Author Archives: Sarah Brayton

Tale – Polish

The Story of Baba Yaga

As told by Kathleen

“So there were these two kids, a boy and a girl who had been orphaned at a early age and were now living with their wicked stepmother.  Over the years she had gotten progressively meaner to them, making them do all the chores and feeding them very little food.  One day she decided that she wanted to get rid of them for once and for all so she told them that they were to go live with her grandmother, Baba Yaga.

So the kids set out in the direction she told them, but decided to stop at the cabin of their loving grandmother on the way there.  She was shocked to hear about how their stepmother had bee treating them, and treated the kids to a large lunch and gave the kids a ton of cookies afterwards.  She then sadly sent them on their way claiming that there was nothing that she could do, and that they must obey their stepmother.  As the walked out the door she offered them one last piece of advice: “Just remember no matter what happens always be kind and courteous to everyone!”

The kids set out on their way into the forest and finally came across a very particular cabin.  It was spinning in circles on top of giant chicken legs.  They said a chant…I don’t remember what it was… and the house stopped spinning, turned around to face them and lowered itself to the ground.  As they were approaching the house, a haggard old witch named Baba Yaga walked out.  “I’ve been expecting you,” she said, “I will let you stay and live a good life with me if you prove that you are a hard worker—otherwise I will eat you up!”  She immediately put the two kids to work, the girl had to spin thread and her brother was forced to fill a bathtub with a colander.

The witch left for the day and the girl and the boy slaved away all day at their respective chores not having much luck.  Finally, the girl was so overwhelmed that she began to cry.  Mice appeared at her feet and squeaked, “sweet girl do not cry, give us cookies and we will help you.”  The girl willingly did so.  They said, “go find the black cat, he is hungry and if you give him a cookie he will help you.” While she was looking for the cat, she came across her brother who was having no luck filling the tub.  Some birds flew up to her and said, “sweet children give us some crumbs and we will advise you.”  They willing did so and the birds chirped, “Use some clay.”  Understanding the hint, the children plastered the sides of the colander with clay and were able to fill the tub in a very short time.

They then came across the cat and said, “dear kitty-cat, will you tell us what we can do to escape?”  The cat answered, “I will give you a towel and a comb and then you must run away. If you hear the witch catching up to you, drop the towel behind you and a large river will appear in place of the towel.  If you hear her again drop the comb which will turn into a dark wood.”  Baba Yaga came home just then.  “Well, she said to the children, you did well today, but we shall see about tomorrow when your chores will be harder and hopefully I will get to eat you up.

The next day they were told to weave linen and fetch a large amount of firewood.  As soon as Baba Yaga left the children ran away as fast as they could.  The dogs came chasing after them, but they gave them more cookies.  The gates did not open, so they smoothed them with oil.  The tree tried to scratch their eyes out, but they tied a ribbon on its branches they ran far, far away.  When Baba Yaga returned she was outraged to see that the children were gone.  “Where are the children!” she yelled and began kicking the cat.  The cat answered, “I have been faithful to you for so many years but you have never given me anything and those kind children gave me a cookie.”  The witch scolded the dogs, then the gate and then the tree.  They all had a similar reply.

Angrier than ever, she jumped inside her giant mortar, and moved swiftly using the pestle like an oar.  The children heard her behind them screaming, “Baba Yaga is coming to get you and eat you up!”  They threw down the towel and a huge river appeared, causing Baba Yaga to have to search for a place shallow enough to cross.

Eventually they heard Baba Yaga catching up again so they threw down the comb.  This time a dark forest appeared.  Baba Yaga tried very hard to get through the forest but eventually gave up in vain.

The children found their way back to their grandmother’s house and told her what happened and lived there happily ever after.”

Kathleen heard this story one time when she was over at her Polish friend’s house.  Her friend’s parents would always joke about “Baba Yaga” in witch like voices and would say that she was on her way to eat them up.  Kathleen said that after hearing references to the story multiple times, she finally asked them to tell her the full story and this is what they told her.  Kathleen was amused by the story because she liked how it was unique with the witch traveling in a mortar and pestle instead of on a broomstick.  Kathleen also said that she believed that there were other stories about Baba Yaga, and that this was just one out of many.

