(Danish) Langt Udi Skoven (The Tree in the Forest)

Langt Udi Skoven

Langt udi skoven laa et lille bjerg,
Aldrig saa jeg saa dejligt et bjerg,
Bjerget ligger langt udi skoven.
Paa det lille bjerg der stod et lille træ,
Aldrig saa jeg saa dejlight et træ;
Træt paa bjerget,
Bjerget ligger langt udi skoven.
Similarly, adding a new line with each verse:
Paa det lille træ der var en lille gren
Paa den lille gren der var et lille kvist
Paa det lille kvist der var en lille blad
Paa der lille blad der var en lille rede
I del lille rede var et lille æg
Af den lille æg der kom en lille fugl
Paa den lille fugl der sad en lille fjer
Af den lille fjer der blev en lille pude.
Concluding as follows:
Paa den lille pude laa en lille dreng,
Andrig saa jeg saa dejlig en dreng.
Drengen paa puden, Puden af fjeren,
Fjeren paa fuglen, Fuglen af ægget,
&Aelig;gget i reden, Reden paa bladet,
Bladet paa kvisten, Kvisten paa grenen,
Grenen paa træt, Træt paa bjerget,
Bjerget ligger langt udi skoven.
Down in the forest stands a little hill,
I never saw such a pretty hill.
Little hill stands deep in the forest.
On the little hill there stands a little tree,
I never saw such a pretty little tree.
Tree there on the hill,
Little hill stands deep in the forest.

On the little tree there grows a little branch
On the little branch there grows a little twig
On the little twig there grows a little leaf,
On the little leaf there sits a little nest,
In the little nest there sits a little egg,
From the little egg there came a baby bird,
On the little bird there was a little feather,
From the little feather I made a little pillow
On the little pillow there sleeps a little boy,
I never saw such a pretty little boy,

Boy on the pillow, pillow from the feather,
Feather from the bird, bird came from the egg,
Egg there in the nest, nest there on the leaf
Leaf there on the twig, twig there on the branch,
Branch there on the tree, tree there on the hill,
Little hill stands deep in the forest.

The Green Grass Grew All Around
In the woods there is a tree,
The prettiest tree you ever did see,
The tree’s in the woods,
And the woods on the ground,
And the green grass grew all around,
all around,
And the green grass grew all around,
Continuing through:
And on the tree there is a branch,
And on the branch there is a limb,
And on the limb there is a twig,
And on the twig there is a nest,
And on the nest there is a bird,
And on the bird there is a wing,
And on the wing there is a feather,
And concluding,
And on the feather there is some down,
The softest down you ever did see,
The down on the feather
and the feather on the wing,
and the wing on the bird,
and the bird on the nest,
and the nest on the twig,
and the twig on the limb,
and the limb on the branch,
and the branch on the tree,
and the tree on the ground
And the green grass grew all around,
all around,
And the green grass grew all around.

(Click here for a PDF version of the music) * (Play MP3 instrumental)

This Danish song has not, to my knowledge, been found in Minnesota — or, indeed, anywhere in the Midwest that I know of. But it illustrates an interesting point: That the same song could sometimes exist in more than one language. Danish offers several examples of this. The song “Svend i Rosengaard,” or “Son Come Tell To Me,” is an exact version in Danish of the English-language ballad “Edward,” about a mother questioning her son to learn the truth about a murder. No one knows how that ballad came to exist in both languages — perhaps the roots of the story go back all the way to the time when Old Norse and Old English were close enough that the song could cross boundaries, or to the time when Canute’s Danish dynasty ruled England. Or perhaps it is a short version of a medieval romance; these were often translated.

Other songs were shared by sailors; Hugill has Norwegian versions of the American shanties “Rio Grande” and “Blow, Boys, Blow,” for instance, and I’ve heard a Welsh version of “Santy Anno.” Other songs were deliberately translated; the Germans and the Danes, and maybe others, had their versions of Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susanna.”

We don’t know how this song came to exist in English and Danish, but there isn’t much doubt that the English and Danish versions are from the same original. Both are about a tree, and the things that grow on the tree, and both are cumulative songs — that is, each verse adds another line as the song gets longer and longer. The most famous examples of this type are probably “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Source: The Danish version is from Maud Karpeles, Folk Songs of Europe (no original copyright asserted but first printed in 1956); it is song #4 in that collection. The American version of this song is usually known by a title such as “The Tree in the Wood” or “The Green Grass Grew All Around.” This song has been found all over North America, and I’ve printed a version from Harvey H. Fuson, Ballads of the Kentucky Highlands (Mitre Press, 1931), so that you can see what a typical American version is like. The tunes are not the same, but the words certainly are close!

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