Who Really Wrote the Poem "Come Little Children"?

Who Really Wrote Come Little Children?

UPDATE: This post was updated on 11/12/16 with new information. See additions at the end.

When I started writing my novel, Come Little Children, I wasn't sure who had composed the poem with the same title. Turns out, it's a little complicated.

Like most moviegoers, I first heard about the poem in Disney’s 1993 film HOCUS POCUS when a much younger, much blonder Sarah Jessica Parker sung the lines while riding a broomstick and flaunting her—what do you call them, Max?—yabbos for the town of Salem. When you Google the lyrics, however, you find versions with extended verses that were never in the final cut of the movie.

Originally, Sarah sang:

Come little children, I’ll take the away
into a land of Enchantment.
Come little children, the time’s come to play
here in my garden of magic.

But the version that’s floating around the internet has two extra verses:

Come little children, I'll take thee away
into a land of Enchantment,
Come little children, the time's come to play
here in my garden of Shadows.

Follow sweet children, I'll show thee the way
through all the pain and the Sorrows.
Weep not poor children, for life is this way
Murdering beauty and Passions.

Hush now dear children, it must be this way
to weary of life and Deceptions,
Rest now my children, for soon we'll away
into the calm and the Quiet.

Come little children, I'll take thee away
into a land of Enchantment,
Come little children, the time's come to play
here in my garden of Shadows.

Aside from some capitalization and formatting differences, the most noticeable change is the last word of the first verse: "magic" becomes "shadows".

So what's the original version? Where did it come from? Was it written for Disney, or is it based on older material that’s now in the public domain?

Well, like I said, it’s kinda complicated…

A lot of people claim the poem is by Edgar Allan Poe, including this site and this site. However, Poe-enthusiasts think that’s ludicrous because it doesn’t show up in his omnibus and it doesn’t fit his style.

Other people argue that Brock Walsh is the author, whose IMDB credits from HOCUS POCUS include "Chants and Incantations", as well as lyrics for "Sarah's Theme" and "Come Little Children". Sounds promising, right? Unfortunately, back when I was researching this topic, “promising” wasn't good enough. I wanted to publish the poem in my novel, and I wasn’t keen on being sued. [To be clear: asking for forgiveness rather than permission is fine when it comes to buying a pet or pranking someone on April Fools' Day, but it falls apart quickly when you’re served cease and desist papers from The Big Mouse.]

So I contacted Brock Walsh.

Anecdote: I actually contacted John Debney first, because he’s the one credited for the music of HOCUS POCUS. Alas, I was informed that he didn’t come onto the project until after “Sarah’s Theme” had been written. The original composer was James Horner, but when I tried contacting him, his agent said that since Debney was the one who got the final music credit, it was best if I talked to the studio attached to the film (Disney). In other words: "Sorry, but Mr. Horner is too busy composing his next Oscar-winning score to answer a question about a tune he may or may not have written for a couple of witches in 1993."

Anyhow, I asked Mr. Walsh if he was the original poet or if the internet was right and Poe was the author. His response was the following:

Dear Mr. Melhoff,

That has to be the most gratifying, and apocryphal, bit of internet misinformation ever! Being confused with Poe? Must have been my obsession with him as a child. Yes, the lyric is my creation, written in tandem with James Horner.

As to extended verses, if you can provide, I'll vouch for their veracity.

Best Regards,

Brock Walsh

Finally I was getting somewhere! Unfortunately—and this is where the rabbit hole gets deeper and more mysterious—when I gave Brock the extended verses, he told me that he was not the author of them.

Right. Now what.

Both of us did some digging and discovered an artist by the name of Kate Covington who had a YouTube channel called Erutan Music. She had covered the song (fantastically, I might add) and took credit as the person who changed the word “magic” to “shadows”.

Sadly, that’s where the case goes cold. Neither Kate nor Brock know where the other two verses came from, so I handed it over to a licensing company and let them take it from there. Months later, they got back to me and told me to credit it as follows:

Garden Of Magic
from HOCUS POCUS*
Text based on the poem "Come Little Children" by Edgar Allan Poe
Additional text by Brock Walsh
Music by James Horner
(c) 1993 Walt Disney Music Company
All Rights Reserved Used by Permission
*Adapted lyrics not used in film
Reprinted by Permission of Hal Leonard Corporation

If you’ve followed the whole story thus far, you’re probably as surprised as I was. I doubt the licensing company tried very hard to track down the true source, but at least it seems like I've got the permission to print based on the original Disney lyrics.

If you know more about the mystery verses, please leave a comment or email me and I’ll gladly update this article. Cliffhangers can be great in movies but they blow in real life.

UPDATE: November 12, 2016

There might be a light at the end of the tunnel, folks! Thanks to some clever digging from someone who found this blog post, it appears that a person who goes by the name Belos takes credit for the extra verses on their site. That website is no longer live, but thanks to the Wayback Machine (an internet archive of web pages), you can see their claim here.

