Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tronk's Favorite Lullaby is in English - La Ninna Nanna Preferita di William e' in Inglese

Tronk has made it very clear. It happens every night and I have to accept it. The last song he wants to hear before he goes to bed, despite all the ninna nanne (Italian lullabies) I made him listen to, is not an Italian song. Nope, it is an English one. The song is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. John is convinced that he doesn't understand what it means because the song is in English and Tronk, until now, has only learned to speak Italian. But this time I have to disagree with him, for the following reason.

I used to sing to Tronk the Italian version. He knew the meaning of the words but he wasn't too keen on it. Then, one day he heard the original version in English from his dad and from that day on he rejected the Italian version and, subsequently, all the ninna nanne I used to sing to him when he was a baby had no chance. Now, no matter what ninna nanna I sing to him, Twinkle Twinkle (that's how he calls it) is the only lullaby Tronk wants to hear.

Italian Version
Brilla brilla mia stellina
Ogni sera sei vicina

Lassu' in cielo brillera'
Un gioiello sembrera'
Brilla brilla mia stellina
E sei sempre piu' carina.
     English Version
     Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
     How I wonder what you are.

     Up above the world so high, 
     Like a diamond in the sky. 
     Twinkle, twinkle, little star.   
     How I wonder what you are.  

I don't blame him. Did you see how the two versions compare against each other? The English lyrics are from an early nineteenth-century English poem, "The Star", which was written by a poetess, Jane Taylor, who was fascinated by the look of a star. The Italian version is a fake, an attempt to translate the English version into Italian, which fails miserably in the last phrase: E sei sempre piu' carina. Literally, it means, "And you are nicer every day", which sounds more like the improvised comment of a nanny than poetry. It's a bad fake and Tronk spotted it!

More recently, Tronk has learned to sing Twinkle Twinkle. You can watch one of his public performances below. He learned this phonetically... as you might gather by the way he pronounces sky as skype - Yes, the computer software that he uses to talk to Nonni, grandma and grandpa.

So, every evening, when Tronk and I reach the last word of the last book we decide to read at bedtime, every time, I say to him "buonanotte tesoro, sogni d'oro, ti amo" (goodnight my little treasure, sweet dreams, I love you)  and I sullenly leave his room, with my head lowered, staring at my feet. I then call John and ask him to go to his room to sing the English lullaby.

I really cannot blame him for preferring the English lullabies to the Italian ninna nanne. The latter are closer to somber songs and laments expressing mourning or grief than to nursery rhymes for soothing babies! In most cases, they either talk about the hard labor of mothers, the weight that they have to bear in looking after their babies, or are about mothers threatening to give their babies away to witches, wolves or saints if the babies don't fall asleep. To not mention the ones filled with tragedies such as the black bird losing his wings, then one eye, then the other eye and so on. I spare you the lullabies with unclear sexual innuendo. The words in the Italian ninna nanne seem to come from the selfish needs of the Italian mothers to get through the day and make their child sleep while everyone else is free. Surely, there must be Italian lullabies that are not so heavy and so depressing!

I searched through Tronk's books and I did some research on the web. I am afraid the closest correspondent to the upbeat Little Star that I used to sing to William is Stella Stellina (Star, Little Star), which brings a bunch of animals into the picture. Not so cheerful, as you can see below.

Italian Version
Stella stellina
la notte si avvicina
la fiamma traballa
la mucca รจ nella stalla
la mucca e il vitello
la pecora e l'agnello
la chioccia ed il pulcino         
ognuno ha il suo bambino
ognuno ha la sua mamma
e tutti fan la nanna.
 English Version
 Star, little star,
 the night is approaching.
 the fire is dying
 the cow is in the barn
 the cow and the calf
 the sheep and the lamb
 the hen  with the chick
 each and everyone has his child
 each and everyone has his mom
 and everyone goes to sleep. 

No wonder Tronk said "basta" (enough) and gave his preference to a well written (and lighthearted) English poem.


In the last week or so, Tronk has added one bedtime request to his usual repertoire. He now pretends that I stay in his room for one more lullaby. This time, luckily, the song is in Italian. The only problem is that Tronk is usually the only one who knows what is about, until tonight.

Tonight, just before I closed his bedroom door, Tronk sang this to me:

Original Version in Italian
Dormi, Dormi mia bella mamma
con la mia fronte in mano
Non andare a farti la bua 
Vieni, vieni qui con me.
     English Translation
     Sleep, sleep, my beautiful mom,
     with my forehead in your hand
     Do not go to get a boo-boo
     Come here, come here with me.
That song he sang, at the end of a long tiring day, is worth one million hugs. Thanks Tronk for making my job as a mother so worth it.


  1. Hi there,

    I am confused about the word "fan" in the last line, "e tutti fan la nanna." I've tried to find the definition but it seems like the word by itself doesn't exist or something. Can you help? I'm only a beginner in Italian.


  2. Hi there,

    I am confused about the word "fan" in the last line, "e tutti fan la nanna." I've tried to find the definition but it seems like the word by itself doesn't exist or something. Can you help? I'm only a beginner in Italian.