Nica's Nursery Rhyme - "4 little Ducks..."

#1
Did anyone else catch the significance, symbolism and importance in the nursery rhyme little Nica and the Nanny were singing on the banks of the lake?

The rhyme is called "5 Little Ducks", yet Tony, upon just hanging up on an ever more divergent Christopher and packing his new golf clubs into his trunk, has his attention diverted to Nica's singing at the point in the rhyme where we hear:

4 little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away,
Mother duck.....



It is well estalished that 'ducks' in The Sopranos are symbolic of Tony's family and Season 1 Episode 1 established Tony's fears of losing his family and them flocking the nest (his pool/his home) and him losing them somhow.

The scene cuts away at the point where we hear: Mother Duck.... relative to Tony it could be suggested that Mother Duck relates to Livia, however the notion at the beginning of Nica's rhyme we hear is of '4 Little Ducks' which I take to represent Tony's immediate family, thus, himself, Carmella, Meadow and AJ.

This is why I feel the continuing theme of water/the lake was so importnat in this episode - as a subliminal reminder back to Tonys own source of water - the pool (his home) which he felt his most happiest and content providing for his children/the ducks and where he has traditionally seeked sanctuary:

After his messy breakup in WHITECAPS Tony seeked refuge and comfort in the pool and again after his shooting in 6A, he worked on building back up his strength in the same pool.

Even upon turning up at the Lake House, Tony exclaims to Bobby:

"I gotta admit it, every time, when youre up here - its pretty great"

He seemingly immedately felt those same connections of love/family/security and being able to provide for his family, upon seeing the water at that lake, as his does in his own pool.

We all know the importance Tony places in being able to provide for his family - just look back to his utter disgust and anger when Finn picked up the tab at the restaurant:


"Lets get something straight, you eat, I pay (provide), when you have your own family, you pay"


The mentions of children was ride throughout the episode - the talk of the brain-damaged child at the pharmacist's pool party, AJ holding Hector, Carmella asking Janice when the kids where back home for the holidays, Nica being a major focus of the episode, the photo Bobby had with which to identify the guy he was to whack being a family photo showing his child which would have made the task even more unbearable for Bobby; Nica playing with the Salerno children, The SOPRANO HOME MOVIE images and memories of Tony and Janice as 'Children' - this episode for me was all about that.

Bobbys own cherished and protective embrace of Nica at the close of the episode (after what he had just done), looking out onto that same, secure water just crystalised this notion/idea for me.


So if the mother duck doesnt represent Livia, by default it comes to represent Carmella - is SHE the duck to fly away??

Whilst fly away could suggest death, it could also represent her potentially leaving Tony for good and at last being honest to herself in being able to make that choice.

I know FlyOnMelfisWall has long held the belief since TEST DREAM that the ominous phone call at the close of the episode between Tony at the Plaza and Carm in NJ, asking if it was 'light' where you (Carmela) are yet - was a precursor/sign for Carmellas impending death and that Carmella would die. I must admit that I do not personally subscribe to that theory, yet the points I note above did give me further food for thought on this point.

As we are shown Nica's rhyme so soon after Tony hangs up in disgust on Christopher, someone he has long regarded as his own symbolic 'Son', could Christopher, with his "diverging agendas" indeed be the 'little duck' who is 'flying away'? During this same scene around the hang-up on Chris, we see Tony, looking out onto the water, now disgruntled and not at peace and we see an ominous duck flap around behind him before it 'flies away' - could this lead further justification to Chris as the 'little duck'??


Perhaps influenced by the Godfather movies, alot of people have held the belief that Meadow will die or lets say, that what would bring the most pain to Tony, would be the loss/death of one of his kids - alot of people would suggest Meadows death would be the bigger tragedy for Tony as she has proved much more the 'success' of his two children and specific episodes such as COLLEGE and MR AND MRS SACRIMONI REQUEST as well as Tracy the strippers death in Season 4 and how Tony related that back to Meadow, well, it would seem more of the show has been dedicated to Tonys unconditional love for his daughter were as on the contrary, episodes focusing on AJ, relative to Tony usually focus on the dissapointment he has in his son.

