The Dark Stories Behind Classic Nursery Rhymes


Growing up, you were probably taught all sorts
of nursery rhymes and recited them happily, oblivious to the fact that many of them have
darker meanings than we could have ever imagined. We’re here to shed some darkness on the happy
sing-songs of your childhood. Baa, Baa, Black Sheep Shocking as it may be, Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
was not actually about a talking black sheep that offered up its wool to a master, a dame,
and a little boy who lives down the lane. As with most nursery rhymes, many theories
have been offered up about the meaning. One of the more popular ones, according to
Historic UK, is that it’s about the heavy taxation on wool in 13th-century Britain. Supposedly, the “master” represented King
Edward the 1st, the “dame” was the church, and the “little boy” referred to all the shepherds
who took care of the sheep. Sadly, it seems as if the shepherds got a
raw deal: in the original version, “the little boy” didn’t get any wool. Humpty Dumpty Many children can recite the nursery rhyme
about Humpty Dumpty and his tragic misadventures on a wall. Glossing over the fact that this rhyme is
basically about the accidental passing of an egg-person, its origins might prove interesting. According to Ancient Origins, “Humpty Dumpty”
could have been a nickname for rotund people in the 15th century, or it could have been
a cannon used by the army of King Charles the 1st in the English Civil War. According to lore, the cannon was placed on
top of the wall of a church until it was brought down by enemy cannons, causing it to have
a “great fall.” Apparently, the fall left it beyond repair,
seeing how none of the King’s men — or horses — could fix it. Rub-a-dub-dub That old poem about a butcher, a baker, and
a candlestick maker may not have been about exploring career choices and then going to
a fair after all. In fact, according to London librarian Chris
Roberts, some of the earliest versions of Rub-a-dub-dub claims that there were three
maids in a tub, instead of the three men. The butcher, baker, and candlestick maker
are still present, but it can be deduced that they’re intently watching whatever’s going
on in the tub between the three young ladies. Take that as you will. Oranges and Lemons London’s famous poem Oranges and Lemons is
a rhyme that features the tolling of many church bells across London, with many different
interpretations and meanings. In an article for the BBC, composer Benjamin
Till explored whether or not someone’s decapitation helped inspire it. One of the popular theories claims that the
poem is full of references that include Henry the 8th’s marital problems, some torture devices
used in the Tower of London, and even the execution of prisoners at Newgate Prison. For a poem concerning bells and produce, it
sure does have some fairly disturbing origins. Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater A read of Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater might
lead you to believe that this Peter fellow was kind of a jerk who remarried and then
became literate. According to Treasury Islands, one of the
origins of this strange tale involves Peter being unable to act as a good husband and
treating his first wife poorly. Peter had a more domineering personality and
kept his wife stuck in their home, where he could exercise his control over her. The wife must have gotten sick of his treatment,
because he eventually remarried and became more civilized after some time. At least this rhyme sort of prepares kids
for the complexities of adult relationships. Lucy Locket On the surface, the old English nursery rhyme
Lucy Locket seems to be an innocent tale about a girl named Lucy who loses her purse and
a girl named Kitty who finds it. In truth, it’s about a famous courtesan named
Kitty Fisher, who supposedly stole away the lover of a woman named Lucy Locket. According to Persephone Magazine, Kitty Fisher
was a very charismatic woman who liked the finer things in life, and became a courtesan
to live it up with the wealthy folks. Lucy Locket was a fan of hers, but that quickly
turned when her poor lover left her and found solace in Miss Kitty’s arms. A nineteenth century poem that was basically
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27 thoughts on “The Dark Stories Behind Classic Nursery Rhymes

  1. Not sure how all of these are "dark" espically the rub a dub dub one, but still interesting.

  2. Those funny & clever British hiding political statements in nursery rhymes. London Bridge is falling down; Ring around the Rosey…

  3. I've never heard of Oranges and Lemons or Lucy Locket. To be fair, I didn't know anything about LIzzie Borden until sometime in college or after either.

  4. Well, riddle me this !?!?! How can I sub to you , when I already have ? The clock is ticking …

  5. The peter pumpkin eater is wrong. His first wife is a prostitute. He kills her and hides her in the chimney. It starts with the chimney verse. THEN goes to the pumpkin where he kills his second wife and stuffs her in the pumpkin

  6. Jack and Jill went up the hill, both with a buck and a quarter, Jill came down with two fifty….

  7. "Ring Around the rosy" is about the bubonic plague in Europe.
    Ring around the rosy – a red ring sometimes appeared around the neck of the infected
    Pocket full of posies – people carried flowers to ward off the "bad air" thought to cause the plague
    Ashes, ashes – Bodies were burned
    We all fall down – We died

  8. Mary mary quite contrary..
    Trim that ** its so damn hairy.
    OH!
    Jack and Jill went up the hill both with a buck an a quarter..
    jill came down with 2.50.

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