After doing some research on Baba Yaga, I found that it is a very common Russian folktale, and that it probably immigrated to Poland due to the cultural ties between the two countries.  There are a lot of children’s books about Baba Yaga, as well as movies and cartoons.  Because it is such a common folktale and is found in a large geographical area, my guess is that there are many different versions of the same story, and a quick Internet search on Baba Yaga confirmed my suspicions.

Story Found in:

Baba Yaga. The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale. (International. Folkloristics 3). New York: Peter Lang, 2004. 352 pp

Camp Song

Camp Song:    The Princess Pat

This is a repeat-after-me-song

The Princess Pat
Lived in a tree
She sailed across
The seven seas
She sailed across
The Channel Two
And she took with her
A rig of bamboo

A rig of bamboo
Now what is that?
It’s something made
By the Princess Pat
It’s red and gold
And purple too
That’s why it’s called
A rig of bamboo

Now the Captain Jack
Had a mighty fine crew
He sailed across
The Channel Two
But his ship sank
And yours will too
If you don’t take
A rig of bamboo


Now the Princess Pat
Saved Captain Jack
She pulled him out
She brought him back
She saved his life
And his crew’s too
Do you know how?

I first learned this song at Girl Scout Day Camp when I was in 2nd grade, but I have heard it at many other camps since then.  It has always been a fun quirky song, and I always thought that it was rather nonsensical.  Not only did I sing this song as a camper for many years at many different camps as a kid, but I have lead this song many times working as a camp counselor for the past 4 years.  I didn’t learn the last verse until I was looking through a girl scout song book a few years back and saw it, and I have not hear it sung by anyone but me since.  I also have learned different motions for each of the different verses, and I have heard “A rig of bamboo” also slurred to be a Rikabamboo.

This song is generally sang “repeat-after-me-style” meaning that one person leads the song by singing the line and then everyone else repeats it back.  Songs that can be sung in the “repeat-after-me” style are particular good in camp settings because you don’t need to know the words to sing along so everyone can participate.  There are also hand motions associated with the lyrics which are fun and get everyone more involved.

After doing some research on this song, I discovered that it is actually a parody of a song sung by Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), a unit of the Canadian Force.  The regiment is named after Princess Patricia, who was the Governor of Canada’s youngest daughter at the time of its creation, 1914, shortly after the outbreak of WWII.  She was very well liked in Canada and was named Colonel in chief of the regiment at its creation.  She also was responsible for designing and hand making the regimental colors that is referred to as the “Ric-A-Dam-Doo,” which is Gaelic for “cloth of thy mother.”

The original song recounts different missions and is generally used to boost morale.  In this context, one can see the parallels between the camp song and the original, however it is not known when the camp song was adapted from the original.  It is possible that the kids song might have been created by enemies of Canada in attempts to mock the army, however given the song’s prevalence in the United States, which has never been enemies with Canada, this explanation does not seem likely.  It is also possible that a Canadian adapted the song, or even former soldiers, as it is not uncommon for people to challenge authority, and take things that are very serious and turn them into something funny.  Regardless, if people knew the origins of this song, I doubt that it would be considered “politically correct” and it would stop being sung at camp.  However, due to the fact that the PPCLI is not well known in the United States, I see this song as fairly harmless.

For Original and another version with hand motions, see below.

Works Cited:

“Princess Pat’s Canadian Light Infantry.” Canadian Government Website. Last modified

April 17 2008.  Viewed April 30 2008.

The original version is as follows:

The Ric-A-Dam-Doo

The Princess Pat’s Battalion

They sailed across the Herring Pond,

They sailed across the Channel too,

And landed there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

The Princess Pat’s Battalion Scouts

They never knew their whereabouts.

If there’s a pub within a mile or two,

You’ll find them there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

The Lewis Guns are always true

To every call of the Ric-A-Dam-Doo.

