12 Creepy Lullabies From Around the World That Will Keep You Up at Night

getty images
getty images

If there’s one image that sums up all the feelings of sweetness and tenderness in the world, it’s a mother singing a lullaby to her baby. But if we listen closer to the lyrics of lullabies, they're not all so sweet. Even Rockabye Baby ends with the crack of broken branch as baby plummets to the ground. Here are 12 creepy lullabies from around the world that might keep you up at night.

1. "Nana Nenê" // Brazil

This Brazilian lullaby invokes Cuca (a crocodile-hag from legends), the idea of parents not being there to protect you, an ox-monster, and a bogeyman called Bicho Papão lurking on the roof. All the stuff that puts a child right at ease.

Hush little baby
Cuca is coming to get you,
Papa went to the fields, mama went to work.

Black-faced ox,
Come grab this child
Who is scared of grimaces.

Bogeyman
Get off the roof
Let this child sleep peacefully.

Listen here

2. "Duérmete Niño" // Spanish

This lullaby is sung in Spain and Latin American in various versions. It warns that if you don’t go to sleep, a shapeshifting monster called the Coco will eat you up. In some countries the Coco is substituted with el Lobo (the wolf), which doesn’t make it any less scary.

Sleep little one
Sleep already
Or the Coco will come and take you away.

Sleep little one
Sleep already
Or the Coco will come and eat you up.

Listen here

3. "Dodo Titit" // Haiti

In Haiti, it’s a crab that’s going to get you while your parents are away.

Night-night little mama, 
Night-night little mama, 
If you don’t sleep, the crab will eat you 
If you don’t sleep, the crab will eat you.

Your mama isn’t here, she went to the market, 
Your papa isn’t here, he went to the river, 
If you don’t sleep, the crab will eat you 
If you don’t sleep, the crab will eat you.

Listen here.

4. "Bayu Bayushki Bayu" // Russia

In Russia, it’s a wolf that’s going to get you off the edge of your bed and drag you off into the woods.

Sleep sleep sleep
Don’t lie too close to the edge of the bed
Or little grey wolf will come
And grab you by the flank,
Drag you into the woods
Underneath the willow root.

Listen here.

5. "Ninna Nanna" // Italy

In Italy, the old hag, the bogeyman, and the white wolf will get you, but not because they’ll drag you off. No, your mother’s going to just give you to them. 

Ninna nanna, ninna oh
To whom shall I give this baby?

If I give it to the old hag,
She’ll keep it for a week.

If I give it to bogeyman,
He’ll keep it for an entire year.

If I give it to the while wolf,
He’ll keep it for a long time.

Lullaby sleep fairies
Send my baby to sleep.

Listen here.

6. "Lelo Ledung" // Javanese

On the Indonesian island of Java there is a scary giant looking for crying children. Also, crying will make you ugly.

Please hush, don't keep on crying
My child with a lovely face
If you cry, you won't look as beautiful.

I pray that you can live honorably
Be a woman of high importance
Bring honor to your parents' name
Be a warrior of your country….

Please hush…my child…
There… The moon is full,
Like the head of a scary giant
One who's looking for a crying child.

Tak lelo…lelo…lelo ledung…
Please hush, my beautiful child
I am carrying you in a "kawung" batik sling
If you keep on crying, you'll make me nervous.

Translation from mamalisa.com; listen here

7. and 8. "Bíum, bíum, Bambaló" and "Sofðu nú svínið þitt" // Iceland

Iceland has perhaps the scariest creature of all. The one that you don’t even know what it is. All you know is that it’s lurking, lurking…

Beeum, beeum, bambalow, Bambalow and dillidillidow.
My little friend I lull to rest.
But outside
A face looms at the window.

Listen to the Sigur Rós version with lyrics and translation here.

There's also this Icelandic classic, which I haven’t been able to find the melody for:

Sofðu nú svínið þitt,
svartur í augum.
Farðu í fúlan pytt,
fullan af draugum

Which translates to

Sleep, you black-eyed pig.
Fall into a deep pit of ghosts.

9. "Highland Fairy Lullaby" // Scotland

In Scotland there are no scary creatures to carry you off. Your mother’s just going to put you down and lose you.

I left my baby lying there, lying there, lying there
I left my baby lying there
To go and gather blaeberries.

Ho-van, ho-van gorry o go,
Gorry o go, gorry o go;
Ho-van, ho-van gorry o go,
I’ve lost my dearest baby-o

I saw the little yellow fawn
But never saw my baby.

I traced the otter on the lake
But could not trace my baby.

Ho-van, ho-van gorry o go,
Gorry o go, gorry o go;
Ho-van, ho-van gorry o go,
I never found my baby-o

Listen here

10. "Lima Anak Ayam" // Malaysia

In this medley of lullabies by Malaysian singer Zee Avi, the third one, starting at 1:10, goes straight to baby chicks dying. 

Five chicks
One chick dies
One chick dying leaves four

11. "Kråkevisa" // Norway

This Norwegian lullaby ballad isn’t directly about a sleeping child and what will happen to them, but about a man who thinks a crow is going to kill him, so he kills it first. A gory catalog of all the uses he makes out of the carcass follows.

