Monday, April 4, 2011

"Wee Willie Winkie"

Since we're planning to discuss "Wee Willie Winkie" in class tomorrow, I decided to look up the rhyme and share a few things about it with you all now. Considered a Scottish poem or nursey rhyme, "Wee Willie Winkie" was first published in 1841 by William Miller. Most people agree that the title character is a personfication of sleep, while a few believe that Miller created the character in order to satirize King William III of England. I posted the English version below, which was first translated in 1844. How do you all think Rushdie's character corresponds to the original version of Wee Willie Winkie, and why do you think the author chose to incorporate this figure into his novel?

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Up stairs and down stairs in his night-gown,
Tapping at the window, crying at the lock,
Are the children in their bed, for it's past ten o'clock?
Hey, Willie Winkie, are you coming in?
The cat is singing purring sounds to the sleeping hen,
The dog's spread out on the floor, and doesn't give a cheep,
But here's a wakeful little boy who will not fall asleep!
Anything but sleep, you rogue! glowering like the moon,'
Rattling in an iron jug with an iron spoon,
Rumbling, tumbling round about, crowing like a cock,
Shrieking like I don't know what, waking sleeping folk.
Hey, Willie Winkie - the child's in a creel!
Wriggling from everyone's knee like an eel,
Tugging at the cat's ear, and confusing all her thrums
Hey, Willie Winkie - see, there he comes!"
Weary is the mother who has a dusty child,
A small short little child, who can't run on his own,
Who always has a battle with sleep before he'll close an eye
But a kiss from his rosy lips gives strength anew to me.


Katherine said...

In my opinion, it seems as if Wee Willie Winkie is a very childish character. To me, in Midnight's Children, it seems as if Wee Willie Winkie is a very comical relaxed character that does not especially fit in with the rest of the characters in the story. I think the poem reveals these childish characteristics. I hope during our discussion tomorrow we can figure out why Rushdie would want to use this character in his novel, because as of right now I'm certainly not sure.

Chloe said...

I agree with Katherine on her statement that Wee Willie Winkie doesn't really fall into place with the other characters in Rushdie's novel. Seen as a type of clown, I think Winkie is expected to provide a childish innocence to the story. Additionally, the original child rhyme deals with sleep and waking up to a new discovery. I think a motif of sleep is hinted at in the story.

chrissy said...

The Kipling story Mrs. Quinet so entertainingly read today in class provided further insight into the meaning of Wee Willie Winkie. His character in the book, as Katherine said, is a clown figure. He provides a certain amount of comic relief. However, he also says all the other things no one else is willing to say. He gets away with saying these comments. In Kipling's story, Winkie is beloved by everybody and destined for greatness even though he treats the natives as inferiors. Winkie in Midnight's Children in a way is a hero figure as well. His ability to say things that everybody else thinks but is afraid to say gives relief to the timid even though these comments are also hurtful at times.

Olivia Celata said...

I found that specific words in the children's rhyme version of "Wee Willie Winkie" reflect ideas displayed in Midnight's Children. The line in the forth stanza, "the Wriggling from everyone's knee like an eel," contains the key word 'knee.' Shiva, the son of Ahmed and Amina who is raised by Wee Willie Winkie, has abnormally large knees. Also, the line "Tugging at the cat's ear, and confusing all her thrums" is similar to when the babies, Saleem and Shiva, are confused and even switched at birth.

Blaine said...

I definently think that Wee Willie Winkie provides a childish\innocent tone to the novel. Wee Willie Winkie acts like a clown throughout the story, singing and dancing, in order to provide comic relief to this rather ominous novel. With relation to Kipling's story, Winkie naively says the truth when others are too afaid to. In both stories, Wee Willie Winkie demonstrates British Colonization over the natives. In Kipling's novel, Winkie belittles and ridicules the natives who are much older than him. In Midnight's Children, Winky's wife is seduce by the Methwold and Winkie fosters a child who he thinks is his.