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'Jack' nursery rhymes/songs
Firefly: Jayne needs a hug
curtana wrote in little_details
I'm looking for nursery rhymes or traditional songs that have a character named Jack in them.* I'm trying to avoid the most obvious candidates (Jack Be Nimble, Jack and Jill, Jack Sprat, Little Jack Horner, The House that Jack Built). Others I've found in my searching and am still considering are Jack-a-Nory, Little Jack Jingle, Jack-a-Dandy, Jack Rowland, Jack Tar, and Black Jack Davy, but I'm looking for other options so I can choose the one that works best. I've googled for combinations of "jack" and "nursery rhyme" and "ballad" and "folk song", but a) the most obvious candidates always come up and swamp the less common results, and b) especially in the folk song searches, I get more results for singers named Jack.

*Not for Graveyard Book fic (though I kind of wish it were). The scenario is that a character (Jayne from Firefly, to be precise) is playing cards while under the inadvertant effect of a mind-altering substance, and can't remember the name of that "guy with the little hat" in his hand, but comes out with a short verse that contains the word 'jack' instead. I'm envisioning this rhyme as one he might have learned as a child and would remember under duress, so something fairly simple and with obvious rhymes would be good.

ETA: Thanks for all the suggestions! I ended up going with the 'futurized' 'House That Jack Built' idea, because I loved it :)

If fairy tales are an option, there's Jack the Giant-Killer and Jack My Hedgehog. I think you've pretty much got all the 'rhymes' per se, but fairy tales tend to be pretty simple and structured as well.

Or maybe Frere Jacques?

Thanks, but I'm not really looking for a fairy tale :) Frere Jacques is an interesting suggestion, if I could believe that Jayne knew French ;)

Not really, I'm afraid - not only am I not looking for a fairy tale, but almost all the pages there seem to come up as "under construction".

That's weird, I was on it yesterday and it had nursery rhymes and fairy tales... let me find you a better link

Oops... apparently I am a jackass... is the one I MEANT to send you. Sorry.

Ah yes, that one I'd already found in my searches. Thank you, though :)

NP. It's one of my favorite sites. :D

jack and the beanstalk!!!

Why are you trying to avoid the more obvious candidates out of curisoity? It seems to me that they'd be the ones Jayne would be taught as a kid.

That being said, there's a poem about Jack Frost:

"Look out! Look out! Jack Frost is about! He's after your fingers and toes!"

I'm looking to avoid the most obvious ones because it's set 500 years in the future, after humanity has dispersed to a variety of planets, and where, at least in the environment Jayne probably comes from, the mass media and even literacy aren't high priorities. There are hardly any rhymes we know commonly today that are as much as 500 years old, and rhymes in N. America and Australia have already diverged in some respects from their counterparts in England, and that's just on the same planet ;) So I'm looking for a lesser-known one that will hopefully not only convey the literal point I'm trying to make, but will also give a sense that this is a world where children learn different rhymes at their mothers' knees than we do. I could make up my own, I suppose, but I'm lazy ;)

Thanks for the suggestion, in any case :)

Yes, but ones that are lesser known now are even LESS likely to survive 500 years than popular, familiar ones. Though admittedly Firefly resurrects loads of more or less obsolete words, so perhaps that's fair enough.

Maybe you could adapt an existing one? This is the House That Jack Built would be comparatively easy to futurize... "This is the ship that Jack Built. This is the gurtsler that powered the ship that Jack built" "These are the Reavers, tattered and torn, Who ate the maiden all forlorn..."

There's already a "Space Age" parody from 1956 from a book called "Space Child's Mother Goose." You can read the rhymes here: It includes a take on "Little Jack Horner," and "This is the Theory that Jack Built"

the reaver one... brilliant!

It's not about "what would plausibly survive 500 years" (because, as you say, Firefly's already done away with a lot of that in terms of its use of dialect) but about finding an obscure rhyme that hopefully my readers won't recognize, but that will sound believable as a traditional rhyme.

