Glyph of the word 'kelea'.


  • (n.) sorrow, sadness
  • (v.) to be sad, to sorrow
  • (adj.) sad

E poiu anamai kelea kiape heva…
“So sad mother duck went out one day…”

Notes: Over the hills and far away…

So let’s talk about this song. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you can look at the lyrics here. I heard this song for the first time as an adult, and I was struck by how bleak it is. Essentially, mother duck goes out each day with her ducklings, and they wander off into the wilderness (“over the hills and far away”). At the end of the day, one fewer duckling returns (almost sounds like the setup for a horror story). On the fifth day, mother duck is left with no ducklings at all.

So what happens now, you might wonder? The mother duck, bereft of all hope and joy with no ducklings, and so she herself goes “over the hills and far away” (a clear metaphor for suicide). But then, happily (and contrary to most Judeo-Christian beliefs), mother duck is reunited with her departed ducklings. (Well, unless they all committed suicide, in which case one wonders: Just where are they at the end of the song?)

I suppose death is something one has to learn about and come to live with in life, but is it really appropriate in a song about ducks? I’m just not sure.

Just when I thought this song couldn’t get any worse, I found this while looking up the lyrics. To spare you the autoplaying midi file on that page, what it shows is an alternate last verse to this song. So the first part is the same (mother duck taking her ducklings out, and one by one they lose their way), but the very last stanza, instead of having a sad mother duck, goes like this:

Five little ducks
went out to play
Over the hills and far away
Papa duck said,
Five little ducks came swimming back.

In other words, the reason the ducklings aren’t coming back is simply because they have no intention of respecting their mother’s authority. They’re off having a great time over the hills and far away, and they hear their poor mother quacking for them, and they’re all like, “Psssh! Whatev! Me an’ my homies is chizzillin’, yo!” It’s not until their dad calls for them that, suddenly, they feel the need to come back (i.e. “Oh, wait, they’re serious: Dad’s calling! We better go!”).

I’m not sure which is worse: The haunting suicidal version, or the misogynistic version. Either way, it’s a strange song for children, and a bizarre setting for ducks.

Oh, forgot: This iku is an inversion of the iku for kemea, which means “to make love”. The inversion technique is employed often to indicate the opposite of something, or the bad version of something. The usage here should be obvious.

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One Response to “Kelea”

  1. Ka kavaka Amanda ti:

    I love your digressions :)

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