Samuel Whiskers steals a pat of butter. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter.

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding is a children's book by the English author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. It was first published in October 1908 as The Roly-Poly Pudding.[1] It was one of the few books by Potter published in a larger format. The story was republished in 1926 as The Tale of Samuel Whiskers in the small book format. Beatrix Potter dedicated the book to the memory of her pet rat Sammy whose full name was Samuel Whiskers.

The story is a sequel to the 1907 book The Tale of Tom Kitten.[2] In Tom Kitten, the title character and his sisters Moppet[3] and Mittens prove to be quite a handful for their mother cat Tabitha Twitchit.[4] In Samuel Whiskers, Tabitha becomes distressed when Tom goes missing inside the family's large house. Afraid that her son has been captured by the rats that infest the old house, Tabitha enlists the help of her fearless cousin Ribby[5] to conduct a thorough search. Even Ribby becomes alarmed, however, by the ominous roly-poly sounds coming from under the attic floor.

Because the book was originally published in large format, The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding includes detailed color illustrations as well as black-and-white drawings. Many of the illustrations show the interior of Beatrix Potter's Hill Top farmhouse.

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding was faithfully adapted as the fourth episode of the animated BBC television series The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends. The episode first aired in the United Kingdom on May 19, 1993.


Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit is a mother cat with three mischievous kittens named Moppet, Mittens, and Tom Kitten. One day, as she gets ready to do some baking, Tabitha decides to put the kittens in a cupboard to keep them from getting into mischief. She catches Moppet and Mittens but she cannot find Tom anywhere. The house is old and very big, with many cupboards and other hiding places. Tabitha becomes desperate and goes all over the house mewing for her missing boy.

In the meantime, Moppet and Mittens push open the cupboard door and get out. They are pawing at the dough their mother has set out to rise when they hear a knock on the front door. Frightened, Moppet jumps into the flour barrel. Mittens runs into the dairy and hides in an empty jar on the shelf.

Samuel whiskers or the roly-poly pudding

Tabitha tells Cousin Ribby about her missing boy. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter.

Tabitha opens the door and greets her cousin and neighbor Ribby. Tabitha tearfully tells Cousin Ribby that Tom Kitten is missing and that she is afraid he has been captured by the rats that infest the house. Ribby, who is not afraid of rats, volunteers to help search for Tom. In the kitchen, Tabitha is distressed to find her daughters gone as well. She and Ribby begin a thorough search of the house. While they are in the attic, they hear a door bang and someone scutter downstairs. They also hear a curious roly-poly noise under the floor.

Returning to the kitchen, Ribby finds Moppet in the flour barrel. Moppet is terribly frightened, having seen an old woman rat steal some dough. Ribby and Tabitha take Moppet with them and continue the search. They find Mittens in a jar in the dairy. Mittens is also frightened. She tells her mother that a big old man rat stole some butter and the rolling pin. Alarmed, Tibatha and Ribby rush back to the attic. They hear the roly-poly noise still going on under the floor. Ribby sends for the dog John Joiner[6] with a saw.

Earlier, Tom Kitten had hidden from his mother and gone up the chimney. He kept climbing up then went sideways like a little chimney sweep getting covered in soot. He came to a spot where a stone in the wall had been loosened. Tom squeezed through the opening and along a narrow passage then fell down a hole in the dark. He landed on a pile of rags in a small room. An enormous rat who was sitting in the room called out "Anna Maria!" and an old woman rat appeared. She rushed upon Tom, pulled off his coat, rolled him up, and tied him with a string. The old man rat, Samuel Whiskers,[7] asked Anna Maria to make a kitten dumpling roly-poly pudding for dinner. He then went down to the dairy to get the butter. He went back a second time for the rolling pin. Anna Maria went to the kitchen to steal the dough. Tom was left alone, but he could not mew loudly enough to make anyone hear him. When the rats came back, they smeared Tom with butter and rolled him up in the dough. It was the sound of the rolling pin that Tabitha and Ribby heard in the attic.

The Roly-Poly Pudding Tom Kitten

Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria make a roly-poly pudding out of Tom Kitten. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter.

Samuel Whiskers complains to Anna Maria that Tom's tail is sticking out because there is not enough dough. He is also concerned that the string will be indigestible, and that the pudding smells sooty. At that moment, the rats hear the sound of a saw and a dog scratching and yelping overhead. They pack up their belongings and leave in a hurry, leaving their pudding behind. John Joiner cuts through the floorboard and Tom Kitten is rescued. After the dumpling is pulled off, Tom is given a hot bath to get the butter off.

Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria are seen by the author going into Farmer Potatoes'[8] barn. There are no rats at Tabitha Twitchit's house for a long time. Farmer Potatoes, on the other hand, suffers from a terrible infestation of rats – all descended from Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria. Mittens and Moppet grow up into good rat catchers and earn good wages in the village. Tom Kitten, however, is still afraid of rats.


  1. A roly-poly pudding is a British pastry similar to a jelly roll but made with suet pudding.
  2. In The Tale of Tom Kitten, Beatrix Potter told her readers, "I think that some day I shall have to make another, larger, book, to tell you more about Tom Kitten!"
  3. The little kitten Moppet first appeared in The Story of Miss Moppet (1906).
  4. Tabitha Twitchit was named after a resident cat at Hill Top. The character was introduced in The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan (1905). In addition to appearing in Samuel Whiskers and The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907), she is also mentioned in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909) and The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots (written in 1914 but not published until 2016).
  5. The character of the cat Ribby first appeared in The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan.
  6. John Joiner was modeled after a village carpenter named John Taylor, the son of the "Old Mr. John Taylor" to whom The Tale of Ginger and Pickles was dedicated.
  7. Samuel Whiskers is also mentioned in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles.
  8. Farmer Potatoes was based on Beatrix Potter's neighbor John Postlethwaite.

External links