Oleanna

DESCRIPTION: The singer sings the praises of "Ole, Oleanna," where "land is free," the crops grow themselves, the livestock cooks itself, and "the poorest wretch... becomes a king in a year or so."
AUTHOR: Norwegian Words: Ditmar Meidell (English words by Pete Seeger and others)
EARLIEST DATE: 1853 (Krydseren, March 5 issue)
KEYWORDS: emigration farming money talltale nonballad
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Lomax-FSNA 42, "Oleanna" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 47, "Oleanna" (1 text)
DT, OLEOLEAN*
ADDITIONAL:Theodore Blegen and Martin B. Ruud, editors & Translators, _Norwegian Emigrant Songs and Ballads_, University of Minnesota press, 1936/Arno Press, 1979, pp, 187-197, "Oleana" (1 Norwegian text with literal English translation, 1 tune)
Rochelle Wright and Robert L. Wright, _Danish Emigrant Ballads and Songs_, Southern Illinois University Press, 1983, #105, pp. 222-223, 274-275, "I Oleana Der Er Det Godt at Vaere" (1 Danish text with literal English translation, 1 tune)

RECORDINGS:
Pete Seeger, "Oleanna" (on PeteSeeger10) (on PeteSeeger12)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Darling Neddeen" (absurdist sorts of claims for the town)
NOTES: Ole Bull was a Norwegian fiddler who tried to found a colony in Pennsylvania. Despite his extravagant hopes for the settlement (satirized in this song), it was too poor and too far from transportation arteries, and eventually failed.
Bull, incidentally, was quite a character, playing both violin for classical pieces and hardanger fiddle for folk dances. He was a fervent Norwegian patriot, and Oleana (the usual spelling) was not his only attempt to help other Norwegians find a better life, though it was the most spectacular.
Bull inspired several books; the most recent, as far as I know, is Einar Haugen and Camilla Cai, Ole Bull: Norway's Romantic Musician and Cosmopolitan Patriot, University of Wisconsin Press, 1993. It devoted 22 pages to the short life of the Oleana colony, which theoretically was active from 1852 to 1857 but which really existed only for part of 1853.
The original tune to this was apparently called "Rio Janeiro" (so Wright/Wright), but there are several tunes -- e.g. the one you've probably heard from Pete Seeger or his imitators is not the same as the one in Blegen, though they started from the same roots. The Danish tune in Wright/Wright diverges even more, to my ears. - RBW
The town now calls itself "Oleona," and contains a museum celebrating the colony. - PJS
File: LoF042

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.