The Three Friends
From Hedy West: Untitled, recorded c.1979, published 2019 on Fledg'ling Records FLED 3110
“A homilitic tale dressed as an animal fantasy, written by a philosophical fruit farmer in Cheshire, England named Leslie Haworth. He rewrote it from a German folktale.”
— Hedy West
Leslie Haworth (1902–1971) really was a fruit farmer (and morris dancer). He had converted a former dairy farm into Eddisbury Fruit Farm in 1936 and had developed the sideline in writing songs in the folk idiom. His songs went so far as being sung by Pete Seeger, Robin Hall & Jimmie Macgregor, and, small world, the New World Singers – comprising Bob Cohen, Gil Turner and Happy Traum – who recorded the first-ever cover of Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ In The Wind”. “The Three Friends” was published in New English Broadsides: Songs of Our Time from the English Folk Scene, an anthology compiled by Nathan Joseph and Eric Winter and published in the United States in 1967. It was Haworth’s only song in the volume. Her choice of this song wasn’t casual. Colin Haworth has correspondence between Hedy and his father. This marks the first commercial release of “The Three Friends”.
Haworth based it on “Von dem Mäuschen, Vögelchen und der Bratwurst” (‘Of the little mouse, little bird and the sausage’), one of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, a work published in seven editions between 1812 and 1857. Clemens Brentano’s earlier version of the fable, published in 1806, specified the little bird (Vögelchen) in the ménage à trois as a woodpecker. In Haworth’s song, Grimm’s second unspecified bird (Vogel) becomes a sly shyster shepster. Like shepshare (derived from sheep and stare according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary), shepster is a northern English dialect word for starling.
A little bird, a little mouse and a fine fat sausage
In a house together did dwell
Such a happy home you never did see –
They all got on so well.
The little bird brought in logs from the wood
And the sausage was the cook.
And the nimble little mouse she swept the house
And drew the water from the brook.
O, what a happy life they led!
Well housed, well occupied, and well fed.
So merrily life’s moments sped
For the bird and the mouse, and the sausage.
When the little bird went to the woods one day
She met with a shepster sly
She was boastful of the happy life they led
And amazed at his reply:
‘Why, that lazy little mouse scarce leaves the house!
And the sausage by the fire stays snug!
Through the cold and the wet you toil and sweat
While they laugh at you for a mug!’
Cried she, ‘I’ll be their slave no more
Things shan’t go on as they’ve been before
Tomorrow I’ll take the mouse’s chore
And the wood can be fetched by the sausage!’
The little mouse and the sausage were loath indeed
To depart from the well-tried plan.
But the more they objected the more she suspected,
And so their sorrows began.
Off flew the bird with a bucket to the brook,
But the silly little fool!
She lowered it into the rushing stream
Instead of the quiet pool!
Over the parapet she was hurled
And down the torrent wildly swirled!
Let’s hope in some better world
She’s met with mouse and the sausage!
When the mouse had got the taters and the onions ready
To prepare their fav’rite stew –
She’d watched the sausage time and again,
And she knew just what to do,
How she’d swim around in the bubbling broth
To give it a flavour strong,
But when she dived in off the hob
That recipe went wrong
For her hair dropped out and bare and bald
She suffered an unendurable scald.
Her pitiful fate would have appalled
Her lifelong friend the sausage.
But the sausage had scarcely reached the wood
And shouldered a heavy log
When she heard a fierce snarl behind her back
And there stood a greedy dog!
‘O, spare me!’ she cried, but the jaws gaped wide,
And he guzzled to his heart’s content.
When the shepster cried, ‘You’ll swing for this!’
The dog said, ‘I’m innocent!
She’d taken a picture of a rocket launching site,
And she tried to escape, so I had to bite!’
She was booked for 42 years all right!
Better off where she is, poor sausage.
On the floor the little mouse swept so clean
The dust now gathers in peace.
In a stone-cold pot, on a cheerless hearth
Her corpse lies, caked in grease.
The little bird’s banjo hangs on the wall.
She’ll never pick it again,
Or watch the little mouse and the sausage dance
To its rhythmical refrain.
Ah, happiness, how soon it ends!
But misery pays poor dividends,
So, let’s have a drink to our absent friends,
The little bird, the little mouse, and the sausage.