Sjysje roe barnegull (Norwegian)
Norwegian Mirror Page

Lullabies and cradle songs

Hans Thoma (1839
– 1924)

Here's how you pronounce "bua":

Bissam sullam låver i lull

Sori rori liten sull

Sjysje roe barnegull

One of the oldest lullabies found in written form, is the around 4.500 year old Babylonian song written on a clay tablet (in Mesopotamia). It asks, in a translation made by Richard Dumbrill: Little baby in the dark house, you have seen the sun rise. Why are you crying? We ask that question even today, as it probably has been asked through all times.

The Romans in Antiquity sang "Lalla, lalla, aut dormi, aut lacte" for their little ones. This lullaby was found in a manuscript by Aulus Persius Flaccus, from around the year 60 A.D. It was sung almost 2000 years ago. It contains the words lalla, and encourages the baby to either drink milk (lacte - breastfeed) or go to sleep (dormi). Maybe this also is the reason we still call cradle songs for "lullabies" in the English language?

In Norwegian the word lalle or bysselalle is often used as a synonym for going to sleep (for children). Or Byssan lulle barnet. Similar are perhaps the words lully and lullay in English. Listen for instance to Coventry Carol. The English term lullaby is thought to come from the "lu, lu" or "la la" sound made by mothers or nurses to calm children, and "by by" or "bye bye", either another lulling sound, or a term for good night. From around 1650, the term lull had the meaning "a soothing drink", and by 1815, the meaning of a lull was "a temporary period of quiet or rest amid turmoil or activity".

In German we say lullen, in Swedish lulla and in Dutch we say lollen. Similarily, in sanskrit the word is lolati, to rock the baby. In Norwegian we may say lalle, byssan lull, or lullan, by, by (pronounced like bee with lips puckered) or bua (boo-ah). Older Norwegian lullabies often use the words bissam, sullam or so, ro (sleep calmly/peacefully) and såri råri, nonsense words derived from sov i ro, i.e. "sleep peacefully". One might also use the words sori, rori, also derived from sov i ro (sleep peacefully). We might also say sjyshe/kysje, or hysh, which means shush or hush.

Thus we may say that Norwegian bånsuller (lullabies) are cradle songs, sung for children when they lie in their parents' arms being rocked to sleep or are put to bed. The name is derived from barn (bån - child) og sulle which means hum-singing, sometimes without words, while rocking the baby. There is a belief built on practice, that says that children fall asleep much faster when listening to lullabies than otherwise. Some people feel that these songs mimic the rhythm of the mothers' heart beats while in the womb. Kids feel safe and loved when we sing to them, anyhow.

Hebrew lullabies are said to use similar phrases that have noe known meaning today, like: Laila lu-li-olali. It has been said, but I don't know whether this is true, that the word lullaby has its origin in the Hebrew language, taken from the words Lilith abi, which means something like Lilith, go away. Lilith was thought to be a kind of demon that used to steal babies in the night. So mothers, maids and wetnurses sang for the babies during the night to ward evil things off. The same theme we may recognise in some of the older Norwegian mountain songs that may serve as lullabies.

In Norwegian folklore it is the seductive female forest spirit "Huldra" that in her songs warn parents not to let their children sleep unattended. The babies might get taken by the mythical hulderfolk, the so believed secret underground dwellers.Huldra is even prone herself to stealing human babies and replacing them with her own child (a bytting or huldrebarn).

Several of the Norwegian lullabies are old folk melodies. The melodic span is often small in these melodies, and they are often repetitive, with an almost hypnotic effect. They often run with 3/4 or 6/8-meter.The words and lyrics are close to home; connected to everyday life, the animals on the farm, the people in the household, mom, dad, sister brother, milk, the cooking of the porrigde and the enclosing night with stars shining bright.

If the mythical forest spirit "Huldra" is singing to us, she often tells us quite sternly to hurry home to the children, so they won't fall into harm, so that they won't go hungry or get cold or burn themselves on the fire in the stove. She might even tell us how to make our porridge well, like in Statt upp Mari Støveltryne. If betrayed, Huldra is known to punish her victims severely. The songs serve as warnings. And the language is crude, often using derogatory words like "Mary Boot-face", "Mary Boot-rump" or "no-good valley girl"(Dala-drøgd) to signal that the mother or maid in question deserved a boot directed at her backside - to hurry back to her babies or to get her chores done properly. The need for caregivers to care well for the babies is quite evident. As well as doing your chores and work in the right fashion.

Some of the songs on this page are evening songs, others are hymns or art songs. The latter often have larger melodic leaps, and may not be as easy to sing plainly and effortlessly as the presumably much older and "simpler" lullabies from the folk tradition (see for instance Margrethes vuggesang by Edward Grieg ).

