Icelandic Nursery Rhyme: Sofdu unga ástin mín

May 12th marks National Limerick Day in the U.K. This includes riddles and rhymes. 

Most nursery rhymes manifest from the times they were written in. Several Nursery Rhymes reflect famine, poverty, sickness and even death. Everything is not always roses and butterflies for children living in hard times and poor conditions with very little food to feed their family.

One such tragic Nursery Rhyme is Sofdu unga ástin mín (“Sleep my young darling”) reveals an era in Iceland’s 18th century, when tough times prevailed. In this case sleep alludes to death.

Illustration of an Icelandic 18th Century mother.


Jóhann SigurJónsson 1880 – 1919 reflects on his tragic play about a couple of wanted fugitives Fjalla-Eyvindur and his partner Halla. This notorious couple hid in the highlands of Iceland. The desperate mother Halla threw her own infant over a waterfall so her and her husband could run stealth on the lamb. A tragic yet lovely Nursery Rhyme.

Iceland’s Nursery Rhyme of Sofðu unga ástin mín. 

Sofðu unga ástin mín. 
Úti regnið grætur. 
Mamma geymir gullin þín, 

gamla leggi og völuskrín. 
Við skulum ekki vaka um dimmar nætur. Það er margt sem myrkrið veit
minn er hugur þungur.
Oft ég svarta sandinn leit,
svíða grænan engireit.
Í jöklinum hljóða dauðadjúpar sprungur.Sofðu lengi, sofðu rótt,
seint mun best að vakna.
Mæðan kenna mun þér fljótt,
meðan hallar degi skjótt
að mennirnir elska, missa, gráta og sakna

English version below of Sleep My Young Darling.

Sleep my young love. Outside the rain cries
Mother keeps your gold, old leg bones and chest of stones
We shall not be awake on dark nights
The darkness knows so plenty
My mind is heavy
Often black sands I gazed at
burning green meadows
In the glacier lives dead deep cracks
Sleep well, sleep tight
Better to wake up later
Mother will teach you sooner
’til the sun reaches the horizon
That men love, lose, cry and pine for.

YouTube video of this woeful nursery rhyme sang by Sissel

Sleep My Young Love performed by Sissel 

You can purchase her music here Sissel Kyrkjebo


Below Photo of  Goðafoss Waterfall of the gods of Iceland



Blog by Nifty Bryn Buckles ©2021

Source and Reference:

Sofdu Unga Astin Min  Halldor Waren, Unga Astin Min

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Nifty Buckles of Folklore Fun
Nifty Buckles of Folklore Fun

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