“Who Killed Cock Robin?”


"Who killed Cock Robin? I, said the sparrow, with my little bow and arrow." "Who saw him die? I, said the fly, with my little streaky eye." Various creatures, mostly birds, describe their parts in the death and burial of Cock Robin


Wild theories swirl about this piece -- e.g. that it is linked with political ministry of Robert Walpole (which ended in 1742), or that it is a retelling of the Norse Balder legend (!). However, there are European analogues, and earlier illustrations which may belong with the story, so any theory must be considered speculative at best. Chase reports that it is a Shoshone night chant.

The Baring-Goulds argue that the piece must go back to Middle English times, because it rhymes "owl" and "shovel." This, however, appears to be in error on two counts: First, the ancient spelling "shouel" was not pronounced "showel" (in Old English, it's "scofl"). And there are English dialects which confuse "v" and "w." - RBW


  • Edith Harmon, "Who Killed Poor Robin?" (LC AAFS 2907 A2, 1939)
  • Buell Kazee, "Cock Robin" (on Kazee01)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Who Killed Poor Robin?" (on NLCR17, NLCRCD2)


  1. SharpAp 213, "Cocky Robin" (4 texts, 4 tunes)
  2. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 74, "Tommy Robin (Cock Robin)" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Fuson, pp. 56-57, "Who Killed the Robin?" (1 text)
  4. Ritchie-Southern, p. 66, "The Death of Cock Robin" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Lomax-FSNA 87, "Cock Robin" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Chase, pp. 177-178, "Cock Robin" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Abrahams/Foss, pp. 69-70, "Who Killed Cock Robin" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Opie-Oxford2 110, "Who killed Cock Robin?" (1 text)
  9. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #22, pp. 36-37, "(Who did kill Cock Robbin?)"
  11. Roud #494
  12. BI, SKE74


Author: unknown
Earliest date: c. 1744 (Tom Thumb's Pretty Song Book volume II)
Keywords: bird death burial
Found in: US(Ap,SE)