Ten Little Indians

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"Ten Little Indians"
Roud #13512
Written by Traditional
Published 1868
Written Ireland
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme

"Ten Little Indians" is an Irish children's rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 13512. The word Indian refers to "Native American".


Cover of Negrastrákarnir, an Icelandic version of the song published in 1922

The modern lyrics are:

One little, two little, three little Indians
Four little, five little, six little Indians
Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians
Ten little Indian boys.
Ten little, nine little, eight little Indians
Seven little, six little, five little Indians
Four little, three little, two little Indians
One little Indian boy.[1]

The song sometimes begins with a repeated verse, "John Brown met a little Indian" before entering the well-known verses.


The original piece, then called "Ten Little Injuns", was written by songwriter Septimus Winner in 1868 for a minstrel show and was much more elaborate:

Ten little Injuns standin' in a line,
One toddled home and then there were nine;
Nine little Injuns swingin' on a gate,
One tumbled off and then there were eight.
Eight little Injuns gayest under heav'n.
One went to sleep and then there were seven;
Seven little Injuns cuttin' up their tricks,
One broke his neck and then there were six.
Six little Injuns all alive,
One kicked the bucket and then there were five;
Five little Injuns on a cellar door,
One tumbled in and then there were four.
Four little Injuns up on a spree,
One got fuddled and then there were three;
Three little Injuns out on a canoe,
One tumbled overboard and then there were two.
Two little Injuns foolin' with a gun,
One shot t'other and then there was one;
One little Injun livin' all alone,
He got married and then there were none.[1]

Derivative songs[edit]

Book cover by Frank Green, 1869

This song was adapted, possibly by Frank J. Green in 1869, as "Ten Little Niggers" and became a standard of the blackface minstrel shows.[2] It was sung by Christy's Minstrels and became widely known in Europe, where it was used by Agatha Christie in her novel of the same name. The novel was later retitled And Then There Were None (1939), and remains one of her most famous works, about ten killings on a remote island.[3]

The following version of the song was included in the first film version of And Then There Were None (1945), which largely took Green's lyrics and replaced the already sensitive word "nigger" with "indian" (in some versions "soldiers"):

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys travelling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Indian boys playing in the sun;
One got all frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.[4]

Because this song, and even the original term Indians, have become politically sensitive, modern versions for children often use "soldier boys" or "teddy bears" as the objects of the rhyme.[5]

Popular culture[edit]

The Ten Little Indians are guests of Old King Cole in the 1933 Disney cartoon of the same name. They perform a catchy dance which inspires the other nursery rhyme characters to join in.

The rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson includes a much darker song called "Ten Little Indians" that is modeled after this nursery rhyme.

The opening sequence of Blackstone on APTN features a version of the song.

Spring Awakening has a song titled "And Then There Were None."

The novel by Agatha Christie And Then There Were None is titled after the last line of the derivative minstrel song. Its original title was Ten Little Niggers. The present title is the title under which it was published in American, changed for reasons of cultural sensitivity.

Daemon Hall by Andrew Nance uses an adapted version of Ten Little Indians; each of the contestants is disqualified in a manner described in the beginning of the book. No one, unlike the song, is killed, and there are five contestants rather than ten. The song is also mentioned by several characters throughout the novel.

"Ten Little Indians" is a 1962 single by the Beach Boys, also present on their debut album Surfin' Safari.

In the television series The Walking Dead, a dwindling group is referred to as "Ten Little Indians".

In England's Mickey Mouse Annual No. 6, the song was adapted into the comic "10 Little Mickey Kids", which is considered to possibly be the most violent Disney Comic ever. It depicted 10 little mouse babies who meet an unfortunate end until there are only two left.[6][7]

The opening song on Harry Nilsson's album Pandemonium Shadow Show is an adaption of "Ten Little Indians," though Ten Little Indians (Harry Nilsson song) is about the ten commandments.

Marcy Playground uses a modified version of the modern lyrics as part of their song "Dog and His Master", from their self-titled album.[8]


  1. ^ a b I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 333-4.
  2. ^ P. V. Bohlman and O. Holzapfel, The folk songs of Ashkenaz (A-R Editions, 2001), p. 34.
  3. ^ A. Light, Forever England: femininity, literature, and conservatism between the wars (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 243.
  4. ^ A. Christie, Ten Little Indians (New York: Pocket Books, 1964).
  5. ^ R. Riley, P. McAllister, J. Symonsm B. Cassiday., The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie (Continuum, 2001), pp. 144-5.
  6. ^ http://www.cracked.com/article_20236_6-insane-disney-comics-you-wont-believe-are-real_p2.html?wa_user1=4&wa_user2=Movies+%26+TV&wa_user3=article&wa_user4=recommended
  7. ^ http://www.thadkomorowski.com/2009/02/die-die-die/
  8. ^ http://lyrics.wikia.com/Marcy_Playground:Dog_%26_His_Master

External links[edit]