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Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.

17 Jul 07 - 07:14 PM (#2105446)
Subject: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile. Kids game.
From: Joybell

Line of children: Crocodile, Crocodile lay across the river.
                  If not why not? What's your favourite colour?

"Crocodile": names a colour.

All children wearing that colour (underwear not included) run past the "crocodile", to form a line on the other side of the "river". "Crocodile doesn't chase them. Children not wearing the named colour are fair game. They try to out-run the "Crocodile". A child caught gets to be "Crocodile" next time around.

I have a small group of 13-year-old girls, attending our local school, who have parts in a play I wrote for them. My plays are always in the nature of musical folk-plays and I was explaing about the idea of meeting an enchanted Being on the road and having to answer vital questions and so forth. I gave them a modern example from a film I knew they'd have seen - and they told me about "Crocodile."
I got very excited because I'm working hard at trying to get them to understand "live theatre" as opposed to film. I also like to explain the idea of traditional songs, dances, games, stories, and plays. Here they'd given me a perfect example of oral tradition at work. -- a game they'd learned from other children in the playground when they were 5 year-olds. They hadn't been taught the game by teachers or parents - they were positive about that.

There are a few references to the game "Crocodile" on the net. Most seem to be from Australia and the UK. I've been working with school children, in a voluntary capacity, for many years and I have grandchildren. I've not heard this game before - and I usually notice such things. I realize that it's very similar to other games.

Do you know it, Friends? Is it played in the US?

17 Jul 07 - 07:24 PM (#2105456)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Peace

"Please Mr Crocodile

We enjoy playing this game with 4 or 5 friends.

One person is 'Mr Crocodile' and the other people say:

"Please Mr Crocodile
can we cross your Golden River?".

(Wendy Carter emailed to tell us this longer version:
" Please my crocodile,
May I cross the water
To see my baby daughter
Who lives in a cup and saucer?" )

'Mr Crocodile' replies with something like

"Only if you are wearing something blue".

If you are wearing that colour you can move on one step. When you reach the other side, you are then the next 'Mr Crocodile'."

There was a "Mother may I . . ." game in Eastern Canada when I was a kid, but no mention of crocodiles.

17 Jul 07 - 07:50 PM (#2105479)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Joybell

Thank you Peace. Sounds like our version might be a simplified form of the game. True-Love says he's never heard of it - he grew up in the American Midwest - from 1938 on. The closest he came was "What's the time Mr Wolf". We played that here in Aus too.
I'll share this discussion with my young actors. We are in a fairly isolated community in Western Victoria - getting less isolated with the internet, of course. No crodiles around for hundreds of miles and miles.

Cheers, Joy

17 Jul 07 - 08:48 PM (#2105511)
Subject: LYR ADD: RIppy the Gator by Arrogant Worms
From: Cluin

Rippy the Gator
by The Arrogant Worms

Hi, kids!
Welcome to the Uncle Bobo Show!
Are you ready to sing?
Come on, let's go!

Billy and his family went on a holiday
They went down to Florida, to laugh and dance and play
Billy went in for a swim; he didn't see the harm
But when he came back out again, he was short an arm

   'Cause Rippy the Gator went chomp! chomp! chomp!
   Rippy the Gator went chomp! chomp! chomp!
   Passing the time by ending children's lives
   Down in the bottom of the swamp

Billy and his father went out to play some catch
But Billy missed the pass because his arm was unattached
The ball flew past his shoulder and it rolled into the swamp
When he went wading after it, his leg became a stump


Billy and his father joined a three-legged race
They were tearing up the field; no one could keep the pace
But Billy tripped and did a flip and landed in the muck
He was running out of limbs, and also out of luck


Billy was all dirty; he really had to wash
But he couldn't use a towel because his limbs had been gnawed off
He went into the water to get all clean and bright
But when his bath was finished, he was only half his height


Billy's father rolled his wheelchair up upon a hill
He wanted to put Bill where he would not get killed
But he left him the slope and, into the swamp, he rolled
They dragged out his head, but there was nothing left below


It's more fun than it sounds. The audience joins in on the "chomp! chomp! chomp!" parts, imitating gator jaws with extended arms.

