Story Cue Card


Bibliographic Information (best for storytelling):

Mabela the Clever. Retold by Margaret Read MacDonald. Morton Grove, Illinois: Albert Whitman & Co., 2001.


Ethnic Origin:

African – From the Limba people of Sierra Leone, Africa

Other variant from Tibet


Running Time:

Approximately 5-7 minutes


Power Center(s):

·         Cat inviting mice to join the Secret Cat Society



·         Mabela

·         Mabela’s father



·         Village of the mice



The Cat is the clever animal, and the mice aren’t quite so smart.  When the Cat invites the mice to join the Secret Cat Society, the mice are eager to line up.  Mabela, the smallest mouse of all, leads the line of mice as they march through the woods in front of the Cat.  Mabela remembers her father’s advice and outsmarts the Cat, freeing all of the mice.


Rhymes/Special Phrases/“Flavor”:

“Listen with your ears”

“Look around with your eyes”

“Think about what you are saying”

“Move fast”

“When we are marching we never look back! The cat is at the end, Fo Feng, Fo Feng!”





4-7 year olds; Children at this age are curious about their surroundings, are learning to “follow the rules” (as adults are telling children things for their own safety at this point), and are learning to seek independence.  In the story Mabela has listened to her father’s teachings (rules, safety information), and ends up saving the mice by being curious about what was happening and asserting her independence to run from the Cat.


Bibliographic Information on Other Versions/Variants:

“The Clever Cat” In Limba Stories and Storytelling. Finnegan, Ruth. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1967. (p.333-334)


“The Cat and the Mice” In The Singing Tortoise and Other Animal Folktales. Yeoman, John. New York: Tambourine Books, 1993. (p.72-77)


Brief Comparison of Versions/Variants:

MacDonald’s version is presented in simple sentences with “just enough” details.  It is the most appropriate version for telling (especially to children).  The audience is able to identify with Mabela as she is focused on as the main character. 


Finnegan’s version is written as Kirinkoma Konteh told it, and thus it has names of many mice and of their village, all African names, some of which are very long.  This could be a hindrance to a teller whose native tongue is not that of Konteh.  Besides the many names listed, this version is much more detailed, so much so that I lost track of the plot trying to take in all of the details.  In this version the cat eats the mice instead of putting them into a sack, and thus this end might not be suited for telling to small children.


Yeoman’s variant is taken from a tale from Tibet.  It is similar to Mabela’s story only in that the cat has the mice line up and parade in front of her twice a day.  It is different in that there are two mice that discover what the cat is up to and outwit the cat.  The language is simpler than Finnegan’s version, though not as simple as MacDonald’s.  The setting of this variant is in a barn, and more likely to take place at any given time period or country (as most places around the world have farms); compared with the two versions above, they are to have taken place a long time ago when animals talked and before there were people, and in Finnegan’s version it takes place in a specific locale.