“Kom lilla du, kudden väntar nu. Inte läsa mer, Babba, dags att lägga sig.”
Come little one, the pillow awaits. No more reading, Babba, it’s time to go to bed – this repetitive modern lullaby is deceptively simple and soothing, loved and hated in equal measure by parents in Sweden.
Loved, because it puts the most energetic of babies to sleep. Hated, because afterwards, you’ll be lying there in the dark in your own bed, the lyrics playing softly but insistently on repeat in your head. When you finally remember the order of the characters and their pre-bedtime activities (hint: it’s Babba [reading], Bibbi [listening], Bobbo [playing], Dadda [climbing], Diddi [drawing], Doddo [getting up to mischief]), congratulations, you’ve made it as a parent in Sweden.
The characters were originally created in the 1980s to facilitate children’s language development, but they got a rebirth in the 2000s with a television series for SVT and several new songs. Your children will be able to name them all and they will expect you to do the same. Who knew parenthood was this joyous.
Ekorrn satt i granen
Alice Tegnér is a name you need to know, because she’s the woman who’s to thank or blame for most of the Swedish children’s musical canon. Born in 1864, she was a music teacher from the town of Karlshamn in southern Sweden and composer of some of the country’s most well-known children’s songs.
This one is about a squirrel who, just as he was sitting down in a spruce to peel some pine cones, gets startled by the sound of children, falls from his branch and hurts his fluffy tail. That’s it, that’s the plot.
Mors lilla Olle
Another one of Tegnér’s greatest hits, this one tells the story of Olle, who runs into a bear when out picking bilberries. To cut a long story short: he feeds the bilberries to the bear, his mother screams and the bear runs off, Olle gets upset that mummy scared his ostensibly only friend.
It’s based on a true story. In 1850, newspapers wrote about how Jon Ersson, then one year and seven months, met a couple of bear cubs at Sörsjön, Dalarna, and fell asleep next to them in the lingon shrubs. Ersson in his 30s emigrated to Minnesota where he was hit by lightning and died. Luck only lasts so long.
Prästens lilla kråka
Prästens lilla kråka, the priest’s little crow (optionally mormors/farmors lilla kråka – grandma’s little crow, or whoever wants to claim the crow), wanted to go for a ride but no one was around to give her a lift. So she took matters into her own hands, but, presumably lacking a driving licence, she slid THIS way and then she slid THAT way and then she slid DOWN into the ditch. Sung while rocking the child to one side, to the other side and then playfully dropping them to the floor.
It often also makes an appearance as a dance around the Maypole on Midsummer’s Eve.
Astrid Lindgren is not only one of the world’s most famous children’s authors, she is also behind many of the most well-known Swedish songs for children, featuring her beloved characters.
This one starts off “Lille katt, lille katt, lille söte katta. Vet du att, vet du att, det är mörkt om natta” (little cat, little cat, little sweet cat. Do you know, do you know, it’s dark at night – it rhymes in Swedish), followed by similar verses about other animals and family members. It is sung by Ida, the little sister of prankster Emil in the books and films about Emil of Lönneberga. Jazz musician Georg Riedel composed the music, as well as the music for several other Lindgren movies.
Other famous tunes by Lindgren include Här kommer Pippi Långstrump, Idas sommarvisa, Luffarvisan, Jag är en fattig bonddräng, Mors lilla lathund and Världens bästa Karlsson.
These five songs do not even begin to form an exhaustive list of Sweden’s wide, wide, wide repertoire of children’s songs. Which ones can you not get out of your head? Let us know in the comments below!