try to keep a sense of proportion

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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 wiggled and tiggled 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,
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;
Fancy that to swallow a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
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,
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 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,
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!

Illustrations by the amazing Simms Taback.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NFoNPmi5xU]

It’s amazing how these cousin tales get put to such different uses – keeping you awake at synagogue, a lullaby for bedtimes, warning you not to overreact…

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7 Comments »

  1. isl_gr said

    WoW! I didn’t know this one! Is it Jewish too? And what great drawings! They remind of something -but what?
    The idle person is depicted in Greece as ‘a swallower of flies’. Thanks for letting us know what this person’s end will be. Swallow a horse and die! ha ha ha
    I ahve swallowed a lot 2 years ago. But I wasn’t idle. I swallowed in an active and hopefully creative way. Maybe I swallowed a spider and a bird too, but never a horse!

  2. isl_gr said

    Are these called ‘cumulative’ in general or is it a term of your own make? It’s very accurate.

  3. Simon G said

    It’s a song that’s sung a lot in England, and must be in the States too. I knew it as a kid.

    Simms Taback the illustrator is Jewish though, and what he writes about another of his books which I don’t have makes me want to read it:

    “I have enjoyed illustrating many books for children on diverse subjects, but it wasn’t until I began to create my Caldecott-winning book, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat that I experienced something quite different. It turned into a personal journey of artistic expression and discovery that I had not expected.

    Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is a story set in a world I heard so much about as a child, filled with memories of my family and of a thriving culture that no longer exists. It was adapted from a yiddish folk song and is a good example of yiddishkayt, meaning “Jewish life” or “Jewish world-view.” It embodies the values and struggles of life in the shtetl, the small villages where Jews lived in Eastern Europe.”

  4. Simon G said

    The old lady did well at least to actively try to solve her fly problem, whilst in the other cumulative tales things just happen, one thing after the other, animate, inanimate…

    Your active swallowing was much bettr, not least because you stopped well before the horse stage.
    🙂

  5. vixen said

    Some tales and songs are true! Believe it or not, it has been calculated that an average person in the course of an average lifetime swallows about 10 kilos of organic alive matter, 8 kg of which are what? What? WHAT?
    S-P-I-D-E-R-S !!!!!!!!!

  6. Simon G said

    I know that when I’m cycling every now and then I swallow something. I can’t tell if it’s a seed or a fly or for that matter a spider…

    There should only be one DT… but, how on earth would the poeple that calculate this do the counting?? Do they watch someone while they sleep? Empty their stomach contents? Not research that I would want to do!

  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 […]

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