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Frog Went a-Courtin' -or- A Frog He Would a-Wooin' Go

This site contains over 170 verses of Froggy Went a Courtin' compiled from 29 sources (including the ubiquitus 'anonymous'). Not all verses from all sources are reproduced here, as some are essentially redundant of versions already included. The ballad is found under many titles, primarily variations of: A Moste Strange Weddinge of the Ffrogge and the Mowse (1580), The Marriage of the Frogge and the Mouse (1611), Mr. Frog Went a-Courting, Frog Went a- Courting, Froggy Went a-Courtin', A Frog He Would a-Wooing Go, and The Frog and the Mouse. The compiled verses are arranged somewhat in the order in which the story unfolds, and grouped somewhat by subject matter.

First, I have presented the text from the oldest known publication of the ballad (1611) along with the associated tune (for more on this source, click). 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." It is commonly accepted that the earliest mention of the frog/mouse ballad is in The Complaynt of Scotland (1549 - see the Oxford Text Archive at http://ota.ahds.ac.uk), where it is referred to as "The Frog Cam to the Myl Dur". 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 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'Alencon.

Second, I have assembled many of the verses from the compilation into a single presentation of the ballad. These verses are assembled into a form which gives the reader a feel for the general ballad narrative, and how the ballad might be sung today (though probably not with so many verses).

Third, I have presented the complete compilation of verses and variants which I have gathered. Many of the verses from the 1611 publication are also included in their appropriate location in the compilation, and are identified by the "humble dum…tweedle, tweedle" refrain. For the remaining verses, I have included the associated refrain only in the first occurence in the compilation of a verse from that source. This web site includes examples of tunes which accompany these verses (the 1611 tune and other, more recent tunes). Except for verses from the 1611 publication, the source of each verse is indicated in the compilation by number.

Linda Sturhann sent me the verses of a parody recorded by the Chad Everett Trio, in which Molly Mouse was a hat check girl, and Froggy gets nowhere when he hits on her. Since it's origin is most likely not from the folk tradition, and because I doubt if it's in the public domain, I've not included these verses.

One note about the refrain which includes the phrase "Heigh Ho, says Anthony Rowley." I have been unable to find a confirming source, but I did run across a web site which mentioned that Anthony Rowley may have been Antonio Rolli, an opera singer popular in England in the 19th century. I contacted the webmaster of that site, but he could not remember where he had gotten the information. If anyone has a source which may be of help, drop us a line.

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 affect 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.

- David Highland

Thanks to Michael King for the autoharp-playing froggy artwork, Dan Dutton for generously allowing me to use his fabulous painting, and the many "cyberfriends" who helped by providing many of the verses. If you can provide additional verses from traditional sources (i.e. public domain) or have any other related comments or information, please drop us a line at Froggy Central

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Compilation, commentary, and website copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 J. David Highland, all rights reserved

updated - 1/15/2000 (added source 24), 6/12/2000 (added Refrain page and link to 1611 source)

updated - June 17, 2000 (added verses and refrains from source 25)

updated - June 8, 2001 (added verses from source 26)

updated - July 22, 2001 (restored ending verses from compilation which were inadvertently deleted in earlier update )

updated - April 20, 2003 (added link to a modern notation of 1611 version )

updated - Sept 21, 2004 (added verses from sources 27 and 28, and refrain from source 27; also minor update and added link to historical background in opening text on this page)

Last updated - Jan 31, 2007 (added Dan Dutton's artwork)

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