They’re always there with a burst or two

Whenever they see the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

The Bombers of the Princess Pat’s

Are scared of naught, excepting rats,

They’re full of pep and dynamite too,

They’d never lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

The Transport of the Princess Pat’s

Are all dressed up in Stetson hats.

They shine their brass and limbers too

I believe they’d shine the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

Old Number Three, our company

We must fall in ten times a day.

If we fell out ‘twould never do

For then we’d lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

Old Charlie S., our Major dear,

Who always buys us rum and beer,

If there’s a trench in a mile or two

You’ll find him there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

Old Ackity-Ack, our Colonel grand,

The leader of this noble band,

He’d go to Hell and charge right through

Before he’d lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

Old Hammy Gault, our first PP,

He led this band across the sea,

He’d lose an arm, or leg or two

Before he’d lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

And then we came to Sicily.

We leapt ashore with vim and glee.

The Colonel said the Wops are through

Let’s chase the Hun with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

The Ric-A-Dam-Doo, pray what is that?

‘Twas made at home by Princess Pat,

It’s Red and Gold and Royal Blue,

That’s what we call the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,

Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

Here is another variation that I found online with slightly different motions and hand gestures than the one that I had learned:

The Princess Pat (leader sings one line, others repeat)?(actions in brackets)

The Princess Pat (egyptian pose)

Light infantry (salute)

They sailed across (wave motion in front of body with one hand)

The seven seas (number 7 with your finger, then make a “C” with one hand)

They sailed across (wave motion)

The channel two (two hands tracing a channel, then number 2 on one hand)

And took with them (throw a sack over your shoulder)

A rick-a-bamboo! (trace a wavy figure in front of you going down, bend knees as you go)

A rick-a-bamboo (same as before)

Now what is that? (shrug shoulders, hold out hands)

It’s something made (bang one fist on top of the other)

For the Princess Pat (egyptian pose)

It’s red and gold (“twirl” one arm down by your hip)

And purple too (flip hands as if you were saying “Oh my gosh!”)

That’s why it’s called (cup hands in front of mouth, shout)

A rick-a-bamboo! (same as before)

Now Captain Dan (salute)

And his loyal crew (salute several times)

They sailed across (wave action)

The channel two (same as before)

But their ship sank (plug nose, one hand over head and waving as you bend knees)

And yours will too (point to others in the circle)

Unless you take (throw an invisible bag over your shoulder)

A rick-a-bamboo! (same as before)

A rick-a-bamboo (same as before)

Now what is that? (shrug shoulders, hold out hands)

It’s something made (bang one fist on top of the other)

For the Princess Pat (egyptian pose)

It’s red and gold (“twirl” one arm down by your hip)

And purple too (flip hands as if you were saying “Oh my gosh!”)

That’s why it’s called (cup hands in front of mouth, shout)

(everyone together) A rick-a-bamboo! (same as before)

Children’s Game – Italian

Children’s Game:

Il Pescatore

The Fisherman

Pescatore:  Io sono il pescatore

Con l’amo e con la rete.

O pesci dove siete?

Il Pescatore è qua!

Pesci:        Noi siamo in fondo al mare,

Su, vienici a pescare!

La rete è tutta a buchi;

Mai nessun ci prenderà!

Pescatore:  La rete l’ho aggiustata

E in fundo l’ho calata.

E se fortuna avrò

_______  io prenderò!


Fisherman: I am the fisherman

With the hook and the net.

Oh fish where are you?

The fisherman is here!

Fish:           We are down at the bottom

of the sea!

Sure, come here and fish us

The net is full of holes;

No one is ever going to catch us

Fisherman: I have fixed the net

And I cast the net down

And if I am lucky,

I will catch __________

Commonly Used Fish

(although anything works)

anchovy l’acciuga
shark lo squalo
cod il merluzzo
grouper la cernia
herring l’aringa
salmon il salmone
sea bass il branzino
sole la sogliola
sturgeon lo storione
swordfish il pesce spada
trout la trota
tuna il tonno

Antonio learned this game when he was growing up in Sardinia, Italy.  He was about 8 years old and at a large dinner with some family friends, and all of the children were playing games together.  He had never heard of this game before and never really encountered it again growing up.  Despite this, he said that he thought the game was a lot of fun at the time, and has fond memories from this game.

