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. Cynthia says:

    I have printed this off for my gran children,,,my grandma knew this by heart and said this to me most often,,,I am now almost 60 and remember it well..Does well to pass it on,,love my grandma thank you

  2. Chris says:

    One of my happiest childhood memories is of my Dad reciting this to my brothers and me, always just before bedtime. It was deliciously scary (but not the stuff of nightmares), as Dad had a natural flare for drama, and, as he was from southwestern Missouri, could do the dialect well, too. Thanks for providing a wonderful website, which I intend to make a regular part of my online time.

  3. marie says:

    This was a amazing poem it really touched me it was just terrific in every single way possible I loved it so much.

  4. Scott V. Wood says:

    Comment on the above referenced title…. have just found the above titled poem, signed by James Whitcomb Riley, within old family documents. It seems to be original, and signed by Mr. Riley. However, can not find this poem referenced within his known works. Is there a web site one could possibly compare his authenticated signature with the one I have? Having direction to this site would be appreciated. Or receiving other helpful suggestions of how to properly determine if what I’ve found can be attributed to Mr. Riley, would be wonderful.

  5. robin says:

    I was feeling a little nostalgic today and had to find these poems!
    my favorite teacher, mrs.simmons, 4th grade, read these to us quite often. We all sat in amazement as she read so smoothly and with such emotion! They kept things interesting and fun, still remember like it was yesterday. Now i must find a book so i can read them to my grandchildren and hopefully make memories for them!

  6. 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.

  7. 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”.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. Roman Soiko says:

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

  12. 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!!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!!

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. tayler says:

    this poem is way to long and hard to memorize!

  20. 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……

  21. 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!

  22. Jacob says:

    that is a good poem very deep

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. Nicole says:

    I read the poem and thought it was great!I really liked it.My teacher introducted me to the book”Little Orphan Annie” then she introduced me to the poem,because we are learning about James Whitcombriley.The love the poem!!

  27. Kinsey says:

    I really likeed the poem! One thing i liked about the poem was some of the rimming words. I also liked when they kept saying ” The goblins will get you if you don’t watchout!” I really liked the poem Little Orphant Annie!

  28. Lisa Tobuas says:

    My sisiter and I used to pour over a child’s book of poetry when we were little. I loved this poem so much I chose it to recite in elementary school. Almost 40 years later, my son is being asked to do the same thing. He now recites the poem to me. I just smile ear to ear as I hear it. What a wonderful legacy.

  29. Patty Willett says:

    In the third grade, I memorized Little Orphan Annie for a recitation contest..and won! It was my first big achievement! From then on,in my enthusiasm, I recited it at even a hint that someone wanted to hear it! I only quit when my teacher – having learned of my dramatic outbursts – suggested that I memorize another for the next contest!

  30. Anne says:

    I grew up in Indiana. My grandparents, aunt, and uncle were all very familiar with Riley, the “Hoosier Poet,” and “Little Orphant Annie” was one of my favorite requests when relatives read to me during visits. This poem still evokes cozy memories of sitting in a grown-up’s lap, in my grandfather’s leather reading chair. When I was 10, my family moved to a small town in North Carolina.The South in those days was a different world from where I had lived in Indiana. I was thrilled with a fifth grade poetry memory assignment–my teacher had us all learn Riley’s poem. The rural accent that is the “voice” of the poem was far easier to pronounce naturally once I listened to the accents of my fellow students. I have recited the pome fer many childern over the yeers, and ‘ey all seem as capturt by it as I wunst wuz.

  31. Jeanette Larkins says:

    This poem evokes such rich memories of my elementary school years and the teachers that introduced james whitcomb riley to us. This selection was always read for halloween along with “when the frost is on the punkin”. Thank God for the teachers at #87 in Indianapolis, IN, USA

  32. Steve Coerper says:

    I’m sure there has been at least one poetry contest where contestants were challenged to compose their own verse(s) to Little Orphant Annie. I read this to my 6th grade class and remembered a few lines from it. Now my granddaughters love to hear me recite it as a bedtime story (it’s really easy to memorize) and I’m sure they will pass it on to their children.

  33. Kay Fryar says:

    My mother entertained us with this poem. I read it to my children and their neighborhood friends. Today I searched it out to read to my college freshman English class — and to my grandchildren — it will be their Halloween gift this year!

  34. Janet McDonald says:

    I remember my teachers reading this poem to us back in grade school. I saw something the other day that said “the goblins will get you if you don’t watch out” and I thought about the poem from my grade school days (I am 48) and got on line and searched for it…..and found it…I have printed off a copy for me to have to read to my grandkids.

  35. Jane Nelson says:

    I was born in 1935 and as early as I can remember, my Mother frequently recited Little Orphant Annie to me. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I tried to find out where it came from. I am delighted to have a copy. The next poem about the little boy who never said his prayers, I memorized when I was four and my parents would have me recite it to all who came to our house. Wonderful memories. I shall now pass these poems on to my Grandchildren.

