The Farmer in the Dell

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"The Farmer in the Dell"
Nursery rhyme
Published 1820
Songwriter(s) Unknown

"The Farmer in the Dell" is a singing game, nursery rhyme and children's song. It probably originated in Germany, and was brought to North America by immigrants.[1] From there it spread to many other nations and is popular in a number of languages. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 6306.

Lyrics[edit]

Lyrics vary even within the same country. The following is a common version in the United States:

The farmer in the dell (2x)
Hi-ho,[2] the derry-o
The farmer in the dell

The farmer takes a wife (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The farmer takes a wife

The wife takes the child (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The wife takes the child

The child takes the nurse (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The child takes the nurse

The nurse takes the cow (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The nurse takes the cow

The cow takes the dog (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The cow takes the dog

The dog takes the cat (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The dog takes the cat

The cat takes the mouse (or rat) (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The cat takes the mouse(or rat)

The mouse (or rat) takes the cheese (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The mouse (or rat) takes the cheese

The cheese stands alone (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The cheese stands alone

The UK variant has the nurse and the dog, it ends by patting the dog.[citation needed]

Bugs are Really Swell

Bugs are Really Swell (2×) Nothing to be scared of because bugs are really swell

Bugs help flowers grow Bugs make honey to eat Bugs turn into butterflies 'cause bugs are really neat

(repeat twice)

Leapfrog Letter Factory A-Z


The A says "Ah!" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The A says Ah!

The B says "Buh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The B says "Buh"

The C says "Cuh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The C says "Cuh"

The D says "Duh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The D says "Duh"

The E says "Eh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The E says "Eh"

The F says "Fff" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The F says "fff"

The G says "Guh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The G says "Guh"

The H says "huh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The H says "huh"

The I says "ih" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The I says "ih"

The J says "jeh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The J says "jeh"

The K says "Kuh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The K says "Kuh"

The L says "L-l-l!" Every letter makes a sound The L says "L-l-l!"

The M says "Mmm" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The M says "Mmm"

The N says "Nnn" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The N says "Nnn"

The O says "Oh!" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The O says "Oh!"

The P says "Puh!" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The P says "Puh!"

The Q says "Qua" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The Q says "Qua"

The R says "R-r-r" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The R says "R-r-r"

The S says "Sss" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The S says "Sss"

The T says "Tuh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The T says "Tuh"

The U says "Uhh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The U says "Uhh"

The V says "Vv" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The V says "Vv"

The W says "Wuh Wuh Wuh" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The W says "Wuh Wuh Wuh"

The X says "Xs" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The X says "Xs"

The Y says "Ye" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The Y says "Ye"

The Z says "Zzz" (2×) Every letter makes a sound The Z says "Zzz"

Origins and dissemination[edit]

The rhyme is first recorded in Germany in 1826, as "Es fuhr ein Bau'r ins Holz," and was more clearly a courtship game with a farmer choosing a wife, then in turn the selecting of a child, maid, and serving man, who leaves the maid after kissing.[1] This was probably taken to North America by German immigrants, where it next surfaced in New York City in 1883 much in its modern form and using a melody similar to "A Hunting We Will Go".[1] From here it seems to have been adopted throughout the United States, Canada (noted from 1893), the Netherlands (1894) and Great Britain; it is first found in Scotland in 1898 and England from 1909. In the early twentieth century it was evident as wide as France ("Le fermier dans son pré"), Sweden ("En bonde i vår by"), Australia, and South Africa.[1]

A dell is a wooded valley. In the Dutch language, the word deel means, among other things, the workspace in a farmer's barn. The use of dell in this song may be a bastardisation of this term.[citation needed]

Variations[edit]

Like most children's songs, there are geographic variations.

In the United Kingdom the first line is frequently changed to "The Farmer's in his den". The rhyme progresses through the farmer being in the dell/his den, his desire for a wife, hers for a child, its for a nurse, a dog, ending with a bone, ending in: "we all pat the dog". Every player then pats the one picked as the dog.[1] The 'Hi-Ho, the derry-o' is variously replaced with "Ee-i, tiddly-i" in London, 'Ee-i, adio', 'Ee-i, andio' or 'Ee-i, entio', (in Northern England), and 'Ee-i, ee-i' (for instance in the West Country).[1]

The Romanian language version is "Țăranul e pe câmp" (The farmer is on the field) but the hey-o is replaced with "Ura, drăguţa mea" (Hooray, my sweet heart) and the last verses are – the child has a nurse, the nurse has a cat, the cat catches a mouse, the mouse eats a cheese, the cheese was in a cask, the cask is in the garbage, the farmer to choose.

There is also a Thai version to the same tune but with a slightly different story. The three verses roughly translate to "Why does the frog have a stomach ache? Why does the frog have a stomach ache? Because he has been eating wet rice. Why is the rice wet? Why is the rice wet? Because it has been raining. Why has it been raining? Why has it been raining? Because the frog has been croaking."[citation needed]

The song was published as an illustrated children's book by David R. Godine, Publisher in 2004.

Game[edit]

The players form a circle holding hands around one who is designated as the farmer, singing the first verse while moving around. When the verse is over they stop and the farmer makes his choice of a wife (sometimes without looking). The wife joins him in the center for her verse and so through the verses until either the cheese or dog is selected or only one person is left to become the last character. They usually become the farmer for the next round.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The book I Am the Cheese revolves around this rhyme.
  • In the television show The Wire Omar Little commonly whistles "The Farmer in the Dell". This has inspired references in other series:
    • In season 8, episode 8 of How I Met Your Mother, Lily Aldrin whistles the tune during a flashback to her being intimidating in high school.
    • In season 1, episode 11 of The Magicians, The Beast whistles the tune before going on a rampage.
    • The cyborg villain Tenaya 7 on Power Rangers RPM whistles "A-Hunting We Will Go", which has the same melody, when she is hunting her enemies.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g I. Opie and P. Opie, The Singing Game (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 183-9.
  2. ^ William Wells Newell (1883). William Wells Newell, ed. Games and songs of American children, collected and compared by W.W. Newell. Harper and Brothers. pp. 129–30. Retrieved 2 August 2012.