Words & Stuff

RR: Down Came the Good Fairy

(1 November 1998)

Almost everyone I know has had some encounter with the song "Little Rabbit Foo Foo." But I've found, to my dismay, that about half the people who've heard the song are totally unaware of the punchline/moral that justifies the song.

A quick explanation for those few of you who have no idea what I'm talking about: this is a kids' song in wide circulation; as is usually the case with folklore, it circulates in many different versions. (For instance, many people know it as "Little Bunny Foo Foo" rather than "Rabbit." But I learned it as "Rabbit" so I'm sticking with what I know.) Most of the differences between the versions are minor, and it's often possible to get a bunch of adults singing along with you as you go through the gestures associated with the song. But then you get to the end, and about half the participants chorus out the punchline and break up laughing, while the other half look at them in disbelief and confusion.

So as a public service for those of you who've heard the song without the moral, here's the version with the moral. I have no easy way of providing the tune, such as it is, so I'll just give the words and some idea of intonation and accompanying gestures. (Gestures are provided for right-handers, for simplicity; reverse right and left if you're left-handed.)

Little Rabbit Foo Foo [hold up two fingers, like a V-for-Victory, facing left]
Hopping through the forest [bounce hand right-to-left across front of your body]
Picking up the field mice [left hand upright fist, right hand scoop-and-grab across top of fist]
And bopping 'em on the head! [left hand upright fist, right hand flat, bop top of fist]

Dowwwwwwn came the Good Fairy, [both hands, fingers wiggling, from high to low, like rain]
And she said:
Little Rabbit Foo Foo [shake index finger in reproach]
I don't wanna see you
Picking up the field mice [repeat gestures from earlier]
And bopping 'em on the head!
I'm [point at self] going to give you [point at observer] three chances [hold up three fingers]
And if you don't obey me
I'm going to turn you into a gooooooooooon! [rain gesture as above]

[But Little Rabbit Foo Foo continues to transgress. Repeat the full sequence from the start, but this time the fairy gives two chances. Then repeat again with the fairy giving only one chance. Finally, repeat again, ending with this:]

Little Rabbit Foo Foo
I didn't want to see you
Picking up the field mice
And bopping 'em on the head!
I gave you three chances
And since you didn't obey me
I'm going to turn you into a gooooooooooon!

And she did.

Moral: Hare today, goon tomorrow.


If this brings up fond memories of other songs with accompanying gestures, you may want to look at the action songs page in a campfire-songs archive. [The page is useful as a reminder, but unfortunately not much help if you haven't ever heard the songs in question.] I may explore a couple of those songs in more detail in a future column, perhaps one discussing jumprope, counting-out, and clapping rhymes, or maybe one about campire songs. Please send me any such lyrics, rhymes, or games that come to mind.


Reader comments and addenda page


Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>