King of the Cannibal Islands, The

DESCRIPTION: Sometimes a ballad about castaways marrying the daughter of the King of the Cannibal Islands, but often degenerates into a quatrain-ballad about the odd events on the islands. The use of the title phrase is characteristic.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1839 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 36(10) View 2 of 2)
KEYWORDS: humorous cannibalism royalty
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 195, "The King of the Cannibal Islands" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Roud #15695
Bodleian, Harding B 36(10) View 2 of 2, "The King of the Cannibal Islands," J. Catnach (London), 1813-1838; also Johnson Ballads 536, Harding B 11(322), Harding B 11(1997), Firth c.17(312), Harding B 11(1496), Harding B 11(2830), "[The] King of the Cannibal Islands"
NLScotland, R.B.m.143(147), "The King of the Cannibal Islands," Poet's Box (Glasgow), 1858

cf."The Settler's Lament (The Beautiful Land of Australia)" (tune)
Hoke Pokee Wonkee Fum (per broadside, NLScotland, R.B.m.143(147))
The Settler's Lament (The Beautiful Land of Australia) (File: PFS101)
Song of a Strike (Jon Raven, _The Urban and Industrial Songs of the Black Country and Birmingham_, Broadside, 1977, pp. 84-85)
Jeff Davis or The King of the Southern Dominions (WolfAmericanSongSheets p. 75)
The Mormon King (WolfAmericanSongSheets p. 99)
The Sinking of the Pirate Alabama by the U. S. Gunboat "Kearsarge," Captain Winslow, June 19, 1864 ("I sing the doom and dark career," by Silas S. Steele) (WolfAmericanSongSheets p. 142)
Uncle Sam's Boys ("New wongs of late, we've had a score," by H. Angelo) (WolfAmericanSongSheets p. 161)
NOTES: This doesn't show up in folk songbooks much, but it seems to me that I heard it somewhere in my youth; I suspect it qualifies as a children's folk song. At least, I'm putting it here on that assumption. - RBW
From the commentary for broadside NLScotland RB.m.143(147): "This ballad was written at a high-point of British Imperialism, and is a telling illustration of the superior attitudes which popularly existed among both those Brits who settled abroad, in countries such as Africa, and also among the broadside-buying public back in Scotland. As with another broadside in the National Library of Scotland's collection, 'The Queen of Otaheite', the 'natives' are portrayed as bigamous cannibals, with little regard for Western ways." - BS
This even though most places referred to as "Cannibal Islands" were in fact under European control by the time the song was written (under the above assumption). The etymology of "Cannibal" in Robert Hendrickson, The Ocean Almanac, Doubleday, 1984, pp. 118-119, derives the name "Cannibal" from "Carib," "Inhabitant of the Caribbean," a formation going back to Columbus -- although cannibals if anything were more common in the Aztec areas of Mexico, as wwell as in the South Seas (recall how Captain Cook died; also the fact that kuru, the laughing sickness, the first known prion disease, spread by eating infected brain tissue -- and was found only in the South Seas).
Most of these places were at one time or another called "Cannibal Islands" -- although hardly any of them had an actual king. It was more common to eat one's enemies than one's subjects (the latter is obviously inefficient -- you run out of subjects fast that way), so cannibalism tends to imply a nearby external enemy. - RBW
Opie-Oxford2 re 227, "Hokey, pokey, whisky, thum": Evidently derived from "King of the Cannibal Islands" by A.W. Humphreys. See broadside [Note however that the NLScotland broadside of 1858 states that the tune comes from "Hokee Pokee Wonkee Fum"] - BS
Last updated in version 3.5
File: PHCFS195

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