Tag Archives: bedtime song

Working Mother Ballad


N is a college student at the University of Southern California, she told me about a bedtime story her mother used to tell her when she was little. She tells me this story is sung as a ballad, but she no longer remembers how the ballad was recited, so she narrated the story instead. According to N, the melody of the ballad is very sad, therefore the story is better when preformed accurately. N and her mother are Korean but moved to America when N was a baby.


“The story is about a mom and her baby, who live on an island at sea. The mom had to leave her baby son home alone to go to work, where she collects limpets every day. The baby son would stay at home and miss his mom but couldn’t do anything other than sit by the sea and listen to the waves crashing, which would put him to sleep. The mom was working but would become worried over her son, so she would rush home with her basket half full and find her little son sleeping.


Some time ago, many mothers had to leave their children alone so they could go work because no one else could take care of them. It is believed that that is how this song originated. This ballad might be related to the war times, explaining the absence of a father in this story. It is evident that the quality and replication of folklore are better when performed by an active bearer; perhaps hearing the story from the informant’s mother might have been more insightful. It is often hard to collect folklore from a generation that does not actively bear their culture’s traditional folklore.

Mexican Lullaby- Goodnight song

Informant Information 
Nationality: Hispanic American 
Occupation: Teacher
Residence: Nevada
Date of Performance/Collection: Apr 4, 2022
Primary Language: English 

My informant is a family member coworker of Mexican descent. Every night, she sings a good night song to her children, a song that was passed down to her. This is the song performed by her daughter.

Spanish- Duérmase mi niño, duérmase me ya. Porque ahí viene el coyote y te comerá. 

English- Go to sleep little boy, go to sleep right now. Because the coyote is coming and he’ll eat you up.

Audio Recording

I don’t know Spanish so when I first heard the song, I thought it was just a sweet lullaby that tells your kids like “sweet dreams” or something like that. Finding out the song was about a coyote coming to eat you if you don’t is really funny. I found a different variation of the song. There is a version that instead of the coyote coming to eat you, an angel is going to rock you to sleep. 

Dinner Train Song


It took some effort to get my informant, who immigrated from England at 13, to remember some examples of English folklore. I prompted him by asking for bedtime stories or lullabies from his childhood.

Main Piece

So, when I was little, my English grandmother would sing me and my brother Tate this song before bedtime, or whenever we pestered her to do it. Um… I don’t know where she learned it. Basically you, you say the names of various… culinary treats, and you gradually speed up in a rhythmic way as you say each item, um, like a locomotive carrying on — gathering steam.

Coffee, coffee

Cheese and biscuits, cheese and biscuits

Fruit and custard, fruit and custard

Fish ‘n’ chips, fish ‘n’ chips

(And then, imitating steam whistle, going up in pitch)



With some digging, I was able to find an account of this song on a British teaching website, and some performances on YouTube. My informant did not know where or when his grandmother had learned the song, but commenters on the above website remembered singing it at Bible camp in the 1960s and hearing it on a 78 rpm record in the 1940s. I also found a slightly different version of this chant on a website for the Australian Joey Scouts group. It is difficult to determine the precise origin of this piece, but it is clear that although I had never encountered it, it has been around since the early 20th century and has made its way around the world.

Los Deditos

Main Piece: Los Deditos

The following was an interview of a Participant/interviewee about a folk song, which is a bedtime song. She is marked as LT, and I am marked as DM.

LT: So the type of folklore I have is um yeah I’m just gonna say it “Este dedito fue al mercado/ Este dedito compró un huevito/ Este dedito lo cocinó/ Este dedito lo pelo/ Y este dedote se lo comió” so it kind of like uh it rhythms kind of if you sing it um multiple times I heard it first from my dad um he used to sing it to me when I was younger um and usually they sing it while they like they’re playing with your feet so uh the first “este dedito fue al mercado is with your pinky of your feet and then it moves on to the big thumb finishing with “este dedito se lo comio” because its big toe and it eats the egg and stuff um so and then my dad he tells me that he heard it from his mom so my grandma and um when he was back in Mexico when he was younger and my grandma used to do the same thing um to him and his sister as well so uh he would have that always that kinda like something that he heard in his childhood and he brought it up with me and my sister and yeah it was just me and my sister

Translation of the Song:

This little toe went to the market/ This little toe bought an egg/ This little toe cooked it/ This little toe peeled it/ And this big toe ate it


The participant is eighteen years old. She is a Mexican student at the University of Southern California. She told me about how her family has been passing down the same bedtime song. This song is played

DM: Why do like having this piece of folklore tied to your family?

LT:Um I think it’s like really funny um something that you can like play with your own kids my dad did with me and it was something like bonding time I guess and it really makes up of who I am like it reminds me of my background, which is being Mexican um and it reminds me of the family that I have when my grandma was back in Mexico too

DM: Why is this piece of folklore so important to you?

LT: Um I mean it’s something that my parent cause I used to sing it after my dad would sing it to me I would sing it all the time after like it was something that they knew me for um and in fact last week my dad reminded me of it and he would just tell me like oh remember when you used to sing this one and he used to make fun of he would make fun of me like not make fun of me but he just reminded me of what I used to sing a lot um and its I remember it because of that because my dad sang it so many times that I used to sing it and I still sing it sometimes or just hum it sometimes and my dad would remember or remind me of it like oh yeah you used to sing that song

Analysis/ My Thoughts:

I have also heard this song, but I know a different version. I don’t remember the exact lyrics, but I know it was not the lyrics above. Hearing a different version of a childhood song I knew is a weird feeling because I thought it was something just within my family. It is just interesting to see someone else having the same traditions but different traditions than you. One gets so used to doing something a certain way that when they see it a different way it is an uncomfortable feeling.