Folk Song/Poem in French: English Translation:
Une souris verte Theres a green mouse
Qui courait dans l’herbe Running through the grass,
Je l’attrape par la queue I caught him by the tail,
Je la montre à ces messieurs I showed him to some men,
Ces messieurs me disent The men told me to drop him
Trempez là dans l’huile In oil and hot water,
Trempez là dans l’eau And hell become
Ça fera un escargot A hot snail.
Tout chaud I put her in a drawer
Je la mets dans un tiroir She told me she was too cold,
Elle me dit qu’il fait trop froid So I put her in my hat
Je la met dans mon chapeau And she told me it was too hot,
Elle me dit qu’il fait trop chaud So I put her in my pants
Je la mets dans ma culotte And she made me three small droppings.
Elle me fait trois petites crottes
My friend Gillian, who has French ancestry and speaks French, told me about this little song/poem that she used to sing when she was in Kindergarten. She said that she and her sister were taught this song by her parents to keep them occupied and give them something to do during playtime, either at home or at school. She taught it to her friends, (who werent French since she went to an American school), and they loved it, so they sang it during recess or whenever they had playtime.
Though the translation doesnt seem to make a lot of sense in English, she told me that it is a common and well-known song in France and is comparable to American childrens songs, such as Ring Around the Rosy. Like Americans, the French also had songs that would keep their children occupied during playtime. Though the song is very strange and doesnt make a lot of sense, the topic of a mouse and a snail prove to be entertaining to children, as children seem to like playing with little animals. When the theme of little animals is paired with a catchy tune (Gillian didnt know it, she said she only recited it as a child as a poem in a sing-song voice, although in France it exists as a song with a tune), it then seems to create a perfect little song for kids to enjoy with each other. At such a young age, the fact that the song doesnt make sense seems irrelevant as long as it is fun to sing and has an interesting topic. Additionally, when sung in French, it actually rhymes, which further enhances the songs catchiness.
This song also resembles the leprechaun legend that is believed by many kids in America. Gillian explained that, like leprechauns, green mice dont actually exist, but the song creates a legend and a belief for kids to follow and have fun with. Finding a leprechaun or pot of gold at the end of a rainbow is comparable to trying to find a green mouse in the fields- it is simply a different story. In teaching kids songs with legends such as these, parents have a way of giving them something to do/look for in order to keep them occupied. As with many childrens songs, this one is simply entertainment in the form of a silly French legend to keep little kids busy.
This song signifies the general trend in cultures around the world to create little legends or myths that have no purpose other than to entertain children. When I was little, my parents also always used to tell me stories and sing me songs (such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) in order to make me do something, whether it be sleep, chores, or simply to stay busy. Though they seem to make little sense, these songs are key when learning about various cultures because they are representative of the way parents treat their children and how they bring them up in that specific culture. Songs such as these seem to be especially prevalent because they provide children not only with a song to sing but they also have a goal for the children; here being the uncatchable green mouse.
Annotation: CD disc, La Récré, Une souris Verte Volume 2. Song 3