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The Songs of Taize

By Billy | February 7, 2012

A lot of things happened since the last time I’ve written. Let’s I’ll give you the 199 Proof version up til actually getting to Taize: I moved out of my guest family’s house in Austria, spent a week sick but well tended in Vienna, I got on a plane to Paris, got on a bus to get to Gare de Lyon, got on a train to the middle of no-where, got on another bus to go further into the middle of nowhere, France. When I got out, I was in a cloud.

There was literally nobody to be seen in Taize — in part because the population was only 6% of what it is in the summer, in part because one needed a machete to navigate the fog; I wasn’t allowed to bring mine on the plane, so I was out of luck. When I finally found the people in the community I was looking for, I had been trudging my 50 kilos of baggage for 9 hours almost nonstop, and was quite ready to sit myself down and get situated somewhere. I walked into the first building I found that had life in it, to find a group of beautiful humans who would later become very dear friends.

A French guy named Vivian greeted me at the door and helped me get my bearings. I don’t remember if I actually asked if I was where I wanted to be, but Vivian had apparently welcomed a lot of confused people in his lifetime, and calmed me instantly. Yes, I was at the right place. I dragged my stuff here and there for another 10 minutes, then moved myself into the cabin, which ended up being shared by a Dutch guy, 2 Koreans, 1 Portuguese, a Chilean, a Mexican, and me. We woke up every morning to this song from the Twilight soundtrack, which was a nice and synchronistic reminder of the witch in Vienna who made me magic potions to keep me healthy the week I spent bed ridden before France. The following week we had to make our own wake up music; do you think grad schools are looking for people who have “part time singing alarm clock” on their resumes? Cuz I’m an awesome singing alarm clock.

One night the guy from Chile came into the room singing a lovely song about a small mammoth with big aspirations. Namely, this little mammoth wanted to fly like his dove friend. So he tried and tried, but couldn’t fly. His friend took him up a tall building to get some more altitude from whence they could try better. What happened? Well. Shit. Shit happens, and it happened for this mammoth, as well. I thought this song was wonderful and tried to learn it with decent success.

While practicing one day, my friend from Berlin corrected me on the lyrics, because I wasn’t singing it quite perfectly. She said that it wasn’t about a mammoth, but rather two little foxes/wolves. In fact, it was about zwei Kleine Wolfe in a forest at night, who trip on roots and wish that the world were brightly illuminated by stars. I thought she was making it up, but then she sang and played the song on the guitar — then sang the same song but this time about frogs, then one more time about fish.

Someone from Belgium came over saying, “You’re singing the Eskimo song!” Because apparently the song for French people is about three Eskimos who play the banjo at the north pole. Now I started getting really excited. This tune was already ridiculously cute, with horrifically ironic lyrics about cute animals getting eaten, smushed on the pavement, hurt feet in the forest, etc., but I started to see something deeper: A connecting tie that has nestled itself into our various cultures. Now I had a Taize project. (Actually it wasn’t such a deep mystical thing, I just thought it was cool to find that this song has so many versions in so many languages.

So here is the most comprehensive collection of this famous song that exists. Is there a name for such a phenomenon? I want to know.

Here is the Danish version and lyrics:

Æblemand, kom indenfor
Æblemand, kom indenfor.
Har du nogle æbler, med til mig idag
Tak skal du ha.

It’s basically: apple man, come inside. Do you have any apples for me today?
I found this one fairly bland originally, but then I discovered that you can change Æblemand with just about any “mand” you can think of. The children in this song invite Supermand, but Spidermand, Machomand, Pacmand, and Snowmand are also possibilities. I pretty much love that.

The French version is about three Eskimos in Alaska, one of whom plays the banjo. This version maybe came from Canada? There are also verses about Africans and Parisians.

Trois esquimaux
Autour d’un brasero
Ecoutaient l’un d’eux
Qui sur son banjo
Chantait le mortel ennui
Du pays du soleil de minuit

Y’a pas de cerises en Alaska
Et outgi outgi outgi outgi ouh wa wa
Sur la banquise
Pas d’mimosa
Et outgi outgi outgi outgi ouh wa wa
Pas de petits moutons
Courant sur le gazon
Pas de macaronis
Et pas de bouillon gras
Balala lala lala boum balala
lala lala boum balala
lala lala boum balala

In Polish, this song is about two dogs who want to cross a river and fall through a crappy bridge into the water. — Well GoogleTranslate doesn’t say that’s what this song is about, but my friend tells me otherwise. Whom do I trust?!

Pieski małe dwa, chciały przejść się chwilkę,
Nie wiedziały jak, biegły przeszło milkę
I znalazły coś – taką dużą białą kość.

Si bon, si bon, la, la, la, la, la.

Pieski małe dwa, poszły raz na łąkę,
Zobaczyły tam czerwoną biedronkę,
A biedronka ta, dużo czarnych kropek ma.

Si bon ……….

Pieski małe dwa, chciały przejść przez rzeczkę,
Nie wiedziały jak, znalazły kładeczkę,
I choć była zła, po niej przeszły pieski dwa.

Si bon …………

Pieski małe dwa wróciły do domu,
O wycieczce swej nie rzekły nikomu,
Weszły w budę swą, teraz sobie smacznie śpią.

Si bon ……

In Luxembourgish (did you know that’s even a language!?) the song is about an elephant caught in a spider web. This is apparently the lyrical internet debut.

Een Elefant dee schaukelt sech
An engem riesen, riesen, riesen, riesen, Spannenetz
An de fennt dëst klengt Spill
Wirklich amüsant
An dofir ba-ba-bumm

Since I can’t find a video of this, we’ll have to wait until I can convince my Luxembourger friend to sing it, upload it to youtube, and then I’ll update the post. Til then, watch this Elephant paint a picture.

In Dutch, the song is about 10 fish in the sea. Also, Dutch, perhaps because the inflection pattern (due to word/syllable density?) is similar to English, sounds pretty much like Gibberish English:

Tien kleine visjes
Die zwommen naar de zee
Moeder zei:
Maar ik ga niet mee
Ik blijf lekker in die oude boeren sloot
Want in de zee zwemmen haaien
En die bijten je
blub, blub, blub, blub,blub
blub, blub, blub, blub, blub
blub, blub, blub, blub, blub
This song counts down from 10 to 0, because there’s also a shark involved in the song. This song seems to exist exactly the same way in German, too. (There’s also a German version that exists about frogs. Help me out, someone?)

Funny things that happened since I left Austria:
I met an Austrian woman named Marie who lived in a convent for 2 years in south-west Austria but was forced out for being too rambunctious. How do you solve a problem like Marie?
I met a woman whom I’ve seen play at my favorite restaurant in Harrisonburg. We have friends in common, we came to Europe 10 months apart from another, and happened to arrive in Taize for the same week.
I stayed in the middle of Paris in a Harry Potter closet-under-the-stairs. A woman I met in Taize opened her door for me and provided the best possible Parisian experience I can imagine. We, humans, have friends everywhere and don’t even know it.

When flying First Class, everything is free, but pacing yourself is important. Filet Mignon, fine wine, and comic book movies go together well. My airplane seat had a button that you could push and the whole seat would turn into a bed.

Also, if you haven’t figured it out yet/didn’t know it, this song also exists in English as a song you may have sung around a campfire in the scouts:

Here are the lyrics and staff music for the 4th German version and English version, which are basically the same thing:

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