European Nursery Rhymes

When Europe open its mouth, it is to yawn !

François Mitterand.

Our best child memories may be found in the nursery rhymes we used to listen at school or before going to sleep at night. In Europe, every country has its own rich patrimony regarding nursery rhymes, with sometimes wonderful melodies, but a little is really known outside national frontiers. The following list of European nursery rhymes tries to bridge this gap, delivering the most famous reference for each country and often superb samples such as the one from France, Iceland, Belgium, Bosnia y Herzegovina or Belarus. The following list provides you the link to the YouTube listening and the lyrics, both in the original and English version.

Portugal

 
 
♪♪♪♪ Atirei o pau ao gato (I Threw the Stick to the Cat)

A Portuguese famous “Cantigas de roda” quite funny because of what they do with cats… A Portuguese band even did a rock version on the rhythm of “another brick in the wall
 
 
 
 
Spain

 
 
♪♪ Pin Pon

Here is one of the most famous nursery rhymes from Spain. It is about a doll with cardboard hands. Even though it’s a bit repetitive, this is perfect to learn some easy Spanish words.
 
 
 
 
France

 
 
♪♪♪♪♪ Il était un petit navire (There Was a Little Ship)

This is a famous French “comptine” with a ship and nice pirates. At one point, you may expect the worst… but the best finally happens!
 
 
 
 
 
Iceland

♪♪♪♪♪ Sigga litla systir mín (My Little Sister Sigga)

 
 
Now let me introduce to you a very funny melody about a little sister milking her sheep. Sung by a man and a woman, this nursery rhyme is very entertaining if you don’t speak any Icelandic word
 
 
 
 
 

Ireland

 
 
♪♪♪♪ Weile Weile Waile

This nursery rhyme, also known as The River Saile can be considered as a Child ballad.  Francis James Child was the first person to catalogue it before his death in 1896. The ballad was popularized by Irish folk band The Dubliners. If the rhythm is really amusing, the topic beside isn’t at all.
 
 
 
 
 

United-Kingdom

 
 
♪♪♪ Baa Baa Black Sheep

This famous nursery rhyme is sung to a variant of the 1761 French melody Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman. The original form of the tune is used for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the Alphabet song. “Baa Baa Black Sheep” was, in 1951, the first song ever to be digitally saved and played on a computer
 
 
 
 
 

Norway

 
 
♪♪♪ Lille petter edderkopp (Little Peter Spider)
This short nursery rhyme is a traditional one in Norway. This is about a little spider named Peter, climbing at a hat and falling because of rain.
 
 
 
 

Sweden

 
 
♪♪♪ Bä Bä Vita Lamm (Baa, Baa, White Lamb)

The Swedish Baa Baa White Lamb has nothing to do with the English Baa Baa Black Sheep even if the topic is quite similar. The lamb in this melody provides everything you need for winter. Quite logical in Sweden.
 
 
 
 

Finland

 
 
♪♪♪ Lennä, lennä leppäkerttu (Fly, Fly Ladybug)

The slow nursery rhyme about a ladybug flying may sound a bit sad. It is nevertheless very melodic, and the video clip with a little girl singing is quite impressive. I sometimes had the impression of listening to the voice of Björk.
 
 
 
 

Denmark

 
 
♪♪♪ Den Lille Ole med Paraplyen (The Little Sandman with the Umbrella)

Den Lille Ole med Paraplyen is a really beautiful melody with few sentences. Unfortunately there are no lyrics on the video found on youtube.
 
 
 
 

Netherlands

 
 
♪♪♪♪ Altijd Is Kortjakje Ziek (Kortjakje Is Always Ill)

One may recognize the popular melody of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. The Dutch version was written by Gerrit Jacob Boekenoogen.
 
 
 
 

Belgium

 
 
♪♪♪♪♪ Hoedje van papier (Paper Hat)

The Belgian nursery rhyme is in Dutch and deals with four hats made of papers. “If you have no more hats, make one with gift wrap” tells the song.
 
 
 
 

Germany

 
 
♪♪♪♪ Auf der Mauer, auf der Lauer (On the Wall, On the Lookout)

This German nursery rhyme repeat many times the same sentence, removing each time a letter of the main word. A German artist, Kim Hoss, made a good typographic project with this song but using a swing melody.
 
 
 
 

Switzerland

 
 
♪♪ Les bêtises à l’école (Foolish Things at School)

Henri Dès, the singer of this popular nursery rhyme is a famous Swiss musician for children. In this song, he portrays the ambiance at school.
 
 
 
 

Italy

 
 
♪♪♪♪ Stella, stellina (Star, Little Star)

The Italians don’t seem to have their version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, but they have “Stella stellina”, a nursery rhyme with lots of animals and a smooth music.
 
 
 
 

Malta

 
 
♪♪ Little Peter Rabbit

In Malta, the rabbits are clever, just because they can flick the flies on their nose. Incredible, isn’t it?
 
