Alice the Camel

‘Alice the Camel’ is a fun nursery rhyme and counting song. It describes Alice the camel and depicts her losing humps through the six stanzas until a surprising punchline ends the song. 

Alice the Camel Visual Representation

This nursery rhyme dates back to 1991 and an episode of Barney In Concert. It’s a nursery rhyme that also acts as a counting song and sing-along. It’s not uncommon to hear it sung in schools, classrooms, homes, and other gatherings of young children. ‘Alice the Camel’ doesn’t appear to have any deeper meaning other than to entertain and help children learn how to count. In some iterations, it’s known as ‘Sally the Camel.’

Alice the Camel Nursery Rhyme


Summary

Alice the Camel’ is a light-hearted children’s nursery rhyme that uses repetition to describe Alice’s humps.

Throughout this song, the speaker counts down from five to zero. In each stanza, Alice loses one hump. The stanzas use the same lines repetitively. This means that it’s quite easy for a new singer to pick up on the lines and memorize them easily. After the first couple of stanzas, one should be able to guess what’s coming next. That is until you get to the final stanza, and it’s revealed that Alice isn’t a camel. She’s a horse. It’s this surprise that makes the poem as entertaining as it is. It’s likely that one isn’t expecting to come to this conclusion, and it acts as a punchline. 

Detailed Analysis 

Stanzas One-Three

Alice the camel has five humps.
Alice the camel has five humps.
Alice the camel has five humps.
So go, Alice, go!


Boom, boom, boom, boom!

Alice the camel has four humps.
Alice the camel has four humps.
Alice the camel has four humps.
So go, Alice, go!


Boom, boom, boom, boom!

Alice the camel has three humps.
Alice the camel has three humps.
Alice the camel has three humps.
So go, Alice, go!

The first three stanzas introduce this counting poem. Starting out with “five humps,” the speaker describes Alice the camel, with repeating lines. Something happens between the stanzas, and Alice is suddenly down to four and then three humps. The phrase “Boom, boom, boom, boom!” is used, mimicking the noise that leads to the loss of humps. 

Throughout this poem, a young singer/listener is going to be able to practice counting down from five to zero in a clever and funny way. Aside from this, the lines are meant to entertain above anything else. 

Stanzas Four-Six


Boom, boom, boom, boom

Alice the camel has two humps.
Alice the camel has two humps.
Alice the camel has two humps.
So go, Alice, go!


Boom, boom, boom, boom!

Alice the camel has one hump.
Alice the camel has one hump.
Alice the camel has one hump.
So go, Alice, go!


Boom, boom, boom, boom!

Alice the camel has no humps.
Alice the camel has no humps.
Alice the camel has no humps.
‘Cause Alice is a horse, of course!

In the second half of the poem, the stanzas progress in the same way, counting down from two to one, and finally to “no humps.” It’s not until the end of the poem that the punchline comes. It turns out that Alice is a “horse, of course!” and no camel at all.

Young singers who know this is how the song ends are going to be excited to get there. At the same time, others who are hearing the song for the first time are likely to laugh or at least find themselves lightly entertained by this twist at the end. 

Structure and Form 

‘Alice the Camel’ is a six-stanza nursery rhyme that is divided into sets of four or five lines, known as quatrains and quintains. The first stanza has four lines, and the following five stanzas all have five lines. The poem uses a great deal of repetition, as many nursery rhymes do. This means that the rhyme scheme in the first stanza is AAAB, the next four stanzas rhyme CAAAB, and the final stanza rhymes CAAAD. 

Literary Devices 

Throughout ‘Alice the Camel,’ there are a few literary devices at work. These include but are not limited to: 

  • Epistrophe: can be seen when the poet repeats the same words or phrases at the end of lines. For example, “humps” which ends almost every line of the poem. 
  • Anaphora: occurs when the poet repeats the same word or words at the beginning of lines. For example, “Alice the camel has” which starts almost every line of the poem. 
  • Refrain: can be seen when an entire line, or multiple lines, are repeated in full. For example, “So go, Alice, go!” which appears at the end of every stanza except the sixth. 
  • Alliteration: occurs when the same consonant sound is repeated multiple times at the beginning of words. For example, the use of “go” twice in the fourth or fifth line of every stanza. 


FAQs 

Who is the speaker in ‘Alice the Camel?’ 

The speaker is unknown. It’s someone who is seeking to entertain the listener with a strange and surpassing story about Alice the camel. Whether or not their really aware of Alice’s species at the beginning of the poem is also unknown, but this adds to the pleasure of reading and/or listening to someone sing this nursery rhyme. 

What is the purpose of ‘Alice the Camel?’ 

The purpose of this nursery rhyme, above all else, is to entertain. It may help children learn to count or practice their counting, but the entertainment value is key. This is especially true as readers get to the end of the poem. 

How does ‘Alice the Camel’ use repetition? 

Repetition is central to ‘Alice the Camel.’ In it, readers will find the same lines, with different numbers, used over and over. The poem also uses refrains that are repeated as a whole multiple lines. For example, “So go, Alice go!” and “Boom, boom, boom, boom!” 

What is the twist in ‘Alice the Camel?’ 

At the end of the nursery rhyme, readers may be surprised to find out that Alice the camel was no camel, after all, she was instead a horse. The speaker describes this as if it’s obvious, despite the fact that they spent five stanzas counting down her humps. 


Similar Poems 

Readers who enjoyed ‘Alice the Camel’ should also consider reading some related nursery rhymes. For example: 

  • Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’ – is one of the oldest English rhymes. It dates to 1731.
  • All the Pretty Little Horses’ – a popular lullaby of the United States of America, is also known as ‘Hush-a-bye’. This song has probably an African-American origin.
  • A Sailor Went to Sea’ – talks about a sailor. He went to the sea to see what he could see. It’s a popular clapping song. 
  • Hey, diddle diddle’ – may be connected to constellations, such as Taurus and Canis Minor, or that it describes the wives of King Henry VIII. 

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Alice the Camel Visual Representation
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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