12 Creepy Lullabies From Around the World That Will Keep You Up at Night

getty images
getty images

If there’s one image that sums up all the feelings of sweetness and tenderness in the world, it’s a mother singing a lullaby to her baby. But if we listen closer to the lyrics of lullabies, they're not all so sweet. Even Rockabye Baby ends with the crack of broken branch as baby plummets to the ground. Here are 12 creepy lullabies from around the world that might keep you up at night.

1. "Nana Nenê" // Brazil

This Brazilian lullaby invokes Cuca (a crocodile-hag from legends), the idea of parents not being there to protect you, an ox-monster, and a bogeyman called Bicho Papão lurking on the roof. All the stuff that puts a child right at ease.

Hush little baby
Cuca is coming to get you,
Papa went to the fields, mama went to work.

Black-faced ox,
Come grab this child
Who is scared of grimaces.

Bogeyman
Get off the roof
Let this child sleep peacefully.

Listen here

2. "Duérmete Niño" // Spanish

This lullaby is sung in Spain and Latin American in various versions. It warns that if you don’t go to sleep, a shapeshifting monster called the Coco will eat you up. In some countries the Coco is substituted with el Lobo (the wolf), which doesn’t make it any less scary.

Sleep little one
Sleep already
Or the Coco will come and take you away.

Sleep little one
Sleep already
Or the Coco will come and eat you up.

Listen here

3. "Dodo Titit" // Haiti

In Haiti, it’s a crab that’s going to get you while your parents are away.

Night-night little mama, 
Night-night little mama, 
If you don’t sleep, the crab will eat you 
If you don’t sleep, the crab will eat you.

Your mama isn’t here, she went to the market, 
Your papa isn’t here, he went to the river, 
If you don’t sleep, the crab will eat you 
If you don’t sleep, the crab will eat you.

Listen here.

4. "Bayu Bayushki Bayu" // Russia

In Russia, it’s a wolf that’s going to get you off the edge of your bed and drag you off into the woods.

Sleep sleep sleep
Don’t lie too close to the edge of the bed
Or little grey wolf will come
And grab you by the flank,
Drag you into the woods
Underneath the willow root.

Listen here.

5. "Ninna Nanna" // Italy

In Italy, the old hag, the bogeyman, and the white wolf will get you, but not because they’ll drag you off. No, your mother’s going to just give you to them. 

Ninna nanna, ninna oh
To whom shall I give this baby?

If I give it to the old hag,
She’ll keep it for a week.

If I give it to bogeyman,
He’ll keep it for an entire year.

If I give it to the while wolf,
He’ll keep it for a long time.

Lullaby sleep fairies
Send my baby to sleep.

Listen here.

6. "Lelo Ledung" // Javanese

On the Indonesian island of Java there is a scary giant looking for crying children. Also, crying will make you ugly.

Please hush, don't keep on crying
My child with a lovely face
If you cry, you won't look as beautiful.

I pray that you can live honorably
Be a woman of high importance
Bring honor to your parents' name
Be a warrior of your country….

Please hush…my child…
There… The moon is full,
Like the head of a scary giant
One who's looking for a crying child.

Tak lelo…lelo…lelo ledung…
Please hush, my beautiful child
I am carrying you in a "kawung" batik sling
If you keep on crying, you'll make me nervous.

Translation from mamalisa.com; listen here

7. and 8. "Bíum, bíum, Bambaló" and "Sofðu nú svínið þitt" // Iceland

Iceland has perhaps the scariest creature of all. The one that you don’t even know what it is. All you know is that it’s lurking, lurking…

Beeum, beeum, bambalow, Bambalow and dillidillidow.
My little friend I lull to rest.
But outside
A face looms at the window.

Listen to the Sigur Rós version with lyrics and translation here.

There's also this Icelandic classic, which I haven’t been able to find the melody for:

Sofðu nú svínið þitt,
svartur í augum.
Farðu í fúlan pytt,
fullan af draugum

Which translates to

Sleep, you black-eyed pig.
Fall into a deep pit of ghosts.

