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"The Riddle Song", also known as "I Gave My Love a Cherry", is an English folk song,[1] apparently a lullaby, which was carried by settlers to the American Appalachians.[2]


It descends from a 15th-century English song in which a maiden says she is advised to unite with her lover.[3] It is related to Child Ballad no. 1, or "Riddles Wisely Expounded"[4] and Child Ballad no. 46, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" [5][6] It is no. 330 in the Roud Folk Song Index. Burl Ives recorded it on 11 February 1941[7] for his first album, Okeh Presents the Wayfaring Stranger. Since then, it has been recorded by many artists, including Josh White, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Doc Watson, Sam Cooke, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Shelby Flint, The Meters, Skid Roper and Carly Simon.[8]

Popular cultureEdit

The song was used in the toga party scene in the movie National Lampoon's Animal House.

The song has also appeared in the children's CD, The Song of the Unicorn. It only used two of the verses, and they were changed around a little bit.

The song was also used in the "Marge vs. the Monorail" episode of The Simpsons, where Homer briefly serenaded Marge with a line: "I gave my love a chicken, it had no bones. Mmm... chicken."[9]

The tune was adapted for the song "The Twelfth of Never".

The Jukebox Band sing this song in a Shining Time Station episode "Do I Hear".

The song was sung by Ann-Margret in the 1961 Frank Capra film Pocketful of Miracles.

A parody of the song was recorded by Jewish comedian Allan Sherman in a medley track "Shticks and Stones" on his album, My Son, the Folk Singer (1962).

A parody of the song was recorded by Welsh comedian and folk singer Max Boyce; his version, called "I Gave My Love a Debenture", features on his album, We All Had Doctors' Papers (1975).

Three lines of the song were used in Megas XLR episode 2, titled "Battle Royale" (2004).

The song is sung by an asylum prisoner in Harlots (TV series) Season 3, Episode 2 (2019).


  1. ^ The Riddle song, on Traditional Songs from England site
  2. ^ Digital Tradition Folk Music Database: Appalachian version
  3. ^ Digital Tradition Folk Music Database: Medieval version
  4. ^ Niles, John Jacob (1960). The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-486-22716-2.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Thread at Mudcat discussions
  7. ^ Naxos: Link
  8. ^ iTunes: Music Store
  9. ^ Canning, Robert (9 June 2009). "The Simpsons Flashback: "Marge vs. the Monorail" Review". IGN. Retrieved 14 November 2015.