 
 
 

Austria

 
 
♪♪ Backe, Backe Kuchen (Bake, Bake the Cake)

This nursery rhyme, in form of a recipe, is quite popular among the German speaking community. And if you didn’t know, “Saffron makes the cake yellow”…
 
 
 
 

Czech Republic

 
 
♪♪♪ Měla babka čtyři jabka (Grandmother Had Four Apples)

In Czech Republic, it may be quite common for Grandmother to have four apples and to loose them step-by-step. That is actually the topic of this Czech short song.
 
 
 
 

Slovakia

 
 
♪♪♪ Pec nám spadla (Our Oven Fell Down)

This is now a funny nursery rhyme in Slovakian. Our oven fell down. Who will repair it? Just show the video to know it…
 
 
 
 

Poland

 
 
♪♪♪ Aaa kotki dwa (Ah-Ah-Ah, Two Little Kittens)

This is one of the most popular Polish nursery rhymes. It may date back over a century. ‘A-a-a’ is supposed to denote a lengthy sound that we use to hush the child that is trying to fall asleep.
 
 
 
 

Lithuania

 
 
♪♪♪ Liuliai dukrelį (Byes-byes my girl)

This very slow Lithuanian lullaby sounds quite exotic. This is full of love between a mother and her daughter.
 
 
 
 

Latvia

 
 
♪♪♪♪ Guli, guli, mazais šmuli (Sleep, sleep, little baby)

This latvian lullaby works not only on babies, as the lyrics tells, but on grown-up. If you want to try !
 
 
 
 

Estonia

 
 
♪♪♪ Põdramaja (The little house in the forest)

This Estonian popular nursery rhyme is about an evil hunter in the forest knocking at the door of a rabbit house. There is no need to precise that this nursery rhyme existed before Bugs bunny…
 
 
 
 

Belarus

 
 
♪♪♪♪♪ Доўгі дзень (A long day)

Let’s have a long and warm day beyond the clouds in Belarus. The nursery rhymes has a  very pleasant melody and the excellent videoclip on YouTube seems to be very successful.
 
 
 
 

Ukraine

 
 
♪♪♪♪ Киця Моя, Кицю (My Pussycat, My Pussycat)

This Ukrainian nursery rhyme sounds quite melodic and is sung with a children voice. Beware of pussycat, they can be uncontrollable.
 
 
 
 

Moldova

 
 
In padurea cu alone (In forest nuts)

Here comes a Moldavian nursery rhyme about dwarfs, frogs and mousses.
 
 
 
 

Romania

 
 
♪♪♪ Podul de piatră (The Stone Bridge)

Let’s go now onto a Romanian children song about a broken bridge which has to be rebuilt. Please just listen to the music without looking at the YouTube video with awful colors.
 
 
 
 

Hungary

 
 
♪♪♪♪♪ Este van már, nyolc óra (It is evening now, eight hours)

It’s evening now and the store will soon close. This is anyway a good reason to sing an punchy nursery rhyme in Hungary.
 
 
 
 

Slovenia

 
 
♪♪♪♪ Tri majhne žabice (Three small frogs)

The Slovenian nursery rhyme is about three little frogs sitting on a stone. Actually, only two frogs. Or maybe none eventually.
 
 
 
 

Croatia

 
 
♪♪♪♪♪ Bila mama kukunka bio tata taranta (Big Bad Kukunka)

This nursery rhyme about crocodile and Nile river may be the best of this European selection. It has already 7 billion viewers on YouTube, but the only shame is that no translation is yet available.
 
 
 
 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

 
 
♪♪♪♪♪ Hajde Kato (Come, Kato)

The Bosnian nursery rhyme is one of the most beautiful, for the melody and the lyrics, between humor and love. Kato is the name of a Bosnian girl, and would be Kate in English.
 
 
 
 

Bulgaria

 
 
♪♪ Хей, ръчички (Hey, My Two Hands)

“My two hands, here are they, Serving me in every way. One is washing the other, Then the two will wash the face.” So begins the Bulgarian children song which is quite simple but popular.
 
 
 
 

Serbia

 
 
♪♪♪♪ Eci-peci-pec (Eci-peci-pec)

This very popular Serbian children song is about some animals and an untranslatable motto “eci-peci-pec”. The rhythm is quite melodic, with a children choir
 
 
 
 

Macedonia

 
 
Чудно маче (Weird Cat)

The Macedonian nursery rhyme is quite inaudible, maybe just because of the voice of the girl singing. Once again, the song is a cat story.
 
 
 
 

Albania

 
 
♪♪ O sa keq, o sa mire (How bad, how well)

The Albanian nursery rhyme, quite repetitive, is about a busy cat and a bad wolf. Poor cow, she has been eaten by the wolf…
 
 
 
 

Greece

 
 
♪♪ Παλαμάκια παίξετε (Clap Your Hands)

This traditional children song, called in Greece a “taxtarismata” is sung when babies are restless. It involves a game with the baby, clapping in his hands so has to make him stop crying.
 
 
 
 

Turkey

 
 
♪♪ Ali Babanın çiftliği (Ali Baba Has a Big Farm)

Ali Babanın çiftliği may be the most famous children song in Turkey. One will of course recognize the English version of Old McDonald Had a Farm.
 
 
 
 

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