“Little Brown Dog”


"When I was a little boy As fat as I could go, They set me there upon the fence...." The boy fights and defeats a giant, induces his hen to hatch out a hare, acquires a dog with legs ten feet long, and otherwise does the impossible


I've listed this song under a title by which it's well known; as it was extremely popular in the 1960s folk revival. -PJS

Versions of this song may take almost any form, as long as there is enough exaggeration. The piece is recognized by its short lines and stanzas. Here are samples: "When I was a little boy, To London I did go, Upon that banished (?) steeple, My gallantry to show." "I bought me a little hen, I did not take much care; I set her on an oyster shell, And she hatched me out a bear."

Hudson calls this a rhymed version of the story of Jack the Giant Killer. Some versions were doubtless influenced by that, but the song doesn't require killing a giant. - RBW

Cross references


  1. Randolph 357, "When I Was a Little Boy" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  2. FSCatskills 145, "The Lofty Giant" (1 text)
  3. Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, p. 101, "When I Was a Little Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Hudson 129, p. 275, "To London I Did Go" (1 text)
  5. Peacock, pp. 24-29, "A Tale of Jests" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
  6. Leach-Labrador 111, "The Lying Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Karpeles-Newfoundland 87, "The Liar's Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Ives-NewBrunswick, pp. 103-106, "The Little Bull Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Manny/Wilson 79, "The Little Bull" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Silber-FSWB, p. 394, "Little Brown Dog" (1 text)
  11. DT, (AUTUMNTO)
  12. Roud #1706
  13. BI, VWL101


Alternate titles: “The Big Jeest”; “Once I Had”; “The Lie Song”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1891 (JAFL 4)
Found in: Britain(Shetlands) US(MA,NE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf)