5 Nursery Rhymes And Their Dark Origins

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5 Nursery Rhymes And Their Dark Origins


Nursery rhymes are a definite blast from the past for anybody. From "Humpty Dumpty" to "Jack And Jill," these are some of the rhymes that would make you reminisce about the nights where your mother would tuck you in, tell you a story or sing you a nursery rhyme, which would definitely knock you out barely 20 minutes later.

In those moments, you would be the perfect picture of tranquility — dreaming away in a world filled with soft, fluffy sheep — while being surrounded by your friends as you play all day. As children, you didn't really notice the actual meanings behind these rhymes. Because if you did, it's most likely you'll never sleep peacefully again.

While the classic rhymes from your childhood might sound sweet and innocent, learning about them will actually make you realize that they may have a rather dark tone about them. 



1. Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

When you hear the familiar tune of "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary," most children often picture a beautiful little girl named Mary, who, as the rhyme goes, is tending to her little flowerbed or garden. However, "Mary" was actually based on Queen Mary Tudor — the Catholic Queen of England — who is also known as Bloody Mary. 

Yes, the same Mary who persecuted Protestants for being, well, Protestants. Facade with kid-friendly lyrics like "silver bells and cockleshells," the nursery actually talks about torture instruments used such as guillotines and the "pretty maids all in a row" stand for the Protestants who were about to get their heads cut off.



2. Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-Eater

For this nursery rhyme, it was believed that Peter had a wife who was not a runaway, but a streetwalker, or a harlot. Containing the lyrics of: "He put her in a pumpkin shell, And there he kept her very well," a common interpretation is that Peter got so angry because of his wife's job, so he decided to kill her, all the while stuffing her corpse inside of a pumpkin shell while at it.



3. London Bridge Is Falling Down

There are actually a lot of theories related to this song. Legend says, up to this day, no one's actually quite sure where it really came from or where its "real" origins began. In fact, several historians and experts believe that the rhyme was about a human sacrifice, which would explain why the kids playing this game would run underneath an arch and whoever finds themselves under the arch would be trapped with it.



4. Jack And Jill

Some of you may notice that the entire song only consists of three lines, which you would most likely sing again and again and again, or just until you get sick of it. Given the fact that almost everybody knowing this nursery rhyme, it's really not difficult to memorize it like the back of your mind. 

Featuring Jack and Jill, two people we may assume as a man and a woman who will "fetch a pail of water," which may or may not be kid lingo for "secret relationship." While the "Jack fell down and broke his crown" part indicates that Jack may have, at one point, fallen, and crack his head — or his, erm, crown — open.



5. Ring Around The Rosie

Commonly known as one of the classic nursery rhymes, children from different generations may or may not realize that they might just have re-enacted the Great Plague of 1665, an epidemic which occurred in 1665 London where a quarter or approximately 100,000 Londoners died. Some believe that the "rosie" was actually a rash from the bubonic plague, while the "pocket full of posies" means that they were sachets or small bags filled with perfume people carried around in order to hide the scent of death.



Sarah Dongon

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