9. "Highland Fairy Lullaby" // Scotland

In Scotland there are no scary creatures to carry you off. Your mother’s just going to put you down and lose you.

I left my baby lying there, lying there, lying there
I left my baby lying there
To go and gather blaeberries.

Ho-van, ho-van gorry o go,
Gorry o go, gorry o go;
Ho-van, ho-van gorry o go,
I’ve lost my dearest baby-o

I saw the little yellow fawn
But never saw my baby.

I traced the otter on the lake
But could not trace my baby.

Ho-van, ho-van gorry o go,
Gorry o go, gorry o go;
Ho-van, ho-van gorry o go,
I never found my baby-o

Listen here

10. "Lima Anak Ayam" // Malaysia

In this medley of lullabies by Malaysian singer Zee Avi, the third one, starting at 1:10, goes straight to baby chicks dying. 

Five chicks
One chick dies
One chick dying leaves four

11. "Kråkevisa" // Norway

This Norwegian lullaby ballad isn’t directly about a sleeping child and what will happen to them, but about a man who thinks a crow is going to kill him, so he kills it first. A gory catalog of all the uses he makes out of the carcass follows.

… then he skinned the Crow and cut her in pieces
she weighed near sixteen and twenty pounds

from the pelt he made twelve pair of shoes
he gave the best pair to Mother

and the meat he salted in vessels and barrels
and preserved the tongue for the Yule meal

from the entrails he made twelve pair of rope
and the claws he used for dirt-forks

and the beak he used for a church-boat
that people could sail both to and fro

and the mouth he used for grinding grain
and he made the ears into trumpets

and from the eyes he made glass for the hall
and the neck he placed on the church for decoration

The lesson of the song is finally summed up in the moral, “A person who cannot make use of a crow like this is not worthy of getting a crow.” Listen here.

12. "Incili Bebek Ninnisi" // Turkey

This Turkish lullaby comes from a story where a man who wished for a child promised that he would sacrifice three camels if he had a child, but on the way to the sacrifice decided to keep the camels instead. This, from the perspective of the singing mother, is what happened next.

Above black eagles wheeling,
All of a sudden swooping,
My little baby stealing,
Sleep, little baby, sleep.

Above black eagles soaring,
A crown of pearls left lying,
Your stupid father snoring.
Sleep, little baby, sleep.

Above black eagles flying,
My little baby clutching,
And all the world a-spying,
Sleep, little baby, sleep.

Above black birds ascending,
My baby’s flesh a-rending,
And all the world attending.
Sleep, little baby, sleep.

Full lullaby text and story here.

Sweet dreams!

20 Surprising Facts About Pulp Fiction

Miramax
Miramax

On October 14, 1994, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction was released in theaters in America and a new Hollywood auteur was born. In addition to teaching Americans what a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is called in Europe, the film reignited the career of John Travolta (who received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his work) and showed audiences a different side of Bruce Willis. In honor of the film's anniversary, here are 20 things you might not have known about Pulp Fiction.

1. THE FILM WAS RELEASED IN SOUTH KOREA, JAPAN, AND EVEN SLOVAKIA BEFORE IT ARRIVED IN AMERICA.

Tarantino’s film first played the Cannes Film Festival in May 1994. It was shown at other festivals around the world, from Munich to Locarno, before hitting American shores on September 23, 1994, at the New York Film Festival. The film was released in South Korea, Japan, and Slovakia before it officially opened in the U.S. on October 14, 1994. The feature rolled out across Asia and Europe throughout 1994 and 1995.

2. HONEY BUNNY WAS NAMED AFTER AN ACTUAL RABBIT.

Honey Bunny belonged to Linda Chen, who typed up Tarantino's handwritten script for Pulp Fiction. In lieu of payment, she asked Tarantino to watch her rabbit when she went on location; Tarantino wouldn't do it, and when the rabbit later died, he named Amanda Plummer's character after Chen's pet.