17 Jul 07 - 08:51 PM (#2105513)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Cluin

Sorry. Last line of the chorus should be "Down in the bottom of the swamp, swamp, swamp".

18 Jul 07 - 03:20 AM (#2105700)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: GUEST,Paul Burke

Pendlebury UK, 1920s onwards (from my mother):

Farmer, farmer, may I cross your field?

Only if you're wearing (colour).

Obviously massively open to discrimination and favouritism, but kids don't seem bothered about such possibilities. We used to believe dipping was fair.

Here's another crocodile song (verse of "down at the station"):

Down at the riverside,
Early in the morning,
See the little crocodiles
Swimming to and fro,
See the little children
Jump in the water-
Snap! snap! gulp! gulp!
Down you go!

18 Jul 07 - 04:28 AM (#2105728)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Joybell

Thanks Cluin and Paul. Just the sort of songs kids love.
Paul - that's an interesting variant of the game. Thank you.
Cheers, Joy

18 Jul 07 - 01:52 PM (#2106068)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Mrrzy

Sounds like an interesting version of Sharks & Minnows (in water) = Who's Afraid Of The Tiger (on land)... with elements of Mother May I thrown in.

18 Jul 07 - 03:12 PM (#2106130)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Anne Lister

I remember as a kid asking to cross a golden river, and the colour thing, but I don't remember any crocodiles being involved. I think it was a farmer. Much less exciting, but the same panic to find some clothing of the right hue.

Anne (in the UK)

18 Jul 07 - 06:24 PM (#2106269)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Joybell

I guess crocodiles are in short suppy in the UK, Anne. At least we do have them in the North of our country. I wonder why crocodiles, farmers or sharks would be accociated with colours. Other games have more obvious connections with magic or logic or both.
Cheers, Joy

19 Jul 07 - 02:27 AM (#2106556)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Mo the caller

In London, in the late 40s / early 50s we did the chasing version
"Please Mr Crocodile may I cross your water?"

"only if you're wearing .."

We also played "May I?" I remember this one from the first year of secondary school, so I was 11 and it was 1954.
I child was "it" and stood by the wall, the others started in a line. Each in turn asked what they could have and "it" gave them any number and sort of steps she chose. The different steps had different names, 'pigeon steps' when the heel starts where the other toe is, '..?..' when you stretch the front foot as far as you can, hops, jumps, something called a mashed potato (anyone remember what, could it have been lie on the ground and where your fingers reach you get to).
I'm not sure what happened when you touched the wall, If you became "it", or if there was a chase?
We also played "whats the time Mr Wolf" and "Creepy creepy" where someone has her back to the wall and the others move nearer,she turns round quickly and anyone she sees moving has to go back to the start.

Some of us were well aware that the games and "dipping" could be unfair, but what could you do about it? At least they were letting you play with them and most children were not spiteful enough to make the discrimination too obvious.

19 Jul 07 - 02:36 AM (#2106559)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Mo the caller

When we played "may I" you had to remember to say "may i?" after you'd been given your steps. If you forgot I think you went back to the start.

Cluins rhyme reminds me of a song I heard at Litchfield 10 years ago, being taught to children at a Hobby Horse club at the Folk Festival.

I'm being easten by a Boa constrictor and I don't like it one bit (x2)

Oh no he's up to my toe (x2)

Oh gee he's up to my knee





19 Jul 07 - 04:52 AM (#2106609)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Azizi

The "Mr. Wolf" games that are already posted in this thread appear to be very similar to the 19th century {or earlier} Southern African American children's game "Chickama Chickama Cranie Crow".*

This game is included in Thomas W. Talley's 1922 collection of "Negro Folk Rhymes". In that book, the title given for this game is "Hawk And Chickens Play":

{Chicken's Call} "Chickamee", chickamee, cranie crow".
I went to the well to wash my toe
When I come back, my chicken wus gone.
W'at time, ole Witch?

