“Where Are Your Thumbs, Dear?” is a great way to introduce music to small children. It was originally written in my method book on teaching the Choroi Pentatonic Flute, but can easily be used without the instrument. It tells the creepy tale of Boy and Girl and Father who encounter a blind woman with nefarious intentions in the woods. Enjoy! I would love to hear your feedback.
For a .pdf of the sheet music click here: Where Are Your Thumbs, Dear?
A long time ago, and in a place very different from this, was a deep, dark wood. Now, this wasn’t just any wood, but the deepest, darkest wood in all the land! It was so dark that the only forest creatures that lived there were small furry squirrels with giant eyes that hopped along the ground, feeling their way through the dim light with their long silver whiskers.
One morning, as the cool, wet mist was slowly clearing from beneath the trees, a tall man, dressed in a thick woolen coat clapped his mittens together to keep warm as he moved down the forest path. Beside him walked his two children, who were also wrapped up in their thickest scarves to keep out the chilly morning air.
“The forest is quiet,” whispered Boy as white breath puffed out of his mouth.
“The forest is quiet,” answered Girl as white breath puffed out of her mouth, too.
“The forest is too quiet,” said Father, as he noticed a hunched-over person dressed in rags shambling up the path ahead of them.
“Good morning,” called Father.
A dry, crackly voice replied, “Morning, it is. Perhaps you could help a poor widow woman on this cold morning?”
“Certainly,” answered Father, because he was very kind to everyone he met. “How can I help you this cold morning?”
“A poor old, blind woman, I am. Missing something, I am. Fetch it for me, you can?” And, the old blind woman told Father about her cottage around the corner, and about her cane to help her walk leaning against the hearth. Father built a small fire by the side of the road, rolled a stump to the ring for the lady to sit upon, and asked Boy and Girl to keep her company while he fetched her cane. He kissed them each upon their brow, told hem to keep bundled up, and headed out of the firelight, into the morning mist, and around the bend toward her cottage.
“Show me a hand, you will?” asked Old Woman to Girl. Doing as she was always told, Girl took off her mitten, and stretched out her hand. From under a long sleeve of her cloak, Old Woman uncurled a long, thin, boney finger, and traced the lines in Girl’s palms. “Smooth hands, long fingers, lovely thumb have you.” she whispered staring into Girl’s eyes.
Girl became very nervous and stuck her hand back in her pocket. Boy was also nervous. He’d never seen someone want to feel someone else’s hands.
“Show me a hand, you will?” asked Old Woman to Boy.
“No thank you. Father said to stay bundled up.” he replied. He also just didn’t want to show the creepy old woman his hands. “Why don’t you show us your hands? Are your hands smooth with long fingers and lovely thumbs?”
With this, Old Woman scowled, puckering her face up into a dark shape, and squinting her grey, hollow eyes. “Show me a hand, you will.” she growled, as she stood up, her rags tumbling from her lap to the mossy earth. Boy and Girl became frightened, and grew colder. They jumped up from their seat by the fire, and took a step backward. Old Woman stretched out her hands to grab their thick wooly coats, which she missed but only barely. Her hands were crooked, and you could see the veins under the skin, blue and thin. Her fingers were long, and knobby at the knuckles. And her thumbs were missing. There was nothing there between her pointer-finger and her wrist but dry, thin, wrinkly skin.
“SHE WANTS OUR THUMBS!” shrieked Girl as they both ran frightened into the woods, and hid behind a tree.
With a quiet, thin voice the old blind woman began to sing as she slowly searched into the woods for Boy and Girl. “Where are your thumbs dear?”
Boy and Girl replied, “Hiding, hiding1.”
“Bring them close, yes bring them near.”
“You won’t find us here!”
Just then, Father reached the fire ring, and not seeing his children, or the blind woman, called out to them. Old Woman heard Father’s return, and vanished in a puff of cold, wet mist, never to trouble Boy, Girl, and Father again. But some say that in the cold mist, on dark mornings, in the darkest part of the deepest forests they can hear her singing, searching for a pair of smooth, lovely thumbs.
Where are your thumbs dear? Hiding Hiding. Bring them close, yes bring them near. You won’t find us here!”
Ways to implement “Where are your Thumbs, Dear” into your daily practice.
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Where are your Thumbs, Dear is written in a Call & Response format, which means the instructor sings first, and the children respond. Like this:
Instructor: Where are your thumbs, dear?
Child: Hiding, hiding.
Instructor: Bring them close, yes, bring them near.
Child: You won’t find us here!
The Prowling Teacher
It is important to create as tangible a picture in a child’s head as possible. An easy first game would be for the teacher to prowl around the classroom like the old woman singing out to the children. The children hide under their desks, and sing their reply. A teacher might consider wearing a shall, or scarf over their heads to help act the part, and the children could hide around the classroom, changing location each time the song starts again.
Remember to have the children hide their thumbs on the “thumb” note (left thumb = bold: hi-ding, hi-ding”) This will reinforce the use of putting the thumb down to play the note. Think “Where is Thumbkin”.
A good second step, once the children are very comfortable with singing the song, is to implement flute usage. The teacher could sing the call, and the students would play their response on the flute. It is good to play with them to have a visual queue.
Children always love acting out their stories. Pass out some simple props (wool coats, scarves, hats, walking sticks, etc) and have sets of students act out the story. Have them play their part on the flute while the rest of the class sings.
The Blind Hunt
Allow a few more-proficient students, who can comfortably play the entire piece to be blindfolded. The rest of the class then hides around the classroom. The “blind” plays their part on the flute, pretending to be the old woman. The other children play their response. The blind students listen carefully to their response, and try to zero-in on them. The song is played over and over until each blind student has “caught” another student.: