Kinderreime - Nursery Rhymes in German and English

Hoppe Hoppe Reiter and Other Rhymes

mother reading nursery rhyme on tablet to kids in bed
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Very few kids growing up in German-speaking Europe have missed being bounced on their parents' knees to the rhyming words of “Hoppe hoppe Reiter.”

This classic Kinderreim is one of the most popular among the many German nursery rhymes, which may only partly explain why the German metal band Rammstein used the “Hoppe hoppe Reiter” refrain in their song “Spieluhr” (music box). 

Learning German nursery rhymes (Kinderreime) can serve several purposes.

First of all, parents in a bilingual parenting situation can help their children assimilate the German language and culture through Kinderreime.

But even those of us without young children can get something out of German nursery rhymes and Kinderlieder. They offer a window into vocabulary, culture, and other aspects of German. To that end, we offer you a selection of Kinderreime in German and English, starting with “Hoppe hoppe Reiter.”

Hoppe Hoppe Reiter

When you examine the words to “Hoppe hoppe Reiter,” they are almost as dark as a Rammstein song. But then most of Mother Goose is also on the violent and dark side, as are most fairy tales

Hoppe hoppe Reiter
wenn er fällt, dann schreit er,
fällt er in den Teich,
find't ihn keiner gleich.

Hoppe hoppe Reiter
wenn er fällt, dann schreit er,
fällt er in den Graben,
fressen ihn die Raben.

Hoppe hoppe Reiter
wenn er fällt, dann schreit er,
fällt er in den Sumpf,
dann macht der Reiter...

Plumps! (Kind "fallen lassen")

ENGLISH Prose Translation

Bumpety bump, rider,
if he falls, then he cries out
should he fall into the pond,
no one will find him soon.

Bumpety bump, rider...
should he fall into the ditch,
then the ravens will eat him.

Should he fall into the swamp,
then the rider goes... splash!

("Drop" child)

Alternative verses

Hoppe hoppe Reiter...

Fällt er in die Steine,
tun ihm weh die Beine.

Fällt er in die Hecken,
fressen ihn die Schnecken.

Fällt er in die Hecken,
beissen ihn die Zecken.

Fressen ihn die Müllermücken,
die ihn vorn und hinten zwicken. (Kind kitzeln/Tickle child)

Fällt er in den tiefen Schnee,
gefällt's dem Reiter nimmermeh'.  

Eins, Zwei, Papagei

There are many variations of this German rhyme for children. A version "Eins, zwei, Polizei" was used in a song by the German groups Mo-Do (1994) and S.W.A.T. (2004)

Eins, zwei, Papagei (parrot)
drei, vier, Grenadier (grenadier or infantryman)
fünf, sechs, alte Hex' (witch)
sieben, acht, Kaffee gemacht (make coffee)
neun, zehn, weiter geh'n (go on)
elf, zwölf, junge Wölf' (young wolf)
dreizehn, vierzehn, Haselnuss (hazelnut)
fünfzehn, sechzehn, du bist duss. (duss = dumb = you are dumb)

Himpelchen und Pimpelchen

Himpelchen und Pimpelchen,
stiegen auf einen Berg.
Himpelchen war ein Heinzelmann,
und Pimpelchen war ein Zwerg.
Sie blieben lange da oben sitzen
und wackelten mit den Zipfelmützen.
Doch nach fünfundsiebzig Wochen
sind sie in den Berg gekrochen,
schlafen da in guter Ruh,
seid mal still und hört ihnen zu!
(Schnarch, schnarch...) [sound of snoring]

English

Himpelchen and Pimpelchen
Climbed a high mountain
Himpelchen was a Heinzelmann (a sprite or household spirit)
and Pimpelchen was a dwarf
They stayed long sitting up there
and wagged their nightcaps
After many weeks
they crawled into the mountain
Sleeping there in full tranquility
Be quiet and listen carefully:
(sound of snoring)

Alle meine Entchen

Alle meine Entchen
schwimmen auf dem See
Köpfchen in das Wasser,
Schwänzchen in die Höh'.

Alle meine Täubchen
sitzen auf dem Dach
Klipper, klapper, klapp, klapp,
fliegen übers Dach.

