> Frankie Armstrong > Songs > The Frog and the Mouse
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The Frog and the Mouse / Froggy's Courting

[ Roud 16 ; Master title: The Frog and the Mouse ; G/D 8:1669 ; Ballad Index R108 ; MusTrad DB30 ; VWML SBG/3/1/883 ; Bodleian Roud 16 ; GlosTrad Roud 16 ; Wiltshire 798 ; Mudcat 37522 , 145654 ; trad.]

Katherine Campbell: Songs from North-East Scotland Paul and Liz Davenport: Down Yorkshire Lanes Inglis Gundry: Canow Kernow Alan Helsdon: Vaughan Williams in Norfolk Volume 2 Roy Palmer: Room for Company James Reeves: The Everlasting Circle Steve Roud, Julia Bishop: The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs Peggy Seeger, Ewan MacColl: The Singing Island

Chubby Parker and his Old Time Band recorded King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O on 23 August 1928. This was originally issued on an 78 rpm shellac record, and was included in 1952 on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music on Folkways, and in 2015 on the anthology of British songs in the USA, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.

Robert Russell of Marion, Virginia, sang Froggie Went A-Courtin' to Sidney Robertson on 14 November 1936. This recording was included in 1978 on the Blue Ridge Institute album in their Virginia Traditions series, Ballads from British Tradition. The album's booklet noted:

Froggie Went a-Courtin', also called The Frog's Courtship and Frog's Wooing in folksong collections, has been collected all over the South and remains one of the most popular children's folk songs. Brown gives 27 versions from North Carolina, Sharp found at least 11 (one from Virginia), and Cox lists 7 texts from West Virginia. One of the main differences among the many versions is the refrain. Most are similar to the version here-an “uh huh” following the first and third lines-but many versions have a more elaborate refrain, usually similar to “rain down bonny mish ki-me-oh”. It is possible that this longer refrain became attached to the song after its reworking as a blackface minstrel song in about 1850. One version of this minstrel variation collected in oral tradition begins:

Way down South where the n****rs grow
Sing song kitchie kitchie ki-me-O.

This minstrel variation has, in turn, reentered oral tradition as a children's song. Modern parodies of the song and tune abound; the tune is currently being used as an advertising jingle for a popular pancake syrup, replete with the “uh huh” refrain.

Perhaps because this song was used in blackface minstrel shows, it had at one time at least limited currency in Black music tradition; of the 36 versions collected by the Virginia Folklore Society and listed in Folk-Songs of Virginia, at least two were learned by whites from “Negro mammies”. For more complete references to the history and range of this song in both England and America, see Brown, Vol III, p. 154.

Robert, Sam Russell's grandson, performs in a very natural, understated style. His father, Joe Russell, was a well known fiddle player in the Marion area and, together with Sam (playing dulcimer or fife), Robert, and Worley Rolling (playing banjo), he performed as a member of a string band. Robert worked in one of the local furniture factories and died in about 1972. Throughout the years he played with many groups and performed over several radio stations in the area.

Maud Long of Hot Springs, North Carolina, sang A Frog Went A-Courting in September 1950 to Maud Karpeles. This recording was included in 2017 on the Musical Traditions anthology When Cecil Left the Mountains. Mike Yates and Rod Stradling noted:

A text for this song can be found in Wedderbiurn's Complaynt of Scotland in 1548, where it was titled The Frog Came to the Myl Dur. In 1580 the Stationer's Company in London listed it as A Moste Strange Weddinge of the Frogge and the Mouse, but it was not until 1611 that we find a musical version—in Thomas Ravenscroft's Melismata. It is one of those songs which has provoked suggestions that there may be more to it than first meets the eye, could the ‘mouse’ be no other than Mary Queen of Scots, for example? Unfortunately such suggestions are often speculative and, in this case, there is little actual evidence to confirm such ideas.

Elizabeth Cronin of County Cork sang The Frog and the Mouse on 7 August 1948 for the BBC recording 11989. An 1951 recording of her titled Uncle Rat was included in 2021 on the ITMA anthology of field recordings made by Alan Lomax in 1951, The New Demesne.

Adolphus Le Rue of Bonne Nuit, Jersey, Elizabeth Cronin of Ballyvourney, County Cork, Annik Paterson of Tob, Orkney, and Albert Beale of Kenardington, Kent sang The Frog and the Mouse in recordings made by Peter Kennedy in the 1950s. He mixed them together for a track on the album Songs of Animals and Other Marvels (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 10; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970).

