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!

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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

17 Facts About Airplane! On Its 40th Anniversary

Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays (with Otto) in Airplane! (1980).
Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays (with Otto) in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Shot on a budget of $3.5 million, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker wrote and directed Airplane!, a movie intended to parody the onslaught of disaster movies that graced movie theater screens in the 1970s. The comedy classic, which arrived in theaters on July 2, 1980, ended up making more than $83.4 million in theaters in the United States alone, and resurrecting a few acting careers in the process. Here are some things you might not have known about the comedy classic on its 40th anniversary.

1. Airplane! was almost a direct parody of the 1957 movie Zero Hour!

Shorewood, Wisconsin childhood friends Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker grew up and moved to Los Angeles, where they were responsible for the sketch comedy troupe Kentucky Fried Theater. The trio made a habit of recording late-night television, looking for commercials to make fun of for their video and film parodies, which is how they discovered Zero Hour!, which also featured a protagonist named Ted Stryker (in Airplane! it's Ted Striker). In order to make sure the camera angles and lighting on Airplane! were matching those of Zero Hour!, the trio always had the movie queued up on set. Yes, the three filmmakers did buy the rights to their semi source material.

2. Universal thought Airplane! was too similar to their Airport franchise.

Universal released four plane disaster movies in the seventies: Airport in 1970; Airport 1975 (confusingly in 1974); Airport ‘77; and The Concorde ... Airport ‘79. Helen Reddy portrayed Sister Ruth in Airport 1975 and was game to play Sister Angelina in Airplane! before Universal stepped in and threatened to sue. Instead, the role went to Maureen McGovern, who sang the Oscar-winning theme songs to The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno—two movies that were also “disaster” movies, albeit ones not involving a plane.

3. David Letterman, Sigourney Weaver, and other future stars auditioned for Airplane!

In early conversations regarding Airplane!, Paramount Studios suggested Dom DeLuise for what would eventually become Leslie Nielsen’s role, and Barry Manilow for the role of Ted Striker, but they were never asked to audition.

4. Chevy Chase was mistakenly announced as the star of Airplane!.

Chevy Chase was erroneously announced as the star of Airplane! in a 1979 news item in The Hollywood Reporter.

5. The role of Roger Murdock was written with Pete Rose in mind.

Pete Rose was busy playing baseball when Airplane! was shot in August, so they cast Kareem Abdul-Jabbar instead.

6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got a pretty swanky carpet out of his Airplane! gig.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Peter Graves, and Rossie Harris in Airplane! (1980)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rossie Harris, and Peter Graves in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s agent insisted on an extra $5000 to the original offer of a $30,000 salary so that the basketball legend could purchase an oriental rug he'd had his eye on.

7. Peter Graves thought the Airplane! script was "tasteless trash."

Peter Graves eventually found the humor in the film, including the pedophilia jokes, and agreed to play Captain Oveur. Graves's wife was glad he took the role; she laughed throughout the premiere screening.

8. No, the child actor playing young Joey didn't know what Peter Graves was actually saying.

Rossie Harris was only 9 years old when he played the role of Joey, so did not understand the humor in Turkish prisons, gladiator movies, or any of Oveur’s other comments. But by the time he turned 10 and saw the movie, Harris had apparently figured it out.

9. Airplane! marked Ethel Merman's final film appearance.

"The undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage” played a disturbed soldier who believed he was Ethel Merman. Merman passed away in 1984.

10. Michael Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul was in Airplane!.

Jonathan Banks plays air traffic controller Gunderson.

11. Airplane!'s three-director setup caused legal problems.

The Directors Guild of America ruled that Abrahams and the two Zuckers couldn’t all be credited for directing a movie, nor be credited under the single “fictitious name of Abrahams N. Zuckers.” A DGA rep was on set to make sure that only Jerry Zucker spoke to the actors. What he saw was Jerry Zucker next to the camera, who would then go to a nearby trailer where the other two were watching the takes on a video feed, and come back to give notes to the actors after conferring with his partners. A DGA executive board eventually gave the three one-time rights to all share the credit.

12. A BIT ABOUT BLIND POLISH AIRLINE PILOTS WAS WRITTEN AND FILMED.

Blind singer José Feliciano, and lookalikes of blind singers Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, played Polish airline co-pilots. The Polish-American League protested, and it was determined by the writer-directors that the idea wasn’t funny enough to stay in the movie.

13. Robert Hays was starring in a TV show at the same time he was filming Airplane!

Robert Hays, the actor who played Ted Striker, had to race back and forth between the sets of Angie and Airplane! for two very busy weeks. The theme song to Angie was performed by the one and only Maureen McGovern.

14. Robert Hays was—and is—a licensed pilot.

He can even fly the ones with four engines.

15. Leslie Nielsen had a lot of fun with his fart machine.

Leslie Nielsen sold portable fart machines for $7 apiece on set, causing a brief epidemic of fart noises emanating from most of the cast and crew and delaying production. When they were shooting Hays’s close-up, Nielsen used the machine after every other word of his line, “Mr. Striker, can you land this plane?”

16. Stephen Stucker came up with all of Johnny's lines.

Lloyd Bridges and Stephen Stucker in Airplane! (1980)
Stephen Stucker and Lloyd Bridges in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Stephen Stucker was a member of the Kentucky Fried Theater. His line “Me John, Big Tree” was part of an old riff he used to do, which continued with him going down on his knees and putting an ear to the ground to hear when a wagon train was arriving.

17. The original rough cut of Airplane! was 115 minutes long.

After screenings at three college campuses and two theaters, the film was cut down to 88 minutes.