In the event that the archive disappears one day, here's a screenshot of it:

come-little-children-source

Callid, the person who messaged me about this find, has another interesting theory too:

"Thanks to the Internet Archive, we know Belos published those lines in December 2002 or earlier. As you can see, the page is entitled 'Poe3', which is probably why some people assumed it displayed Poe's work, but seems to be simply short for 'poetry'. Apparently, these misattributions were common even early on, as Belos published an addendum in early 2006 , clarifying that he is the author of the middle stanzas (in his counting, stanzas 3 to 6), and that he also made the change from 'magic' to 'shadows'."

Belos' claim that he/she was the one to change "magic" to "shadows" conflicts with Kate's claim, but nevertheless, Belos is the first person I've seen to take credit for the middle verses.

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about this topic, particularly Callid. I had no idea it would be such a wild goose chase. If you find any more information, don't hesitate to email me. I'm clearly obsessed with this topic.

D.


Give the Gift of Horror this Xmas

Why restrict your love for horror to Halloween when there are so many other holidays in need of terror? Here are the top five reasons to get your friends/loved ones/Secret Santas a frightening novel this Xmas season.

  1. Books provide more hours of entertainment than 95% of gifts

    Of course, if you were thinking of putting a speedboat or a motor home under the tree, knock yourself out.

  1. Gift getters won’t have to put up with bad acting

    Most horror movies (especially the classics) are too cheesy to take seriously. If someone wants a really good scare, it’s better to let him or her imagine it themselves.

  1. Horror saves lives

    Do you have a gut feeling one of your friends would NOT do well in a zombie apocalypse? There’s no harm preparing them with a few cautionary tales in case the unthinkable occurs.

  1. Help someone burn calories and stay fit

    Who needs a Bowflex® or an AbMaster when horror is apparently proven to boost energy levels and give you a better grip on reality?

  1. Swap it for cash

    If no one at your gift exchange wants the book you brought, you can accept bribes to exchange it for your own prize plus a little extra to sweeten the deal. Earning money AND a good book? Double win.

Convinced? Perfect, and lucky for you—and your Christmas budget—Come Little Children is now available for $2.99 (ebook) or $9.99 (paperback) from Amazon through to the end of December.

Have a horrifying Christmas, everyone, and an alarming New Year.


Diagnosing Writers: 8 Types of Hollywood Madness

“We all go a little mad sometimes,” according to Norman Bates, and writers more often than most. Maybe it’s because we’re borderline schizophrenic—hearing characters’ voices in our heads every day—or perhaps it's a side-effect from the substances we need to achieve the constant nirvana demanded by our inner muses? Who knows.

Still, there are so many kinds of crazy that it’s important to distinguish the differences. If you’re a writer, here are the types (and symptoms) to watch out for, along with a few tips to improve your daily life.

1. The Jack Torrance 

All work and no play makes this type of writer a dull boy. Keep the liquor out of reach and try to immerse yourself in more social activities to remain sane. A winter retreat with the family might sound like a good opportunity to get some work done, but if your clairvoyant son starts having bad feelings about it, take his advice and cancel the trip.

2. The Catherine Tramell

Confident, calculated, and cool as an ice-pick, The Catherine Tramell is a rare find. Even under the most stressful circumstances your heart rate rarely reaches eighty-five BPM, so don’t blame your friends and lovers if they can’t tell when life is a tad bit stressful. Instead, listen to your instincts. Try opening up to the people around you—and not just with your legs.

3. The Mort Rainey

Admit it: buying that secluded cabin in the woods wasn’t your best idea. But c'mon, you weren’t thinking straight when you signed the papers, right? Sell it off, get over the ex, and find a nice place to settle down for a while (so long as it’s no where near Shooter’s Bay). Also, since you likely suffer from plagiarism-paranoia, join a support group and learn to get over the fact that no one’s trying to steal your ideas.

4. The Eddie Morra

Alcohol is one thing, but you tend to have a penchant for some of the stronger things in life. The sooner you check yourself into rehab and realize that you don’t need nootropic drugs to be a decent writer, the better.

5. The Barton Fink

Your biggest fear may entail separation from “the common man”, but that doesn’t mean you should turn down a $1,000-per-week gig writing screenplays in Tinsel Town. If you’re ever in need of inspiration, make friends with the person in the next hotel room over and see how things go. Or on second thought, don’t.

6. The Marquis de Sade

Extremely erotic and completely perverse, you have an unhealthy fixation toward everything sexual. On the plus side, you’re extremely resourceful and will stop at nothing to get your works published—an agent’s dream! If things take a turn for the worse and you lose your writing implements, don’t feel the need to resort to blood and feces; set yourself up with a Tumblr account and start channeling that talent into a blog.

7. The Grady Tripp

This type of writer is the one-hit wonder. A constant sufferer—and complainer—of writer’s block, it takes an odd combination of pressure and personal relationships to help break the dry spell. The only advice I have for The Grady Tripp is to give up your long, wandering manuscript and try a few short stories until you’re ready to tackle a full-length novel again.

8. The Marty Faranan

If your best friend is an unemployed actor who makes a living by kidnapping dogs and collecting ransoms for their safe return, there’s a good chance you’re The Marty Faranan type. There’s also a good chance you’re involved with homicidal thugs, and no amount of advice—in this blog post anyway—is going to help you. Godspeed.