Old Fish Song, The

DESCRIPTION: Humorous retelling of the Jonah myth. Jonah is ordered by God to preach repentance to Nineveh. Not wanting the job, he goes to sea. God raises a storm; the sailors throw Jonah overboard. He is swallowed by a whale. Children are warned to obey
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1933 (field recording, Blind James Howard)
LONG DESCRIPTION: God sees that the people of Nineveh are wicked, and sends Jonah to preach to them. Jonah says he's a hard-shell Baptist and refuses to go, being against foreign missions. He gets on a ship, but God, angered, raises a storm and the sailors throw Jonah overboard, where he's swallowed by a whale. The whale has indigestion, and vomits Jonah back out; Jonah heads for Nineveh and preaches and prophesies until the population repents. The moral is that one should be obedient: "When you disobey mammy, remember this tale/When you run off from home, bud, look out for a whale/There's varmints to get you on sea and on land/And a boy can be swallowed lots easier than a man."
KEYWORDS: captivity travel prophecy Bible humorous religious whale gods
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Boette-SingaHipsyDoodle, pp. 148-149, "Jonah and the Whale" (1 text)
Cohen/Seeger/Wood-NewLostCityRamblersSongbook, p. 124-125, "The Old Fish Song" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #7522
Blind James Howard, "The Old Fish Song" (AFS 74A, 1933; on KMM)
New Lost City Ramblers, "The Old Fish Song" (on NLCR01, NLCRCD1)

NOTES [61 words]: This hilarious song almost certainly began its life as a printed "ballot." - PJS
Book of Jonah, ch. 1-3. In the Bible, of course, it's a great fish rather than a whale. - PJS
Interestingly, the story leaves out most of chapter 4 of Jonah, in which the repentance of Nineveh causes Jonah to get mad at God again. Perhaps it's the author who's the hard-shell Baptist. - RBW
File: CSW124

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 2021 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.