Mary Had A Little Lamb – Lyrics, History, Lesson Plans & More

Mary Had a Little Lamb is a nursery rhyme about a little girl who had a little lamb she loved so much that she even took to school.

It was first published in 1830 by Marsh, Capen & Lyon, a publishing firm in Boston.


What are the lyrics or words for Mary Had a Little Lamb?

The song as sung today has several stanzas or verses mainly brought about by the repetition of several lines. Lowell Manson developed them to the repetitive melody they are today in the 1830s.

Modern Lyrics

Mary had a little lamb
Little lamb, little lamb,
Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as snow

And everywhere that Mary went
Mary went, Mary went
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go

It followed her to school one day
School one day, school one day

It followed her to school one day
Which was against the rules

It made the children laugh and play
Laugh and play, laugh and play
It made the children laugh and play
To see the lamb at school

And so, the teacher turned it out
Turned it out, turned it out
And so, the teacher turned it out
But still, it lingered near

Why does the lamb love Mary so?
Love Mary so, love Mary so
Why does the lamb love Mary so?
The eager children cry

Why Mary loves the lamb, you know
The lamb, you know, the lamb, you know
Why Mary loves the lamb, you know
The teacher did reply

Mary had a little lamb
Little lamb, little lamb
Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as snow

Full Original Lyrics

The Original Mary Had a Little Lamb nursery rhyme had only three stanzas, each stanza consisting of eight lines. The significant difference with the song sung today is the lack of repetition.

Mary had a little lamb,
 Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went
   The lamb was sure to go;

He followed her to school one day—
   That was against the rule,
It made the children laugh and play,
   To see a lamb at school.

And so, the teacher turned him out,
  But still, he lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
   Till Mary did appear;

And then he ran to her and laid
   His head upon her arm,
As if he said— ‘I’m not afraid—
   You’ll keep me from all harm.’

‘What makes the lamb love Mary so?’
   The eager children cry—
‘O, Mary loves the lamb, you know,’
   The Teacher did reply; —

‘And you each gentle animal
   In confidence may bind,
And make them follow at your call,
   If you are always kind.’


Who came up with Mary Had a Little Lamb?

It is a common fact that the events in the song happened in real life. However, there is some controversy as to who came up with the song. Therefore, there are two versions of the origin of the song.

The 1st Version of the history behind Mary had a Little Lamb!

In the first version, the nursery rhyme Mary had a little lamb comes from a similar story. The first person to come up with the song was Sarah Josepha Hale, who could have found inspiration from a true story of the same events. She is the song’s listed publisher, which might lend some credence to her story.

Sarah was a teacher in a school near her home in Newport, New Hampshire, where she used to teach children. Of these children, there was a student named Mary Sawyer. Mary’s family was probably made of farmers, explaining why they’d have a lamb.

So, one day a lamb followed Mary to school. Of course, the doting visitor was too much of a distraction to be allowed to stay in class. The pet lamb excited the fellow children in the class to a point they couldn’t pay any attention to what the teacher was teaching.

Therefore, the teacher had to take the lamb outside, where the lamb waited patiently till Mary left the classroom. Curious about the unique occurrence, the children asked the teacher how the lamb loved Mary that much. The teacher responded that its because Mary loved her too and treated her well.

That’s when she found the spark that inspired her to write the song based on the day’s events. The song wanted to explain the moral lesson in living and to treat animals well. The lesson was better understood as a song, and there arose the Mary Had a little lamb song.

The above version has been disputed by many people who claim that Sarah stole the song and published it first. However, there is no way to prove that, and so we can only enjoy the song without caring much about the origin.

The 2nd  Version of the history behind Mary had a Little Lamb!

The second version claims the song’s roots to be in another place wholly different from what Sarah Hale argued. In this case, the birthplace of the song is Sterling, Massachusetts. that a young man John Roustone wrote the song. It claims that on the day Mary had her little lamb at school, John was visiting and happened to marvel at the spectacle and thus composed a song to explain that.

Some versions claim Roustone was Mary Sawyer’s classmate and was inspired to write the song by the sight of Marry lamb at school. This was heard after a 70-year-old woman came forward in 1876 and claimed to be the Mary Sawyer the song sings about.

