Question About a Danish and Swedish Rhyme Called “Tumble Tot”

Bill wrote me…

Perhaps you can suggest a source for me to confirm or renew a bit of Danish folklore that came from my mother. Mom’s mother had been a farmer girl near Haderslav in Schleswig-Holstein, and (around 1910) taught mom a finger game poem.

One counts off the fingers, from thumb, index finger, on through small finger, naming them in (I gather) whimsical Danish as…

Tumble Tot

Tumble tot
Longa mon Schlik-a-pot
Lille pate spille mon

Which I understand to mean…

Tumble tot (infant, rug rat)
Tall man Licker of the pot (as after preparing frosting)
Gold bearer (ring finger)
Little Peter Playboy

Who could confirm this for me or give me improved spelling or pronunciation? It’s time to tidy up my memory for passing to the grandchildren.


If anyone can help with this rhyme, please write me or comment below.

For Danish children’s songs, visit Mama Lisa’s World’s Denmark Page!

UPDATE: Linda is looking for the Swedish spelling of this rhyme. If anyone can help her out, please comment below. Thanks in advance! -Lisa

This article was posted on Tuesday, September 27th, 2005 at 3:01 pm and is filed under Danish, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Questions, Sweden, Swedish. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

23 Responses to “Question About a Danish and Swedish Rhyme Called “Tumble Tot””

  1. Lisa Says:

    Lene wrote me…

    I live in Denmark and of course I know this rhyme.
    I goes like this in Denmark:

    Tommel tot faldt i vandet ( the thumb fell in water)
    Slikkepot trak ham op ( the next finger pulled him out ) Langemand bar ham hjem ( the next one carried him home) Guldbrand lagde ham i seng ( the next put him into bed)
    Lille Peter spillemand løb hjem til mor og slad`red. ( the last ran home to mom and told it all)

    Lene W

    Thanks Lene!

  2. Kathy Says:

    My great-grandmother’s parents came from Sparresholm in 1869. She learned this rhyme as a little girl growing up in the U.S. and passed it onto my grandmother who passed it onto her grandchildren.

    My grandma’s version is pretty close to Lene’s. Grandma’s version may of course been Anglicized or regional. Of course, the story may have gradually changed since 1869 too!

    My grandma told me Tommel Tot was always tumbling and rolling around and she would show me how the thumb was “falling” off my hand.

    Her translation was:

    Tummel Tot (thumb) fell in the water.

    Slikkepot (to my ears it sounded like Schlickput) pulled him out. I guess pot licker would be a good description. This is the index finger. My grandma used the illustration of getting to stick your finger in the bowl for leftovers after the cake mix (or frosting) had been poured out.

    Langemand (Long Man-middle finger) brought him in. That’s one of the slight variations-the words I recorded of my grandma saying this in Danish are a bit different.

    Guldbrand (it always sounded like guldmand to me-I thought it was gold man but it could be gold finger-same idea though, this is the ring finger) put him to bed.

    The last one (pinky) didn’t have the name of Peter in my version and he didn’t run home to mom. I think grandma inserted a bit of English into this one as it sounded like Lille bitte spillemand. She said this meant “little playing man” and used the illustration of the this finger plucking a note on a stringed instrument. In my version, this finger gives Tommel Tot a piece of bread and butter with sugar sprinkled on top.

    Grandma usually ended this story with fixing me a piece of bread and butter with sugar sprinkled on top of it. Ummmm!

  3. Laurel Says:

    The version my dad taught me was similar to Kathy’s, but MUCH shortened!! I have NO idea of the Danish spelling, and I suspect this one strayed considerably from what was probably the original. Also, he struggled to interpret, but this is how I remember it, anyway, for what it is worth.

    Tohmel Tot (little tot)
    schlikkepot (one that scrapes the pot)
    Longeh man-h (long man)
    Gouleh bantdh (gold band)
    e lille pietre spellemont (and little Peter musician)

    I had so much trouble pronouncing this last line, and he had so much trouble translating, he’s probably rolling in his grave….but it is a fond memory, learning this with him. I came on here looking for it, to see if anyone knew the actual one, and the spelling. Thanks to all of you for your input on this!! –Laurel

  4. Lisa Says:

    If anyone would like to send a recording, I’d be happy to post it. It might help solve the question!


  5. Linda Says:

    Laurel’s shortened version is very much like the finger game that my Swedish (Jamtland) grandmother taught me.

    Does anyone have the Swedish spellings of the words?

  6. Judy B. Says:

    To Kathy, my mother says lille pete (sp?) spilleman for the 5th finger. Otherwise your version is the same as her’s…

  7. Lisa Yannucci Says:

    Check out more at…

  8. Debbie Says:

    My great grandfather who was from Denmark told me this rhyme when I was a little girl. I am now passing it on to my grandchildren. Fun to see others on here who know the rhyme as well. :)

  9. Lisa Says:

    Buddy wrote:

    I don’t know how old your blog is, but I will send this to you. My mother would tell me this:

    tumble tot,
    schick a pot,
    longa mon,
    goula bron,
    leeta beeta peela mon…

    loosely translates to :

    the little tot
    lick the pot
    the long man
    the gold barrer
    the little man

    it describes each finger, and what it is for.

    – bud

  10. Kathy Says:

    I cannot believe I found this thread I posted on nearly six years ago! Anyway, for some reason this rhyme was going around in my head this morning. I went onto a translation site and discovered that the name which my grandmother gave “pinky”, Lille Bitte Spillemand is translates as tiny (think little-bitty in English) fiddler. Spille means “to play” and mand is man. As a compound word, it means a fiddler. I found that a bit interesting. So my recollection of my grandmother saying he was the one who plucked a string on an instrument like a violin was correct.

