Even if you don’t have children, I am sure you can, at least, recall a few famous nursery rhymes or songs from your youth. Maybe it was one of the nursery rhymes that you learned in school or maybe your parents used to sing to you. Either way, they are melodies that you won’t forget anytime soon. Next time you decide to sing one of these famous nursery rhymes you might want to consider the history and the actual meaning of the song. The history of these nursery rhymes might be a little shocking.
1. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
– If you listen closely to the words of this popular song, you will realize the dark secret. Peter had a wife that was unfaithful, so he put her in a pumpkin shell after he killed her.
2. She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain When She Comes
– I think most people assume this song is about a train making its way around the mountain. At least, that is what I thought. But in reality it is a song that uses old words from spiritual songs signifying Jesus returning on a chariot when the world ends.
3. Baa Baa Black Sheep
– Did you know in this song instead of saying, “And one for the little boy who lives down the lane”, it used to say, “And none for the little boy who cries down the lane”. The reason? This song is about how taxes were divided in the 13th century. There was never any given to the farmer boy.
4. Jimmy Crack Corn
– This song is about a master and a slave. The master was killed while riding his horse and bit by a fly. The slave celebrates by drinking gimcrack corn, which is a cheap liquor.
5. Jack & Jill –
This children’s song is rumored to be about the deaths of French monarchs Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. How it is described, Louis XVI lost “his crown” and Marie Antoinette’s head came “tumbling after”.
6. London Bridge is Falling Down –
This rhyme is about something a little more than just a bridge falling down. There is an old European myth that states if a child is buried alive within a particular structure, it will ensure that the structure remains stable. Some people say this was done to keep the London Bridge safe.
7. Humpty Dumpty
– I like to imagine this rhyme about an egg-shaped man, but I am completely wrong. It is actually about a very large cannon that was used during the English Civil War. It fell from its post and no amount of men could put it back in its place.
8. Blow The Man Down –
A lot of people assume this song is talking about the battles on the sea. But in reality this song is meaning, “knock the man down”. It was punishment for the sailors who broke the rules or who had little experience.
9. Three Blind Mice –
This popular rhyme has a very dark history. It comes from a time when England was ruled by Mary I AKA, “Bloody Mary”. The 3 blind mice represent the 3 men who were burned at the stake for plotting against her evil ways.
10. Ring around the rosie –
Considering that some of today’s classic nursery rhymes are more than two centuries old, there are often several theories surrounding their origins—and not a lot of sound proof about which argument is correct. But of all the alleged nursery rhyme backstories, “Ring Around the Rosie” is probably the most infamous. Though its lyrics and even its title have gone through some changes over the years, the most popular contention is that the sing-songy verse refers to the 1665 Great Plague of London.“The rosie” is the rash that covered the afflicted, the smell from which they attempted to cover up with “a pocket full of posies.” The plague killed nearly 15 percent of the country’s population, which makes the final verse—“Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down”—rather self-explanatory.
Does this change your mind about any of your favorite nursery rhymes? It is always fun to know the history behind these iconic songs. They have been passed down generation after generation and the meanings have somewhat been forgotten. It is pretty amazing to thing of happily singing these children songs after hearing about how the history of nursery rhymes came to be in the past.