Fiddler's Green is a legendary supposed afterlife, where there is perpetual mirth, a fiddle that never stops playing, and dancers who never tire. Its origins are obscure, although some point to the Greek myth of the Elysian Fields as a potential inspiration.
In maritime folklore it is a kind of afterlife for sailors who have served at least 50 years at sea. The nine could well refer to Slavic literary archetypes that associate nine and ten with fantastic places, e.g., the thrice ninth castle in the thrice tenth kingdom where there is rum and tobacco.
Herman Melville describes a Fiddler’s Green as a sailors’ term for the place on land “providentially set apart for dance-houses, doxies, and tapsters” in his novella Billy Budd, Sailor (published posthumously in 1924).
Fiddler's Green appears in his novel The Dog Fiend; Or, Snarleyyow, published in 1856, as lyrics to a sailors' song:
At Fiddler’s Green, where seamen true
When here they’ve done their duty
The bowl of grog shall still renew
And pledge to love and beauty.
Adoption among U.S. military
The story of Fiddler's Green was published in 1923, in the U.S. Army's Cavalry Journal. According to this, it was inspired by a story told by Captain "Sammy" Pearson at a campfire in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Wyoming. It is still used by modern cavalry units to memorialize the deceased. The name has had other military uses. Many places associated with the U.S. Military have been named Fiddler's Green:
- The U.S. Marine Corps operates Firebase Fiddler's Green in the heart of the Helmand River Valley, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
- An artillery Fire Support Base in Military Region III in Vietnam in 1972, occupied principally by elements of 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry
- The U.S. Navy's enlisted men's club in Sasebo, Japan from 1952 to 1976
- The cavalryman's poem about Fiddler's Green is the regimental poem of the US 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
- The enlisted men's club at Bainbridge Naval Training Center
- An informal bar at the Fort Sill Officers' Open Mess
- The stable and pasture used by Parsons Mounted Cavalry, a cadet group at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas
- A bar at the Leaders Club in Fort Knox, Kentucky
- The larger of the two bars at the Leader's Club at Fort Benning, Georgia
- Building 2805 at Fort Hood, Texas, the former Officers Club
- A small E-club on the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton in area 43 (Las Pulgas)
- The base pub at the Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, CA
- Former dining facility used by 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Polk, LA
The song was recorded by The Dubliners' 1973 Plain and Simple album. It was also recorded by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior in their 1976 album, "Folk Songs of Olde England Vol. 2." The song is sung worldwide in nautical and Irish traditional circles, and is often mistakenly thought to be a traditional song.
A version of the Conolly song was recorded by Un-Reconstructed on their 2011 CD We Dare Sing Dixie.
The Cavalrymen's Poem
Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers' Green.
Marching past, straight through to Hell
The Infantry are seen.
Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marines,
For none but the shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddlers' Green.
Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene.
No trooper ever gets to Hell
Ere he's emptied his canteen.
And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddlers' Green.
And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a saber keen,
Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean,
And the hostiles come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen,
And put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddlers' Green.
In Neil Gaiman's award winning comic book series, The Sandman, Fiddler's Green is a place located inside of the Dreaming, a place that sailors have dreamed of for centuries. Fiddler's Green is also personified as a character as well as a location in the fictional world; the former largely based upon casual associations of G. K. Chesterton.
From November 12 to 14, 2004, a comic book convention promoted as "Fiddler's Green, A Sandman Convention" was held at the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Author Neil Gaiman and several Sandman series artists and others involved in the series' publication participated in the convention, with profits benefiting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
The author Richard McKenna wrote a story, first published in 1967, entitled "Fiddler's Green", in which he considers the power of the mind to create a reality of its own choosing, especially when a number of people consent to it. The main characters in this story are also sailors, and have known of the legend of Fiddler's Green for many years.
- Fiddler's Green appears as a destination in Archie Fisher's Final Trawl.
- The melody appears in Hans Zimmer's "Hoist the Colours" from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. in the verse "With the keys to the cage and the devil to pay/We lay to Fiddler's Green"
- "Fiddler's Green" is a song by the Canadian rock group The Tragically Hip.
- "Fiddler's Green" is a song by Marley's Ghost, a band out of Northern California.
- "Fiddler on the Green" is a song by the German power metal Demons and Wizards (a side-project group of the metal bands Blind Guardian and Iced Earth).
- "Fiddler's Green" is a song by Grimsby (UK) folksinger John Conolly, widely recorded by such artists as Liam Clancy, Irish folk group The Dubliners, and the American sailor band Schooner Fare; Schooner Fare credits the song for bringing together their band.
- In the traditional shanty "New York Girls," as recorded by Tom Lewis on 1995's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Singer!, the last line sung by the sailor is, "Commend our bones to Davy Jones, our souls to Fiddler's Green."
- "Fiddler's Green" is the name of the 2005 Grammy Award-winning album by folk artist Tim O'Brien and the title track of that album.
- Fiddler's Green is an extrasolar colony mentioned in Robert A. Heinlein's novels The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and Friday.
- Big Rock Candy Mountain
- Order of the Spur
- Tír na nÓg
- Friends of Fiddler's Green
- Eyers, Jonathan (2011). Don't Shoot the Albatross!: Nautical Myths and Superstitions. A&C Black, London, UK. ISBN 978-1-4081-3131-2.
- "The Sailor's magazine, and naval journal – American Seamen's Friend Society". Life on the Ocean. American Seamen's Friend Society. February 1898. p. 168. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
- Hotten, John Camden (1869). The slang dictionary: or, the vulgar words, street phrases, and "fast" expressions of high and low society.
- Marryat, Frederick (1856). The dog fiend: or, Snarleyyow. G. Routledge & Company. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
- "Fiddler's Green and other Cavalry Songs by JHS". Cavalry Journal. April 1923.
- Blood, Peter; Patterson, Annie, eds. (1988). Rise Up Singing. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Sing Out!. p. 201. ISBN 1-881322-12-2.
O Fiddler's Green is a place I've heard tell, where fishermen go if they don't go to hell
- McKenna, R. Casey Agonistes and other SF and Fantasy stories, Pan Books Ltd., London, 1976.
- "Hans Zimmer – Hoist the Colours Lyrics". Metrolyrics.com. Retrieved October 14, 2011.