I know a woman who thinks everything is of the Devil, this post is dedicated to her.
I’ve been very happy lately that my son Quinn has a wonderful teacher that comes to the house once a week to work with him. I’ve seen changes in his speech and just his sense of self, virtually overnight. His teacher is amazing and a blessing to us. In the past, Quinn could never sit still long enough to have a book read to him, in fact, I thought he hated books altogether but recently he’s become interested in Nursery Rhymes. They’re short enough that they hold is interest and now we read quite a few at night.
One evening in particular, as I was going through the book of rhymes happily for the 20th time, something struck me. I remembered a long time ago in one of my classes a teacher telling us that nursery rhymes were little songs or stories based on current events. They were passed around through oral tradition as a way of conferring knowledge to nearby towns long before the days of news papers and such. As I read the rhymes to my son with that context in mind, they took on a whole new meaning. Here are a few of my favorites from that night:
Wee Willy Winky
Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Up stairs and down stairs in his night-gown,
Tapping at the window, crying at the lock,
Are the children in their bed, for it’s past ten o’clock?
To me this just seems like some weird pedaphiliac behavior. You have this guy, running through the street in his pajamas looking in people’s windows and shouting at their doors about their kids being in bed. He wouldn’t make it past two houses in my neighborhood before he was either shot at or the police were called.
Ring Around The Rosie
Ring around the Rosie. Pocket full of posies. Ashes, Ashes. We all Fall Down.
Well this is a morbid tale if there ever was one. I remember playing this in the school yard at St. Thomas all those years ago and was mortified to find out that I had been spinning around in a circle to a tale about the Plague. There’s death and cremation all wrapped up in 4 lines of prose.
Lucy Locket lost her pocket
And Kitty Fisher found it.
Not a penny was there in it
Only a ribbon around it.
So this one was just plain weird and after doing some internet research, I found out that it’s based on two real people. Those two people were prostitutes who fought over Johns back in the day. So when Lucy’s “John” lost all his money, she dropped him like a hot potato and evidently Kitty was all too happy to take her sloppy seconds. Cat fight ensues and results in the nursery that survives them regaling an epic feud over a “John”. I’m just wondering what the ribbon was tied around?
Georgie Porgy pudding and pie
Kissed all the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away
The first time I read this, my first thought was I bet “Georgie” is raping these women. I bet you all this years we’ve been reciting a nursery rhyme about these poor women getting raped and the coward running away when the men came around. Research pretty much confirmed my assumption, wonderful lesson for the kids.
Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater.
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her.
He put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well.
Here’s what I’m thinking, Peter’s wife was probably a run around Sue. Peter catches wind of it and literally bakes her into a pumpkin pie. Wouldn’t be the first time people got eaten in merry ole England. Remember Sweeny Todd folks? It wasn’t just a luke warm musical starring Johnny Depp, it was based on the real life Demon Barber of Fleet Street. If Sweeny Todd could do it, why not Peter Pumpkin eater?
It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.
It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The old man’s snoring.
He got into bed
And bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning.
This one is a personal favorite of mine and the kids love it too, we sing it every time it rains. For me, it’s always been a cautionary tale of what not to do when one receives a concussion, i.e DON’T GO TO SLEEP. You know why the old man didn’t get up in the morning? It wasn’t because he missed his alarm going off, he was dead. Dead from the concussion he got when he bumped his head.
Do you have any Nursery Rhymes that were your favorite as a kid that now you wonder about as an adult?
*I want to give a shout out to Wikipedia for the assistance with some of the background info for this post.*