Nica is again an important mechanic in the story here - upon arriving at the lake house and playing around with his niece, Nica asks for "Daddy", upon which Carmella exlaims "Daddy's Girl" and Tony, "Daddy's Little Girl"......this quote of 'Daddy's Little Girl' IMMEDIATELY cast my mind back to the wedding dance scene in MR AND MRS SACRIMONI REQUEST where Allegra Sacrimoni's wedding dance with her father serced as a mirror with which we could see the love and unquestionable bond between Tony and his own daughter Meadow, and I feel Meadows continued and explicit lack of respect for the US Government, which again was highlighted in the beginning of this episode, has somthing to do with it.

So is MEADOW the little duck......or is it indeed AJ as he seemingly seeks likely to seek a new life/family with Blanca and Hector, even if its doomed to end in disaster and that after all these years and all the promise, he still seems to be going nowhere fast (note the Beansie Pizzeria shirt he was wearing on the way to the Court house - seems he did lack the initiative to do something meaningful with his life, not to disrespect Pizzeria workers, yet I am sure this isnt where AJ or his parents hoped he would end up at this point in his life and he still seems as uncomitted as ever)


This whole area of the episode of family / water and the ducks absolutely fascinates me!










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Here is the rhyme in full for anyone who may be interested - when you can see how the paragraph of the rhyme Nica and the nanny were singing actually ends - it makes the foreshadowing ever the more chilling!:

Five Little Ducks

5 little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away,
Mommy duck called quack quack quack,
But only 4 little ducks came back.
4 little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away,
Mommy duck called quack quack quack,
But only 3 little ducks came back.


3 little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away,
Mommy duck called quack quack quack,
But only 2 little ducks came back.

2 little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away,
Mommy duck called quack quack quack,
But only 1 little duck came back.

1 little duck went out one day
Over the hills and far away,
Mommy duck called quack quack quack,
But no little ducks came wondering back.

No little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away,
Mommy duck called quack quack quack,
And 5 little ducks came wandering back.

Re: Nica's Nursery Rhyme - "4 little Ducks..."

#4
D'oh! Just mentioned this in the General Discussion thread, as I was surprised to find that this hadn't already been given it's own thread. Great post, though, Giuseppe!

Tony walks by as Nica recites the stanza about three little ducks remaining, which I took to symbolize Janice, Tony, and Barbera – putting Livia in the mother duck position. Throughout the entire episode, Tony is trying to escape and memories of his past. When Janice tries to reminisce, Tony becomes agitated, and when he opens up his home-movie gift, it’s obvious that he has to struggle muster even the little gratitude he manages to show. His childhood is the last thing he wants to remember, and Nica’s nursery rhyme was just one more inconvenient reminder to disquiet him further.

Earlier in the episode, we hear Janice explaining to Carmella her mother’s incapacity to show love and kindness to her children as they grew older and developed the aptitude for independent thought. Indeed, as Livia’s little ducklings grew older, old enough to go out over the hills and far away without their mother accompanying them, all she did was “Quack, Quack, Quack”. Indeed, Livia’s quacking drove her children away, and they were more than happy to escape over the hills and never come back. The literal result of Livia's "quacking"? Janice and Barbara lost almost all contact with their mother – and entire family – with Janice making the most drastic move away (from Los Angeles, to Europe, to Seattle), before stumbling back home. Only Tony stayed behind to care for his mother.

During a weekend in which Tony was being constantly reminded of his childhood against his will, I believe the nursery rhyme served as one more unwelcome reminder – and a reminder to the audience that Livia still occupies an important spot in Tony’s mind.

Edit: Well, jeez. Just rewatched the episode. Four ducks, not three.

Re: Nica's Nursery Rhyme - "4 little Ducks..."

#6
Fabulous thread, Giuseppe.:icon_wink: First on my Sopranos internet agenda this morning, even before coming to the forum, was to see if in fact there was such a nursery rhyme as "four little ducks" and what the lyrics were.

Obviously, the duck symbolism throughout the show made this a mandatory exercise. But what grabbed me was the portion Chase chose to put in raised volume and where he placed the abrupt edit. As you pointed out, the only part we really hear is:

4 little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away,
Mother duck.....