Cecilia Costello sang The Frog and the Mouse in a BBC recording made by Maria Slocombe in Birmingham on 16 January 1954. This was published in 1975 on her Leader album Cecilia Costello: Recordings from the Sound Archives of the BBC. Roy Palmer noted:

BBC 19929 (Back, bands 2&3); recorded 16.1.1954. The Frog and the Mouse and The Cruel Mother were the two songs re-recorded by Marie Slocombe on her second visit in 1954. Mrs. Costello's earlier performance, recorded on 30.11.1951, is on BBC 17034 (front). On that occasion she omitted the third verse.

This ballad dates back at least to the mid-sixteenth century. Mrs. Costello has a fragmentary text, coupled with a very lively tune.

Ewan MacColl sang There Was a Puggie in a Well and Peggy Seeger sang Froggie Went A-Courtin' in 1957 on their Riverside album Matching Songs of the British Isles and America. Kenneth S. Goldstein noted:

This is perhaps the most widely known nursery song throughout the English-speaking world. It has been suggested that the song served as a satirist's bard during the reign of Queen Bess. The frog was the French Duc d'Alencon, whom the queen was supposed to marry. The animals (many more of which are found in other variants) are said to have referred to the queen's habit of giving her courtiers animal nicknames. It is a known fact that the marriage was a highly unpopular one in Britain and well suited for lampooning. When interest in the incident subsided, the song returned to the nursery and its political connotations were slowly forgotten. The earliest mention of the song appears in Wedderburn's Complaynt of Scotland (1549). An entry dated 21 November 1580, under the title of A Moste Strange Weddinge of the Frogge and the Mouse, was reported by Hyder E. Rollins in his Analytical Index to the Ballad Entries in the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London (1924). The Scottish version sung by MacColl was learned from his father. Miss Seeger's version was one she has known all her life, and is sung to a melody learned from a recording made by Robert Russell of Marion, Virginia.

Pete Seeger sang The Frog and the Mouse at Manchester's Free Trade Hall in February 1964. A recording of this concert was released in 2016 on the Fellside anthology Pete Seeger in England.

Packie Byrne sang The Frog's Wedding in 1969 on his eponymous EFDSS album Packie Byrne.

Dave Hillery sang The Frog and the Mouse in 1972 on the Topic/Impact anthology of folk songs festive and sociable, Room for Company, which accompanied Roy Palmer's 1971 book of the same name.

Frankie Armstrong sang The Frog and the Mouse in 1972 on her Topic album Lovely on the Water. A.L. Lloyd noted:

Shepherds sing a version of it in Wedderburn's CompIaynt of Scotland (1549), and it was licensed as a blackletter ballad in 1580. Some say the blackletter was a remake of the older song, as a satire on the Duc d'Alencon's tentative courtship of Elizabeth I, but there's no firm evidence. Anyway, with little alteration of the verses, though with various changes in the refrain, the song has been a nursery and grown-ups' favourite ever since. The clown Grimaldi had a Music Hall success with it, during the first half of the nineteenth century, and the mad French artist Grandville made an astonishingly beautiful set of magic lantern slides, based on his version. A modern set ends: “But Nature ordered: As you were! Now we shan't have tadpoles covered in fur.”

Frankie's version comes from the old Birmingham singer, Mrs. Cecilia Costello.

Johina J. Leith of Stenness, Orkney Mmainland sang Mister Frog to Alan Bruford in 1973 (SA 1973-77-A2). This recording was included in 2004 on the Greentrax anthology Orkney: Land, Sea & Community (Scottish Tradition 21). Nancy Cassell McEntire noted:

Mrs. Leith knew many songs and other fine examples of Orkney lore. She heard this song from her aunt, who had heard it from a friend in Birsay. This version is likely American in origin, Alan Bruford writes, as evidenced by the refrain “M-hm” and references to “… Presidents, bears, big snakes and indeed oak trees, none of them usually found in Orkney. It may have come over with one of the many Orcadians who went to the Canadian ‘Nor'-Wast’ with the Hudson's Bay Company, or a merchant seaman who had sailed with Americans.”

