie items of laundry which belong to various different animals. It is only at the end of the story when Lucie realizes that Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is a hedgehog.
Beatrix Potter had a pet hedgehog named Mrs. Tiggy-winkle and used the animal as a model for the book's illustrations. The character of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is based on a real person named Kitty MacDonald, a washerwoman whom Beatrix Potter's family employed for eleven summers when they vacationed in the Scottish Highlands. Beatrix Potter describes Kitty MacDonald as being a small, round, suntanned woman with small, dark eyes who wore several petticoats and a white cap. The character of Lucie is based on a girl named Lucie Carr, one of the two daughters of the local vicar, whom Beatrix Potter met when she was on vacation in Cumbria in 1901. On one occasion, Lucie Carr left her gloves behind after taking tea at the country house where Beatrix Potter was staying, thus giving Potter the idea of Lucie losing her handkerchiefs. The book is dedicated to Lucie Carr.
A braille edition of The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle was first published in 1921. A French translation, the first of several translations of The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle into other languages, was first published in 1922. A Welsh translation was published in 1932. An edition of the book in the Initial Teaching Alphabet was published in 1965.
The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle has been adapted for film and television.
The character of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle also features prominently in Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, which was written in 1914 but was not published until 2016. She appears in an illustration in Potter's 1909 children's book The Tale of Ginger and Pickles.
On a farm called Little-town lives a girl named Lucie who keeps losing her pocket handkerchiefs. One day, Lucie is upset because she has lost three pocket handkerchiefs and a pinafore. She asks some animals if they have seen her lost belongings. Lucie asks a tabby kitten but the little cat just carries on washing her white paws. Lucie asks a hen named Sally Henny-penny but the hen just makes a clucking noise which sounds like, "I go barefoot, barefoot, barefoot." Lucie asks a robin but the bird just flies away.
Lucie leaves the farm in search of her lost handkerchiefs and pinafore. She climbs over a stile and sees a tall hill, the top of which is covered with clouds. She follows a path which leads up the hill. She sees some white objects lying on the grass which she thinks might be her lost items. She sees a spring. Someone has left a tin can next to it to gather water. The can is already overflowing because it is no bigger than an eggcup. Lucie also sees footprints which she thinks belong to a very small person.
At the end of the path, Lucie finds a door which leads inside the hill itself. She hears the sound of singing coming from behind the door. Lucie knocks on the door and opens it. She sees what looks like an ordinary farm kitchen. The room is, however, very small. Lucie's head almost touches its ceiling. All of the objects inside the kitchen are similarly very small. Inside the kitchen, Lucie sees a very small person with an iron in her hand who is wearing a gown, a petticoat, an apron and a white cap. Lucie notices that the small person has prickles instead of hair. The girl asks the small person, "Who are you?" and, "Have you seen my pocket-hankies?" The small person answers that her name is Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and she is a washerwoman. She also tells Lucie that she has seen her pocket handkerchiefs.
Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle finds Lucie's handkerchiefs and pinafore which she has washed. She also shows Lucie some items of laundry which belong to various different animals. A red vest which belongs to the robin is among them. There are also what look like two long yellow gloves. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle explains that they are stockings that belong to Sally Henny-penny. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle points out that the hen has worn holes in her stockings by scratching at the ground and that the bird will soon have to go barefoot. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle also shows Lucie two white mittens which belong to the tabby kitten. She says that she only has to iron the mittens because the little cat washes them herself. Among the many other items of laundry is a shrunken blue jacket which belongs to Peter Rabbit and a "red tail-coat with no tail belonging to Squirrel Nutkin.""
Lucie and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle have tea. Lucie notices that what look like the sharp ends of hairpins are sticking out from under all of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle's clothes. For that reason, Lucie does not want to sit too close to Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle while they drink their tea and talk..
After tea, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle gives Lucie back her clean pinafore with the three handkerchiefs inside it and fastened together with a safety pin. Carrying several bundles, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Lucie go out and go down the hill to return the clean clothes to their various animal owners. The first ones who come out to meet Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle are Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. By the time that Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Lucie reach the stile, all of the laundry has been returned. The only bundle which remains is the one made up of Lucie's pinafore and handkerchiefs. Lucie climbs over the stile. She then turns round to thank Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and say good-bye to her. At first, Lucie cannot see Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and is surprised that she did not wait to be thanked or to ask for payment. Lucie, then sees Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle going up the hill without her clothes. At that point, Lucie realizes that Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is a hedgehog.
The story's narrator says that some people would say that Lucie simply fell asleep on the stile, although that would not explain how her clean pinafore and handkerchiefs were returned to her. The narrator concludes her story by saying that she knows it is true because she has seen the little door that leads into the hill and is well acquainted with Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.
A segment in the 1971 Royal Ballet film The Tales of Beatrix Potter is based on The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. The part of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is danced by Sir Frederick Ashton, who was also the film's choreographer.
Adaptations of The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Potter's 1906 bookThe Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher are combined into a single animated cartoon for the sixth episode of the British anthology series The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends. The episode first aired on BBC 1 in the United Kingdom on July 7, 1993. Prunella Scales, best known for playing Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, voices Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle in the episode.
- ↑ Beatrix Potter spelled her pet hedgehog's name as "Mrs. Tiggy-winkle" with a lower case w. The name is, however, written with a capital W in the title of the book The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. Beatrix Potter's pet hedgehog died shortly after the book was published, in February 1906.
- ↑ A character named Sally Henny Penny appears in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909) and is referred to in The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907)
- ↑ The bird which Lucie talks to is a European robin. The American robin was so named because its colors are similar to those of a European robin. The two birds are, however, not very closely related.
- ↑ Other segments in the 1971 film The Tales of Beatrix Potter are based on The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, The Tale of Two Bad Mice, The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, The Tale of Pigling Bland and The Tale of Peter Rabbit.