“Mouse/Frog Nuptials”

by

edited from David Highland (http://home.earthlink.net/~highying/froggy/froggy.html):

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.

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).

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.

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