James Whitcomb Riley, 1849 - 1916
Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Little Orphant Annie was one of my favorite poems as a child, probably partially because of my child’s horror of being an orphan. My mom assured me that there were no such things as goblins or gobble-uns.
The poem had value in the teaching what is make-believe from what is real. We can play with the things that might frighten us and thus have power over them. We don’t need to be afraid of gobble-uns.
There’s a funny thing about poetry. It’s timeless. Now, some may not like Riley’s rhymes as being unsophisticated. Others may not like the morality of this poem. However, curiously Riley seems to have hit our contemporary messages right on the head whether he meant to or not. The second verse is about a little boy who wouldn’t say his prayers, and he disappeared. The twist to the poem is that this is all make-believe. There are no gobble-uns.
As adults looking at our current political situation, it behooves us to remember, gobble-uns are make believe. Those who don’t say their prayers are not going to be snatched away in the night, never to be seen again. There are no gobble-uns, just people.
People are pretty much the same. We need food, clean water, clean air and shelter. Beyond that we need love. Even those who some consider gobble-uns need these same basic things. We may have different ideas about how to solve problems. We may have different ideas about what our problems really are, but at the end of the day, people are just people, not gobble-uns.
It’s okay to listen to scary stories about what this gobble-un person or that is going to do, but we all need to remember, those scary stories are make-believe. We need need to focus on what is. What really did happen today? The things that are happening are our challenges, not the should’ve, could’ve, might or maybes. As children reading scary stories we learned to distinguish make-believe from reality. As adults we need to exercise those skills when we hear a scary story. Did this really happen? Who caused this to happen? Why? Is it likely to happen again and is this something that I need to take action on?
Remember gobble-uns are only make-believe and people are people.