However, Sarah Hale disputed this version of events, and since there wasn’t any tangible proof to back upon, Hale remained the known publisher of the famous nursery rhyme.  Nevertheless, there is a statue of Mary and her lamb in Sterling, Massachusetts, which is believed to be the birthplace of Mary and indeed the famous nursery rhyme.

Though there is no way to prove if these claims are valid or not, most people hold the second version to be authentic.

How Old Was Mary When She Took Her Lamb to School?

Although difficult to know, Mary was 14 years old when she took her lamb to school. Most videos of the song will usually show a little girl that appears to be not over ten years. However, Mary Sawyer was 14 when the events that sparked the song occurred.

There are some versions of events that say she was nine.


What does the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb mean?

This nursery rhyme doesn’t have any special or hidden significance since Josepha Hale wrote it to show the love between Mary and her little lamb. Besides espousing themes such as love, affection, and treating animals well, the song has no deeper interpretation.

You, therefore, don’t have to struggle to look for any hidden meanings, as is familiar with other nursery rhymes.

What is a Lamb?

A lamb is a young one of a sheep or goat. But in this case, Mary’s little lamb was a descendant of a sheep on their farm. When her mother rejected her, Mary took the lamb into her care, and they developed a bond that confounded everyone.

What does its fleece white as Snow Mean?

Fleece is the wool covering a sheep, while white as snow means exceptionally white. Therefore, the lamb’s wool covering was as white as snow. We all know how cute little lambs look; now imagine a cute, little,  white lamb.


How Did the Song Become Famous?

Many situations could have made the song famous, but the most important was Thomas Edison making a recording of the song on his phonograph. It became the first ever recorded English audio which catapulted it to fame.

While that might explain how so many people came to know and sing it, the only explanation for why it has endured for so many years is because many people love it. However, the recording still exists to date.

What Are the Themes in Mary Had a Little Lamb?

Humans have a close relationship with most animals because, in essence, we are also animals. That’s why it is common to see people with different pet animals. Perhaps that might also explain why people were so stricken by the poem of a girl who had a pet animal that loved her as much as she did.

The song Mary had a Little lamb anchors itself on the theme of love and affection for animals.s Some children can learn to take care of all animals and cultivate close relationships with animals thanks to the theme in the song.

The song’s affection part makes it ideal for nursery children even today.

Does Mary Had a Little Lamb Share the Same Melody as London Bridge is Falling?

Yes, Mary had a little lamb shares the same melody and tune as London bridge is falling. That, however, doesn’t make the same since they don’t share any similarity in the lyrics. However, the way people sing songs differs from each area, which might explain why someone people do not think London Bridge and Mary had a little lamb have anything in common.

Some instrumentalists have argued that if you play the two songs, you will have the same tune and melody.

Is Mary Had a Little Lamb public domain?

You can freely use the Mary had a little lamb song anywhere in the world since it is in the public domain. Since it was published before 1925, the song can be used by anyone in public. It is worth noting that the same might not apply to all jurisdictions, and it’s essential to research on it before using the song in your area.

But then you can’t use someone’s remake of the song if it is availed on CD or posted on YouTube since copyright laws protect it.

How do you Sing Mary Had a Little Lamb in Sign Language?

Yes. It is possible to sing the song using American Sign language. The below resource should help.


The following is a selection of Lesson Plans. You need to click on the images to go to the websites to learn more and download the resources.


Visit Making Music Fun to download the free pd

What Time Signature is Mary Had a Little Lamb?

Mary had a little lamb plays to the music time signature of 4/4, although you can also play it at ¾. That makes it an easy to play song for most musicians, let alone experienced ones.


It is easy and common for people to play Mary Had a Little Lamb. The instructional videos below should offer the proper guidance to play the song.


Samantha Bellerose has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Diploma in Performing Arts. She is a mom to four children and is passionate about education and learning. Samantha created Nursery Rhyme Central as the go to place for parents, teachers and carers about all things to do with Nursery Rhymes. She is also the Main Author and creator for websites Dance Parent 101 and Move Dance Learn, where she shares her knowledge and expertise for dance and learning through movement.

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