USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘lullaby’
Musical

The Trollmom’s Lullaby

Informant was a 20 year old female who was born in Sweden and currently lives in the United States. She came to visit me.

Song:

När trollmor har lagt sina elva små troll

och bundit dom fast i svansen,

då sjunger hon sakta för elva små trollen

de vackraste ord hon känner:

Ho aj aj aj aj buff,

ho aj aj aj aj buff,

ho aj aj aj aj buff buff!

Ho aj aj aj aj buff.

Informant: There’s a song that my mom would always sing to me in Swedish about trolls. It’s called Trollmors Vaggivisa, which literally translates into The Trollmom’s Lullaby. It’s about how this trollmom puts her 11 kids to bed, and the kids are trolls obviously, and how she sings a song to them after, and then it literally says when troll mom puts her 11 small trolls to bed and ties up their tails.

Collector: Wait, do trolls have tails?

Informant: These trolls do. And then the last part of the song says that she sings slowly to the 11 small trolls the prettiest words she knows. And then it goes like “ho ai ai ai ai buff ho ai ai ai ai buff ho ai ai ai ai buff buff ho ai ai ai ai buff.”

Collector: What does that mean?

Informant: It doesn’t mean anything. It’s giberish. It’s just supposed to be the prettiest words that the mom knows. And my mom used to sing this to me when I was a kid, and she has always sung it to us even when we were older. When I was in France and missing Sweden, she would always sing that to calm us down and put us to sleep, actually. It reminded me of home.

Collector: Why do you liked this song?

Informant: I think there was always something comforting about my mom singing it to me. It was calming and it made me feel like I was back home in Sweden.

I found this song particularly funny, because there isn’t really any meaning to it at all. I think that’s what makes this song particularly endearing, because it’s a cute little bedtime story about trolls. Even though it’s a song about trolls, it has significant meaning for my friend, as it connects her to her Swedish culture. Being international myself, I know how hard it can be to be away from home, and how important it is to have things that can connect you back to your culture.

Customs
Musical

You Are My Sunshine-Lullaby

“And she used to sing all the time, around the house, and I did too, and she um listened to records, as I was a child, and I grew up with a lot of famous like Glenn Miller, and all that, and that kind of music, and so I have always loved music, and I have always been very thankful that God put the um the desire for music and the appreciation for music in our hearts, because how does that happen, you know? And so I think that if you have a love of music, you got that somewhere, you know it doesn’t just happen, so I suspect a person growing up in a home, without music, wont have the same level of appreciation of music that somebody like me has, I mean.

Do you have any songs that come to mind when you think of her?

Oh well she used to sing “You are my sunshine”

 

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,

you make me happy, when skies are grey.

You never know dear, how much I love you.

So please don’t take my sunshine away.”

 

It makes me cry. You know it don’t you?

She used to sing that and all kinds of songs, and she sang in the Church when she was young in Wisconsin. She sang at a Protestant Church, you know the Catholic Church was too far away, you know they had to walk in the snow and all that. But she loved all popular songs. Uh and when she hears classical music, she would say: “Can’t they play something that has a melody, that’s just noise!” She was a character.”

 

Informant: the informant was born in Chicago, and attended high school and college there, graduating with a degree in English. After marrying and having one child, she moved to Dallas, Texas where she raised three children with her husband. She is of Irish descent, her father being from Ireland, and her mother was born in Wisconsin after her parents moved from Ireland, and her heritage and tradition are very important to her. She is a grandmother of five children.

 

Analysis:

In this piece, the informant is speaking about her mother, who was born in a family of Irish immigrants who had moved to Wisconsin. Her mother was an Irish Catholic, and so is the informant. The informant was speaking about how she gained her appreciation of music from her mother, and she would learn songs from listening to her mother sing around the house. One of those songs was “You are my sunshine.” This song has a special significance because the tune and the lyrics are very moving to the informant. The informant in turn passed down this song to her children, who sing it to their children.

The reasons that this song makes the informant cry and has special significance could be because of the relationship that she had with her mother, who taught her the song, as well as the poignancy of the lyrics. When associating a simple song like this with a loved one, it brings to mind all of the love that is associated with that person. Therefore, when singing the song and saying “please don’t take my sunshine away,” the simple lyrics are moving in that the represent losing the love that is associated with the singer of that song, who is often a loved one.

This song was often sung by the mother to her daughter as a sort of lullaby, which has a special significance as well. That is to say that the lullaby is meant to be a comforting tune for the child. When a mother sings this to a child she is singing about her love for her child. Therefore, when the informant was recalling this song, she could have been thinking about her mother, who had passed away several years ago, bringing back comforting memories of her. This song demonstrates how such a simple tune, and simple lyrics may have such profound emotional ties that lead to the passing down of this song as a lullaby from mothers to their children.

