Frog Went A-Courtin (English Language Folk Song.)

Owen Lord, a sophomore studying anthropology at the University of Southern California, who hails from Charleston, South Carolina, provided two pieces of folklore for this collection.

The interview was run, amidst dinner and drinks, at the University of Southern California located Greenleaf, a popular post-class bar for many students at the prestigious institution.

Folk Type: Folk Music.

“Tell about your childhood in North Carolina, were there any stories, songs, or proverbs that your parents would tell you growing up?” – Stanley Kalu

STORY: Hmm, lemme think, lemme think. Um…, wait okay so when I was a young lad, my mom used to bounce me on her knee and sing “froggie went a courtin’ and he did ride, he did ride.” I don’t really remember the rest but she would always sing that and I remember my first baby-sitter, um, wouldn’t do it and I was mad but I also understood. It’s kinda really awkward to bounce another person’s child on your lap. I remember being very conflicted.

Background Information: Owen, as aforementioned in the story section, learned this folk-song from his mother. The attachment he has to it is a nostalgic one, deriving from a place of comfort between he and his mother. The song was learned in Charleston, South Carolina.

The song itself, first appeared in Wedderburn’s Complaynt of Scotland (1548) under the name “The Frog cam to the Myl dur.” The earliest musical version of the tune is said to be in Thomas Ravenscroft’s Melismata  (1611).

It is noted that the original version of the song referred to Francois, Duke of Anjou attempts to woo Elizabeth I of England. This would make some historical sense, due to the fact that Elizabeth nicknamed Anjou, her favorite suitor, “the frog.”

Context of Performance: Owen’s Mother would perform the song in order to get him to sleep. This recontextualizes the song, at least in this instance, into a lullaby.

The context of Owen’s rehashing of the tale was done after our “Forms of Folklore” class taught by Tok Thompson because the both of us had a folklore collection project due.

Thoughts: I’m particularly interested in the way folklore changes over time. the original version of the song was, in a sense, political satire about an over eager lover. The irony of said song being sung to child is both hilarious and baffling. It also forces me to reflect upon angry rap songs about Donald Trump. Once they lose their political context, will they be sung to toddlers?