Freda Palmer from Leafield in West Oxfordshire sang A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go to Mike Yates on 10 June 1977. This recording was included in 2018 on her Musical Traditions anthology Leafield Lass. Rod Stradling noted:

This children's song was but the remaining stub of a satirical ballad which probably dates back at least to the mid-sixteenth century. Sigmund Spaeth has a note claiming that the original version was supposed to refer to François, Duke of Anjou's wooing of Elizabeth I of England. Evelyn K Wells, however, 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 this unpopular courtship. But the Wedderburn text, which at least anticipates the song, predates the reign of Queen Elizabeth by nine years, and Queen Mary by four. So, if it refers to any queen at all, it would seemingly have to be Mary Stuart.

The Frog and the Mouse has a remarkable 765 Roud entries, mostly from North America, although over half of them refer to printed sources. Only about 60% of the entries carry a date (the earliest being 1851), so it's reasonable to suggest that none of the named singers would have had any idea of what the ballad was originally about. There are 62 entries for England, and only 22 Scottish and 11 Irish ones.

Cecilia Costello had a fragmentary text of this normally rather longer children's song, known all over the anglophone world, which goes by dozens of different titles—almost all of which mention a frog and a mouse—although her song doesn't mention a frog at all.

Other recordings: Martha Hall (KY) on Mountain Music of Kentucky, Smithsonian-Folkways SF CD 40077; both Jean Ritchie (KY) and Seamus Ennis (Ireland) on Jean Ritchie: Field Trip, Greenhays GR726. Also John Alexander Brown's 1939 Library of Congress recording from Mississippi (tune only) can be heard on Document DOCD-8071.

Tim Hart sang Froggy's Courting in 1983 on Tim Hart and Friends' album Drunken Sailor and Other Kids Songs. This track was later included on their compilation CD Favourite Nursery Rhymes and Other Children's Songs.

Sara Grey sang The Frog's Wedding in 1998 on her Waterbug CD Back in the Airly Days. She noted:

An Irish version of a very old children's song from a most amazing singer from Boho in County Fermanagh, Annie McKenzie.

Marilyn Tucker and Paul Wilson sang The Frog and the Mouse in 2008 on their WildGoose album of traditional songs from Devon and Cornwall from the collection of Sabine Baring-Gould, Dead Maid's Land. They noted:

Delighting children and adults alike for centuries, here is the full story of Froggie Went A-Courting/Anthony Rowley that Sam Fone of Lewdown gave to Baring-Gould [ VWML SBG/3/1/883 ] . The tune is very complete and beautiful and the song has resonances of the Elizabethan England in which it was published.

Sandra Kerr sang The Frog and the Mouse in 2009 on her Fellside/Smallfolk album of children's songs, ‘Hi!’ Said the Elephant.

Megson sang A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go on their 2012 album of children's folk songs, When I Was a Lad….

Brian Peters and Jeff Davis sang A Frog He Went A-Courting in 2013 on their album of traditional songs and music from the collection made by Cecil Sharp in the Appalachian Mountains between 1916 and 1918, Sharp's Appalachian Harvest.

Jess and Richard Arrowsmith sang A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go in 2014 on their second album of nursery songs, rhymes and lullabies, Off We Go Again!.

The Macmath Collective sang Linkum in 2015 on their album of songs collected by William Macmath in Scotland, MacMath: The Silent Page.

Bill and the Belles sang Mr Frog Went A-Courtin' on the 2017 Appalachian ballad tradition anthology Big Bend Killing.

Helen Diamond sang The Frog's Wedding on her 2018 eponymous first album Helen Diamond. She noted:

Another old favourite, this song manages to be playful, funny and dark at once, in the way of many traditional Irish children's songs. I learned this version from the Seán Corcoran collection Here Is a Health, sung by Annie MacKenzie from County Fermanagh.

Hedy West sang Frog Went Courting on her posthumous 2018 Fledg'ling album From Granmaw and Me, which draws upon material learned from her maternal Grandmother, Lillie West, songs that had migrated from Britain to the USA during the 17th to 19th century.

Jeff Warner sang A Frog He Went A-Courting in 2018 on his WildGoose CD Roam the Country Through. He noted:

This old English song goes back to at least 1580, and there is much speculation that the “mouse” could be Queen Elizabeth I; others say perhaps Mary Queen of Scots. This version was collected in the mountains of Kentucky in 1917 by English song collector Cecil Sharp. I learned it in the 1980s from a charming singer—and renowned arts administrator—Dick Lewis of Portland, Oregon.

