There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly"
Song
LanguageEnglish
Released1953 by Burl Ives on Brunswick Records
GenreChildren's rhyme, nonsense song
Songwriter(s)Rose Bonne and Alan Mills

"There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" (alternatively "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly", "There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly" and "I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly") is a children's rhyme and nonsense song of a kind known as cumulative.

The song tells the nonsensical story of an old woman who swallows increasingly large animals, each to catch the previously swallowed animal, but dies after swallowing a horse. There are many variations of phrasing in the lyrics, especially for the description of swallowing each animal.

Three versions, from different parts of the United States (Colorado, Georgia and Ohio), appear in the December 1947 edition of the journal Hoosier Folklore. The editor calls it a "cumulative tale", and asks readers for information on its origins.[1] All three versions begin with a lady swallowing the fly and end with her dying after swallowing a horse, but there are variations in what animals are swallowed and the rhymes for each animal.

The definitive version[further explanation needed] was written by Rose Bonne (lyrics) and Canadian/English folk artist Alan Mills and copyrighted in 1952. At that time it was entitled simply "I Know an Old Lady."[2] A widely distributed version of the song was released on Brunswick Records in 1953, where it was sung by Burl Ives. Ives' rendition appears on his album, Folk Songs, Dramatic and Humorous—which debuted in late summer, 1953.[3] According to the album liner notes, the song was "derived from an old ballad", rewritten by Alan Mills, and passed to Ives by Edith Fowke of CBC Radio.[4] The 1961 illustrated book by Rose Bonne also indicates that the lyrics are hers, whereas the music was composed by Alan Mills.[5][6][non-primary source needed][7]

Lyrics[edit]

The following is one form of the lyrics, that are representative of the nature of this cumulative lyric:

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly;

I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her!

She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!

There was an old lady who swallowed a bird;
How absurd to swallow a bird!

She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her!
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!

There was an old lady who swallowed a cat;
Imagine that! She swallowed a cat!

She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her!
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!

There was an old lady that swallowed a dog;
What a hog, to swallow a dog!

She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her!
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!

There was an old lady who swallowed a goat;
She just opened her throat and swallowed a goat!

She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her!
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow;
I don't know how she swallowed a cow!

She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her!
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she’ll die!

There was an old lady who swallowed a horse;

...She's dead, of course![8]

In other media[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Martin, Lee; McIntosh, Eva H.; Newcomb, Mildred (December 1947). "The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly". Hoosier Folklore. 6 (4): 153–156. JSTOR 27649913.
  2. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 6, Part 5B, No. 1, January–June, 1952 (US Copyright Office), p. 86. The submission date is given as March 28, 1952. The 1954 edition relists it, providing the same date and giving Alan Mills as a pseudonym for Albert Miller.
  3. ^ Decca DL 5467, reviewed in Billboard, September 12, 1953, p. 36. The record label also indicates the Mills-Bonne credit.
  4. ^ Liner notes for Folk Songs Dramatic and Humorous, Decca DL 5467. Retrieved 4 May 2022
  5. ^ M.B.K. (1961-11-12). "Songs with Pictures [review of I Know an Old Lady, "words by Rose Bonne; music by Alan Mills; illustrated by Abner Graboff…"]" (children's book review). Chicago Sunday Tribune, Magazine of Books (Books for Children). No. Part 4, Section 2. Chicago, IL: Chicago Tribune. p. 34, col. 3. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  6. ^ Bonne, Rose (1961). I Know an Old Lady. Alan Mills, music; Abner Graboff, illustrations. Skokie, IL: Rand McNally.
  7. ^ For a further example remaining in print, see Adams, Pam (1973). There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly. Classic books with holes. Swindon, UK: Child's Play (International). ISBN 0859530213. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  8. ^ Rhymes.org Staff (2016-06-09). "There was an Old Lady nursery song lyrics". rhymes.org.uk. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes (Little and Big) - Smithsonian Folkways". Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
  10. ^ "Animals, Vol.1 - Smithsonian Folkways". Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
  11. ^ "1998 Caldecott Medal and Honor Books". American Library Association.
  12. ^ "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly". BookTrust. One of the Classic Books-with-Holes that have been around for 30 years.
  13. ^ JUDY COLLINS - "Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly" Muppet Show 1977 on YouTube
  14. ^ Jim Henson (21 June 2012). "6/21/1977 – 'Judy Collins (MS)'". Jim Henson's Red Book.
  15. ^ "There was a young woman who swallowed a lie". Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance archives. Duke University.
  16. ^ "Pete Seeger - The Smithsonian Folkways Collection" (PDF). Smithsonian Folkways. 2019.
  17. ^ "Flipper - Sex Bomb Baby!". Discogs. Discogs. Retrieved 2022-03-13.
  18. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Flipper - Sex Bomb Baby!". AllMusic. Netaktion LLC. Retrieved 2022-03-13.

External links[edit]