{Hawk sponse **} "One"
{Hawk Call} "I wants a chick."
{Chicken's Sponse} "Well, you canin't git mine".
{Hawk's Call} "I shall have a chick!"
{Chicken's Sponse} You shan't have a chick

[Thomas W. Talley, "Negro Folk Rhymes, Wise & Otherwise" {Kennikat Press Edition, 1968, p. 74; originally published, The Macmillan Company, 1922}

*The spelling "Chickama Chickama Cranie Crow" is used here as that is how that beginning rhyme of this game is most often given in the sources that I've found.

** Call & Sponse means "Call" and "Response"
In this context, "call" means the first statement in the dialogue.

19 Jul 07 - 05:03 AM (#2106615)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Azizi

Here's an excerpt of recollection of Jack and Rosa Maddox's recollection of slavery that includes a mention of "Chickama Chickama Craney Crow":

My first real hard work was gathering brush in the fields. Life was pretty hard. There was a cowhide to get you every time you turned your head out of time. They got us up for the fields before day. We used to go to the fields singin' - Chicama - chicama craney - crow Went to the well to wash my toe When I got back all my chickens was gone. It's one o'clock old witch" We had a overseer. He thought three o'clock the time to get up.,%20Jack%20and%20Rosa.html


There are a number of online examples of "What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf". Here's one example from:

"One player is the wolf and he/she will stand with his/her back turned to the others about 5 meters from the others. The others call out, "Whats the time Mr. Wolf" and the wolf turns to face the others and shouts out a time. Eg: 10 o'clock. The others would then take 10 steps toward the wolf. The group will take the same amount of steps toward the wolf as the amount of hours in the wolfs time. eg, 2 o'clock = 2 steps, 6 o'clock = 6 steps etc. etc. The wolf will then turn his back to the group again for them to yell "whats the time...." (He looks at the group only when he shouts the time at the group". When the group gets close to the wolf the next time the group yells "whats the time Mr. Wolf" the wolf will say 'DINNER TIME" and run after the group who are running back to the start line, and hopefully catch one of the group who will then be the wolf. It sounds messy, but when played is an enjoyable game.
Thanks to Lynne (Australia) - Thank you!"

That page has links to "Red Light/Green Light" and "The Wolf And The Easter Eggs" which it cites as similar games.

19 Jul 07 - 05:52 AM (#2106642)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Azizi

I didn't play "Chickama Chicama Cranie [Craney?] Crow" or "What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf" when I was growing up in New Jersey, in the 1950s. My children didn't play either of those games when they were growing up in the 1970s/1980s.

In the late 1990s to 2005 I facilitated after-school/summer children's groups in the Pittsburgh, Penn. area that focused on sharing traditional and adapted African American game songs [and also learning and performing contemporary African American rhymes}. The focus population for these groups were girls and boys ages 5-12 years.

Around the year 2000, I learned the game "What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf" and included it in the group's game song curriculum under the title "What Time Is It, Mr.Fox?" I changed the name of this game because I included the "Chicama Chicama Craney Crow" verse and thought that a fox trying to eat the chickens sounded more realistic than a wolf eating chickens {though wolves may indeed eat chickens for all I know}. {I think I was influenced by that song "Fox went out one starry night" in which the fox says "A couple of you gonna grease my skin/ before I reach the town-o"}...

As to the line "chickama chickama cranie crow"...well...I really didn't [and don't still] know what that line means. I told the children that these words were spoken by the mother [or father] hen to the fox and that "chickama" meant "my chicks" {my little chickens"}. I also said that I thought that "cranie crow" meant something like "Granny" crow. Initially, I said that the mother hen was insulting the fox by calling him or her an old crow. But then I thought about a black "crow" being a put down. And didn't like the thought that I was teaching children to insult someone based on their color.So I dropped that explanation, and told children that the truth of the matter was that I really didn't know what "cranie crow" meant but I thought that "chickama" meant "my chicks". I explained to the children that the fox had already eaten one of the chicks and the mother {or father} hen was both confronting the fox AND protecting the rest of her "chickens".