Andy Turner sang King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O as the 5 April 2019 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. He learned the song from Chubby Parker singing it on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music.

Lyrics

Robert Russell sings Froggie Went A-Courtin'

Froggie went a-courtin' and he did ride, uh huh.
Froggie went a-courtin ' and he did ride, uh huh.
Froggie went a-courtin' and he did ride,
Sword and pistol by his side. uh huh.

Froggie says, Mousie will you marry me? uh huh.
Froggie says, Mousie willyou marry me? uh huh.
Froggie says, Mousie will you marry me
Way down yonder in the hollow tree? uh huh.

Not without Mr. Rat's consent. uh huh.
Not without Mr. Rat 's consent. uh huh.
Not without Mr. Rat's consent,
I wouldn't marry the president. uh huh.

Where will the wedding supper be? uh huh.
Where will the wedding supper be? uh huh.
Where will the wedding supper be?
Way down yonder in a holler tree, uh huh.

What will the wedding supper be? uh huh.
What will the wedding supper be? uh huh.
What will the wedding supper be?
Two big beans and a black-eyed pea, uh huh.

Little piece of corn bread laying on a shelf, uh huh.
Little piece of corn bread laying on a shelf, uh huh.
Little piece of corn bread laying on a shelf
If you want any more Lord you'll sing it for yourself.

Maud Long sings A Frog Went A-Courting

Froggy went a-courting, he did ride, hmm-hmm
Froggy went a-courting he did ride
Sword and a pistol by his side, hmm-hmm

Rode right up to Miss Mouse's door, hmm-hmm
Rode right up to Miss Mouse's door
Where he never had been before, hmm-hmm

Said, “Miss Mousy won't you marry me, hmm-hmm”
Said, “Miss Mousy won't you marry me”
“Not unless Uncle Rat will agree, hmm-hmm”

Uncle rat went a-riding down to town. Hmm-hmm
Uncle rat went a-riding down to town
To buy his niece a wedding gown, hmm-hmm

“Oh where shall the wedding supper be, hmm-hmm
Oh where shall the wedding supper be”
“Way down yonder in a holler tree, hmm-hmm”

“Oh what shall the wedding supper be, hmm-hmm
Oh what shall the wedding supper be”
“Two green beans and a black-eyed pea, hmm-hmm”

The first come in was a bumble bee, hmm-hmm
The first come in was a bumble bee
He raised his fiddle on his knee, hmm-hmm

The next come in was an old fat goose, hmm-hmm
The next come in was an old fat goose
[?] fiddle and she cut loose, hmm-hmm

The next come in was an old fat cat, hmm-hmm
The next come in was an old fat cat
He said “I'll put a stop to that”

Chased Miss Mousey up the wall, hmm-hmm
Chased Miss Mousey up the wall
Her foot slipped and she got a fall, hmm-hmm

Mr Frog went a-hopping down to the lake, hmm-hmm
Mr Frog went a-hopping down to the lake
And he was swallowed by a big black snake, hmm-hmmm

Cecilia Costello sings The Frog and the Mouse

There was a rat that lived in a well,
    I O ransome—diddy—dum,
And a merry mouse in the mill,
    Raddledy—umbo—dairy.

Oh lady mouse are you within?
Oh yes, kind sir, I'm learning to spin.

Oh lady mouse will you be wed?
Oh when will you lose your maidenhead?

Oh master rat is not at home
And I musn't wed until he comes home.

Frankie Armstrong sings The Frog and the Mouse

There was a frog who lived in a well,
    Hi ho, ransom derry-down,
And a merry mouse in the mill,
    Rattle-dy dump o'leary.

This frog he would a-wooin' ride
With sword and buckler by his side.

So off he went in his opera hat,
And on the road he met with a rat.

And when they came to Miss Mousie's door
They gave a loud knock and they gave a loud call.

Oh Missy Mouse, are you within?
Oh yes, kind sir, I'm learning to spin.

Oh Missy Mouse, will you be wed?
Oh when will you lose your maidenhead?

Oh Missy Mouse, will you sing us a song,
One that is pretty but not very long.

Oh Missy Mouse, will you draw us some beer
That we may sit down and have good cheer.

And as these three were a merry-making
The cat and the kittens come tumblin' in.