  36. Dee Fentiman says:

    I work in a Nursing Home in Romford, Essex as an Activities Organizer. During one of our group sessions to my astonishment Ada Duke a wonderful lady of 95 years recited the first three verses of Little Orphant Annie (word perfect).I must admit I had never heard of this poem so was delighted when I found the web site. Apparently, Ada learned this poem when she was at primary school in Leeds, Yorkshire. She told me she thought there might have been a fourth verse but had never been taught it. When eight years of age she entered a competition at the local picture house and for several weeks won two shillings and sixpence for reciting this delightful poem. She proudly added that she used to run home as fast as she could to give the money to her mother who was very hard up at the time having several little ones to care for.

  37. Debbie Cooley says:

    Riley Festival’s theme, this year, is “Little Orphant Annie”.. I am a Seamstress/Crafter.. I was doing research on this theme, because, I did not know that James W. Riley wrote this story… I found out that she is a real person.. I have been to her grave and today I found her house, that she lived in from the age of 16 years old…I am 43 years old and it just shows that you’re never too old to learn History.. Even my daughter, who is 10 yrs., is enjoying this research with me.. And, there is a lot more still to learn…!!!

  38. Carolyn Morton says:

    I was born in 1940, and my older sister used to read this to me at bedtime. Oh, how I loved to hear it again and again! Recently I tried to read it to my grandkids, and they immediately got frightened and started to cry. I stopped the reading, being sorely disappointed in my own blood kin! What wimps! I wonder if the computer knowledge they have is a suitable replacement for such rich stories!? Oh, sigh. Now I just read it to myself, aloud, every now and again. I love it as much now as I did then.

  39. Carol says:

    My mother used to recite this poem to me and my younger sister. It is one of my fondest memories of my childhood.

  40. N.J.Moore says:

    I am 61 years old now My Mom passed away a little over a year ago. I have such fond memories of her telling this poem to me for so many years. She knew it by heart and sometimes I would want her attention, so I asked her to tell me the “Annie” poem again. She always did.

  41. J. Richter says:

    My grandma used to recite this poem by heart to me and all of her other grandchildren. I never knew who wrote it until I came to this website. Now I know….When I read it, I got tears in my eyes thinking of my wonderful grandmother and how long it has been since she has passed.

  42. Katrina Ellsworth says:

    Like many of the postings here, I too, heard this poem when I was a child. We had a collection of Mr. Riley’s works and I remember lying in bed with my Mom while she read these to me. ALthough it’s not here, one of my favorites was “Nine Little Goblins” (if anyone has it I would be forever grateful of you could e-mail it to me). But, as a Hoosier who was the child of another Hoosier who grew up during the Depression, I can honestly say that James Whitcomb Riley had a very special place in our library. Although I no longer have the book, I can still feel mom’s fingers sneaking up my arm as she said “an’ the gobble-uns a gitcha ef ya’ don’t watch out!” Thanks for reminding me of something too wonderful for words!

  43. c. brown says:

    Was watching an “alien abduction” movie when the words to this poem popped into my mind. My father used to recite it to me when I was little. I loved the scary imagery and the strange words. Daddy is gone now, but I can still hear his voice. Since he did it from memory, I had no idea who the author was. I’m so pleased to find it here so that I can share it with my grandchildren!

  44. Pat says:

    My co-worker told me that she read this poem to her children who are now grown and loved to to watch her daugher’s eye widen at “And the gobblins a Gitcha if you don’t watch out”! I’m happy that I found this and am able to print it out for her. I’m sure it will bring back many happy memories.

  45. Keith says:

    My mother knew this poem by heart and would always recite it, with the utmost feeling and expression, to all the young children any time we had a campfire to sit around. I managed to get a video tape recording of her reciting it at a family reunion before she passed away.

  46. Diane says:

    My grandmother resited this to me as a child. since I’m closed to sixty, and she’s gone, I had always wished I could find it. A friend suggested I check the internet. Wow, was I surprised! Diane

  47. Roma Cravens says:

    Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my grandmother reciting this and other JWR poems to me. She’s been gone for a number of years now, but whenever I read this poem I can’t help but think of her and smile.

  48. R.Willard says:

    I am nearing 85. When our three children were 5 to 10, Little Annie Rooney was an oft repeated request at our bedtime reading period. The ritual was for them to hang,quietly,on every syllable until I would growl, “an’ the goblins will git you if you don’t watch out!” and up qould go a syncronized scream.

