Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Dark, creepy meanings behind the nursery rhymes we know

Working in the early childhood line pretty much exposed me to a ton of nursery rhymes. As a child we of course never really thought about them, we just enjoy the fact that we can bloody sing. The kids just love to sing along with me and we have fun. There's a lot of nursery rhymes that I could list out here but most of all I'd like to stick with the possibly sickest ones in my opinion, and the ones I know of.

1. "Rock-a-bye baby"


Rock-a-bye baby on the tree top, 

When the wind blows the cradle will rock, 
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, 
And down will come baby, 
Cradle and all.

I can imagine a mother suspending her baby on a cradle that hangs from a high tree... relying on the wind to cradle him to sleep. Hoping that the bough will break and down comes the baby, cradle and all... forever asleep... dead.

Because baby's don't understand what you're saying and it's better to vent your frustrations with a new child in a calm-sounding, yet creepy lullaby than to scream at it and shake it to death.

2. "Ring Around The Rosie"


Ring around the rosie, 

A pocket full of posies, 
Ashes, ashes, 
We all fall down,

Some have claimed that it's a song about the Black Plague, but there were no evidence to it. There are also many versions of this rhyme. The 'theory' is that people would get rings on there skin and rosy cheeks. Poesy's (or Posies, which means flowers, a bouquet, petals, etc) were for the smell. It was said that people carried them around because of the odour. Most of the dead where burned to prevent the disease from spreading.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

3. "Three Blind Mice"

(by Glidergoth via Flickr)

Three blind mice,
Three blind mice,
See how they run,
See how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?

So what's the story? I have no idea. The speculation is that it refers to Queen "Bloody" Mary I of England and her enthusiasm for everything involving torture, death, and basically finding new ways to go down in textbooks as history's biggest bitch. It was said that she blinded and executed three men who got together to conspire against her. Either they were blinded or they were burned. And 'tail' could mean other things. I don't want to go into details.
Whatever it is, it's just crazy to think about cutting off anyone's anything.

4. "Humpty Dumpty"

(by aussigall via Flickr)

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king's horses and all the king's men,
Couldn't put Humpty together again

Here's what's interesting: The rhyme never mentioned that Humpty Dumpty is an egg.
"Humpty Dumpty" was an eighteenth century slang for a short and clumsy person. It also came to be an assumption, whereas a clumsy person falling off a wall might not be irreparably damaged, an egg would be. Hence children think that Humpty Dumpty's an egg.
I have no idea what I think the story's about. Some say it was about overthrowing a king. Or I say it's probably about some idiot who smashed his brains after falling off the wall or something.

5. "London Bridge"

(via nyhabitat.com)

London Bridge Is falling down,
Falling down, Falling down.
London Bridge Is falling down,
My fair lady.

One theory about the lyrics to this song is that they refer to an old English practice of burying a dead virgin in the foundations of the bridge to ensure its strength through magical means. Morbid enough for me.
Another theory is that it refers to the Vikings who once wanted to bring down the London Bridge and all the trouble the people went through to build it up again.

6. "Woman Who Lived in a Shoe"

(via ShakespeareInLove)

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. 
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do; 

She gave them some broth without any bread; 
Then whipped all soundly, and sent them to bed

There is one thing this rhyme doesn't teach: family planning. Is this some sort of a clue that children are a burden to parents.
And how exactly is it okay for this old woman to starve and beat her kids? This is why she's living in a shoe (aka someplace that doesn't look like a home)... it's coz she's beating her kids to death and doesn't want to be caught.
Most of the time kids just like the idea of living in a shoe. But wow, I remember as a child, when I saw illustrations of this rhyme, I thought, 'This is psycho lady.'


That's all about the nursery rhymes I can think of. Rather than singing these songs to children may as well let them listen to Rammstein or Cradle of Filth. Note that the above so-called definitions of these nursery are pretty much only theories and not based on evidence.
Remember that the next time you teach them to your children.

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