To all the little children: — The happy ones; and sad ones;
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones;
The good ones — Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones.

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Ef you

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–
An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you

An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you

An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,–
You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you

Analysis, meaning and summary of James Whitcomb Riley's poem Little Orphant Annie


  1. Lisa says:

    My great-grandfather taught this peom to my grandmother, who taught it to my mom and aunt, and they in turn taught it to my cousin and I. My mom would recite this poem to me at night when we were riding i the car on a long trip, but for some reason it never scared me. My cousin has tried to carry on the tradition of sharing the poem with her children, but they don’t seem too interested. Too bad. I consider it to be a classic.

  2. Troy says:

    This poem is the nucleus of one of my favorite childhood memories. My cousin and I were rocked in an old overstuffed chair by our grandmother whose Osark dialect made JWR’s written dialect of “Little Orphant Annie” and “The Bear Story” an easy stretch. She encouraged our imaginations and the cricket sounds in her fireplace became evidence of the “fireplace fairies”. When we kids made mud cakes and candies and slid them under the gas logs in her fireplace, we were amazed to see them the next morning transformed by the fairies into real sweet treats remarkably similar to our creative intentions. Grannie was our “Annie”.

  3. Robert Stevens says:

    My mother used to recite this poem to me over 60 years ago, at bedtime and to the accompaniment of a flickering coal oil lamp, and I thorougly enjoyed it every time — certainly no Hollywood movie could possibly be so entertaining and so touching.

    I cherish every time that I have read it over the years, and I must confess that whenever I read it and come to the last stanza, I cannot keep from crying … is it remembrance of the first times I heard it with Mother’s voice, or might it be simply the inherent beauty of the poem itself?

    Thank you for this site and for Little Orphant Annie.

  4. Laura G. says:

    I came here searching for this poem for a 92 year old lady who fondly remembers it from her girlhood. There should be no doubt of the magic of the poetry to a child’s ears. Thank you for this website.

  5. Derek says:

    My great-grandmother (the most influential person that I ever had in my life) would recite this poem to my uncle and me when we were little boys. I have been trying to find it for years now, as my grandmother has turned to a ‘great’ and wishes to recites it to the young ones now. Thanks!

  6. Roman Soiko says:

    what a incredible poem about the trials and tribulations of being a kid, and gradual change into an adult.

  7. Joanne says:

    I had this poem memorized and would recite it with my siblings to entertain my family. I still love the images it brings to mind – kind of scary, but always with a feeling of being ok. I’m passing this on to my own children, hoping the joy of poetry will take the place of television!!

  8. Emily says:

    I LOVE this poem. My Grandmother recites it to me all the time and now I have learned it. It’s such a good poem to pass through the generations. I will make sure that my children and grandchildren hear this poem.

  9. Ralph Ettel says:

    As a junior high teacher, I asked students to share this poem and to memorize it or parts of it as an assignment.
    I am sure they liked the language, the rhyme and the story that it tells. This and The Passing of the Outhouse are two of my favorite poems. I am about to share it with my youngest grandchildren. Their delight will prove valuable.

  10. Karen Maas says:

    Back in 1959, my 4th grade teacher would read poetry to us in the afternoons. We’d put our heads on our desks, and Mrs. Garrett would read. “Little Orphant Annie” was one of our favorites.
    Almost 50 years later I recognize the influence of sharing what we love. Kudos to all teachers who read or recite to their students.

  11. AJ says:

    This was my nick-name when I was little and at 2 yrs. my sisters had me memorize this and I would perform for all our aunts etc.. Bad part was I thought I was adopted and for some reason that meant unwanted!!

  12. Patti Swenski says:

    I remember this poem with love, like all the others posting on here. I have a vague memory of it being in a child’s book with a drawing of Annie going up the stairs with a candle – there were shadows on the wall, I think they were the goblins. I wish I could see this book again, it was so scary, and a delicious creepy memory to a little kid – that was me!

  13. Judy Barbee says:

    When our book club decided to have a “share your favorite poem” night, my first thought was of Annie. My Indiana grandmother used to recite the poem to me 60 years ago,and I’ve never forgotten how I loved it. I have two Riley books (published 1904 and 1905), but not this one. I’m so glad for your web site, so I can read to my friends about the goblins.

  14. tayler says:

    this poem is way to long and hard to memorize!

  15. charlotte says:

    Just yesterday I was spending the last 15 minutes of the day in another teacher’s preschool class and as the kids were all sitting with their coats and backpacks on, one said “Now Ms. S reads a story” and a number of kids began to make suggestions. I said ” How aobut if I tell you a story instead….a scary story.” They grew excited about the prospect, and I recited from memory (from way way back when ) this poem. I finished up just as Ms. S returned. The kids were so delighted. Meeting me on the stairs later, many said “I liked that story, that was fun, the gobling will get you….etc.” What fun……

  16. Lark says:

    I was so thrilled to find this poem. My grandmother would recite it to me each night before going to bed. Precious memories ~ I recently found a copy in an Antique store in Tennessee ~ copyright 1905. A real treasure!

  17. Jacob says:

    that is a good poem very deep

  18. Adrienne says:

    I can’t believe I found this site and poem. My dad taught me this poem when I was in 2nd grade. I memorized it and did it for my school’s talent show in 3rd grade. I will never forget the part— better watch out or they’ll getcha.

  19. clark says:

    Where did the following originate? “three dreadfuk groans he heerd, and then a ghost appeared all besmeared from head to foot in purple gore…” I thought Orphant Annie told the story to the kids.

  20. Megan says:

    I liked the poem.Its an enjoyable poem to read. I like the poem because I can relate to it. I can tell Little Orphan Annie is telling the trueth about the gobblins.

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