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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Rhyme

Updated November 14, 2011

The nursery rhyme that is used in the title of the spy thriller TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY has its own backstory and mystery.

The Mystery of “Tinker, Tailor…”
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Pawn
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Singer
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Wife
AA Milne Picks up the Rhyme
Modern Tinkers and Tailors
The Mystery of “Tinker, Tailor…”

The Mystery of “Tinker, Tailor…”

In TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY, Control (John Hurt) informs George Smiley (Gary Oldman) about a possible mole at the heart of the Circus, the code name for the British Intelligence Service. To highlight possible suspects, Control gives them code names -- “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Smiley later tapes the photos of the possible suspects to chess pieces, a gesture that turns out to be more resonant with the film’s title poem than one might imagine. The simple children's nursery rhyme “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor” has a long cultural history that connects it to the game of chess, among other things.