Frog Went A-Courting

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"Frog Went A-Courtin'"
Roud #16
Written byTraditional
Published1548
WrittenScotland
LanguageEnglish
FormNursery rhyme
 
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This article is about a traditional English folk song. For the 1956 Caldecott Medal-winning book, see Frog Went A-Courtin' (book).
"Frog Went A-Courtin'"
Roud #16
Written byTraditional
Published1548
WrittenScotland
LanguageEnglish
FormNursery rhyme

"Frog Went A-Courtin'" (Roud 16, see alternative titles) is an English language folk song. Its first known appearance is in Wedderburn's Complaynt of Scotland (1548) under the name "The frog came to the myl dur", though this is in Scots rather than English. There is a reference in the London Company of Stationers' Register of 1580 to "A Moste Strange Weddinge of the Frogge and the Mouse." There are many texts of the ballad; however the oldest known musical version is in Thomas Ravenscroft's Melismata in 1611.

Summary[edit]

Frog rides to ask Miss Mouse to marry him. She is willing but must ask permission of Uncle Rat. Other versions such as "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O" by Chubby Parker, Frog fights and kills Miss Mouse's other suitors (an owl, bat and bumblebee) after they interrupt his proposal. Uncle Rat's permission received, the two work out details of the wedding. Some versions end with a cat, snake or other creature devouring the couple and wedding guests. Sometimes Frog gets away, but is later swallowed by a duck. See "Frog Went A-Courting" at Wikisource for one version of the lyrics.

The notes on this song in Cazden et al. (pp. 524–532) constitute probably the best succinct summary available on variants of this piece.

Origin[edit]

Spaeth has a note claiming that the original version of this was supposed to refer to François, Duke of Anjou's wooing of Elizabeth I of England. If the second known version (1611, in Melismata, also reprinted in Chappell) were the oldest, this might be possible — there are seeming political references to "Gib, our cat" and "Dick, our Drake." But the Wedderburn text, which at least anticipates the song, predates the reign of Queen Elizabeth by nine years, and Queen Mary by four. If it refers to any queen at all, it would seemingly have to be Mary Stuart. Evelyn K. Wells, however, in the liner notes to the LP Brave Boys; New England traditions in folk music (New World Records 239, 1977), suggests that the original may have been satirically altered in 1580 when it was recorded in the register of the London Company of Stationers, as this would have been at the height of the unpopular courtship.

Another theory traces the song to Suffolk: "Roley, Poley, Gammon and Spinach" refer to four families of Suffolk notables, Rowley, Poley, Bacon and Green.

Popular culture[edit]

The song has been heard by many people (as "Froggie Went A-Courtin'") in the 1955 Tom and Jerry cartoon Pecos Pest, which uses a version arranged and performed by Shug Fisher, in character as "Uncle Pecos." In Pecos Pest, Jerry's Uncle Pecos stays with him while getting ready for a television appearance, and continues to pluck Tom's whiskers to use as guitar strings throughout the cartoon. It is an improvised version with many lyrics that are unintelligible, and many changed. For example, he stutters and gives up when he tries to say "hickory tree" and says "way down yonder by the--," stammers out the names of several types of trees, finally settling (ironically) on "eucalyptus". He also mentions while continuing the music "That's the hard part right in there, n-n-n-n-nephew!" and "there's a yodel in thar somewhar, but it's a little too high f'r me."

Some refer to this song as "Crambone" as it is repeated at the end of many lines and said more clearly than the other words in this version. For example the line is "Froggie went a-courtin' he did ride/Crambone." Fisher, in character as Pecos, delivers the coda with a glottal stutter on the letter c. Woody Guthrie's version used "Hey-hey," and Bob Dylan's version used "uh-huh" in the same way after several lines.

Other examples in film and TV include:

In 1941, the German composer Paul Hindemith wrote a series of variations "Frog He Went a Courting" for Cello and Piano.

Recordings[edit]

The song has been recorded by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and many others. Folk singer Burl Ives performed perhaps the most well-known and kid-friendly version, in which Frog and Miss Mousie are wed.