The cat, she seized the rat by the crown,
The kittens, they tumbled the little mouse down.

This put the frog in a terrible fright,
So he picked up his hat and he wished them good night.

But just as he was crossing the brook
The lily-white duck came and gobbled him up.

So that was the end of one, two, and three,
The rat, the frog and the little Mousie.

Johina J. Leith sings Mister Frog

Mister Frog went out to ride, M-hm,
Mister Frog went out to ride,
His sword and his pistol by his side, M-hm.

Mister Frog went to Mousie's door, M-hm,
Mister Frog went to Mousie's door,
And said, “Miss Mouse, will you open your door?” M-hm.

And said, “Miss Mouse, will you marry me?” M-hm.
And said, “Miss Mouse, will you marry me,
And sit forever on my knee?” M-hm.

“Oh how can I marry the President, M-hm,
Oh how can I marry the President,
Without my Uncle Rat's consent?” M-hm.

So off they went to the parlour, M-hm,
So off they went to the parlour
To get their Uncle Rat's consent, M-hm.

The weddeen day dawned bright and clear, M-hm,
The weddeen day dawned bright and clear:
The guests were all to assemble there, M-hm.

The first that came was a great big bear, M-hm,
The first that came was a great big bear
And he filled up the old armchair, M-hm.

The next that came was a great big snake, M-hm,
The next that came was a great big snake
And he ate up the weddeen cake, M-hm.

The next that came was a great big cat, M-hm,
The next that came was a great big cat
And he ate up poor Uncle Rat, M-hm.

Now was not that a catastrophe, M-hm,
Now was not that a catastrophe,
What happened in the old oak tree? M-hm.

Freda Palmer sings A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go

A frog he would a-wooing go
Hey ho said Roly
A frog he would a-wooing go
Whether his mother would let him or no
With a roly poly gammon and spinach
Hey ho said Anthony Roly

So off he sat with his opera hat
Hey ho said Roly
And on the way he met with a rat
With a roly poly gammon and spinach
Hey ho said Anthony Roly

Soon they came to Mouse's hall
Hey ho said Roly
And there they did both knock and call
With a roly poly gammon and spinach
Hey ho said Anthony Roly

“Pray Mrs Mouse are you within?”
Hey ho said Roly
“Yes, kind sir, I'm sitting to spin”
With a roly poly gammon and spinach
Hey ho said Anthony Roly

So as they sat down a merry-making
Hey ho said Roly
A cat and his kittens came tumbling in
With a roly poly gammon and spinach
Hey ho said Anthony Roly

The cat she sank with the best of the crowd
After the kittens they pulled the little mouse down
With a roly poly gammon and spinach
Hey ho said Anthony Roly

Then Mr Frog in a terrible fright
Hey ho said Roly
He picked up his hat and he wished them goodnight
With a roly poly gammon and spinach
Hey ho said Anthony Roly

Mr Frog he was coursing over the brook
Hey ho said Roly
A lily white duck came and gobbled him up
With a roly poly gammon and spinach
Hey ho said Anthony Roly

So that is the end of one two and three Hey ho said Roly The rat, the mouse and the little froggie With a roly poly gammon and spinach Hey ho said Anthony Roly

Tim Hart sings Froggy's Courting

Oh Froggy went a-courting and he did ride, a-hum,
Froggy went a-courting and he did ride, a-hum,
Oh Froggy went a-courting and he did ride
With a sword and a pistol by his side, a-hum.

And off he went in his big cocked hat, a-hum,
And on his way met Mister Rat, a-hum.

They rode till they came to Miss Mouse's hall, a-hum,
And there they did both knock and call, a-hum.

Miss Mouse, Miss Mouse, will you give us some beer, a-hum,
And we will all be of good cheer, a-hum.

And Froggy, oh Froggy, give us a song, a-hum,
But please make sure it's not too long, a-hum.

And while they were all a-merry making, a-hum,
The cat and the kittens came tumbling in, a-hum.

And the cat she seized the rat by the crown, a-hum,
And the kittens pulled the little mouse down, a-hum.

Oh Froggy jumped up all in a fright, a-hum,
He grabbed his hat and said good night, a-hum.

As Froggy was crossing over the brook, a-hum,
Along came a duck and gobbled him up, a-hum.

So that is the end of one, two, three, a-hum,
The Rat and the Mouse and the little Froggy, a-hum.