… then he skinned the Crow and cut her in pieces
she weighed near sixteen and twenty pounds

from the pelt he made twelve pair of shoes
he gave the best pair to Mother

and the meat he salted in vessels and barrels
and preserved the tongue for the Yule meal

from the entrails he made twelve pair of rope
and the claws he used for dirt-forks

and the beak he used for a church-boat
that people could sail both to and fro

and the mouth he used for grinding grain
and he made the ears into trumpets

and from the eyes he made glass for the hall
and the neck he placed on the church for decoration

The lesson of the song is finally summed up in the moral, “A person who cannot make use of a crow like this is not worthy of getting a crow.” Listen here.

12. "Incili Bebek Ninnisi" // Turkey

This Turkish lullaby comes from a story where a man who wished for a child promised that he would sacrifice three camels if he had a child, but on the way to the sacrifice decided to keep the camels instead. This, from the perspective of the singing mother, is what happened next.

Above black eagles wheeling,
All of a sudden swooping,
My little baby stealing,
Sleep, little baby, sleep.

Above black eagles soaring,
A crown of pearls left lying,
Your stupid father snoring.
Sleep, little baby, sleep.

Above black eagles flying,
My little baby clutching,
And all the world a-spying,
Sleep, little baby, sleep.

Above black birds ascending,
My baby’s flesh a-rending,
And all the world attending.
Sleep, little baby, sleep.

Full lullaby text and story here.

Sweet dreams!

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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6 Effective Tips for Coping With Panic Attacks

Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels
Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

If you suddenly find yourself having an abrupt feeling of fear paired with anxiety or an overwhelming sense that you are losing control, you might be experiencing a panic attack. A panic attack, which can last for minutes or hours, can manifest in physical symptoms that some sufferers compare to a heart attack. And if you've ever had one, you're far from alone.

Each year, up to 11 percent of Americans experience panic attacks—though that percentage could rise in 2020. Using Google Trends, researchers have noted a significant increase in searches related to panic attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it’s not entirely conclusive, it's clear that people need to be paying attention to their mental health right now as much as they are their physical well-being.

“I have seen a huge increase in those experiencing panic attacks and other forms of anxiety during lockdown,” psychotherapist and coach Sarie Taylor tells Mental Floss. She attributes it to the uncertainty and unpredictability of the pandemic.

If you're prone to panic attacks, here are several methods you can use to help cope. Keep in mind that these techniques are not mutually exclusive, so you might find that practicing two or three of them at once is the fastest way to alleviate the symptoms brought on by a panic attack. Nor should you become frustrated if they don't always work for you. Every person and every panic attack is different. “Do not be disheartened if they do not always seem to work for you," Taylor says. "Your mind will always eventually settle regardless.”

1. Control your breathing.

Changes in breathing patterns and shortness of breath during panic attacks are common, but it can heighten the feeling of suffocation that some people experience. To address this, try common breathing techniques such as the 4-7-8 exercise [PDF] or roll breathing (also known as abdominal breathing). Deep breathing, or breath focus, is a great strategy to lower your heart rate, stabilize your blood pressure, and lower your stress levels. If you can control your breathing, the panic may subside and you can reduce some of your other symptoms.

2. Connect with your current environment.

To de-escalate the overwhelming emotions that often come with a panic attack and bring your focus to the present, it helps to engage your senses. You may be able to do this through visualization exercises, like imagining yourself sitting by the ocean or wherever you're happiest. Another effective method is the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique, where you acknowledge five things you can see around you, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This can be a great way to distract yourself from intrusive thoughts and focus on the sensations you can physically experience in that moment instead.

3. Grab an ice cube.

If you feel that breathing and relaxation exercises don’t bring enough relief, some people are able to lessen the effects of a panic with ice cubes. Holding an ice cube in your hand for as long as you can, or putting it inside your mouth until it melts, brings enough discomfort to divert your body’s response away from panic. If you put the ice cube in your mouth, it forces your body to produce more saliva, activating the parasympathetic nervous system and halting the fight-or-flight response that panic attacks typically trigger.

According to Taylor, when you hold something stimulating, it appeals to the senses and becomes difficult to ignore. This means that your attention goes to the ice’s temperature and texture. Like all methods, it’s not equally effective for everyone and experiences may vary.

4. Relax your muscles.

Progressive muscle relaxation is an anxiety and stress management technique that relieves tension from the body [PDF]. The practice is done by lying down, tensing a muscle group for up to 10 seconds, relaxing it, then moving on to another muscle group. You can start from head to toe or vice versa, or begin with your hands and then work your way through your body. Concentrating on how your muscles tense and relax helps you let go of the negative feelings a panic attack brings on.

5. Challenge your brain.

It’s not easy to shake off negative thoughts, especially as they increasingly worsen. To force your brain to think of something else, engage in small mental exercises. This includes anything from counting backward from 100 in threes or reciting the alphabet backward to counting how many letters there are in your full name or reciting all the colors you can think of or see. By completing these exercises, even imperfectly, you can distract yourself enough to potentially reduce your symptoms.

The effectiveness of such exercises depends on how invested you are in your anxious thoughts. “The earlier you notice your mind getting busy, the easier these techniques may be,” Taylor says.

6. Take your prescribed medications.

Seeing a doctor and getting treatment for frequent panic attacks is important because they can become worse over time. There are a variety of medications that can help with panic attacks, but according to the Mayo Clinic, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most effective choice for panic attacks. Take your medication(s) as prescribed, and try to be aware of how well and quickly they work for you, so that you can talk with your doctor to make sure you're taking the best medication for your symptoms.