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Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run!

They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,

Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

 

By many clues in tone and subject, we should understand these lyrics to be the content of a classroom lecture.  With script clearly modeled after classic educators’ aids (See Spot Run springs  to mind), the narrator asks us to observe the behavior of the three specimens on display.  These instructions are repeated, perhaps due to limited acoustics, and followed up with Socratic questioning after the delivery of information.

So what is the lesson intended?

To answer, we must identify a target audience.  Curiously, the narrator begins by labeling the animal exhibits – mice.  The students are not expected to recognize these creatures, despite their long-running prevalence in human habitation worldwide.

References to “the farmer’s wife” further suggests a very local group.  They are all familiar with the one farmer in question, and if other farmers exist in the world, they seem not to know or to care.  Yet, the farming couple does not know them – at least, there is no indication that teacher or students know these people by name.

There is yet another clue in the fact that all three mice are blind, and group together (as when they all charged at the farmer’s wife).  One mouse might lose its vision in an accident.  Three blind mice in one group indicates an environment that cannot support the development of vision.  Blindness is common, for example, in mammals living within caves or deep beneath the ground.

There would seem to be some sort of cavern opening into the farmhouse, that the farmer’s wife was ever able to encounter the mice.  And it seems as though the narrator/teacher was able to observe this encounter and its aftermath – after observing the farming couple long enough to know that they are farmers, that is, and all without making an introduction.

Frankly, teacher and audience sound a lot like Pod People.

Newly-hatched and requiring orientation, they learn first about the humans whose labyrinthine basement they inhabit.  As their knowledge is limited to what they can observe, their concept of farming must apply only to what is cultivated in the dark.  Unbeknownst to the wife (who is conspicuously not called a farmer), the grower is farming their pods.

What’s the lesson for those Pod People observing blind mice run?  Imagine the scene – the mice bumble and bump into each other, heedlessly pressing forward with no sense or caution, falling over the edges of tables or crashing into cage walls.

It’s not their animal ferocity that draws the teacher’s interest.  The farmer’s wife was fierce.  She went with her carving knife into the darkness, likely to investigate strange noises made by those Pod Persons.  But she isn’t the narrator’s focus.  Nor is the lesson about compassion, though the woman exhibits this trait as well; the tails of three blind mice exposed to pod goop might have tangled them into a rat king.  Cutting off their tails would have done her no good and been a strange accident if she meant to kill them all.  She meant to set them free.

It is then that she sees something that, brave and compassionate though she is, terrifies her into running.  (Remember, the mice ran after the farmer’s wife.)  Most likely, she finally sees the Pod Person who has been silently observing her – our narrator.

The teacher doesn’t ask the class to consider why she ran.  But consider the way the mice run when in terror, and then consider the fact that they ran after the woman who rescued them.  There is the lesson.  Despite the shock and pain of losing their tails, these mice knew her as a friend.  Trusting her, almost in a maternal way, they ran when she ran, straight and true.

Not fast enough.  Making no mention of what was done to the farmer’s wife, the Pod Person who terrified her so kept the mice as props to teach the newer hatchlings.  They are asked, finally, whether they’ve known such a thing as these blind mice – who, with the trust of children for a mother, ran after the farmer’s wife – ran as if, for a moment, they could see.  Have they known such love?

Hell no.  They’re Pod People.  The farmer who helped them incubate was never even named.  They probably killed the poor bastard after hatching, prompting the wife to come brandishing her heaviest cutlery.

Case regretfully closed.