3. YOU CAN WATCH THE FILM CHRONOLOGICALLY ... KIND OF.

The narrative structure of the film plays out of sequence, but it’s easy enough to break it down into seven distinct sections (a prologue, an epilogue, two preludes, and three large segments) that can then be re-ordered into a chronological narrative (Hint: The first prelude, to the “Gold Watch” section, plays first. If that doesn’t help, here’s an infographic).

4. THE FILM CONTAINS 265 “F WORDS.”

Even that hefty number isn’t Tarantino’s highest (1992’s Reservoir Dogs used it 269 times). Still, the film was the big “f word” winner of 1994, as no other film released that year even came close to that amount of profanity.

5. VINCENT VEGA’S 1964 CHEVELLE MALIBU WAS STOLEN AFTER THE SHOOT.

John Travolta’s character in the film had a sweet ride—which, in real life, belonged to Tarantino—and it was such a hot rod that it was stolen soon after the film’s release. It wasn’t found for nearly two decades, when two cops happened on a pair of kids stripping an older car. After running the Vehicle Identification Number, they found it shared the number with a car in Oakland, which turned out to be Tarantino’s car.

6. THE MOVIE COST ONLY $8.5 MILLION TO MAKE.

Five million went to the actors’ salaries. It made that all back in its first week at the U.S. box office (the film pulled in $9.3 million the first weekend of release).

7. THE FILM WAS THE THIRD BIGGEST R-RATED EARNER OF 1994.

The film lost out on the title to True Lies ($146.2 million) and Speed ($121.2 million). The film’s earnings were strong enough to place it in the overall top 10 for the year, though 1994 was dominated by Forrest Gump, which made $329.6 million that year.

8. EVEN THOUGH THE FILM MADE OVER $100 MILLION, IT TOOK A LONG TIME TO GET THERE.

Even though Tarantino’s film ended up being a tremendous hit—especially considering that slim budget—it took some time to get there. The film was in release for 178 days before it finally pulled in 100 million domestic dollars. A little comparison? It took Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 only two days.

9. VINCENT VEGA WAS WRITTEN FOR MICHAEL MADSEN ...

Tarantino specifically wrote a number of roles in the film for chosen actors (including Samuel L. Jackson, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Amanda Plummer), but nothing compared to his dedication to having Michael Madsen play Vince. Madsen, who knew of Tarantino’s plans and said he wanted to do the part, dropped out two weeks before the script was finished to star in Wyatt Earp.

10. ... WHICH COULD HAVE MADE HIM MR. BLONDE’S TWIN.

Tarantino has a long tradition of connecting characters in his various films—basically, the filmmaker is working with a number of sprawling family trees, and it’s always a treat to see how characters intersect—which would have made Madsen’s casting of Vince come with a surprising twist: it might have made him Mr. Blonde’s (Madsen’s character from Reservoir Dogs) twin, as it’s long been known that Vince and Blonde are brothers.

11. IT INSPIRED TOP GEAR’S STIG.

The mysterious, anonymous Stig was inspired by the mysterious, anonymous Gimp. The Gimp was even the original name for the Stig, until they couldn’t find a racing driver willing to use that name.

12. BUTCH WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LOT YOUNGER.

Tarantino wrote the part as a young boxer, with Matt Dillon specifically in mind for the role, but when the actor took too much time considering the part, it was tweaked slightly to accommodate Bruce Willis (who was a little ticked that he wasn’t asked to play Vincent).

13. TARANTINO LOVES VINTAGE BOARD GAMES, AND IT SHOWS.

The filmmaker is an avid board game collector, which is why the film features Operation and The Game of Life. Tarantino convinced Travolta to come on board with an all-day Welcome Back, Kotter, Grease, and Saturday Night Fever board game marathon.

