who is stronger?

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This is the house that Jack built.
This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the cat that killed the rat
That ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the priest all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the cock that crowed in the morn
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the farmer sowing his corn
That kept the cock that crowed in the morn
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn
That married the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

I read this to my class, got them to act it out with puppets, made a book of it, and suchlike, like teachers do. Then one of the girls brought in a fantastic version:

It’s by Simms Taback.

I love the illustrations:


He mentions that it comes from an old Jewish cumulative song:

“Had Gadya (An Only Kid, Aramaic) is a popular song sung in Aramaic at the conclusion of the Passover seder along with other concluding songs, to amuse the children and keep them from falling asleep. Composed of ten stanzas the verse runs as follows:

A father bought a kid for two zuzim;
a cat came and ate the kid;
a dog then bit the cat;
the dog was beaten by a stick;
the stick was burned by fire;
water quenched the fire;
an ox drank the water;
a shohet (ritual slaughterer) slaughtered the ox;
the shohet was killed by the Angel of Death who
in punishment was destroyed by God.”

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7 Comments »

  1. AKK said

    Also in Greek lore, ‘The Mouse who ate the Fuse of the Oil Lamp that glinted on the Girl who weaved the Handkershief’. It’s a beautiful hypnotizing lullaby. I will call Eleni to write the words. Because she sings it to her son. It starts with ‘dili-dili’. Nobody was punished. In the end we feel sorry for everybody.

  2. Simon G said

    I knew there would be a Greek one, and yes, do.

    We also know another cousin rhyme:

    Whats in there?
    Gold and money
    Wheres my share?
    The mousie took it
    Wheres the mousie?
    In his housie
    Wheres his housie?
    In the wood
    Wheres the wood?
    The fire burnt it
    Wheres the fire?
    The water dowsed it
    Wheres the water?
    The brown bull drank it
    Wheres the brown bull?
    At the back of Burnies Hill
    Wheres Burnies Hill? All covered in snow
    Wheres the snow?
    The sun melted it
    Wheres the sun?
    High high high up in the air

    It’s on an album by the storyteller-musician Robin Williamson:

    http://isb.bakkevold.com/children.html

    – it’s full of great songs, including the lullaby I sang most of all, “The Gartan Lullaby”.

  3. Simon G said

    As for punishment, yes, the aramaic one, if it’s meant for children, does seem a bit gruesome – the Angel of Death, destroyed by God – I suppose, if they’ve just sat through the passover story it can’t get any worse.

  4. vixen said

    I am no specialist but a ‘God takes all’ makes no good story. I think it’s just like saying ‘What do you need to know? Everybody died in the end’. Exasperating!

  5. isl_gr said

    Hi! It’s very difficult for me to write down verse what I know as a song!
    (Where’s that microphone, Simon? :lol)
    Here is just the ending :
    …..
    There came the stick that hit the dog who ate the cat who ate the mouse who etc
    There came the oven who burnt the stick who hit the dog etc etc
    There came the river who put out the oven who burnt the stick etc etc etc
    There came the ox who drank the river who put out the oven etc etc etc etc
    There came the butcher who killed the ox who drank the river etc etc etc etc etc

    My version stops there. With the butcher ! haha:)) Nobody knows if the girl ever put another fuse in the oil lamp and finished the handhershief. But there is clue that everybody enjoyed beef stakes in the end!

    Greetings. Be well Simon G. Enjoy spring
    “dili dili dili”
    ~el

  6. Simon G said

    Thanks, el – I feel strangely sleepy!

    Yes – microphone – good idea…

    It is all a bit mysterious. Problems with a handkerchief – and the ox gets killed!

    As for spring – I heard my first hoopoe today, and saw my first irises.

    You too.
    And vixen, and AKK.

  7. […] blogged Simms Taback before once or twice, but I’m coming back to him, because I like the warmth and generosity of his tales and […]

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