Several of these songs are translated to Norwegian from other languages. Behind the links you'll find lyrics, sheet music (mostly single melodies) and sound clips of varying quality. They are mainly made for learning purposes. The recordings often appear as they are in the moment of singing, quite often without any accompaniment, other than my own breathing noises, breaks in the wrong places, clicks and white noise. Sometimes I sing the wrong word and present the listener with doubtful intonation and a sloppy pronunciation. Sometimes I lack pulse and mess up the rhythm. In spite of these apparent lacks in quality compared to professional recordings by professional singers, I hope you can use them as they are; a means of accessing old or new songs in a fairly easy way.

On my web site musikkrom you may find some of these songs, as well as a large collection of canons and rounds.

Lullabies from the Norwegian traditional music

Bissam lullam låver i lull
Bua bua bånet
Bya bya barnet
Byssan lull liten tull
Baad'n laat/Bissam bissam ba'net
Bånsull fra Norge
Duva settø se
Hjuringjenta gjalar (gjeterjenta synger for barnet)
Kysje roe banegull/Skysje roe barnegull
Mit bån sit på tuve
Ro ro til Relteland
Roe roe barnet
Skød skød Daladrøgd
So ro godt barn
Sori rori liten Sull
Statt upp Mari Støveltryne
Sul lul leia
Sull fra Elverum
Sulla meg litt du mamma mi
Såri såri liten tull
Till till tara
To smaa Spikke

Lullabies in Norwegian from other countries

Allunde alluya (Nigeriansk vuggesang)
Alvenes vuggevise/Fairy lullaby/Skotsk vuggevise
All night all day (gospel)
All the pretty little horses/Alt det som du drømmer om
All through the night/Sov godt i natt
Armensk vuggesang
Barges/Hver dag fra mitt vindu jeg kan se
Baskisk vuggesang
Barnet sover nå
Do do l'enfant do/Sov, sov barn sov.
Dormi dormi bel bambin (Sov vakre barn)
Duerme mi tesoro - sov min lille søte
Fate la nanna/Hør vugge sangen som nynnes så stille (Italia)
Gaelisk vuggevise/Barnet sover nå
Golden slumbers/Gyldne drømmer
Ho, ho watanay/Sov, sov lille barn (Canadisk/Iroquois vugge sang)
Hush little baby (Hysj lille barnet)
Hver dag fra mitt vindu jeg kan se (Barges)
Inuit vuggesang
Kom skal vi seile over hav (Kun melodi. Nederland)
Lalla, lalla, aut dormi, aut lacte (gammel romersk vuggesang på latin)
Lukk ditt øye, du (Fra USA)
Murucututu - Barnet sover trygt
A la nanita nana (spansk vuggevise)
Når månen seiler over (Hvem har de vakreste lam? Tyskland)
Rock-a-bye baby on the tree top
Round and round the earth is turning/Rundt og rundt
Scotch lullaby/Scottish lullaby/Highland lullaby/Lullaby of an infant chief/Så tyss da, min lille
Sleep baby sleep/Schlaf Kindlein schlaf/ Sov baby sov
Sleep sleep my darling/Sov, sov min lille
Slumber boat (Baby's boat)/Babys månebåt
Sov min lille søte (Spania)
Suliram, sov godt i natt (Indonesia)
Suo gan/Hør min vuggesang så stille
Suze naanje (søte barnet) (Nederland)
Visselull mit lille barn (Danmark)
Vuggesang fra Thailand
Vuggevise fra Acadia
Walisisk vuggesang

lullabies from art music

Abendlied- Der Mond ist aufgegangen/ Kveldssang - Vår måne står på himlen
Brahms vuggesang/Gute Abend, gut' Nacht
Cradle song (Carl Maria von Weber/ Sov, hjertevennen min)
Cradle hymn (Jean Jaques Rousseau/Hysj, mitt barn sov søtt og stille)
Kall på lammene /Ca' the yowes (Robert Burns)
Mit elskte barn (Weyse)
Nu løftes laft og lofte (Margretes vuggesang av Edvard Grieg)
Skumring (Glück)
Sov vesle prinsen/B. Fliess/W.A. Mozart
Sove sove sov mitt lille hjerte (Schubert)

Lullabies from more recent times

Drømmenatt (Nattvise)
Gyng litt med meg
Hvite seil
Livets melodi
Lysalv, lysalv, spinner gull
Meg og min malende katt
Natten kommer Vuggevise/ (Høst- og vintersang)
Nå er dagen over
Ri i vei
Sorgene skal fly bort - vuggevise
Sola synker
Sov, min lille engel
Vinden blåser over land
Sov nå sødt
Svarte kråke

Lullabies from Christian tradition

Alltid freidig når du går
Christ Child Lullaby/Jesusbarnets vuggesang
Coventry Carol
Ingen er så trygg i fare


About lullabies