Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nursery Rhymes Are Creepy

I would like to put a disclaimer here that I am not taking credit for any of the nursery rhymes in this post. I don't know who wrote them but all credit for creating the rhymes goes to the authors. As for the true meaning, I suppose only the author themselves would know, but this is what I've been taught.

     Since I've been giving a bunch of recipes lately, and I would like to have more to give that I actually cook, I'm going to talk about something that most people don't think about. Maybe it's because I have a sort of twisted, dark mind. Maybe it's because my mom told me about a couple. Maybe it's because I learned of the Lizzie Borden rhyme when I was in sixth grade.

"Lizzie Borden had an axe;
She gave her mother forty wacks.
When she'd realized what she'd done;
She gave her father forty-one."

     Pretty twisted, right? That's one of the more obvious ones. After that, I told my mom about it and she told me that a lot of nursery rhymes were meant to scare children into behaving, but now they're just for fun because every little kid loves things that rhyme in a sing-song voice.

Ring Around The Rosie:
"Ring around the Rosie;
Pocket full of posies.
Ashes to ashes;
We all fall down."

     I don't know the meaning of the first line. My theory is during burials, people would stand in a ring around the coffin and roses were thrown on the graves, especially to cover up the scent of all the deaths. As for the second line, my mom told me that posies were poisonous berries that the song was to teach children not to eat. Looking it up, I found that it refers to a sachet of herbs carried around to ward off infection of a plague. The third line can refer to the phrase "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" often said at funerals or that many bodies were burned to prevent the spread of the disease. As for the last line, they were scared that everyone would get sick. It didn't matter who you were, you were at risk.

Pop Goes The Weasel:
"All around the Mulberry bush;
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey stopped to pull up his sock;
Pop! Goes the weasel."

     I've tried to find the history on this one, but I can't find anything that says this one is supposed to be creepy. Maybe it's just me? What I feel about the song, is that it's about hunting. You know how people would have little monkeys on their shoulders to preform in the street? It makes me think of a monkey being like a hunting dog, chasing the weasel around, and pop goes a gun. There are like forty different versions and verses though, so you'll have to look those up yourself.

The London Bridge Is Falling Down:
"London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

London Bridge is broken down,
Broken down, broken down.
London Bridge is broken down,
My fair lady."

     This is another long one so you'll have to look up the rest of the lyrics on your own. There are several theories to this song, but according to what I found, nobody has any proof of any theory. One theory is that it was from viking attacks, another is about children sacrifices, and another was from one of the mass fires in London (which everyone I know heard about, as the source of this rhyme). However, if you just look at the lyrics, it's about a bridge- at one time, a wonder of the world- collapsing.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary:
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary;
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells;
And pretty maids, all in a row."

     This one has a few versions as well, but this is the one I grew up with. There are a few theories about where it came from as well. One theory is about religion, Catholic religion to be exact. The silver bells would be cathedral bells and the cockle shells were sort of badges, while the pretty maids were nuns.
     Along those same lines (sort of), one theory is that Mary (Queen of Scots) is the Mary in the rhyme. The changes are that cockle shells indicate her husband was cheating on her, possibly with the pretty maids (who might have been her ladies in waiting/The Four Maries).
     The last theory I found is about Mary I Of England. Since it's a pretty long theory, I'm just going to give the basic idea. It could be in mocking reference to the fact that she could not have children (line two) and had many miscarriages (line four). There's a second theory about her, that she tortured and executed many people and is the source of the Bloody Mary legend.

Little Boy Blue:
"Little Boy Blue,
Come blow your horn.
The sheep's in the meadow,
The cow's in the corn.
Where is that boy,
Who looks after the sheep?
Under the haystack,
Fast asleep.
Will you wake him?
Oh no, not I.
For if I do,
He will surely cry."

     This one is difficult to find history on as well. It seems that nobody really knows where half of these come from, but I guess that's what makes them so famous, because nobody knows where they came from but everyone knows them. But that's not the point. The point is that these nursery rhymes come from dark places... Like this one, it talks about a boy crying because he was woken up. It seems to be that either he was a very young child- too young to work- or that he was just a very sad person. Or a lazy boy who cried because he had to work. Not really qualities I would want anyone to have.

Sing A Song Of Sixpence:
"Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

The king was in the counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlor,
Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes;
When down came the blackbird,
And pecked off her nose.

They sent for the king's doctor,
Who sewed it on again;
He sewed it on so neatly,
The seam was never seen."

     This is a poem about baking black birds into a pie and then the maid getting her nose pecked off by one of the black birds that was in the pie. I mean... That's just a teensy bit violent, don't you think? I doubt you'd see a poem about a wolf ripping an arm off and it being sewn back on.

Rock-A-Bye Baby:
"Rock-a-bye baby,
In the treetops.
When the wind blows,
The cradle will rock.
When the bow breaks,
The cradle will fall.
And down will come baby,
Cradle and all."

     Do I even really need to explain this one? It's about a baby, in a cradle, falling out of a tree. Even I recognized this one when I was like five or six, as a very dark and twisted song. Babies are not supposed to fall out of trees. I mean, sure, it could be a lesson like, "Hey, don't climb trees" but babies can't even walk, let alone climb.

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