Alternative titles[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Ella Mary Leather, Folk-Lore of Herefordshire (1912/republished 1970), pp. 209–210, "The Frog and the Mouse" (2 texts)
  2. H. M. Belden, Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society (1955), pp. 494–499, "The Frog's Courtship" (7 texts in 3 groups, 2 tunes; several of the texts are short, and IB at least appears to be "Kemo Kimo")
  3. Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs (1946–1950), 108, "The Frog's Courtship" (5 texts plus 5 excerpts, 2 tunes)
  4. Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, edited and abridged by Norm Cohen (1982), pp. 139–141, "The Frog's Courtship" (1 text, 1 tune—Randolph's 108A)
  5. The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, Volume Three: Folk Songs from North Carolina (1952), 120, "The Frog's Courtship" (7 texts plus 13 excerpts, 2 fragments, and mention of 5 more; "Kemo Kimo" in appendix)
  6. Arthur Palmer Hudson, Folksongs of Mississippi and their Background (1936), 136, pp. 282–283, "The Frog's Courting" (1 text plus mention of 9 more)
  7. Dorothy Scarborough, A Song Catcher in Southern Mountains (1937), pp. 244–248, "The Frog He Went A-Courting" (3 texts, the first two, with local titles "Frog Went A-Courting" and "Frog Went Courting" and tune on p. 420, are this song; the third item, "The Gentleman Frog," is separate, probably part of the "Kemo Kimo"/"Frog in the Well" family)
  8. Dorothy Scarborough, On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs (1925), pp. 46–48, "Frog Went A-Courtin'"; p. 48, (no title); pp. 48–50, "Mister Frog) (3 texts, 1 tune)
  9. Paul G. Brewster, Ballads and Songs of Indiana (1940), 42, "The Frog Went A-Courting" (5 texts plus an excerpt and mention of 4 more, 3 tunes—one of them of the "Kitty Alone" type)
  10. Mary O. Eddy, Ballads and Song from Ohio (1939), 44, "The Frog and the Mouse" (5 texts, 2 tunes)
  11. Emelyn Elizabeth Gardner and Geraldine Jencks Chickering, Ballads and Songs of Southern Michigan (1939), 189, "The Frog's Courtship" (2 texts plus an exceprt and mention of 5 more, 3 tunes)
  12. Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and Grace Yarrow Mansfield, Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland (1933), 40, "The First Come in it was a Rat" (1 text)
  13. Creighton-Senior, pp. 250–254, "The Frog and the Mouse" (3 texts plus 4 fragments, 2 tunes)
  14. Helen Creighton, Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia (original edition 1932; with added postscript 1966), 89, "It Was a Mouse" (1 text, 1 tune)
  15. Helen Creighton, Folksongs from Southern New Brunswick (1971), 83, "The Frog and the Mouse" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. W. Roy Mackenzie, Ballads and Sea Songs from Nova Scotia (1963), 155, "A Frog He Would a Wooing Go" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. Helen Hartness Flanders and Marguerite Olney, Ballads Migrant in New England (1953), pp. 11–13, "Gentleman Froggie" (1 text, 1 tune)
  18. Eloise Hubbard Linscott, Folk Songs of Old New England (1939), pp. 199–202, "A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go" (1 text, 1 tune)
  19. Peter Kennedy, Folksongs of Britain and Ireland (1975), 294, "The Frog and the Mouse" (1 text, 1 tune)
  20. W. K. McNeil, Southern Folk Ballads, Volume II (1988), pp. 41–43, "Frog Went A-Courtin" (1 text, 1 tune)
  21. Loraine Wyman and Howard Brockway, Lonesome Tunes: Folk Songs from the Kentucky Mountains, Volume I (1916), I, p. 25, "Frog Went A-Courting" (1 text, 1 tune)
  22. Loraine Wyman and Howard Brockway, Lonesome Tunes: Folk Songs from the Kentucky Mountains, Volume I (1916), II, p. 86, "The Toad's Courtship" (1 text, 1 tune)
  23. Edith Fulton Fowke (Literary Editor) and Richard Johnston (Music Editor), Folk Songs of Canada (1954), pp. 170–171, "A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go" (1 text, 1 tune)
  24. Norman Cazden, Herbert Haufrecht, Norman Studer, Folk Songs of the Catskills (1982), 142, "Missie Mouse" (1 text, 1 tune)
  25. Cecil Sharp & Maud Karpeles, 80 English Folk Songs (1968), 75, "The Frog and the Mouse" (1 text, 1 tune—a composite version)
  26. Carl Sandburg, The American Songbag (1927), p. 143, "Mister Frog Went A-Courting" (1 text, 1 tune)
  27. John Anthony Scott, The Ballad of America (1966), pp. 339–341, "The Mouse's Courting Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  28. Moses Asch, Josh Dunson and Ethel Raim, Anthology of American Folk Music (1973), p. 32 "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O" (1 text, 1 tune)
  29. John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs (1934), pp. 310–313, "Frog Went A-Courtin'" (1 text, 1 tune)
  30. B. A. Botkin, A Treasury of New England Folklore (1965), pp. 571–572, "The Frog in the Spring" (1 text, 1 tune)
  31. B. A. Botkin, A Treasury of Southern Folklore (1949; reprinted 1977), p. 722, "Frog Went A-Courting" (1 text, 1 tune)
  32. Pete Seeger, American Favorite Ballads: Tunes and Songs as sung by Pete Seeger (1961), p. 56, "Froggie Went A-Courtin'" (1 text, 1 tune)
  33. Marcia and Jon Pankake, A Prairie Home Companion Folk Song Book (1988), pp. 48–49, "Froggie Went A-Courting" (1 text)
  34. John Harrington Cox, Folk Songs of the South (1925), 162, "The Frog and the Mouse" (3 texts plus mention of two more including some excerpts, 1 tune)
  35. JHCoxIIB, #22A-E, pp. 174–182, "Mr. Mouse Went A-Courting," "The Frog and the Mouse," "Frog Went A-Courting," "A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go" (3 texts plus 2 fragments, 5 tunes)
  36. Iona and Peter Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1997), 175, "A frog he would a-wooing go" (3 texts)
  37. William S. Baring-Gould and Ceil Baring-Gould, The Annotated Mother Goose (1962), #69, pp. 77–79, "(There was a frog liv'd in a well)" (a complex composite with a short version of "Frog Went A-Courting" plus enough auxiliary verses to make an almost complete "Kemo Kimo" text)
  38. William Chappell, Old English Popular Music. Revised by H. Ellis Wooldridge (1893), I, pp. 142–143, "The Wedding of the Frog and Mouse" (1 text, 1 tune)
  39. Fred and Irwin Silber, Folksinger's Wordbook (1973), p. 403, "Frog Went A-Courtin'" (1 text)
  40. W. Bruce Olson, "Broadside Ballad Index: Incomplete Contents Listing of 17th Century Broadside Ballad Collections, With a Few Ballads and Garlands of the 18th Century.", ZN3249, "It was a frog in a well"
  41. Dick Greenhaus & Susan Friedman (editors), "The Digital Tradition", 306, FRGCORT2* PUDDYWL2
  42. Roud Folk Song Index #16

External links[edit]