Mother Hubbard Speaks Her Mind by Barbara Ardinger

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone;
But when she came there
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.


From her lips to our ears.

Ya wanna know why my cupboard’s bare? It’s because we’re poor! Well, not all the time. Mr. Hubbard gets a good job from time to time, and then him n me an the kids an the animals have enough to eat. But those jobs never last long enough. And ya wanna know why? It ain’t just the economy (which is, yeah, pretty stupid). It’s on accounta we don’t quite look like everybody else ’round here. On accounta we don’t speak the “normal” language at home. We obviously came from someplace else. An’ the folks ’round here are so worried about themselves they don’t care about us. Some of ’em don’t like us at all. (And, I ask you, where’s the folks who look like me in the schools n the gov’mint an on the police force?)

Now we don’t live way out in the sticks like my friend Mrs. Shoe does with all her children. We live in the outskirts of this big city, and we can grow a lot of our own food. Lotsa times, though, we march into the big city and look around for more food. There’s lotsa food that got thrown away, perfectly good food goin’ to waste every day. That’s how I get bones for the old dog an good stuff for the cats, too. An, of course, for the kids an the hubby n me. An for the homeless folks who show up from time to time. Share ’n’ share alike, that’s my motto. We do what we can for who we can.

And we don’t share the “normal” religion of the folks in the big city. Most of them never heard of the Mother Goddess. Or any goddess at all, for that matter. No, they’re all enthralled by that greedy Mammon or by those other old bearded guys who stand up on top o’ that metaphorical mountain and yell down at their favorite men about invadin’ some foreign land r other. An ya know what? When the folks in the city are havin their prayers and we happen to be there, we stand quiet-like and bow our heads (politeness counts, doncha know) and wait till they’re done before we walk away and go lookin’ for more good thrown-away food ’n’ other stuff to take home with us. But would they stand respectful-like if we started prayin’ in the city to our Mother Goddess? (That’s what they call a rhetorical question. Don’t need no answer.)

Now ya gotta understand that the ol’ guys and their gods ain’t all bad. I’ve heard some good preachin’—

What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary (Talmud).

All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:1).

No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself (Sunnah).

Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state (Analects 12:2).

Wherever it comes from, that’s good advice. Six weeks ago, for the winter solstice, Mr. Hubbard an’ the animals an’ the kids ’n’ me, we went out to visit Mrs. Shoe. We took along some good food we’d found. Kids’re always hungry. Some sweets, too. Kids always love sweets. The hubby took along his fiddle, and Mrs. Shoe got out her banjo, and we had ourselves a jolly good time while the sun was settin’ and goin’ into its winter rest. We were still partyin’ when it came up next mornin. Good way to start a new year, eh?

By the way, folks, there’s more to that song about me and my cupboard and the dog. Here’s some of the verses. You know what? I think he’s a magical dog!

She went to the baker’s
To buy him some bread;
But when she came back
The poor dog was dead.

She went to the joiner’s
To buy him a coffin;
But when she came back
The poor dog was laughing.

She took a clean dish,
To get him some tripe;
But when she came back
He was smoking his pipe.

She went to the hatter’s
To buy him a hat;
But when she came back
He was feeding the cat.

She went to the seamstress
To buy him some linen;
But when she came back
The dog was spinning.

She went to the hosier’s
To buy him some hose;
But when she came back
He was dressed in his clothes.

The dame made a curtsey,
The dog made a bow;
The dame said, “Your servant,”
The dog said, “Bow-wow.”

Barbara ArdingerBarbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (, is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.


Categories: Divine Feminine, Ethics, Folklore, Poverty

Tags: ,

8 replies

  1. Very good way to start the new year! The original rhyme has much the same rhythm and cleverness of The Cat in the Hat. hee hee. That cat was originally a dog. And Dr. Seuss may have forgotten to cite his source. And we should note “your mother” was not “out” of the house and out of the story in the original version!!! Love it.


  2. Barbara, you absolutely made my day! Thanks you for the deep love that shines through this post…


  3. For some reason this one always makes me feel better,
    and it makes no sense whatever — but maybe it helps
    because we learned these things as children:

    “Old King Cole was a merry old soul
    And a merry old soul was he;
    He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl
    And he called for his fiddlers three.
    Every fiddler he had a fiddle,
    And a very fine fiddle had he;
    Oh there’s none so rare, as can compare
    With Old King Cole and his fiddlers three.”

    I Love the ending to your piece too, thanks Barbara,
    and where the dog closes it all out —
    with a gentle “bow-wow.”


  4. What a witty way to illustrate just how awful poverty is and not blame the poor.


  5. You tell ’em, Mother Hubbard! Right on, write on and blessed bees! ;-) <3!


  6. Thank you all! I guess I’ve been listening to too much political coverage? Ya think??


  7. Watson (the dog) and I both loved this story Barbara A. and now I know why Watson keeps bowing to me!

    I’m not sure you are watching too much political coverage, but maybe aware and observant of people, and dogs, around you…something I’m not sure most politicians are. They would have no concept of “dumpster diving”.


  8. good one Barbara … made me smile. thanks <3


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