Here's how I taught this game:

One person was selected as the "fox" and one person was selected as the mother {or father} hen. The other children lined up vertically behind the mother or father hen {so she or he could protect them from the fox}. The fox stood facing the hens with his [or her] back to the designated area that was the hen's "home base". The game started with all of the "chickens" chanting the "chickama chickama craney crow" lines. The fox would then arbitrarily say a time {such as 8'o clock}. The chickens did not move but remained standing behind the mother or father chicken, and they would then again say "What time is it, Mr Fox?". The fox would say another time {such as 3 o'clock}. This pattern would continue until the fox suddenly shouted "Dinner Time!". When the fox said that all the chickens would scatter. The object was for the chickens to try to run to home base {for instance, across a designated line on the other side of the gym} before the fox caught them. If the fox caught them the chickens were out.{children who were "out" were supposed to stand apart from the action and watch it going on. This did not work out too well}. The first person to reach the home base becomes the new mother or father hen. The last person who is caught becomes the new "fox". Ideally, the mother/father fox is supposed to help her children stay away from the fox. But in reality, that part didn't work out so good.

There were times during these adult facilitated groups when children initiated "free play" and chose to play this game. Usually, what occurred is they dropped the recitation of the chickama lines and went directly with the "What time is it, Mr. Fox" lines and the chasing that occurred afterwards. It was obvious that what the children liked best about this game was the chase. But they also seemed to like the anticipation of the fox [okay, the wolf] saying differnt times before he or she finally said "Dinner Time!"

19 Jul 07 - 08:34 PM (#2107270)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Joybell

Thank you Mo and Azizi.
I think the Boa Constrictor rhyme is from Spike Milligan - but I'd have to take a look in our files. It was in several Australian school-songbooks in the 1970s.

We played "What's the Time Mr Wolf" here in Australia during the 1950s. My children played it in the 1960s-70s. It's still played in Western Victoria today. Although foxes are well known here and wolves are not, I've always thought that the idea of using a wolf comes from a deep-seated fear of this animal that comes to us from our ancestors. In the European culture of my ancestors the fox is clever and tricky, but the wolf is dangerous and scary. Children tend to favour dangerous and scary in the playground.

It's a very basic game isn't it? Every man/woman/child for himself/herself and the wolf against everyone. I never liked it but I understand it's appeal.
Cheers, Joy

22 Jul 07 - 07:17 PM (#2108832)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Mo the caller

I have played another game (taught by adults at a party).
'Fox and chickens'
The chickens stand in a line behind the mother hen, each holding the waste of the one in front. The fox faces the Hen and has to catch the end chick. This is hard, as the mother hen moves to block him, and the line moves so that the end is dodging the fox.
What happens when one is caught? Maybe that one sits out and it is easier to get the next one, I can't remember.
No rhyme with that one as we were taught it.

22 Jul 07 - 07:56 PM (#2108848)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: dick greenhaus

The Boa Constrictor, as far as I know, was written and copyrighted by Shel Silverstein.

23 Jul 07 - 12:29 AM (#2108973)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Joybell

Yes Dick. Quite right. Shel Silverstein it was. Thank you. Shel Silverstein's songs were featured in the Australian school song-books regularly.

Mo, My kids played Hen and Chickens. Can't remember the details. It would have been during the 1970s and 80s.
Cheers, Joy

24 Jul 07 - 04:05 PM (#2110338)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Mo the caller

I think we played Fox and chickens at a Bible class party. We were already divided into 'squads', so a fox from one squad tried to catch the other squads chicks and v.v. The one that caught them all first was the winner.
Not really a spontaneous, playground, game.

04 Mar 09 - 08:49 AM (#2581001)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Azizi

I just found another article about the "What Time Is It Mr. Wolf" game whose title is given as "Chicory Chicory Craney Crow".

I'm going to post the entire article to further ensure that it isn't lost:

Chicory Chicory Craney Crow

Early 20th Century Schoolyard Game
-Junkill Mon Jul 11 2005 at 21:50:23

"My father was born in 1904, how I got to be born in 1964 is a tale for another day. Anyway, dad told me of the games that he would play as a child in central Texas. One stuck out, for its rather dull-seeming repetition and very bizarre little rhyme that was a part of it. The game itself was a version of tag.

