The secret meaning behind In The Night Garden’s opening words*

UPDATE April 2017: Comedian Jason Manford likes this post so much that he made a video of it! 

* according to my husband

After the doctor gently told us that our 14-month-old son had pneumonia and tonsillitis, I put my faith in strong antibiotics, an inhaler and Calpol to help him recover, all washed down with extra boob, plenty of snuggles and back to back episodes of In The Night Garden.

The adventures of Iggle Piggle and friends will always remind me of these past few days, cuddling up with my poorly boy and seeing him improve little by little. I’m finding myself humming the opening theme and working the words into my everyday conversations.

The night is black

And the stars are bright

And the sea is dark and deep,

But someone I know is safe and snug

And they’re drifting off to sleep.

Round and round,

A little boat

No bigger than your hand,

Out on the ocean,

Far away from land.

Take the little sail down,

Light the little light.

This is the way to the garden in the night.

I get a little shiver down my spine whenever I hear these words, especially the last few lines. It’s so zen, isn’t it? Take your sail down to get where you’re going; take your light with you to see the way in the darkness.

With echoes of the much-loved bedtime favourite The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton (“The moon is high. The sea is deep. They rock and rock and rock to sleep”), this restful beginning grabs my son’s attention and leaves him spellbound.

But thanks to my husband, I now have a shadow meaning chasing my little shiver of pleasure as Iggle Piggle beds down for his journey.

Do not read further if you want to keep this image from your mind……

So, hubby says: Iggle Piggle is a dying sailor, blue with cold. Facing his unavoidable, lonely demise adrift in the middle of the ocean, far from land and hope of rescue, he admires the beauty of the night sky and acknowledges the vastness of the sea which will claim him. He decides to take down the sail to use for warmth, knowing that he no longer needs to it to help him get anywhere, and lights a lamp to aid retrieval of his body, should a boat happen to pass.

As he sails towards the garden in the night – death – he starts seeing flowers in front of his eyes and hallucinates happier times of running towards his (departed) friends, who are waiting to greet him in the sunshine. He imagines more and more fanciful things – colourful birds, huge inflatables bouncing along with manic grins, Tardis-like transportation bigger inside than out – until all his friends leave him behind.

At the end of the programme, Iggle Piggle is of course the last to go to sleep, the last of his crew left. The omniscient narrator reassures him: “Don’t worry, Iggle Piggle! It’s time to go!” – something we would all want to feel in our final moments – and he drops down flat on his back, sailing off into the night back in his little boat.

Thanks for that, hubby.

* November 6th, edited to add:

I should mention that my hubby reckons I’ve painted an overly dark picture of what he said. “The Night Garden is not an unpleasant thing – it’s predominantly a paradise rather than a negative experience.” So there. Actually, we agree that it’s really just about the experience of falling asleep. There’s no point trying to force sleep; the only way to sleep and to dream is to take down your metaphorical sail. We all know that the harder you try, the more difficult it is to drop off. Sleep tight, Iggle Piggle 🙂

UPDATE April 2017: Comedian Jason Manford likes this post so much that he made a video of it! 

22 thoughts on “The secret meaning behind In The Night Garden’s opening words*

    • We love ITNG and I quote from it all the time (usually “Wait a minute! Somebody’s not in bed!”). I’ve managed to put my hubby’s interpretation to one side… just about….

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  2. Can I make this even sadder? The child in the beginning is the sailor’s son/daughter being consoled and comforted (by the sailor’s widow or other relative) after having his/her father go missing at sea. 🙂

    I mean… 😦

  3. Personally I think your talking crap. It’s just a kids programme there’s no need to over complicate it. Any way I think that’s just depressing children like it because it’s imaginitive. Not all that sh*t.

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  5. Actually it isnt at all like that .. iggle piggle is sailing to sleep .. the stars turn to flowers as he begins to dream … he never reaches a shore he just dreams it all.. it is a fairy tale look it up lol x iggle piggle is the only obe not asleep at the end because he is already asleep … whn u see him in his boat at the end he has finnished his dream …

  6. It’s a dream in a dream. The child dreams he’s iggle piggle, iggle piggle falls asleep in the child’s dream and dreams he’s in the night garden

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  9. I had to spend a night in a&e last month due to dehydration caused by severe vomiting after a strong course of antibiotics.
    While lying there, trying to rest, the noise of all the machines made me say to my other half “gosh it’s so noisy in here, it’s like watching ‘iggle piggle’!”
    I had read this before and had told him about this interpretation, but in a&e I wasn’t thinking of it.
    My other half then just said “maybe itng is so noisy because iggle piggle has been found and is at the a&e”…
    Only question now for me, does iggle piggle fall asleep actually mean he wakes up or does he “drift off” ??

  10. Pingback: The secret meaning behind In The Night Garden’s opening words* | themothersroom

  11. i had the same theory about the children show. about iggle piggle solemnly recieving sleep(death?) while meeting his departed friends on the other side. it’s a bit dark i know but the kids dont know that, yet.

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