Froggy Went a Courtin'
Originated in 1611
To all those who wanted to know about this little ditty...here's what it says in the forward to "Frog Went A-Courtin'" retold by John Langstaff with pictures by Feodor Rojankovsky, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. NY 1955 (awarded the Caldecott Medal for that year). Basically, not much is known. It appeared in written form 400 years ago in Scotland. It came to the Americas and the Frog and Mouse story became part of American tradition.
One of the earliest known references to its existence is the entry in the register of the London Company of Stationers. It was so registered by Edward White in 1580 as "A Moste Strange Weddinge of the ffrogge and the mowse." Patricia Hackett reports (The Melody Book, Prentice Hall, 1983) that this song was originally a satire of Queen Elizabeth's habit of referring to her ministers by animal nicknames. She called Sir Walter Raleigh her "fish," the French Ambassador Simier her "ape," and the Duc d'Alencon her "frog." In the liner notes of the LP Brave Boys; New England traditions in folk music (New World Records 239, 1977), Evelyn K. Wells reports that "it [the frog/mouse ballad] is first mentioned in The Complaynt of Scotland (1549)." The liner notes go on to say that the 1580 version recorded with the London Company of Stationers may have been revised from the older song, at the time of the proposed (unpopular) marriage of Queen Elizabeth I to the Duc d'Alenco. Theodore Raph reports, in A Treasury of American Popular Music ( A.S. Barnes and Company, 1964), that the title in The Complaynt of Scotlande was "The Frog Cam [came] to the Myl Dur [mill door]."
As you will note when reading through the various verses and versions of this ancient tale, one fact becomes evident. The wedding turned into a pretty wild party! In most cases, the conflicting statements by the various witnesses (as evidenced by the verses presented herein) do not effect the key facts of the event. However, it is clear that, after over 400 years, the mystery of the ultimate fate of Mr. Frog and Miss Mousie remains unsolved. Did they, as reported by some witnesses, die a slow death in the distended belly of the "big black snake"? Or did they come to an even more unbearable end - forced to live out their last days in France? With so many generations between the actual witnesses and ourselves, we may never know the truth.
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