Literature / Dick Whittington and His Cat
Good old Dick Whittington! He went from his hometown of Gloucester with his cat
to London town
to find his fortune, as he heard the streets were paved with gold!
Of course, that quickly proved to be horseshit, and he was so disheartened he was ready to leave
. But suddenly, he heard the bells of London call out "Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London!". He decided to stick it through, and after some adventures in Tonga, where his cat killed all the rats in that country
, he was given three chests filled with gold, and became Lord Mayor of London!
Some might be surprised to learn that there really was a Richard Whittington who was Lord Mayor of London. Few would be shocked to hear that that's about the extent of the truth in the story, but the popularity of the Folk Hero
-style Origin Story
may be a result of the popularity of the man himself. He was elected four times, a feat nobody has ever equalled before or since. During his reign, he made many beneficial changes to the city, such as building a ward for unmarried mothers at St Thomas' Hospital and passing a law prohibiting the washing of animal skins by apprentices in the River Thames in cold, wet weather because many young boys had died through hypothermia or in the strong river currents. He was also London's sheriff, and a Member of Parliament. And no, he never owned a cat (one theory has it that a "cat" was a slang expression for a type of ship used in his merchant business). It's also fun to know that the name has been passed down and so the High Sheriff of Surrey until 2017 was another Dick Whittington
.The Theme Park Version
of Whittington's story started as a play The History of Richard Whittington, of his lowe byrth, his great fortune
, and eventually turned into a pantomime
, where the Rule of Funny
dragged things even further
from the truth.
There are a large number of fairy tales that recount it, without any such historical connections.
Tropes featured in the fairy tale and pantomime include: