In this song, the elephants are swinging on a spider web as if they're on a swing.

You can sing the English translation to the French melody if you sing the word "swinging" using 3 beats like "swin-nnnng-ing".

This song dates back to at least 1842. You can learn more about it in the Notes below.

Un éléphant se balançait - French Children's Songs - France - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image

Notes

The line "C'était un jeu tellement amusant" translates more literally to "It was a game that was so much fun." I changed it to fit the tune in the mp3.

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A similar beginning to the song can be found in "Scènes de la Vie Privée et Publique Des Animaux" by Grandville (1842). It was sung to the tune of Femmes, voulez-vous éprouver from the opera "Le secret" by Jean-Pierre Solié (1755 – 1812). Now, which song came first is still a mystery! (Cf. the lyrics below.)

Lyrics of the verse found in the book mentioned above:

Un éléphant se balançait (An elephant was swinging)
Sur une toile d'Araignée ; (On a Spider web)
Voyant qu'il se divertissait, (Since he* was enjoying himself)
Une mouche en fut indignée : (A fly was offended:)
Comment peux-tu te réjouir, (How can you rejoice)
Dit-elle, en voyant ma souffrance ? (She* said, when you see my suffering?)
Ah ! Viens plutôt me secourir, (Ah, come instead to rescue me)
Ma main sera ta récompense. (My hand will be your reward.)

*In French, the word "elephant" is masculine and "fly" is feminine, hence the fly offering the elephant to get married as a reward.

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The standard lyrics to this song are slightly different:

Un éléphant se balançait
sur une toile d'araignée,
il trouva ça si amusant,
qu'il appela un autre éléphant.

Deux éléphants se balançaient etc. etc.

English Translation:

An elephant was swinging
On a spider's web,
He found it so fun
He called another elephant.

Two elephants were swinging etc. etc.

Comments

The midi is the more standard tune.

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Instruments in the recording: guitar, kazoo and tom-tom drum (floor tom)...

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Many thanks to CM2 (5th grade) students, St-Ambreuil (71), France, school year 2008-2009, for contributing this song, for singing it for us and for the wonderful illustrations!

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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Marie and Séverine for contributing this song. Translated by Lisa.

Merci beaucoup!

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