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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
"Now I lay me down to sleep
And pray the Lord my soul to keep
And if I die before I wake
Pray the Lord my soul to take"

A common Christian prayer said before bedtime, dating back at least to the 18th-century New England Primer. In media, this is always said by children and has two uses:
  • Showing how adorable or mischevious they are.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune, especially in religious horror.

In the first variation, expect some kind of mundane addition like "and also give me a pony".


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Film 
  • Used rather ominously, though appropriately, in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) when Nancy prepares for the climactic confrontation with Freddy.
    • The Dream Master rhyme from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is a variation of it:
      Chorus Children: Now I lay me down to sleep. The Master of Dreams my soul will keep. In the reflection by my side...
      Alice Johnson: Evil will see itself, and it shall die!
  • Little Miss Marker (1934). Sorrowful Jones (Adolphe Menjou) teaches the rhyme to Marthy Jane (Shirley Temple) before she goes to bed.
  • Used in the trailer for My Soul to Take.
  • Nancy starts reciting this when she sees Jason in her cabin in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
  • One adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has Ichabod give a rather humorous variant, to show how completely paranoid he is about supernatural things:
    Ichabod: And if I die before I wake, please bring me back to life!

    Literature 
  • In On a Pale Horse, Death decides to read his mail against the advice of his household staff, and one of the letters is from a girl who is afraid that she'll die in her sleep because her mother makes her recite this prayer before going to bed.
  • Then there's the Selfish Kid's Prayer by Shel Silverstein:
    If I should die before I wake
    Pray the Lord my toys to break
    So no other kids can use 'em...
  • Discworld
    • In Hogfather, Susan mentions this as one of the reasons she hates the previous nanny of the kids she looks after.
    • Thud!: After extremist dwarfs break into Vimes's house, he, Sybil and their baby son briefly move into the Watch house. Four troll officers volunteer to guard Young Sam. Vimes hopes the boy will be impressed when he's older, as the best most kids can hope for is angels.
    • Making Money: Moist recalls that this prayer was potent invoked Nightmare Fuel for him as a boy.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Homecoming series, the first half of the fourth book (dealing with a crisis during an interstellar voyage with most of the characters in suspended animation) is titled If I Should Wake Before I Die.
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, the second verse of Marvin's lullaby starts with this line.
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    Try to count electric sheep
    Sweet dream wishes you can keep
    How I hate the night
  • In Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series the books are all named for this poem, My Soul to Take/Steal/Keep/Save/... and late If I Die and Before I Wake.
  • In Anne of Green Gables, Marilla has to figure out something for Anne to say for her evening prayers, seeing as she'd never been taught any. Marilla quickly rules this one out, because Anne very much does not fit the adorable child image associated with it.
  • In The Grapes of Wrath it's mentioned how Ruthie told this prayer when she was little:
    Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. An' when she got there the cupboard was bare, an' so the poor dog got none. Amen.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied by, of all people, Father Mulcahy in Mash:
    Now I lay me down to sleep,
    A bag of peanuts at my feet.
    If I die before I wake,
    Give them to my brother Jake.
  • In the episode "Something Wicked" Supernatural uses a variation emphasizing angels instead of death, but either version fits well with the series themes.
    Little girl: Now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
    May angels watch me through the night,
    And keep me safe til morning light.
    Amen.

    Music 
  • The HIM song "Buried Alive By Love" plays with the second part of the prayer:
    If I should die before I wake, pray no one my soul to take
    And if I wake before I die, rescue me with your smile.
  • Said word-for-word in Metallica's "Enter Sandman".
    • This one is also parodied in Megadeth's song "Go to Hell":
    Now I lay me down to sleep,
    Blah Blah Blah, my soul to keep.
    If I die before I wake,
    I'll go to hell, for heaven's sake!
    • And, true to form, also parodied by Beatallica in "Sandman" ("Taxman" + "Enter Sandman"). It's actually the same thing as Metallica's, except they replace "God" with "Cliff".
  • Pirates of the Mississipi, "Feed Jake"
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    Pray the Lord my soul to keep
    And if I die before I wake, Feed Jake
    He's been a good dog, my best friend, right through it all
    If I die before I wake, Feed Jake
  • "Midnight Girl/Sunset Town" by Sweethearts of the Rodeo:
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    Pray the Lord my soul to keep
    If I should die before the world turns 'round
    Lord, don't leave me in this one horse town
  • Kid Cudi uses the last two lines in the chorus of The Prayer:
    And if I die before I wake
    I pray the Lord my soul to take
    But please don't cry
    Just know that I am making songs for you
  • Parodied in POD's song "Southtown":
    Could be the next guy that you take before I wake,
    Now I lay me down to sleep, eyes tight, when I pray.
  • Somewhat borrowed in Sophie B. Hawkins' "As I Lay Me Down".
  • A rather creepier version in Tom Waits' Lullaby:
    If I die before you wake
    Don't you cry, don't you ache
    Nothing's ever yours to keep
    Close your eyes, go to sleep
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers put their own spin on it in "Sir Psycho Sexy":
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray the funk will make me freak
    If I should die before I wake
    Allow me, Lord, to rock out naked!

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Done many times in newspaper comics with small children like Dennis the Menace and Family Circus.
  • A Garfield strip shows Jon starting the prayer, but he stops because he hears Garfield open the refrigerator door.
  • Parodied in a Pearls Before Swine strip with Larry the Croc and his son:
    "Now I lay me down to sleep.
    Mow da zeebas down like sheep.
    Give dem to me nice and dead.
    Me no happy 'til me fed."

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Bill Cosby, in his "Cool Covers" routine from the Revenge album, describes how inappropriate it is to teach this prayer to a young child who's already scared to go to bed due to bedroom closet monsters.
  • Tim Hawkins mentioned this too.
    Now I lay me down to sleep ...
    I pray the Lord my soul ... to keep ...
    If I ... should DIE ... before I wake ...
    I pray the Lord ... my soul ... to take ...
    *kiss* Sweet dreams! See you in the morning — maybe! ... Oh, and don't let the bedbugs bite! Muahahahaha!
  • Dennis Miller also mentioned the inherent creepiness in the prayer on his old HBO show. After completing the four lines, he responded with "Fuck that, I'm never going to sleep again!"

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes often uses this, particularly when a character is at gunpoint or under some other apparently mortal threat. The main villains, such as Yosemite Sam and Elmer Fudd, often make the demand, "Say your prayers, rabbit!"
  • The clown bed Homer botches up for Bart in The Simpsons recites parts of the prayer in a way that is pure Nightmare Fuel. "If you should die before you wake..." [maniacal laughter]
  • Donald Duck used it once in the Prince and the Pauper adaption.
  • In Puss Gets the Boot, Jinx (later known as Jerry) says it when he's caught by Jasper (Tom).
  • In the Popeye cartoon "Nurse To Meet You," Popeye and Bluto are trying to injure themselves so they can get near nurse Olive at the hospital. As Bluto positions himself on a railroad track with a train approaching:
    Bluto: Now I lay me down to rest,
    Come on, choo-choo...do your best!


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