Ri ra Rutsch
Wir fahren mit der Kutsch'
Wir fahren mit der Schneckenpost,
wo es keinen Pfennig kost'
Ri ra Rutsch
Wir fahren mit der Kutsch'

English

All my ducklings
swimming on the lake
Head in the water,
Tail bottoms up.

All my doves
Sitting on the roof
Klipper, rattle, clap, clap,
flying over the roof.

Ri ra slip
We travel on the coach 
We continue with the snail mail,
where it a penny costs
Ri ra slip
We travel on the coach 

Pitsch und Patsch!

Pitsch und Patsch! Pitsch und Patsch!
Der Regen macht die Haare nass.
Tropft von der Nase auf den Mund
und von dem Mund auf das Kinn
und von dem Kinn dann auf den Bauch.
Dort ruht der Regen sich jetzt aus
und springt mit einem großen Satz
auf die Erde. Patsch!

English

Pitsch and Patsch! Pitsch and Patsch!
The rain makes the hair wet.
Dropping from the nose to the mouth
and from the mouth to the chin
and from the chin then to the abdomen.
There, the rain is now resting
and jumping with a large set
onto the earth. Patsch!

Es war einmal ein Mann

There are many variations of "Es war einmal ein Mann." Here is one.

Es war einmal ein Mann,
der hatte einen Schwamm.
Der Schwamm war ihm zu nass,
da ging er auf die Gass'.
Die Gass' war ihm zu kalt,
da ging er in den Wald.
Der Wald war ihm zu grün,
da ging er nach Berlin.
Berlin war ihm zu voll,
da ging er nach Tirol.
Tirol war ihm zu klein,
da ging er wieder heim.
Daheim war's ihm zu nett,
da legte er sich ins Bett.
Im Bett war 'ne Maus,
'drum ist die Geschichte aus.

Alternate ending:

Im Bett war eine Maus -
das Weit're denkt euch selber aus!

English

Once upon a time there was a man,
who had a sponge.
The sponge was too wet,
he went to the alley
The alley was too cold,
he went into the forest.
The forest was too green,
he went to Berlin.
Berlin was too full,
he went to the Tyrol.
Tirol was too small for him,
he departed again.
Daheim's was too nice
as he went to bed.


In bed was a mouse,
'Drum is from the story.

In bed was a mouse -
the more you think of yourself!

Ringel, Ringel, Reihe

The German versions of "Ring Around the Rosie" (or "Rosey") have only some similarities to the English wording, but then there are also two different versions in English: British and American. Actually, there are many variations of "Ring a ring o'rosie," another version of the rhyme. There are many claims that this nursery rhyme goes back to the Black Plague, but that is a myth debunked by Snopes.com and Wikipedia ("Plague myth"). The first print version only appeared in 1881 (in Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose or The Old Nursery Rhymes).

Below we provide two German versions of "Ring Around the Rosie" and two English versions, plus a literal English translation for each of the German rhymes.  

Ringel, Ringel, Reihe

Two German versions

Deutsch 1

Ringel, Ringel, Reihe,
Sind wir Kinder dreie,
Sitzen unterm Hollerbusch,
Schreien alle husch, husch, husch!

Deutsch 2

Ringel, Ringel, Rosen,
schöne Aprikosen,
Veilchen und Vergissmeinnicht,
alle Kinder setzen sich.

Ring Around the Rosie

See literal translations below

English (Amer.)

Ring around the rosie
A pocketful of posies
"Ashes, ashes"
We all fall down!

English (Brit.)

Ring a ring o'roses
A pocket full of posies
"Atishoo! Atishoo!"*
We all fall down!

Note: Version 2 uses "Rosen" (roses) in the first line rather than "Reihe" (row).*British word for the "achoo" or "kerchoo" sneezing sound.

Ringel, Ringel, Reihe

Two German versions

Deutsch 1

Ringel, Ringel, Reihe,
Sind wir Kinder dreie,
Sitzen unterm Hollerbusch,
Schreien alle husch, husch, husch!

Deutsch 2

Ringel, Ringel, Rosen,
schöne Aprikosen,
Veilchen und Vergissmeinnicht,
alle Kinder setzen sich.

Literal Translations

 

English 1 (literal)

Ringlet, ringelt, row
We are children three
Sitting under the elderberry bush
All yelling shoo, shoo, shoo!

English 2 (literal)

Ringlet, ringelt, roses
Pretty apricots
Violets and forget-me-nots
All the children sit down.