It is played with a group of kids, generally about 10 works best.  Someone volunteers to be the “fisherman” and the rest of the kids are fish.  The fisherman goes around and secretly tells each kid what kind of fish they are.  Then the “fish” all hold hands and walk in a circle and the fisherman walks in the opposite direction and they sing the corresponding parts of the song.  At the end of the fisherman’s song he or she say the name of the fish that he or she wants to catch. That person must then drop hands with their neighbors and run all the way around the outside of the circle and join back in their original spot in the circle without being tagged by the fisherman.  If they are tagged, they become the fisherman and the old fisherman becomes a fish.  If they are not tagged, the game repeats with the same fisherman.

This game is very reminiscent of the common American equivalent “Duck, Duck, Goose”, yet seems more creative as it has its own song.  It is unclear if one of the games originated first and influenced the other one, although it does seem possible.  I also would say that it is fair to assume that the game originated somewhere on the coast as it is about fish and fisherman.

Legend – Polish

The Dragon of Krakow (Cracow)

Long ago in Poland’s early history, On the River Vistula, there was a small settlement of wooden huts inhabited by peaceful people who farmed the land and plied their trades. Near this village was Wawel Hill. In the side of Wawel Hill was a deep cave. The entrance was overgrown with tall, grass, bushes, and weeds. No man had ever ventured inside that cave, and some said that a fearsome dragon lived within it.

The young people of the village didn’t believe in the dragon. The old people of the village said that they had heard their fathers tell of a dragon who slept in the cave, and no man must dare waken it, or there would be dire consequences for them all.

Some of the youths decided to explore the cave and put an end to such foolish talk. They thought that they knew better and dragons were just old stories from the past. A group of these young people took some torches and went to the cave. They slowly entered the cave until they came to a dark mass of scales blocking their way and the sound of heavy breathing. The boys ran as the dragon awakened and roared. Fire came from its mouth warming the boys heels and backs. When they were far enough away, they looked back and saw the dragon at the entrance of the cave, very angry being awakened from its sleep.

From that day on, the people knew no peace. Every day the dragon appeared and carried off a sheep or preferably young virgins. The populace made many attempts to kill the dragon but nothing succeeded and many of those that attempted were killed. In the village lived a wise man, or a shoemaker or a shoe makers apprentice named Krakus or Krac. He got some sheep and mixed a thick, yellow paste from sulfur. Krakus smeared it all over the animals. Then led them to a place where the dragon would see them. The dragon came out as expected, saw the sheep, roared, rushed down the hill and devoured the sheep. The dragon had a terrible fire within him, and a terrible thirst. It rushed to the River Vistula and started drinking. It drank and drank and could not stop. The dragon began to swell, but still it drank more and more. It went on drinking till suddenly there was a great explosion, and the dragon burst. There was great rejoicing by the people.

Krakus, was made ruler of the village, and they built a stronghold on Wawel Hill. The country prospered under the rule of Krakus and a city grew up around the hill, which was called Krakow, in honor of Krakus. When Krakus died, the people gave him a magnificent burial, and erected a mound over his tomb which can be seen to this day. The people brought earth with their own hands to the mound, and it has endured through all the centuries as a memorial to the person that killed the dragon of Krakow.

Karolina’s parents are from Poland.  She lived in New Zealand for 6 years before moving to the United States.  Her parents were always sure to represent their culture, and thus Polish was spoken at home, typically they ate Polish food, and as children they learned about Polish culture.  This legend in particular is interesting because Karolina’s parents are from Krakow, and they would go there each year as children to visit the relatives.  This is the legend of a dragon that lived in the village, and according to Karolina, some believe that the legend is true, and most believe that there are at least some elements of truth to the story as the town is named after the “hero Krakus.”