  49. Catherine Hilt Ray says:

    Having been born in James Whitcomb Riley’s hometown, we always had his poems read and recited to us in school. Every year in October on his birthday, the school children from all of the elementray schools would hold a parade of flowers and place them on his statue which is located at the front of Hancock County Courthouse. If you wish to get a copy of his book of poems, write to the Riley Home in Greenfield, IN. 46140,

  50. Darla says:

    I have loved this poem for so long, ever since I was a liitle girl in first grade. Our teacher, Miss Nunley, would read a story to us every day. After she read Little Orphan Annie that was the story we begged for every day there after. She read it so much that surely she must have read the words off of the pages themself. Years later I found a book with the poem in it at a yard sale and purchased it right up. I promptly read it to my children and any child that would listen over and over again. I haven’t seen the book in ages and have often wondered where it got off to. Truth be known, I think the goblins snatched it away so I wouldn’t be able to warn other little boys and girls about what might lie ahead if they miss behaved. Thank you Miss Nunley and thank You Mr. Riley for such a memory as this.

  51. Kenneth M. Hunt says:

    I have a Daughter55,son 52, and another daughter 49. When they were very young I used to read this poem, and others to them every evening before bed time. “annie” was their favorite, Buds’ Fairy tale 2nd, and the Bear Story 3rd. To this day, they can all still recite, from Memory, “little Orphant Annie. James Whitcolmb Riley was a very respected and loved Poet from Indiana.

  52. Vern Naden says:

    My teacher in the third grade, Miss Salm, was close to reaching retirement in 1956, when she first read this poem to our class. It was obviously a favorite of hers, and because of her enthusiasm and joy in reading it to us, we all came to love this poem. So much so that we hand printed the verses and put them up above the chalk board so that we could read the poem to ourselves through out the year. I am so glad to have a copy of this once again.

  53. Sara says:

    I was so glad to find this poem! I had to memorize it in the 5th grade and have often recited parts of it and wished I could remember the rest. Now, that I’ve located the poem, I can read it to my grandchildren.

  54. Olivia says:

    I love this poem. My mom also used to read this poem to us too.

  55. John says:

    james whitcoomb riley is the best poet that i have ever read i especially love the little orphan annie poems.

  56. Anne says:

    I have two sets of great memories of Little Orphant Annie. My first memory is of my older cousin reciting this poem to me when I was very little. What a wonderful scary feeling! The other memory is when I read the poem to my little son years later. I will never forget his big eyes as the poem progressed. Tomorrow I will read it to my 3rd graders. I can hardly wait.

  57. Marcella Childers says:

    I memorized this poem when I was eight years old. I loved it. Now I am teaching third graders and looked for it so I could share it with them. And here it is! I can hardly wait to read it to them tomorrow.

  58. karen williams says:

    I just loved this poem as a kid back in the 1940’s. It scared the livin’ daylights out of me! At night, when the house was quiet and the lights were low, my uncle would read it to me in the kitchen, with the attic door only a few steps away.

  59. Mary says:

    I remember my mom reading this poem to my sister and I when were so little! She had the book, sadly I think It’s disappeared. I will always remember how she animated the part “AND THE GOBBLINS A GITCHA IF YA DON’T WATCH OUT!” Certainly scared us into washing the dishes and minding our manners. I’m reading this to my 8th grade class – amazing that not one of them knows this poem! I can’t wait to say the gobblin part!!

  60. Kathleen Parker says:

    This poem was published in a book by itself with the most wonderful illustrations. Thirty years ago when our daughter Melanie was 3 years old we would go to the public library in our small town. She would always tell the librarian that she wanted to check out the “globin” book. It didn’t take her long to memorize the poem. I would get it at Halloween and read it to my second graders. The book finally just wore out and disappeared from the stacks at the library. I have tried to locate the book to purchase for myself but have not been able to find it anywhere. If anyone knows where I might get a copy, I would appreciate hearing from you. I was so glad to find it in print on this web site so at least I can share it with my class.

  61. Susan says:

    I remember sitting with my mother as she read this poem to my brother and I – I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 and my brother a year older – and wondering if there were “things” in the attic that would snatch me in the night. Now that both my mother and brother are gone, finding this poem brings back many memories. In today’s media saturated and politically correct world, most likely 5 year olds don’t hear anything like this . . .

  62. Kate Raambo says:

    My grandfather used to tell us this story when we were wee little. He would set in his rocker with his pipe bloowing smoke rings then very thoughfully begin. Not a sound was heard from any of us. Wonderful memory

  63. Kathy Bates says:

    My 93 year old father was reciting as much of this poem as he could remember and he said, “I sure wish I had the entire poem.” I am thrilled that I was able to find it and print it for him. It made his day. Thank you.

  64. sue says:

    My father used to quote this wonderful poem to us when we were children. I have often wondered if he was required to learn it in school or if he had learned it from his mother. As he has passed on, I will never know. But this poem brought back wonderful memories.

  65. dennis says:

    We had to memorize this poem in grade school in 5th grade,I am now 48 and still know and remember this poem ,loved it then ,love it now,a true october classic!!!!

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