14. VINCENT’S PREFERRED READING MATERIAL IS REAL.

Vince loves reading pulp fiction books during his, ahem, private time, including Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise, a real pulp fiction novel based on O’Donnell’s '60s comic strip. Tarantino has long expressed interest in bringing that tale to the big screen, including giving his official license to the 2003 film (Quentin Tarantino Presents) My Name is Modesty.

15. DESPITE TARANTINO’S LOVE FOR UMA THURMAN, SHE WASN’T HIS FIRST PICK.

Other possible Mias? Isabella Rossellini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Meg Ryan, Alfre Woodard, Halle Berry, Daryl Hannah, Rosanna Arquette, Joan Cusack, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Tarantino’s original favorite was supposedly Pfeiffer.

16. THE ORIGINAL POSTER CAN FETCH YOU SEVERAL HUNDRED DOLLARS.

The first poster had Thurman smoking from a box of Lucky Strike cigarettes—but Miramax hadn’t licensed usage rights from Lucky Strikes, who threatened to sue. Rather than fight it, Miramax had the posters returned. Those that survived can now command big money.

17. JULES MAY HAVE BEEN WRITTEN FOR SAMUEL L. JACKSON, BUT HE ALMOST LOST THE PART.

Tarantino very much had Jackson in mind for the role of Jules, but when he auditioned Paul Calderon, he was so struck by the performance that he very nearly hired him. Jackson, desperate to get “his” role back, flew to Los Angeles and auditioned for Tarantino again.

18. CAPTAIN KOONS MIGHT HAVE A FAMOUS RELATIVE.

Well, famous in the Tarantino universe, anyway: It’s widely believed that Christopher Walken’s Captain Koons is a descendent of Django Unchained character Crazy Craig Koons, who is only mentioned by name in a Wanted poster.

19. ROBERT RODRIGUEZ DIRECTED PARTS OF THE FILM.

When Tarantino is on screen as Jimmie, someone else had to be behind the camera—and that someone was Robert Rodriguez. The pair later teamed up for a number of other projects, including From Dusk Till Dawn and Grindhouse.

20. TRAVOLTA DIDN’T REALLY INJECT THURMAN IN THAT SCENE.

The infamous scene in which Mia is stabbed with a very necessary adrenaline shot was stressful enough, so Tarantino took off some of the pressure: the needle was inserted, and then Travolta pulled it out. The scene was reversed in post-production so it looks as if Vincent Vega really is plunging that syringe into her. Movie magic!

Additional Sources: Short List; Box Office Mojo (1, 2)

This article originally ran in 2015.

Aaugh! 10 Facts About It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Lee Mendelson hadn’t planned on a career in animation. But when television sponsors saw the filmmaker’s documentary about cartoonist Charles Schulz, they asked if the two could team up to produce a Christmas special based on Schulz’s Peanuts strip. The result, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was seen by roughly half of all households watching television during its premiere on CBS on December 9, 1965.

Mendelson went on to produce other Peanuts primetime specials, but 1966’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown remains one of the most endearing. As you prepare annual sympathy for poor ol' Chuck (“I got a rock”), check out some facts about naked composers, vomiting voice actors, and CBS’s bizarre ultimatum.

1. THE FUTURE OF ANIMATED PEANUTS SPECIALS DEPENDED ON IT.  


Warner Home Video

Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez had very high aspirations for A Charlie Brown Christmas. When they screened it prior to its premiere, however, they felt it didn’t live up to its potential—and CBS agreed. The network said it was the last Peanuts special they would buy. But after it delivered huge ratings, CBS changed their mind and asked for more. When the two delivered another hit—the baseball-themed Charlie Brown All-Stars—they thought they had earned the network’s confidence.

Instead, CBS told them they needed a special that could run every year, like A Charlie Brown Christmas. If Mendelson couldn’t provide it, they told him they might not pick up an option for a fourth show. Despite Schulz and his collaborators being annoyed by the network's abrasive attitude, they hammered out a story with a seasonal clothesline that could be rerun in perpetuity.   

