Why does Thumbkin run away?

You’ve all heard the children’s fingerplay song (to the tune of “Frère Jacques”):

Where is Thumbkin, where is Thumbkin?
Here I am, here I am.
How are you today, sir?
Very well, I thank you.
Run away, run away

I never understood why Thumbkin has this sudden urge to take flight. This question has been bothering me since I was a little kid.

Well, maybe they’re opposed to participating any further in a silly rhyme?
[sub]Get it? opposed - opposable ::snicker:: yeah so i’m easily amused, sheesh, give a girl a break[/sub]

But then why do all the others run away?

Since the thumb was the first and therefore a role model to the others, it’s actions compel the others to act in a similar (if not exactly the same) manner in an effort to “fit in”.

If the preceding finger doesn’t run away, then it becomes pretty stupid to ask where the next one is. He’s already there! Duh. :smiley:

I’ve always heard the last line as “Run and hide, run and hide.” This version really heightens the tension burning through the soul of Thumbkin, I think.

Yeah, I also recalled hearing the line as “Run and hide, run and hide.” But hey, "Hide my thumb!" brings up X-rated associations that are totally inappropriate for children’s amusement. Or is that just me?

Oooh, I am so going to Hell for that

Thumbkin is scared of the other thumb. Since the other thumb is older and of rank (hence the sir) he’s afraid that the thumb is going to beat him up or hit on him. Isn’t it obvious?

Don’t ALL the fingers run and hide… Then the finger family comes back!!

I haven’t thought of that song in a very long time. Thanks Jomo Mojo for that little trip down memory lane, into Mrs. Stoh’s preschool at Emmanuel church.

Suddenly, I find myself longing to hold the softest, most wrinkly, age spottiest hands once more. Mrs. Stro-oh, Mrs. Stro-oh, where are you? Where are you?

He’s probably hiding from the Germans, on one of their many invasions of France. Thumbkin is Frère Jacques nephew, and lead the French Resistance before his capture. Its all true, i swear! Now, if anyone wants to buy a big green statue…

Wow, I never heard that rhyme before, but I’m diggin’ ** Tars Tarkas’** explanation!

On a related note, though, why does one of the Little Piggies get no roast beef at all? That kind of still makes me sad. (Man, I think I need an Ativan…)

The key to that is in George Harrison’s song


Oh, Jomo Mojo, that’s scary! Poor brainwashed piggies. I bet they don’t even know they’re cannibals!

That certainly does explain a few things…!

Shall we even get into the disturbing and baffling images of,

"This old man, he played one,
He played knick-knack on my thumb.
With a knick-knack paddy-whack, give a dog a bone.
This old man came rolling home.”

Indeed. We used to sing that one in school, Eve. In our version, though, the old man was playing knick-knack on our drum. However, the thought of an old man rolling anywhere upset me a lot. All I could think of was somebody’s feeble grandfather losing his balance and rolling down a hill and getting badly hurt.

You know, I’m much happier as an adult than I ever was as a kid. Seriously.

I always thought the old man who came “rolling home” had a serious drinking problem.

As for the line, “With a knick-knack paddy-whack, give a dog a bone,” the only interpretation I can make is that someone has rewarded his guard dog for biting an Irishman who was trying to make off with his Hummel figurines.

Heh. “Kick-knack paddy-whack”. Okay, that was funny. And wouldn’t be just like those Irish thugs to have the bad taste to pinch Hummels, for Gawd’s sake? :smiley:

I had this strange book of fairytales when I was little, and it has a lot of obscure ones in it. The only one I remember being scary involved a little girl asking people to do stuff, and an old man she asked to do something threw himself off a ladder and broke his neck. There was a picture of him cheerfully starting his fall. Why would that be in a book for kids??

Yeah, I’ll agree that’s pretty scary for kids. I think I remember reading a long time ago that fairy tales were originally morality or cautionary tales for children; you know, to get them to be good. The stories usually had a moral or message, like “Don’t talk to strangers in the woods”’ or “Never stray from the path”, or “Be careful what you wish for”, etc. The scary parts were indeed intended to be scary enough to frighten kids of long ago into behaving. I’m thinking of the ones most of us know: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and the like.

My guess is that as a sizeable middle class emerged, and children became more deified and seen less as just help around the house, these fairytales were probably used less to admonish and more to entertain. For the adults reading them or telling them, the stories lost a lot of their original Grimm (sorry!) meaning, and retained a juvenile appeal because of the appearance of elves, fairies, and talking animals. However, I still think a lot of them are actually pretty damn scary, and I bet a lot of kids would agree!

I’ll betcha that this has been talked about before here, but that’s what I think anyhow.