finger the pie

The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan

The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan is a book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was first published in 1905 and has something of the farce about it. Duchess is a pomeranian dog.


When a little dog named Duchess gets an invitation to tea at the home of Ribby the cat, she becomes dreadfully afraid that Ribby is going to serve her mouse pie. Duchess has herself prepared a veal and ham pie, the crust of which is held up by a patty-pan, a small piece of tin. Since she can't bring herself to refuse Ribby's pie, she comes up with a plan to substitute her own pie for Ribby’s.

While Ribby is out shopping, Duchess slips into her house and places the veal and ham pie in the top oven in Ribby's kitchen. She searches the house for the mouse pie but is unable to find it; she does not suspect that it is in the bottom oven, the door of which is very stiff, and which she believed was only ornamental.

On her return home, Ribby notices evidence of an intruder in her house but cannot think who it could have been. When Duchess arrives for tea she is momentarily distracted and thus does not see Ribby taking the pie out of the bottom oven. Ribby gives the pie to Duchess while she eats muffins. Duchess becomes increasingly worried when she cannot find the patty-pan she placed in the pie (which she believes is her own), while Ribby denies ever using patty-pans at all.

Believing that she swallowed the patty-pan, Duchess feels quite ill and Ribby hurries out to find a doctor, Dr. Maggoty, a magpie. While she is away, Duchess finds her own pie in the top oven and realises that she is unwell because she has been eating a mouse pie after all. She hides her pie in the back garden, intending to take it home later.

After a lot of unwelcome fuss by Ribby and Dr. Maggoty, Duchess takes her leave, only to find that the magpie and a couple of jackdaws have eaten her pie of veal and ham.

Ribby later finds the remains of the pie dish and the patty-pan and decides that in future she will invite cousin Tabitha Twitchit for tea, even though she had considered her inferior company to Duchess.

Connections to other books

The story includes scenes with Tabitha Twitchit who owns a local shop. Illustrations show her kittens playing. Tabitha and her kittens were to appear, along with Ribby, in The Tale of Tom Kitten and The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding, and her shop is again mentioned in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles.


The action is based in Sawrey, near which Beatrix Potter was to settle permanently in later years. The shop and residences are based on local homes which remain preserved.


External links

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