Eskimo Nell

The Ballad of Eskimo Nell

The Ballad of Eskimo Nell (Roud 10124) is a bawdy rhymed recitation or song that recounts the tale of Deadeye Dick, his accomplice Mexican Pete and a woman they meet on their travels, named Eskimo Nell. In the view of some, Eskimo Nell is in her own way an authentic heroine and, by the yardstick of the sentiments of the poem, gets the better of Dick in the end. It is certainly true that Dick's manhood is belittled in the end by Nell. Nevertheless, some critics see the poem as an example of sex-hate literature. The ballad makes frequent use of crude and (to some) offensive body-related terminology, with humorous consequences.

Traditional lyrics

There are multiple variations to the poem and some stanzas are left out of certain versions but the basic narrative structure remains constant. It details the adventures of the generously-endowed Deadeye Dick and his gunslinging sidekick, Mexican Pete. Fed up with their sex life at Dead Man's Creek, they travel to the Rio Grande. There they visit a whore-house, but before Dick has finished with two out of the 40 whores, they are confronted by Eskimo Nell. She is described as something of a sexual champion, and challenges Dick to satisfy her. Dick accepts but Nell's skill and power soon gets the better of him and he climaxes prematurely. Pete attempts to avenge his mate's affront by sticking his gun up Nell and firing all six rounds but all this achieves is to bring Nell to her own orgasm. Disappointed, Eskimo Nell chides the pair for their poor performance. She expresses nostalgia for her home in the frozen North, where the men apparently have better staying power. Dick and Pete return to Dead Man's Creek, their pride severely dented.

The opening lines (in one version) are:

Gather 'round, all ye whorey!
Gather 'round and hear my story!

When a man grows old, and his balls grow cold,
And the tip of his prick turns blue,
Far from a life of Yukon strife,
He can tell you a tale or two.

So pull up a chair, and stand me a drink,
And a tale to you I will tell,
About Dead-Eye Dick and Mexican Pete,
And a harlot named Eskimo Nell.

Other stanzas:

When Dead-Eye Dick and Mexican Pete
Go forth in search of fun,
It's Dead-Eye Dick that swings the prick,
And Mexican Pete the gun.

When Dead-Eye Dick and Mexican Pete
Are sore, depressed and sad,
It's always a cunt that bears the brunt,
But the shooting's not so bad

Now Dead-Eye Dick and Mexican Pete
Lived down by Dead Man's Creek,
And such was their luck that they'd had no fuck
For nigh on half a week.

Oh, a moose or two, and a caribou,
And a bison cow or sow,
But for Dead-Eye Dick with his kingly prick,
This fucking was mighty slow.

Dick pound on his cock with a huge piece of rock
And said, "I want to play!"
It's been almost a week at this fucking creek,
With no cunt coming my way.

So, do or dare, this horny pair
Set off for the Rio Grand.
Dead-Eye Dick with his kingly prick,
And Pete with his gun in hand.

Then as they blazed their noisy trail,
No man, their path withstood.
Many a bride, her husbands pride,
A pregnant widow stood.

The closing stanza mimics the opening:

When a man grows old, and his balls grow cold,
And the tip of his prick turns blue,
And the hole in the middle refuses to piddle,
I'd say he was fucked, wouldn't you?

Origin and history

This is a folk poem with no known author, but commonly considered to be in the style of Robert Service the writer best known for his writings of the Canadian North, in particular of his poem "The Shooting of Dan McGrew". As with all traditional poems/songs, there is variation to the texts. It appeared in bawdy song books compiled by university students in South Africa in the 1940s, so it is at least sixty years old. Nell has been the subject of serious research and differences of interpretation have been recorded.

Nell in print and record

The poem, owing to its bawdy nature, has generally been passed on by word of mouth or in manuscript from one generation to another. There are a few published versions.

Nell in Popular Culture

The poem was recited by Harold Shea in the novel, The Incomplete Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, in response to a demand by Spenser's Blatant Beast for an epic poem. The Blatant Beast reacts only by slowly getting to its feet and lumbering off into the woods while shaking its head.

The True Story of Eskimo Nell is a 1975 film by Australian director Richard Franklin, in which two men, Deadeye Dick and Mexico Pete, go forth in search of the famed prostitute Eskimo Nell in the Australian Outback. Eskimo Nell is also the name of another 1975 movie from the UK directed by Martin Campbell in which three men are enlisted by a producer to make an erotic film inspired by The Ballad of Eskimo Nell, "...the bawdiest ballad ever written", according to the film's tagline.

Reference to the song is also made in the Novel "The Rat and the Raven" by Kerry Greenwood, as translated into Elvish by a pair of mischievous Rangers in the science fiction novel "The Sunrise Lands" by S.M. Stirling, and in "Dream Park" by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes.

Eskimo Nell is mentioned in the song Please Don't Touch by Johnny Kidd. The song has since been covered by Motörhead, Stray Cats, The Meteors, Hellbillys, and Throw Rag.

Nell and Dick are also mentioned by Mark Knopfler in the final stanza of the song "What It Is".


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