Ten Little Indians

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

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


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.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Musical)[edit]

Ten little Indians standing in a line
One got executed then there were nine
Nine little Indians haven't long to wait
One got syphilis and then there were eight
Eight little Indians trying to get to heaven
One found Jesus and then there were seven
Goodnight, goodnight
Goodnight, goodnight
Goodnight, goodnight
Seven little Indians playing pick up sticks
One got burned real bad and then there were six
Six little Indians running to survive
One kicked the bucket and then there were five
Five little Indians banging on the door
One got in and then there were four
Goodnight, goodnight
Goodnight, goodnight
Goodnight, goodnight
Four little Indians hiding in a tree
One passed out drunk and then there were three
Three little Indians not much left to do
One left for Mexico and then there were two
Two little Indians playing with a gun
One got shot and then there was one.
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight
One little Indian nothing to be done
He went and hanged himself and then there were none.


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

It is generally thought that this song was adapted, possibly by Frank J. Green in 1869, as "Ten Little Niggers", though it is possible that the influence was the other way round, with "Ten Little Niggers" being a close reflection of the text that became "Ten Little Indians". Either way, "Ten Little Niggers" 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]

Variants of this song have been published widely as children's books; what the variants have in common is 'that they are about dark-skinned boys who are always children, never learning from experience'.[4] For example, it had been published in Holland by 1913; in Denmark by 1922 (in Börnenes billedbog); in Iceland in 1922 (as Negrastrákarnir); and in Finland in the 1940s (in Kotoa ja kaukaa: valikoima runosatuja lapsille and Hupaisa laskukirja).[5] The Bengali poem Haradhon er Dosti Chhele (Haradhon's Ten Sons) is also inspired from Ten Little Indians.

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.

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 America, changed for reasons of cultural sensitivity.

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

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]

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.

One of German punk band Die Toten Hosen's greatest hits is an adaptation called "Zehn kleine Jägermeister" ("Ten Little Jägermeisters"), which is included on their 1996 album Opium fürs Volk. The music video features ten deer (part of the logo of the Jägermeister alcohol beverage) being killed or waylaid in a variety of ways while human characters consume copious quantities of alcohol.


  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; Kristín Loftsdóttir. 2011. ‘Racist Caricatures in Iceland in the 19th and the 20th Century’, in Iceland and Images of the North, edited by S.R. Ísleifsson. Québec: Prologue Inc, 187–204 (pp. 192--93).
  3. ^ A. Light, Forever England: femininity, literature, and conservatism between the wars (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 243.
  4. ^ Kristín Loftsdóttir. 2011. ‘Racist Caricatures in Iceland in the 19th and the 20th Century’, in Iceland and Images of the North, edited by S.R. Ísleifsson. Québec: Prologue Inc, 187–204 (p. 193).
  5. ^ Kristín Loftsdóttir. 2011. ‘Racist Caricatures in Iceland in the 19th and the 20th Century’, in Iceland and Images of the North, edited by S.R. Ísleifsson. Québec: Prologue Inc, 187–204 (pp. 193, 196).
  6. ^ cracked.com

External links[edit]