There was a Crooked Man

There was a Crooked Man

by Mother Goose

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

Summary of There was a Crooked Man

  • Popularity of “There was a Crooked Man”: Mother Goose, a famous imaginary author of French fairy tales and nursery rhymes, wrote this famous nursery rhyme. It was first published in the 18th It is song number 4826 in Roud Folk Song Index. The poem comprises the story of a crooked man who makes the wrong decisions. This rhyme is taught to preprimary children in most countries. It is fun and easy to learn, and also one of the few rhymes liked by the toddlers as well.
  • “There was a Crooked Man” As a Representative of Dispute: While the rhyme appears nonsensical, it has a deeper meaning and a legend. A stile is similar to an entrance to provide people passage over or through a boundary via steps, ladders, or narrow gaps. The rhyme was perhaps written when there was great enmity between England and Scotland. Despite having differences and hatred, a harmonious co-existence was required. Meanwhile, the crooked man, a Scottish general Sir Alexander Lisle, intended to preserve the political and religious right of Scottish people, but he did this for his own interest. The two could not get separated. Rather, it is due to the shared border, both had to live with each other.
  • Major Themes in “There was a Crooked Man”: Agreement, dispute, and settlement are the major themes of this rhyme. The crooked man gives hope to his people. However, all his promises vanish when he wins a crooked existence for his people. The crooked man reflects upon corrupt leadership. It is through his character the writer speaks about the people who misuse their power and exploit the others.

Analysis of Literary Devices used in “There was a Crooked Man”

Literary devices are tools used by writers and poets to convey their emotions, feelings, and ideas to the readers. Mother Goose has also used some literary devices in this poem. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. The entire rhyme is imagery as it helps the reader to imagine the appearance of the characters in the rhyme.
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /c/ in “He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse”.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /r/ and /k/ sounds in “There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile”.
  4. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, the word “crooked” is repeated throughout the rhyme to show the attitude and actions of the crooked man.
  5. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal meanings. “Crooked stile” symbolizes a common border between England and Scotland.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “There was a Crooked Man”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this rhyme.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There is only one four-lined stanza in this poem.
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. The rhyme has four lines; hence, it’s a quatrain.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme.
  4. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example; “mile”, “stile”, “mouse” and “house.”

 Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are suitable for use while teaching phonics to the children. You may also use the rhyme to start a story that involves kings, queens and talking creatures.

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.”