Who killed Cock Robin? Mystery solved.

 

A scene that Walter Potter created and called "The Death."
A scene that Walter Potter created and called “The Death.”

Michael and Timothy walked up the mossy stone path to the quaint little cottage.  The young lads, aged ten and eleven, were quite Dickensian in appearance. Waifs? Street urchins?  They each had something dangling from a leather thong at their sides.  They knocked on the door.

“I hope he likes what we brought him!” Michael exclaimed to Timothy, as they waited for someone to answer their knock.  Just then, the door opened.

“Come in, lads.  What have you got for me?”

Timothy held up his thong with a little difficulty.

Walter Potter and fox.
Walter Potter and fox.

“Moles!  Very good.  I have something in mind that requires moles,” Walter Potter said as he drew a few pence from his pocket and divided them equally between the boys.  Would you like to come in awhile, and look at my projects?”  Mr. Potter laid the dead moles down on a work table and returned a leather thong to each of the boys.

“The googley-eyed little boys followed Mr. Potter around inside and were bedazzled by the fantastic dioramas he had made.  Some were works-in-progress.  Inside them were animals involved in all sorts of different activities.  The animals, all dead, had been taxidermied.  They wore clothing that had been sewn in elaborate detail.

The dioramas included:  a rat’s den being raided by police rats, forty-eight little bunnies in a miniature classroom writing on miniature slates, kittens having a fancy tea party, guinea pigs playing a game of cricket, kittens attending a wedding—some of the boy kittens had on morning suits.  There were other dioramas:  frogs having a sword fight and rats having a boxing match.  One diorama at the forefront was labeled, The Death and Burial of Cock Robin.  A dead robin in a blue coffin was being carried by bird pall bearers in a funeral ceremony.

Michael and Timothy headed for the door after they had examined every diorama carefully: the tiny furniture, the elaborate clothing, the quirky poses.

“You gonna let us see the moles when you are finished?” Michael asked Mr. Walter Potter.

“Sure, lads.  Come back in about a month and it will probably be ready for viewing.  I will let you know of definite animals I may need, when you return.  Good enough?”  Potter did not want to encourage them to go on a wanton killing spree of animals.  He already had more than he needed and plenty of projects were literally “staring him in the face.”  He hoped this would be a good enough hint to them.

Walter Potter of Bramber, Sussex, England was a self-taught taxidermist.  He was born in 1835 and made a good living plying his taxidermy trade for local hunters and interested parties.  He made his whimsical dioramas on the side.  They became very popular viewing in Victorian England.  Mr. Potter’s Museum of Curiosities was created to display his creations and it had heavy traffic with special coaches running to and fro.  Not only did he exhibit his whimsical dioramas, he also had animal medical curiosities on display that he had taxidermied:  two-headed lambs, four-legged chickens and a cat with extra appendages sprouting from its back.

Potter died in 1918.  His museum was moved several times over the years and the contents were later broken up and auctioned.  His whimsical scenes were copied by other fledgling taxidermists and the dioramas were somewhat of a fad in Victorian England.

There is no doubt that Cock Robin had to somehow meet his demise to appear in the diorama.  It is also apparent that many of the kittens in his dioramas were litter mates.  Surely they did not all die at once due to a CATastrophic event.  This is somewhat disturbing, but it was a different place and a different time, I suppose.

ScavengersSong

Please click the book cover image to read more about Sara Marie Hogg and her novels.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    That’s an amazing little story. I knew all about Cock Robin, but nothing about the taxidermist who gave a lot of those literary fables a whole new dimension. After reading your post, I decided to learn more and found that a lot of those scattered dioramas have been reassembled into a new museum. Do you know anything about that?

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