Apparently, the children would stand in a large circle. In the centre of the circle would be a designated "it," the so-called "Old Witch." The children in the ring would chant:

"Chicory Chicory Craney Crow
Went to the well to wash his toe.
When he got back, the chickens were gone.
What time is it, Old Witch?"

The Old Witch would then shout "One O'clock!" The kids would resume the chanting ...

"Chicory Chicory Craney Crow
Went to the well to wash his toe.
When he got back, the chickens were gone.
What time is it, Old Witch?"

...and the Old Witch would say "Two O'clock." The game would progress like this through the numbers up to twelve, presumably with the tension (such as it might have been) mounting.

When the OW shouted the words "Twelve O'Clock," that was the signal for the children to flee in all directions, probably shrieking madly, with the OW hot on their little heels, trying to tag them. Whichever child got tagged would then be the Old Witch for the next round.

Even as a child, this sounded really tedious to me. All I could think is that, before there was television, kids must've had a lot of time on their hands. I would have thought that, what with all the chores and the church and learning the three R's and the walking uphill to school and getting whipped with hickory switches and whatnot, early 20th century youngsters would not have had time to stand around for hours, chanting strange rhymes and watching one of their fellows increment a number ... but apparently this was a very popular game.

I have no idea what the rhyme means, it is probably just schoolyard nonsense like "Cinderella/Dressed in yella/Went upstairs to kiss a fella ..." or "Girls are sexy/made out of Pepsi/Boys are rotten/made out of cotton..." Still, it could be a fun project for some post-Freudian or tongue-in-cheek sociologist to examine.

The rhyme was chanted or sung to a tune approximately the same as "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush". My father told me that sometimes it was "Hickory Chicory Craney Crow" but most often, it was the version above. The only source that I could find on a couple of InterWeb searches was also from Texas, also from the turn of the century. They had the rhyme as:

"Chickama, chickama, craney crow
Went to the well to wash his toe.
When he got back his black-eyed Susan was gone.
What time is it, Old Witch?"

I have to confess, I like Dad's version a lot better. Black-eyed Susan is way too many syllables for that line."

04 Mar 09 - 10:23 AM (#2581052)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Azizi

Here's another example of 'What's the Time, Mr Wolf?'

"One person stands with his back to the group who are about 10 yards away. They all call out "What's the time Mr Wolf?"
The 'Wolf' responds with a time say "10 o'clock" and quickly tuns. If he catches anyone still moving they are out. He can call 'Dinner Time' any time and then grab as many as he or she can until all caught."

In addition to his collection of children's rhymes, has numerous other examples of Australian folklore posted online. It's an important collection that imo, Mudcatters should be aware of and should be delighted to support.

04 Mar 09 - 10:29 AM (#2581060)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: Azizi

I'm sorry. I meant to include the source information for that example of 'What Time Is it Mr. Wolf?"

Here is the information as given on Warren Fahey's website:
Children's GAMES recorded from Caroline Bailey
born Musselbrook, NSW
Recorded 1984, Marrickville. Aged 24

04 Mar 09 - 06:25 PM (#2581406)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: The Vulgar Boatman

Just noticed this revived thread.

In 1995, our next door neighbour's children in Kent were playing a game with the lines:
Please Mr Crocodile, may I cross the water
To see your ugly daughter
In a cup and saucer...

Nothing special about these kids, in fact they went on to encounter all the usual tribulations up to and including ghastly teenage motherhood BUT...
Isn't it strange, with all our concerns about young people not getting involved in our traditions (like the morris for example), that they appear to be doing it quite well without us. They just don't put it on a pedestal.

20 Jun 09 - 12:40 AM (#2660689)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: GUEST,Brett

Taught a group of kids at Hepburn Primary (Small school in Viotoria, Australia) and we played this in the morning as a whole school activity to fill time!

14 Jan 11 - 03:39 AM (#3074221)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Crocodile crocodile game.
From: GUEST,Alex

We used to play this game when I was a kid, but the chant went like this:
Crocodile, Crocodile, may we cross the river?
To fetch a pail of water, for the kings daughter,
If not why not, Whats you favourite colour?