That said, I love your suggestion of updating the House That Jack Built - the Reavers bit is brilliant, though I'm not sure how I'd work it in :) Thanks for the suggestion!

Oh you went with it? Awesome! How does the futurized version go?!

I used it basically just as you suggested it, and I managed to work in the Reavers line later :) The story is here if you want to see how I used it. Thanks again for the helpful suggestion!

"Jack again, Jack again, don't stray from your mother hen.
The reapers are coming, little Jack.
If you stray too far, they'll eat you for a snack."

Some of the Jack tales have repeating bits that a child might remember. Most versions of "Jack goes out to seek his fortune" or "Jack gets a job" have his mother repeatedly chiding him.

Will o' wisp is also known as Jack o' Lantern.

Well, Firefly is a whole different 'verse with a largely unknown history. Societies that far in the future would have their own nursery rhymes and fairy tales. You could easily and plausibly make one up. Plus it would be fun to write your own nursery rhyme!

Yep, like I said in a comment above, this is why I want to avoid commonly known rhymes. I could make one up, but a) I'm in a hurry (story due tomorrow, eek!), and b) it probably wouldn't be as convincing-sounding as something that's real but obscure.

Thanks for the suggestions!

An alternative:

Rub a dub dub,
Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker.
Turn them out, knaves all three!

Jack being a knave, after all...

Which puts me in mind of:

The Queen of Hearts
Made some tarts
All on a summer's day
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts
And something something that rhymes with "ay"

Very helpful, I know, but I never can remember that last line!

I *think* it's -and quickly ran away
I've also heard it as the Jack of Hearts, since, as above, knaves are Jacks.

Has the OP tried googling for Jack stories in all the folklore? It's not just Jack the Giant Killer, aka the Beanstalk, there's a whole collection of them!

I'm not really looking for fairy tales, unless they have an obvious rhyme/rhythm to them. For instance, if the giant's 'fee fi fo fum' bit actually said anything about Jack, I'd consider it.

"And took them right away" is how I remember it, with "right" having the sense of "completely".

That's not a bad suggestion. Thanks for giving me another train of thought to consider :)

Well, since it's Jayne, maybe he'd have heard "American Pie" at some point, though given how far in the future Firefly takes place, that's debatable. This is part of the song, sort of a twist on an old nursery rhyme:

So come on: jack be nimble, jack be quick!
Jack flash sat on a candlestick
Cause fire is the devil’s only friend.

It's an interesting suggestion. Reminds me a bit of a moment in Stephen King's Dark Tower series when characters in a saloon in a very Old West sort of environment break out into 'Yesterday' by the Beatles. Sort of jarring, but in a good way. Thanks for the thought!

Or when Jack in The System of the World (set in the late 1600s) quotes "New York, New York." I started giggling like a crazy thing.

Jack is alive, and likely to live,
If he dies in your hand you've a forfeit to give.


Handy, spandy, Jack-a-Dandy
Loved plum cake and sugar candy;
He bought some at a grocer's shop,
And out he came, hop, hop, hop, hop.


As I was going up the hill,
I met with Jack the piper;
And all the tune that he could play
Was 'Tie up your petticoats tighter'.

I tied them once, I tied them twice,
I tied them three times over;
And all the song that he could sing
Was 'Carry me safe to Dover'.


When Jacky's a good boy,
He shall have cakes and custard;
But when he does nothing but cry,
He shall have nothing but mustard.


Jack Sprat
Had a cat,
It had but one ear;
It went to buy butter
When butter was dear.


I won't be my father's Jack,
I won't be my mother's Jill,
I will be the fiddler's wife
And have music when I will.

Thank you, those are some great suggestions :)

Only one I know that hasn't been mentioned yet is about Jack the Ripper. Hehe.

"You though me dead,
you thought me gone,
more harmless than a nipper.
But now I'm back
to have some fun,
yours truly, Jack the Ripper."

i'm not sure if this is what you're looking for in a traditional song, given the scene, but:

as arranged by great big sea. :D

jack and jill... jack and jill went u the hill to fetch a pail of water
jack fell down and broke his crown and jill came tumbling after!


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