In addition, the comment that the informant’s mother made about classical music lacking a melody and just being “noise,” is representative of the separation of folk music and classical music. While classical music was taught in a strict manner through the aristocracy and apart from the people, folk music flourished with the rest of the population and was picked up by other people. It is clear that the informant’s mother had an appreciation for this folk music, while maintaining distaste for classical music. This could also be correlated with her Irish descent, as the Irish have a strong tradition of folk music.

Childhood
Life cycle
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Three Bears Lullaby

The informant in this piece is my grandmother on my father’s side, Ruth, a retired teacher born in 1926 in Arkansas.

In this piece, she talks about a lullaby she used to sing to my father and aunt. She could not remember much of the lullaby, but I found the lullaby she was talking about. When I read her the following lyrics, she said they were pretty close to what she can remember.

“Once upon a time in a neat little cottage there lived three bears

One was a daddy bear and one was a mama bear and one was a wee bear

While they were out a-walking, through the deep woods a-stalking came a little girl with blonde hair

Her name was Goldilocks and upon the door she knocks but no one was there

So she walked right in and had herself a time coz she didn’t care

Then she got sleepy, went upstairs to bed, when…

Home, home, home came the three bears!

Someone’s been eating my porridge said the daddy bear,

Someone’s been eating my porridge said the mama bear,

Hey Ba-ba Re-bear said the little wee bear someone has broken my chair!
Someone’s been sitting in my chair said the daddy bear,

Someone’s been sitting in my chair said the mama bear,

Hey Ba-ba Re-bear said the little wee bear someone has broken my chair!

Just then Goldilocks woke up, broke up the party and beat it out of there
Bye-bye! Bye! Bye! said the daddy bear

Goodbye, Bye said the mama bear

Hey Ba-ba Re-bear said the little wee bear

So ends the story of the three bears!”

N: When Cathy and Mike were very young I would read to them or tell bedtime stories until I would get so sleepy I couldn’t read any more. I would then start to sing a little song that went like this ‘ Once upon a time there were three bears, A Papa Bear, A Mama Bear and a Wee Bear’. They would cry out “No, don’t sing the song”. I never knew if they didn’t like my singing or they didn’t want the stories to end.

M: Do you remember any of the song?

N: Um… no. No more than what I just sang to you.

M: Do you remember where you learned it?

N: I think I had learned it from my mother. She would sing it to me when I was little.

M: It’s funny. I never knew there was a song for Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

I really like my grandmother’s response to why my dad and aunt had such a bad reaction to the song. Personally, I think it was because they knew after the song, the stories would end. I think people tell lullabies they heard as children because it reminds them of when they were little, and they want to have that in common with their children. When I asked my dad about it, however, he said he barely remembers the lullaby. It interesting what some people hold very important, and others forget about.

For other versions of this lullaby, visit http://dragon.sleepdeprived.ca/songbook/songs4/S4_36.htm

general

A Mom’s Lullaby

“Lullaby,

Don’t you cry,

Go to sleep my little Meowser,

 

Close your eyes,

And start to yawn,

Sweet dreams until the dawn

 

Lullaby,

Don’t you cry,

Go to sleep my little Matt

 

Lullaby,

Don’t you cry,

Go to sleep my little Meow.”

 

This is a lullaby that my mom used to sing for me when I was a child. It definitely borrows the tune and theme from Brahm’s lullaby, but I couldn’t find that version of the lyrics anywhere. Additionally, my mom inserted my name (Matt) and my nicknames (Meowser and Meow) into the song, something her mother did for her. My mother said that it reminded her of the stressful but adorable task of getting me to bed at night, but she also has a very loving memory of it. For me, the song evokes strong emotion because my mom is the person that I’m closest to in my family, and i connect that song with my mother and with my childhood.

Childhood
Musical

Indonesian Lullaby

This is a lullaby that the informant’s father used to sing to her and her sister.

Translation

“Miel, go to sleep. Miel, go to sleep. If you don’t go to sleep, you’re going to get bit by ants.” The alternate ending means, “you’ll get bit by a fly.”

Informant’s Thoughts

The informant described this as a dark lullaby, and even mentioned that her sister used to hate the song and that it would keep her up. The informant herself said she never had a problem going to sleep, despite the lullaby being dark. Her father most likely learned it from his parents, since it is meant to be a song that parents sing to their children to scare them into sleeping. The informant doesn’t know of any name for the lullaby, but her father would call it “Informant bobo”, meaning “Informant sleep.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories. I think it is an interesting, if somewhat backwards logic, that parents sing this song to coerce their children into going to sleep, since in American culture, lullabies are generally supposed to be sweet and gentle songs that “lull” a child to sleep. Perhaps the lyrics are supposed to be a sort of joke and meant to be ignored, however it would be difficult not to take the words seriously when living a country (Indonesia) that is home to a host of exotic insect species.

