Rhymes were always a part of entertainment and fun in our kindergarten. Nobody could have imagined that some of the popular English rhymes may have a dark and depressing origin. Ranging from forced taxes, war, Invasion, death etc.
Ring a- round the rosie
Some people claim that origin of this rhyme is related to the 1665 great plague of London, where “Ring around the rosie” actually refers to the swelling of lymph nodes or bubo, an illness. The swelling was circular like a ring and was dotted by a red rash at the center [the rosie]. Those who fell ill gave off a pungent smell, so people frequently carried pocket full of fresh herbs or flowers [A pocket full of posies]. And finally the plague killed nearly 15 percent of the country’s population. And death took the victims as depicted in the last verse, “Ashes Ashes, We all fall down”.
Its lyrics and its title have gone through some changes over the years.
Baa Baa Black Sheep
This is all about the medieval wool tax, imposed in the 13th century by King Edward 1. Under his rules, a third of the cost of a sack of wool was to be given to the king. Another went to the church and the last to the farmer and nothing was left for the shepherd boy cying down the lane.
Black sheeps were also considered bad luck because their fleeces, unable to be dyed, were less lucrative for the farmer.
In the later 20th century, it was banned in some schools. While others simply switching out the word black for something deemed less offensive. In 2011, news.com.au reported on the plorification of “Baa baa Rainbow Sheep” as an alternative.
Humpty, the cannon, sat on a high wall-like church tower, but was plummeted to the ground when hit by cannon balls from opposing or enemy forces and had a great fall and was destroyed.As the rhyme goes, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.” Nobody could ever fix the cannon.
Jack and Jill
If you fooled around with the lyrics of Jack and Jill a bit yourself when young, turning what you thought was an innocent poem into something a little bit naughty. But its origins aren’t as clean-cut as you probably imagined.This poem has its origin in France. According to some theories the characters refers to King Louis 14, Jack, and his queen Marie Antoinette, Jill. Jack lost his crown first , then Jill came tumbling after during the reign of Terror in 1793. There’s another theory also referring to the tax on liquid measures.
London Bridge is Falling down
It’s origin could be about a 1014 Viking attack, child sacrifice, or the normal deterioration of an old bridge according to some theories. But the most popular theory seems to be the first one. The song’s popularity around the world is often cited as further proof that it was the Vikings who created it, believing that they brought the tune to the many places they traveled. And the child sacrifice thing, the theory goes that in order to keep London Bridge upright, its builders believed that it must be built on a foundation of human sacrifice, and that those same humans mostly children would help to watch over the bridge and maintain its sturdiness.
Three Blind Mice
“Three blind Mice” is supposedly yet another ode to Bloody Mary’s reign, The trio were a group of Protestant bishops- Hugh Latimer, Nicholus Radley, and The Arhbishop of Canterburry, Thomas Cranmer-who unsuccessfully conspired to overthrow the queen and were burned at the stake for their heresy. Critics suggest that the blindness in the title refers to their religious beliefs.
Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater
Peter Peter pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin sheel,
And there he kept her very well.
This rhyme has it’s root in America, Peter’s wife was supposedly a harlot, and Peter’s remedy for the situation was to kill her and hide her body in a giant pumpkin shell.