1912 recording of James Whitcomb Riley reading Little Orphant Annie

Victor Talking Machine Company [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons http://link

Little Orphant Annie” is an 1885 poem written by James Whitcomb Riley and published by the Bowen-Merrill Company. First titled “The Elf Child”, Riley changed the name to “Little Orphant Allie” at its third printing; however, a typecasting error during printing renamed the poem to its current form. Known as the “Hoosier poet”, Riley wrote the rhymes in nineteenth century Hoosier dialect.

The poem contains four stanzas; the first introduces Annie and the second and third are stories she is telling to young children. Each story tells of a bad child who is snatched away by goblins as a result of their misbehavior. The underlying moral and warning is announced in the final stanza, telling children that they should obey their parents and be kind to the unfortunate, lest they suffer the same fate.