When the Ice Worms Nest Again

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When the Ice Worms Nest Again
Folk ballad

"When the Ice Worms Nest Again" is a humorous Canadian folk ballad.


The song originated in northern British Columbia and the Yukon, possibly during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.[1] It was first published in the Yellowknife Prospector in 1939, which claimed that the song was written in 1919 by four men working in the Yukon.[2] Scottish-Canadian poet Robert W. Service also published a ballad with this name in Twenty Bath-Tub Ballads, 1939, claiming that he had written the song in 1911;[2] however, Service's ballad is significantly different from the traditional lyrics.[3] There are many other versions that exist.[1]

It has become the theme song for silver miners in Cobalt, Ontario and fur trappers in The Pas, Manitoba.[1]


The song describes a romance between the narrator and a "husky dusky maiden" in the Canadian Arctic.[1]

The "ice worms" referenced are not actual ice worms (genus Mesenchytraeus), which the original authors probably would not have known existed. Instead, it refers to "ice worm cocktails", the practice of drawing eyes on pieces of spaghetti and putting it into a cocktail to frighten travellers. This practice was described by, and may have even originated with, Robert Service's poem "The Ballad of the Ice-worm Cocktail".[4][2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g "When the Ice Worms Nest Again". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e Waltz, Robert B. "When the Ice Worms Nest Again". The Traditional Ballad Index Version 3.8. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  3. ^ Fowke, Edith; Johnston, Richard (1954). Folk Songs of Canada. Waterloo Music Company. pp. 186-88.
  4. ^ Service, Robert W. (1940). "The Ballad of the Ice-Worm Cocktail". Bar-Room Ballads. Toronto: Reginald Saunders.
  5. ^ "When the Ice Worms Nest Again". Smithsonian Folkways. Retrieved 15 March 2016.