The farmer's in his den

Description

English

This recording was made by Iona Opie in Stepney Green in 1976. ‘The Farmer’s in his Den’ is what the Opies referred to as a ‘ring game’ and was in their opinion one of the ‘best known’ singing games. To play, one child is chosen as the ‘farmer’ and must stand in the middle of a ring of children. As the song progresses a participant is selected to be the wife, child, nurse, dog and bone who then join the farmer in the middle of the ring. The song ends with the children enthusiastically patting the participant playing the bone or child on the head. Roud suggests that this song is still widely performed, although mainly within nurseries and preschools. As the girl in the recording admits, once children become older the song is regarded as a ‘bit baby’. Furthermore, the energetic ‘thumping’ of the bone now tends to be replaced with a gentler patting of the child, supervised by teaching staff and nursery workers. Despite these changes, Roud suggests that the lyrics and actions of the song have remained largely unchanged.

Transcript

Transcript

Iona Opie:

Let’s have Farmer’s in His Den, shall we? Okay? One, two, three.

Children: [Singing]

The farmer’s in his den, the farmer’s in his den,
Ee-i-addy-o, the farmer’s in his den.
The farmer wants a wife, the farmer wants a wife,
Ee-i-addy-o, the farmer wants a wife.
The wife wants a child, the wife wants a child,
Ee-i-addy-o, the wife wants a child.
The child wants a nurse, the child wants a nurse,
Ee-i-addy-o, the child wants a nurse.
The nurse wants a dog, the nurse wants a dog,
Ee-i-addy-o, the nurse wants a dog.
The dog wants a bone, the dog wants a bone,
Ee-i-addy-o, the dog wants a bone.
We all pat the bone, we all pat the bone,
Ee-i-addy-o, we all pat the bone.

Iona Opie:

And what do you do at the end then?

Child:

At the end we all pat the bone and then the bone’s the farmer.

Child:

Someone’s the bone and you have to put them on the head, then the rhyme’s complete.

Iona Opie:

I see. How does it go, ee-i … ?

Child:

Addy-o.

Iona Opie:

Addy-o. Oh, so where did you learn that from?

Child:

School

Iona Opie:

What? From the other kids? Oh, just the same as the others.

Child:

When I was a little baby [laughter].

Iona Opie:

Oh, when you were ... , was that why you were giggling, because you thought it was a bit baby?

Title:
The farmer's in his den
Date:
1976
Duration:
2:09
Format:
Video
Language:
English
Creator:
Iona Opie, Peter Opie
Usage terms

Audio: Recorded by Peter and Iona Opie © The British Library
Images: Getty Images

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
C898/29

Full catalogue details

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