Sea shanties and work songs


Well-Known Member
Another aspect of culture that would certainly have the possibility to be worked into our TV show would be the concept of groups of people singing while they complete a task. Tolkien gives us the songs of the wood elves pushing the barrels into the river (Heave ho, splash bump, rolling down the hole!), and he tells us that the Rohirrim sang as they slew on the fields of Pelennor. And of course the hobbits who are friends of Bilbo have walking songs.

Such songs are generally sung without accompaniment, by groups of people as they work together to complete a task. We could probably pick an existing folk tune and set original lyrics to it, if we wanted to....

Some examples:

Sea shanties!
Roll the Old Chariot Along

Rice planting songs
This one is Filipino, and is in English as well:
And another from Chaking:
One from Liberia:

I realize that everyone's first inclination may be not to do something like this. Because, well, when people think about work songs on film, they come up with kids' shows and humorous scenes for their examples.

"Clean Up" song from Barney, about kids putting their toys away :p

There are several examples of work songs from Disney films.
'Heigh Ho' - the dwarves working in the mine
'Whistle While you Work' is more a song about work songs, oddly enough.
And...there is the infamous 'Song of the Roustabouts' from Dumbo. This song is horrible, maybe not as a work song, but as what it says about what the writers of the song thought of poor uneducated black men doing manual labor.

And there's this scene from Beetlejuice:

But Akiro Kirosawa included a rice planting song in his film Seven Samurai, and that was an important aspect of the villagers being fundamentally farmers, and their resilience after the events of the film. It's a 'life goes on' moment.

Similarly, the song 'Hoist the Colors' is used in the very somber opening scene of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End during an execution scene to show resistance and solidarity amongst the pirates.

I think we can find a space for a battle-song or a work-song somewhere, don't you? :)


Well-Known Member

We could go the military end. The Sharpe movie series featured John Tams singing a verse of "Over the Hills and Far Away" at the close of episodes 2-8.

John Tams (as Daniel Hagman) from Sharpe singing "Johnny's Gone for a Soldier"

The album version

Phillip Menzies

Staff member
I think Marie that you should broach the topic at the music session. What we need is for Corey to make a decision to set the tone, in the same way that he did for the music of the Mereth Adethad. Personally I would go for something original rather than using an existing tune from a set culture, particularly if we are set before all of our known cultures. I can say something original because I can write something original. Maybe during the break I can write something based on Corey's direction.
As it is I have subconsciously written a sea shanty for Wingelot which appears in the Hiding of Valinor. I wasn't until I heard the Spanish Ladies song from Jaws that Ange1e4e5 posted that I realised that I had emulated a sea shanty. I think that Ange1e4e5 and I must both listen to the Soundtrack Show podcast. Maybe my theme for Wingelot could come from a song that the elves of the Havens sing while mending their nets before the sons of Feanor attack in season 10.


Well-Known Member
Yeah, the military version of a work song is a marching song. Something everyone sings together as they do a task.

You know, like so...


I feel like there was a marching song in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (with Wellington in Spain/Portugal), but it's been too long since I've watched it, so I don't know for sure.

Game of Thrones treated 'The Bear and Maiden Fair' as this, though in the book it probably wasn't meant to be that sort of song.

And Phillip, I would *love* if the theme for Earendil was based on a sea shanty!

Edit: And here's a sea shanty in action ;)
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Well-Known Member
Maybe we have more shantyish tunes when Men come into the picture?

This is a version of the Irish tune "Minstrel Boy", as heard in the end credits of Black Hawk Down.

And as played by bagpipes. Heard this quite a bit in accordance with 9/11.

Miles O'Brien singing "Minstrel Boy" in Star Trek: The Next Generation, no instrumentation.