Ten Little Indians

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The Ten Little Indians is an American nursery rhyme. The term Indians in this sense refers to the Native Americans in the United States.

The modern lyrics for this song are:

One little, two little, three little Indians
Four little, five little, six little Indians
Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians
Ten little Indian boys.

Ten little, nine little, eight little Indians
Seven little, six little, five little Indians
Four little, three little, two little Indians
One little Indian boy.[1]

Minstrel song[change | change source]

Songwriter Septimus Winner created an elaborated version of the children's song, called "Ten Little Injuns", in 1868 for a minstrel show.

Ten little Indians standin' in a line,
One toddled home and then there were nine;

Nine little Indians swingin' on a gate,
One tumbled off and then there were eight.

Eight little Indians gayest under heav'n.
One went to sleep and then there were seven;

Seven little Indians cuttin' up their tricks,
One broke his neck and then there were six.

Six little Indians all alive,
One kicked the bucket and then there were five;

Five little Indians on a cellar door,
One tumbled in and then there were four.

Four little Indians up on a spree,
One got fuddled and then there were three;

Three little Indians out on a canoe,
One tumbled overboard and then there were two

Two little Indians foolin' with a gun,
One shot t'other and then there was one;
 
One little Indian livin' all alone,
He got married and then there were none.[1]

Books and songs[change | change source]

It is generally thought the song was adapted, possibly by Frank J. Green in 1869 as "Ten Little Niggers". It's also possible, however, that the influence was the other way around, with "Ten Little Niggers" being a close reflection of the text which then became "Ten Little Indians".

Agatha Christie's book, And Then There Were None, was first called Ten Little Niggers and then Ten Little Indians.[2]

Criticism of the racist language[change | change source]

Due to the use of racist words, modern versions for children usually use soldier boys or teddy bears as objects in the rhyme.

References in popular culture[change | change source]

"Ten Little Indians" is a 1962 pop and rock-n-roll song from the Beach Boys. It's on their studio album Surfin' Safari.

Several Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies short films used the song. In Tom Tom Tomcat, Tweety sings the song while writing down the number of Indian cats Granny has taken down so far.

In England's Mickey Mouse Annual No. 6, the song was adapted into the comic 10 Little Mickey Kids. It told of little mouse babies who met their end until there were two left.[3]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 333–4.
  2. Stein, Sadie (February 5, 2016). "Mystery". The Paris Review. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  3. "6 Insane Disney Comics You Won't Believe are Real". Cracked.com. Retrieved August 29, 2020.