Musical

Chanda Mama

Original Text:

“Chanda Mama Door Ke

Puye Pakaye Bhur Ke

Aap Kaye Taali Mein

Mune Ko De Pyali Mein” (Hindi)

Direct Translation: 

Uncle moon from far away

Is making Puye (dessert) with sugar

You eat in a plate and

give the little child a little plate

Background:

This is a lullaby that the informant remembers hearing as a child. His dad mainly sung it to him, although his mom would sing it from time to time too. There was one night that his dad didn’t sing it to him and he couldn’t sleep. The informant said that it reminds him of his childhood now and going to bed.  When I asked if there was a deeper meaning to the lyrics, he said that it seemed pretty nonsensical, but he said that it’s significant that you let parents eat first out of respect.

Context:

The informant’s parents sung this lullaby to him when he was a child. He said it’s a pretty common song that parents would sing to their children in Indian culture.

Personal Thoughts:

When I first asked him what it meant, he said he didn’t know. But when I asked him to type out the lyrics, he started to realize what it meant because he speaks Hindi. I thought this was interesting because the song had simply started to represent a warm feeling of bedtime with parents, rather than what the lyrics actually were talking about.

 

Musical

Tuntun-Tuntun-Taara

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Billi ne chuhe ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Chawkidaar ne chor ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

 

Translation:

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock (Chorus)

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat killed the mouse

Hai!

(Chorus) x 2

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

The guard killed the thief

Hai!

(Chorus)

Analysis: For some reason, similar to many Western nursery rhymes and lullabies, this song is a particularly violent one. It talks about the elimination of a small threat (a mouse) and then of a much larger, much more serious threat (a thief). But this elimination takes place in a very definitive, violent manner–murder, essentially. Unlike Western lullabies, however (some that come to mind are Rockabye Baby, Rain Rain Go Away, Old Daddy Long Legs, and Sing a Song of Sixpence), the violence is not perpetrated on children or seemingly innocent bystanders, but on entities who do pose a real threat to the health and safety of the child and indeed the whole family and therefore could be said to “deserve what they got”. Mice spread disease and could ruin a family’s crop and thereby cause them to starve. Thieves also could cause financial ruin and would not hesitate to do away with any family member who discovered them robbing the house in the dead of night. In rural areas, or places that didn’t have a very trustworthy law enforcement and protection system, the idea that there were people (or animals) that would be able to protect a child from harm must have been very comforting.

Childhood
Folk speech
general
Gestures
Musical

A bag of potatoes

 

Context

This short song/lullaby is performed to a child of the ages 0-3 years of age for no particular reason. When sung, the adult is usually hugging the child and swaying along to the beat of the song.

Material

Yo vendo un costal de papas, ¿quien me lo quiere comprar? Lo vendo por diabluriento y porque me ha pagado mal.  

Translation

I sell a bag of potatoes, who wants to buy it? I sell him for mischief and because he has paid me wrong.

Meaning of the Song

The child is being referred to as a bag of potatoes that the adult wants to sell because the child is always getting into trouble and doing wrong.

Analysis by the informant

The informant is unsure as to where she learned the song but she believes it was once a romance song but she changed the wording of a section of the song so it would be a childhood song instead. The informant does not remember singing it to her daughters but she does sing it now to her grandsons whom live with her and are of ages 2 and 4. Her youngest grandson sometimes sings along with her as she sings it to him. The informant performs the song as a playful form with her grandsons because she carries them and they sing it with her. It is a playful form in which she tells them how much of troublemakers they are but that she still loves them.

Analysis by the interviewer

I think this is a nice short song that is not exactly a lullaby but not a full song or proverb, just a short saying which has a lot of meaning to both the informant and the child. Seeing it in its original context, I believe that the children get the same meaning from the short song as the informant because the children are always smiling and in a good mood when it is being sung to them.

Musical
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Gypsy Rover

The Gypsy Rover

A lullaby that the informant’s  grandmother would sing to her mom:

 

“The gypsy rover came over the hill,

down the through the valley so shady.

whistled and he sand, ‘till the green wood sprang,

and he won the heart of a lady.

“And then it’s like:

“Ah-di-do, ah-di-do-da-day,

ah-di-do-ah-di-day-O!

whistled and he sang, ‘till the green wood sprang,

and he won the heart of a lady.