Even before seeing the complete lyrics, I suspected there was going to be a "countdown" effect in the song where one less duck returns than leaves, and I had a little chill when I read the lyrics and in fact saw that that was the case.

Putting aside for a moment what the song provoked subjectively in Tony as he was hearing it, for me this was 100% foreshadowing and reference to Tony, his wife, and his children. And, GS, I share much of your reasoning as to why.

The ducks have always been highly idealized symbols for Tony and the immediate family of which he is patriarch -- not for Tony and the family in which he was raised as a child. This distinction is suggested by his giddy, innocent obsession with them; by his patriarchal buying of duck food and construction of ramps for their comfort and support; by the fact that he was so emotionally attached that his first panic attack occurs at the sight of them flying away; and certainly by his overt recognition, with Melfi's guidance in the very first episode, that these "wild creatures that had their babies in his pool" did in fact symbolize his family. His highly emotional reaction to that connection in itself suggests that this could only mean the family that lived and procreated at that same house. The anxiety and dread he felt was a fear of losing them.

Season 5 was FILLED with additional symbolism further illuminating this. Recall that the bear (i.e., Tony, especially "gangster" Tony) was attracted to the house because of duck food. Both times the bear appeared, he was running around the patio by the pool and near the giant bin of decaying duck food Tony had nearby, not rummaging through garbage cans as he'd done at other residences.

Even though Tony was essentially unwelcome inside the house that year, he frequently came by just to languish in the pool. When he drops by for that purpose in Sentimental Education, he sees (and eats, after a funny, disapproving look) duck leftovers in the refrigerator, the remnants from Carmela's meal the night before with Wegler. (Nothing like a little cannibalism during marital discord!) When Carm wants to retaliate for Tony blocking her access to divorce attorneys (intentionally or otherwise), she drains the pool. In Marco Polo, Tony and AJ forcibly throw Carmela in the pool to make her play the game (i.e., keep the ducks together in their home). And to put the seal on the "ducks having their little babies in the pool", Tony and Carm even make love there later that same night.

On top of this there seemed to be a lot of foreshadowing that year of Carm in particular as doomed. Wegler gets her into Madame Bovary and Abelard and Heloise, where one female lead commits suicide and the other lives a lifetime in exile from her lover after an uncle castrates him. When Tony checks into his “heaven” at the Plaza Hotel in Test Dream, he carries pictures of him and his children, suggesting that the missing matriarchal figure (Carmela) is on the other side of the veil of death. In the dream itself, Tony as Makazian sings his syrupy ballad of true love and turns a haunting gaze specifically on Carmela as he sings the following lines:

And now that we’ve come to the end of our rainbow
There’s something I must say out loud
You’re once, twice, three times a lady
And I love you


During the dream, Artie coaches Tony to bang “his wife” (Charmaine a surrogate for Carm in that moment and a seemingly oblique reference to Artie having been nearby weeks before when Tony and Carm had sex in the pool). And as Charm/Carm exclaims that “it’s better than we were kids”, Tony integrates the horse hooves outside the Plaza into the dream with goomars and Carm, raucous whore sex and marital sex all getting jumbled together and Tony being told that “she (Charm/Carm) likes it when you rub her muzzle”. Tony had uttered the exact same words to Carm in season 4 when he introduced Carm to Pie-O-My, and horse and wife shared this strange stare for a couple of seconds. Tony next appears atop Pie-O-My in the Soprano living room, telling Carmela he wants to come home to her. We all know what happened to Pie-O-My and how singularly emotional Tony became afterward.

At the end of Test Dream, there’s that incredibly eerie moment when Tony asks the second time if it’s light where Carmela is, and, though the sun is clearly getting stronger and brighter throughout their conversation, the screen suddenly goes black on her face.

We also had Johnny Sac threatening to kill Carmine Jr. and his wife, clearly suggesting that old boundaries protecting blood family from mob retribution were eroding. And, though Phil has repeatedly been shown as classic “old school”, even as recently as Sunday’s episode, he ominously asked Tony in All Due Respect if he’d ever had anyone he loved “die in his arms” and offered to “make that happen” for Tony. If Phil goes out as head of that family, expect that his successor will not be nearly so respectful of traditional mob rules and that Carmela, among others, could be easily be a collateral target.

