A Frog Went A-Courtin'

arr. Paul Jennings

A funny thing happened in the surveys you sent to us. Many of you asked for more new arrangements of old favorites, and when you had specific requests, one tune popped up most often: "A Frog Went A-Courtin'." That was fine with us; it's always been a favorite. And it has a lot of options for arranging, performance, and teaching.

This great old story song has quite a history. Some people claim that it goes back 400 years to England, and that the frog is actually a French Duke while the mouse is Queen Elizabeth I. It has been popular in America since colonial times, and it seems to change a little with each person who performs it.

It Could Be Verse...

Deciding which and how many verses to use is a big problem. There are literally hundreds of them that have been passed down and adapted. We assembled ten verses that had nice story continuity, that seemed appropriate for children of any age, and that we were sure we could use without copyright problems. We figured that most of you wouldn't want to sing more than ten verses, and we worded them for today's kids.

In some versions, it is, "Froggie Went A-Courtin'" as opposed to "A Frog...". That's actually probably cuter, but we stuck with the traditional one. In many cases, the lines end with "mm-hm," so that you are actually humming. "Uh-huh" isn't very pretty, but it is at least vocalized. In the very oldest versions, there is only one "uh-huh" at the end of each line, and only one at the end of the tune. We chose to arrange it as we did for the sake of this unique arrangement.

There are verses written that embellish each part of the story. Almost all of them have the same first verse, with Mr. Frog arriving, sword and pistol at his side. From that point on, there are many variations:

Rode up to Miss Mouse's door,
Gave three raps and a very loud roar.
He said, "Miss Mouse are you within?"
"Yes, I just sat down to spin,"
He went right in and took her on his knee,
And he said, "Miss Mouse, will you marry me?"

Many verses spend more time on Uncle Rat and his part in the story:

Uncle Rat's in London town,
And I don't know when he'll be down.
Uncle Rat came riding home,
Said, "Who's been here since I was gone?"
So Uncle Rat he rode to town,
And bought his niece a wedding gown.
When Uncle Rat gave his consent,
The weasel wrote the publishment.

The wedding supper got a lot of ink, for location, menu and guests:

Where will the wedding supper be?
Out in the woods in an old hollow tree.
First to come was a little moth,
For to lay the table cloth.
First to come was a lady bug,
And she had whiskey in her jug.

(That one ruled itself out quickly...)

Next to come was Missus Cow,
Tried to dance, but didn't know how.
Next to come was a little black tick,
He ate so much it made him sick.
Next to come was Doctor Fly,
Said Mister Tick will surely die.
The owl did hoot, the birds, they sang,
And through the woods the music rang.

It is in dealing with the guests, and ultimately the outcome of the story that some verses get violent:

Next to come was an old tomcat,
Swallowed Miss Mouse and Uncle Rat.
Mr. Frog went down to the lake,
And there he was swallowed by a big black snake.

But there are still some potential happy endings:

The frog and mouse, they went to France,
And that's the end of my romance.
So here's the end of one, two, three,
The snake, the frog, and Miss Mousie.

As we said, there are dozens of possibilities at every stage in the song. So let your students explore their creativity and create verses of their own. As they create, start by mapping out the rhythms that will be needed for each verse, looking at how they differ from the published version...learning more about rhythms all along. Sing these variations, eventually crafting your own set of ten favorite verses (or more if you don't use the tape.) Instead of each student creating verses independently, you may want to make this a cooperative learning experience, working in small groups. The vote and final assembly of the chosen verses is also a good large group activity.

Once you have decided on which verses to sing, even if it is the published ones (which fit the arrangement), consider making the story song into a "Big Book" with the children working in small groups to do art and calligraphy for each verse on a page. The song is also a great one for creative drama work.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.