“And then it’d be like, it, like, there’s a bunch of, um, different parts, but it would be like, the main one of them, was like, this girl falls in love with the gypsy person, and um, her father doesn’t like it, but she’s, but the part that I remember at least:

“He is no gypsy, my father, she said,

the lord of the valley’s all over.

And I shall stay ‘till my dying day,

With the whistling gypsy rover.

“So it’s just, like, a long ballad thing that my mom would sing to me as a lullaby. I can just totally see this being a 70’s ballad now that I think about it, but I always thought it was like, some special song that she knew from somewhere, that was handed down through the generations.”

 

The informant’s mother sang it if she couldn’t get to sleep beginning maybe when she was two or three (her mother had been singing it as long as she could remember). It was her “go-to” lullaby. She is unaware of the origins of the song, but she liked it because it wasn’t a typical lullaby and nobody else had heard it. She also liked it because it is a long saga, and she says she’ll have to write it down so she can sing it to her children at some point.

The tune of this song is easy to follow because it repeats for each stanza throughout the duration of the song (even for the part where words are replaced by sounds). This may be what makes it enjoyable and easy to pass on; however, the length of it (the informant only knew parts of it) may be a hindrance to spreading by those who do not have great memory skills (the informant said she’d have to write it down). The combination of enjoyable easiness and that challenge in the length seem to make it more precious.

Musical

German Folksong: Over de Stillen Straten / Over the Quiet Streets

Link to audio recording of song: Over de Stillen Straten

Background on German Folksongs:

Q. Do you know how old these songs are?

A. No, and I think that’s part of folklore—you don’t really know where it comes from, it wasn’t written by anyone in particular. My mother must have taught me some, and at school, I imagine I learned some.

Q. When would people sing folksongs?

A. While we were walking places in a group, we would sing. And singing while walking, you know, is kind of fun. You can walk to the beat, and it gives you something to do. And I remember that they were calling on me because I used to know all the words. And I was the littlest one on the group, I was only five years old, but I used to know all the words, so whenever they didn’t remember the words, the older kids would call me, “Eva, what are the words again?” so I would come running and tell them the words, and it made me feel good, it made me feel important because here are these older kids, and I have to tell them the words. Those are some of my earliest memories.

Songs were often sung while working. If you had some menial work to do, and you’d get bored doing that, you would sing. For example, when spinning—women used to do a lot of spinning—they would sing, just to amuse themselves. Or when they were ironing; my mother used to tell me, “this is an ironing song,” because they had to do a lot of ironing, and it’s boring work. And my mother and I would sing when we did the dishes because that, too, was boring, menial work. She would do the dishes, and I would dry them, and we would sing together. And we would harmonize. You sing when you work or you walk, and you don’t use any machines, because machines make noise and then there’s no room for singing…so it’s kind of part of the preindustrial age.

Q. People don’t sing as much as they used to?

A. We sing in certain contexts, like at school in choir, but just while doing stuff, not very much anymore. It’s really sad—it’s kind of a dying tradition.

Q. Do you know if German folksongs are very different from other folksongs?

A. Well, you will see that most German songs are in the major key, which sets them apart from eastern European folk music, which is usually minor.

Over de Stillen Straten / Over the Quiet Streets:

This song is a lullaby…There are many lullabies. This song is also in dialect. Originally, all folk songs are in the dialects of the regions where they came from. Then, many of them were cleaned up and translated into High German, but this one was not, so this one, I know in the original dialect form, which is the dialect from the region I came from, a region in the north of Germany.

So, I think they took several steps. The songs came from a certain region, and then they were collected by some of the collectors in the nineteenth century, and then they were compiled into collections of songs, and then they became sort of universally known, in that form—not quite as original as they were.

Q. What is High German?

A. High German isn’t really any dialect, it’s something that people just agreed on as the language that everybody would know. For very long, there were only dialects, and not any form of High German. It didn’t really have a capital, the way England and France did. What really killed the dialects is television. Now, in everyone’s living room, you have High German, and you hardly ever speak dialect anymore. There are some regions where they hold onto it, like Bavaria.

Q. In Germany, do people have a sense of having a regional identity, as opposed to a German identity?

A. Yes. There was not really a German identity until 1870, with Bismarck. There were little states, and those gave people identity. Bismarck united Germany as the first Reich. But people still have very local culture.

Analysis: This song has a melancholy, plaintive melody, and is very lyrical. It stands out against the other songs that my informant sang to me because it is the only one in a minor key; according to my informant, almost all German songs are in major keys. It seems reasonable that a lullaby would be less upbeat, however, since it is meant to quiet children down before they fall asleep. Since this particular folksong has not been translated into High German, it remains much closer to its original form than many other German folksongs today.

German lyrics can be found online on numerous websites, including these ones:

http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=36693

http://www.textlog.de/gedicht-nacht.html

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