Karolina has visited the large 200-foot-long cave in Wawel Hill, Krakow, which has been known for centuries as the monster’s den.  It now attracts huge crowds of visitors each year. Whatever the truth of the dragon legend, the Dragon’s Cave (Polish ‘Smocza Jama’) is Cracow’s oldest residence, inhabited by man from the Stone Age through the 16th century.  There is even a statue in front of the castle that blows real fire every five minutes to commemorate the legend.

Game – Spanish

Clapping Game:

“El Conejo de la Suerte”

“The Rabbit of the luck”

“The Lucky Rabbit”

Aqui esta el  conejo de la suerte,

Haciendo reverencias con su cara de inocencia

Tu besaras al chico a la chica que a tu lado esta.

Here it is the rabbit of the luck

Making reverences with his face of innocence

You will kiss the boy or the girl whom you are next to.

Here comes the lucky rabbit,

He is showing reverence with his innocent face.

You will kiss the boy of the girl closest to you.

Pablo learned this song in his hometown of Pamplona, Spain when he was about ten years old.  Although he does not remember exactly who taught him the song, he knows that he learned it from a group of peers during lunch one day at school.  He said the song is pretty common, and that most kids learn it around the age of ten, as this is when kids begin getting interested in the opposite sex.

The way the game is played is that a group of kids, generally no larger than ten, sit in a circle in boy girl order with right hand facing upwards in the palm of the person to the right of them (their left palm is under the hand of the person to the left of them).  As they start singing the song, someone starts the clapping chain by slapping the palm that is face up in their left hand with their right hand.  Then that person does the same thing to their neighbor etc. until the song ends.  The last person to be slapped gets to kiss anyone of the opposite sex that is sitting in the circle.  The game is played for however long the players wish to play.

According to Pablo, rather than being a reward it was generally considered really embarrassing for the person who had to kiss someone else.  Also, because it was up to the individual to choose whom to kiss, it was often revealing of who had crushes on who, and kids could be quite brutal if the crush was not mutual.  Despite this, Pablo said that it was one of his favorite games because “it was fun to see people embarrassed and it was fun.”  Kids would often play it in public parks or anywhere where there wasn’t direct super vision by adults.

Pablo believes that the games origins are related to the Spanish tradition around Easter where young adults in their late teens and early twenties would buy women bunny rabbits (generally chocolate or stuffed animals) as gifts as a way of asking them out on a date.  While it is still occasionally practiced in modern times, it is generally considered an outdated tradition, as dating is not as formal as it was in the past.  Furthermore, in general, the motif of a rabbit generally represents fertility as rabbits are very reproductive creatures.  Therefore in the context of a kissing game, it makes sense that the “lucky animal” is a rabbit as opposed to some other animal like a snake.

It does not come as much of a surprise that this game is popular with children of that age group in Spain, as in the United States games such as “spin the bottle” where someone must spin a bottle in the middle of a group of boys and girls and kiss whoever the bottle stops on (as long as they are of the opposite sex).  It seems that children in the age group of 8-12 are just beginning to become aware of inter-gender interaction of adults, and are themselves beginning to experience sexual urges.  Kids of this age also yearn to be treated as adults, and will thus often mock adult behavior to feel more mature.  Kids also like to rebel against authority at this age, and in general the fact that games such as “the luck rabbit” and “spin the bottle” are generally considered taboo and forbidden by adults, makes the games even more attractive to children.

Direct Quote from Pablo:

“Around age 10, like every other kid in Spain, when we started getting interested on the opposite sex. Then, we would play a game call the lucky rabbit. All the kids (boys and girls) in a circle, would play hand games singing this song. Whenever the song stopped, whoever’s hand had just been slapped would have to kiss the girl or guy closest to him/her.  Rather than being a reward, it would become really embarrassing for the person that had to kiss someone else.  It was one of my favorite games because it was fun to see people embarrassed and it was fun. The game has its origins in the Easter tradition of the Easter Bunnies. Whenever some young adult would get a bunny rabbit as a gift, he would get it from a woman and they would go on a date. It is interesting that later on it became a kid game.”