    Actually, it is very easy to see why some versions of this finger play basically say “Little Peter fiddler man” and others say “Little, tiny fiddler man”. Like so many stories, there is simply a twist on words, pronunciation, etc.

  11. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for coming back and sharing your new insights Kathy!

  12. Mike Says:

    I celebrated my grandson’s 3rd birthday this weekend and taught him what my Danish grandfather taught me.
    I learned the words by rote, so I’m sure my spelling is atrocious. I recently learned that tommeltot is Danish for thumb. Sometimes Grandpa called the next finger “schlickapot” (slikkapot?) and sometimes he called it “lickaman”. Obviously that’s the taste and licking finger. Then “longaman”. Sometimes the ring finger was “Gulabrunt” (guldbrand?) and sometimes he called it “Ringamon”. My favorite, as it was also with my grandson, was “lillebittaspillamon”. I always thought of it as “little bitty…” and now believe “spillaman” is a tattletale. REGARDLESS, thinking of Grandpa and my time spent listening to tales while sitting on his lap brings a tear to an old man’s eye, and holding a grandchild and TRYING to pass on tales about this great-great-grandpa brings my grandpa back to life. Thanks for the posts, folks.

  13. Kari Says:

    Just found this today after wondering (for the past 40+ years) what this little poem said that my great grandmother taught me. Thanks

  14. ron Says:

    What a moment!! I have been repeating these five sayings all my life. Thanks for some revelation for more than sixty years!!! THANX!!!!!

  15. Nels Says:

    My Dad taught this as just a Swedish naming rhyme for the fingers and thumb…
    sliehkapot- 1st finger
    longamon- middle finger
    goldamon- ring finger
    Lillebittespillemon- little finger

    he never spelled the words for me, just recited it many times… his Dad was from Malmo area and his Mom was from Persnas on Oland.
    All the other definitions are interesting and new to me.


  16. Anna Says:

    Here is the rhyme with swedish spelling:

    och lille Petter speleman

    This is a well known and often used rhyme naming the fingers. In another version the last finger is named “och lilla Vickevire”

  17. Sharee Says:

    My Nana, of German descent, used to recite the names of my fingers to me when I was a little girl. I’m now a Mother myself and was reciting them to my daughter and wanted to check I was saying it correctly. I am amazed to find it is of Swedish/Danish origin and from memory, I always thought it was:
    Timble tot (as you wear a thimble on your thumb)
    Schleggapot (as you lick the bowl with your index)
    Longgeman (as this is the longest finger)
    Golderbrandt (your ring finger)
    Little Peter Spellimont (i don’t remember the reason for this from my Nana)

    So, I am very glad that I wasn’t entirely wrong – and I think I will stick with what Laurel recited and posted back in 2006….very similar to my memories.

    Lovely to find information about this online.

  18. Sarah Says:

    My grandpa (whose parents were Danish) also taught this to me. My version has English and Danish mixed:
    Tommel tot faldt i vandet (the thumb fell in water)
    Slikkepot trak ham op ( the next finger pulled him out)
    Langemand carried him in
    Guldbrand lagde ham i seng (when Grandpa said it, it sounded like “red a seng” but I don’t know what that means)
    Lille Bitty spillemand spread the quilty over him

    Thank you for this thread explaining the fond memories.

  19. Lynn Olsen Says:

    My grandfather was from Aarhus Denmark but died long before I was born. My dad (born 1924) used to sing this to me, a very short version about the fingers. No idea how he spelled it as his Danish was limited because his mom was an English teacher.
    Tumble tot – a baby couldn’t crawl without his thumb for balance or he would tumble over
    Schlickapot – pot sweeping finger
    Langament – long man (longest finger)
    Goulahbrent – where you wear your gold wedding band
    Little Peter spillamen – your pinky finger was most likely to knock your cup over

    Had this pop into my 46 year old brain today. Decided to try Google. Am fascinated with the results.

  20. Jay Cummings Says:

    From my mother, probably from her German ancestry grandmother (Pederson), but possibly Swedish ancestry father:

    Tumble-tot (thumb)
    Schlick der pot (index finger)
    Langer-lang (middle finger)
    Gold-pan (ring finger)
    and leeeetle Fenelsa-Shpillaman (little finger)

    Selsa, (stroke the palm)
    Melsa (stroke the back)
    Deeble-la-dot, (dabble fingers on the palm)
    Potsum! (close the fist, kiss it, and wrap your hand around it)

    The final line is the vital culmination, always eliciting a delighted reaction.

  21. Stace Nelson Says:

    My beautiful Grandma Freda (Becker) Nelson of German heritage used to say this to us when I was a tyke circa 1973. She passed away in 1974 when she was on her early 70’s. Her father Henry Becker immigrated from the
    Munich area circa 1861. What a joy to remember this. Thank you all for sharing this.

  22. Kris Says:

    My Danish great uncles, Harl (Havel) and Tony (Anton), taught me the short version of this when I was about 5 years old in the early 1970s. It obviously made an impression on me, although my recollection of the pronunciation is likely way off.

    Thank you all for sharing your stories of the poem and the translations. I wish I knew more about my Danish heritage!

  23. Karla Bridges Says:

    OMG. To look this up and see it is amazing! My Grandmother taught me this. I know it as, tumble tot, slick a pot, lugamen, gulagren, and little peter spillermen. My spelling as I heard it. She passed when I was 8 so it is really all I remember. Can not believe I never looked this up! Thank you

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