2. THE VOICE OF VIOLET PUKED AFTER EVERY RECORDING SESSION.

It’s standard practice these days to use adult actors to mimic juvenile cartoon characters: adults are (presumably) better able to take direction and deliver a performance in line with the director’s wishes. But for many Peanuts specials, children were used to voice Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and the rest. Anne Altieri, who portrayed both Violet and Frieda, was so nervous to be part of the show that she threw up every time she was done with a recording session.

3. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME LUCY SNATCHED THE FOOTBALL FROM CHARLIE BROWN.

In animated form, anyway. When Schulz, Mendelson, and Melendez were brainstorming scene ideas for the special, talk turned to the fact that Lucy’s habit of pulling the football away from Charlie Brown had never been seen in animation. They also decided it would be a good time to introduce Snoopy’s World War I Flying Ace. The joke had appeared in the strip, but Mendelson thought it would work even better in motion. He was right: the sequence with Snoopy in a doghouse dogfight is one of the most memorable in the Peanuts animated canon.

4. IT’S SECRETLY ABOUT SANTA.

The Great Pumpkin saga was adapted from Schulz’s newspaper strip, where he had conceived it as a metaphor for some of the hope (and disappointment) associated with Saint Nick. Schulz disliked the idea kids heard of a jolly fat man who delivered presents all over the world when he knew many families could only afford one or two gifts for the holidays. “The Great Pumpkin is really kind of a satire on Santa Claus,” he told Mendelson. “When [he] doesn’t come, Linus is crushed.”

5. THE MUSIC COMPOSER WAS FOUND NAKED BY COPS.


Warner Home Video

The jazzy scores of the early Peanuts specials were the work of composer Vince Guaraldi. When he was busy putting together “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” for the show, he decided to break for a shower. When he came out, he thought he heard noises outside and went to investigate, naked, and locked himself out in the process. Keyless, Guaraldi tried climbing a ladder to a second-floor window when cops spotted him. “Don’t shoot,” he said. “I’m the Great Pumpkin.” Police, who were many months away from getting the joke, let him back inside.  

6. A LISP ALMOST RUINED THE SHOW.

Kathy Steinberg was only four years old when she portrayed Sally for the first time in A Charlie Brown Christmas: her big break came when Mendelson, her neighbor, started work on the specials. While Steinberg had some limitations—like being too young to know how to read a script—things were going well until producers realized she was on the verge of losing a tooth. Fearing a lisp would ruin the voiceover work, they rushed to get her lines done. The day after finishing, the tooth fell out.  

7. KIDS SENT CHARLIE BROWN CANDY FOR YEARS.

One of the most poignant moments of any Peanuts cartoon comes when downtrodden Charlie Brown opens his Halloween goodie sack and discovers he’s been given rocks instead of candy. According to Schulz, this so angered viewers that for years his California office was inundated with sacks of treats addressed to the character.

8. THE ORIGINAL AIRINGS WERE SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT.

Production costs for the early Charlie Brown specials were subsidized by television sponsors Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison snack cakes: the brands appear at the beginning and end of the broadcast. The Coke “bug” appeared for several years before getting phased out. 

9. CBS GOT A LITTLE SALTY ABOUT LOSING THE RIGHTS.

After spending decades at CBS, the rights to three holiday Peanuts installments went up for grabs in 2000. Though CBS could make the first offer, it was ABC who made the winning bid. Privately, CBS executives were not at all pleased about the business decision to take the football away. “It's a shame that a few more dollars meant more to them than years of tradition and loyalty," one network employee anonymously told Variety

10. SOME SCHOLARS THOUGHT THE GREAT PUMPKIN WAS REAL.


Warner Home Video

A real myth, at any rate. Talking to the Schenectady Gazette in 1968, Schulz said that since the special began airing two years earlier, he had received a number of letters from academics wondering where the Great Pumpkin story had originated. “A number of professional scholars have written me about the origination of the legend,” he said. “They insist it must be based on something.” Schulz suggested they broach the topic with Linus instead.

This article originally ran in 2015.

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