To me personally, though, the most ominous signal of Carmela as the likely price Tony will ultimately pay for his way of life came at the end of Irregular Around the Margins when she agrees to the dinner to help smooth the volatile situation in Tony’s crew. When Tony turns to look at her, with a uniquely Sopranos-esque visage of love, we hear the same soaring Puccini aria that played when the ducks originally flew from the pool. That musical choice has to be deliberate and purposeful and, presumably, connotes that Carmela is the duck of ducks.

Season 6a also offered its own symbolic suggestion of Carmela’s demise when she, in total contrast to Tony’s coma experience in Costa Mesa, was completely rapt and happy at her spiritual awakening in Paris and looked at the “beacon of death” with a smile and sense of warmth and welcoming.

So when Nica’s nursery rhyme hilights the passage when “four” little ducks go out and abruptly cuts out at “mother duck”, I don’t think of Livia. I can’t help but read it as a confirmation that the ultimate tragedy in Tony’s life will involve separation from the “mother duck” of his beloved family and that the separation will take the form of death.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Nica's Nursery Rhyme - "4 little Ducks..."

#7
Hi Fly- the one thing about the test dream sequence that I always founding amusing is when Carmela says to Tony: "I don't want your horse (whores) in my house". So to me, that whole dream sequence was tony realizing what he had to do in order to get back into the house. Give up the gumars. I took the horse always to have the meaning of a young girl and/or gumar.

Regarding the ducks and the nursey rhyme. When I was watching 6.0, I got the strong impression that the sopranos would leave america and go to Europe (France?). I thought this because of odd things I was putting together, like references of bringing NJ to Paris, the pig in front of a building (similar to the one at Satriales.), Carmela telling Ms. Aprile that Tony doesn't need to know the language, he fits in with the natives no matter what.

So maybe the ducks flying away means that they will become ex-patriates and one member of the family won't come with them. Why the won't come, I am not sure, maybe because he/she was killed.

Anyway, those are my two cents.

Re: Nica's Nursery Rhyme - "4 little Ducks..."

#8
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:When Tony checks into his “heaven” at the Plaza Hotel in Test Dream, he carries pictures of him and his children, suggesting that the missing matriarchal figure (Carmela) is on the other side of the veil of death. ...

At the end of Test Dream, there’s that incredibly eerie moment when Tony asks the second time if it’s light where Carmela is, and, though the sun is clearly getting stronger and brighter throughout their conversation, the screen suddenly goes black on her face.
At the Plaza Hotel, Tony is already in a purgatory-type state whereas his wife is back home with the kids. Along with that, the idea that he sees the light first in the "Test Dream" means to me, he dies before Carmella. What I foresee happening is Carmella being left behind and losing her valued top status amongst the other wives, as happened to Rosalie Aprile.

Re: Nica's Nursery Rhyme - "4 little Ducks..."

#9
Giuseppe Soprano wrote:Nica is again an important mechanic in the story here - upon arriving at the lake house and playing around with his niece, Nica asks for "Daddy", upon which Carmella exlaims "Daddy's Girl" and Tony, "Daddy's Little Girl"......this quote of 'Daddy's Little Girl' IMMEDIATELY cast my mind back to the wedding dance scene in MR AND MRS SACRIMONI REQUEST where Allegra Sacrimoni's wedding dance with her father serced as a mirror with which we could see the love and unquestionable bond between Tony and his own daughter Meadow, and I feel Meadows continued and explicit lack of respect for the US Government, which again was highlighted in the beginning of this episode, has somthing to do with it..[/i]


Fantastic post. One point to add: In Season One, when Carmella and Tony are arguing about AJ, Tony gets angry when he thinks Carmella is blaming him for AJ's problems. He brings up Meadow's success...."What about Daddy's Little Girl?" he asks.

Re: Nica's Nursery Rhyme - "4 little Ducks..."

#10
Great posts Fly and Giuseppe! I think it is great we are reopening the topic about Tony's deep love and connection to the ducks. Here is what I got from Chase intentionally having Tony hear Nica singing the verse about four little ducks. I also agree the four ducks are the family he and Carm made together filled with love. I don't think it was the family he was born into from Livia and Johnny Boy because they had a family of five.



