Here's the Afrikaans version of "Ring a Ring a Rosie" (Ring around the Rosie). Frances wrote, "It's to the tune of Ring a Rosies, but it's about a monkey called Willy (Wielie) who falls down, as opposed to the plague!" Many people think Ring Around the Rosie is about the plague in Europe.

Wielie-wielie-walie - South African Children's Songs - South Africa - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


We asked Frances about the meaning of "Walie" and if it was the man's name "Wally". Here's what she responded, "I've never personally heard anyone call someone a 'walie' as the English wally! However, Vaalie (pronounced the same as walie) has been a long-standing (insulting) reference by people on the coast to someone from Transvaal (now Gauteng) and the Vaal is a river, so Transvaal literally meant across the Vaal river. So over holidays, the 'Vaalies' would come over the Vaal river to the coast!

I'm not sure whether this is something I was told or whether it's my own speculation, but I think Wielie Walie referred to the Afrikaaner Boers (farmers) attacking black tribes that traveled over the Vaal river to the Free State, as monkey ('aap') was a common insult for tribal warriors. I suspect that originally it was 'Wielie van oor die Vaal rivier' (Willy from over the Vaal River). Tjoef was the gunfire, Tjaf was when he fell off ... Awful how these dreadful historical events became children's nursery rhymes, as bad as Mary, Mary Quite Contrary!!

In the 80's, a children's tv programme was made called Wielie Walie with a monkey as they key character, and probably for the sake of alliteration, they kept the W consistent in Walie, as it produced the desired sound anyway. Hence the spelling I used.

I can't prove it, but if I were you, I would be tempted to try to keep the consistency of 'Willy from the Vaal river'." [This last part was about translating the first line of the song into French.]

Frances wrote that in Afrikaans, "...'w' is pronounced like a 'v'...".



Many thanks to Frances Turnbull from Musicaliti
for contributing this song, for singing it to us and for commenting on the meaning!

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Translated by Lisa Yannucci.

Baie dankie!