I also think one of Tony's ducks will fly away either by death or moving away to live somewhere else. IMO, I think it will either by Meadow or AJ. But, Fly you do bring up good points about you thinking it could be Carm. Either it be Carm or one of the two kids Tony would be so devastated. I also think he could go into decompostion which Melphi talked about with Tony in 6A. I think it will destroy him also because he had great dread of one of his ducks leaving him back in season1.



I agree he was truly happy and giddy with innocent obsession with the ducks because they represent the family he made and loves all of them more than his life. I also think Tony associates the wild ducks with him and Carm Especially, when they made their family because he was being made in the mob and she loved him despite and because of it. They were wild kids who had flaws but had good parts of them too because their ability to love another and children despite everything.


I also agree even when Tony and Carm were separated Tony kept on lingering many times inside the house and swimming in the pool which he adores. So he could find out how Carmela is doing and is moving on romantically. He was even trying to make conversation with her and was checking her out everytime he went there. He wanted her back but was didn't know about how to get her back with him. His life was also a mess and he tried to romance Melphi so she could be a substitute for Carm.

He did because he loves to swim and it reminds him of the ducks and his own family was in trouble because he was losing Carm. Until the night AJ,Tony,TonyB,Finn, and Artie were playing Marco Polo and Tony threw her in the pool to join them so they could be a family again. Tony and Carm reignited their passion and love for each other and made love in the pool and their bed.

In the dream itself, Tony as Makazian sings his syrupy ballad of true love and turns a haunting gaze specifically on Carmela as he sings the following lines: One of my favorite scenes of the series because you see the good and bad of T and C. You could also see Tony is aware of Carm's genuine love for him and loving him for his money and stength/power.

And now that we’ve come to the end of our rainbow
There’s something I must say out loud
You’re once, twice, three times a lady
And I love you



Too me Three Times A Lady was used by Chase to represent Carm being the only true love of Tony's life. I also love how Tony showed us he knows Carm good qualitys with the bad. I also loved Artie and Charmaine representing themselves and Tony and Carm. Both were in the sex dream to represent Tony finally seeing you can bang your wife like when you were kids and it even being better now. He also used the Marco Polo sex as a reference and Artie was there sleeping in a chair while they had great sex. Charmaine is also like Carm because she is a good cook,wife, and mother. Then we seeTony really wanting to make his marriage works but to do that he has to stop cheating completely then we see Carm a stride Pie O My who he also associated with his great love for Carm. She wants him to be his and not having horses in her house.

I hope it isn't Carmela but you do make good points on why you think it could be her. I also think the Aria Puccini playing when the ducks fly away and him looking at Carm with love and admiration in Irrregular around the margins could be linked together to mean she dies. The light out where you are then the screen turns to black could be another hint. I also remember. Then she also smiles at the beacon of light in Paris. You also have a point about Johnny Sac making the comment about killing Carmines wife and Phil telling Tony he could arrainge for him to have his family die in his arms. Carmela associating herself with woman characters in a book or movie who were Heloise,Maria from West Side Story, and Madame Bovery. All those woman were in a love story that ended badly. Madame Bovery she commited suicide. Heloise lives a life of being lonely without her lover after her uncle castrates him. Maria loses Tony to death from a gang. Carm brought up Maria because she felt she was like Maria and Tony was like Tony from West Side Story because they were strong,powerful,charming,good looking,good personality, and both in crime situations.

I also remember you saying Tony and Carmela would finally come together romantically,sexually,and emotionally in every way before something bad happens to one of them or their kids. I also mean he is a one woman man. Tony and Carm have been closer since they got back together emotionally and sexually and he even was true until he wanted to sleep with Julianna and let another woman give him OS. In the trailer Tony is smiling with pure joy and picks up and they embrace with such passion and longing. Carm is also smiling very happily. I think this clip leads to them making out and then making love. I also think Tony will pick her up because he has helped he with her spec house again. Or it could be the person hurt in the clip Tony,Carm,Meadow are hugging in fine so they celebrate. I also thought it could be them thinking of leaving the mob. Fly, what do you think the clip means and do you think they will still believe they will have a short period of pure happiness before sh1t happens!
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