Why did I ever sing these nursery rhymes?
I mean I feel awful now considering the awfully creepy origins these nursery rhymes have. Yes, the same nursery rhymes that we loved to sing as children. Who know they harbored such a dark streak?
I sure didn’t. Today, however, we have compiled some of the most popular nursery rhymes whose origins are questionable at best. So scroll on below and take a look. Beware the chills that will inevitably go down your spine.
#1 Rock-a-bye baby (1765)
No, I am not talking about the song sung by Clean Bandit. Now that we have that confusion out of the way let’s get on with the important stuff.
The most popular origin behind this nursery rhyme is actually about the son of King James II of England and Mary of Modena.
People believe that the son was switched in the delivery room so that there would be a catholic heir to the throne.
#2 Jack and Jill (1765)
While I am sure, all of you have imagined different versions of Jack and Jill. The supposed origin of this rhyme is still a bit of a mystery. Many people believe that it’s actually about the beheadings of Louis VXI and Marie Antoinette.
Although this is not at all true since this poem was written 30 years before this incident. Scholars do believe that it is about the chronicles of King Charles as he attempted to reform the tax on liquid measures.
The parliament, however, rejected all of his suggestions, so he reduced the volume to half and quarter-pints that were known as jacks and gills.
#3 Mary Mary Quite Contrary (1744)
Now I know what you are thinking. “Isn’t this poem about gardening?” Well, not exactly but I understand why many people would think so. In the old times ‘contrary’ actually referred to a murderous psychopath.
Who is this murderous psychopath the poem refers to? Well, it is the Queen Mary I of England. Yes, the infamous Bloody Mary. Silver bells and cockle shells are also not gardening tools but are rather torture instruments.
She used many torture instruments including these to murder people who protested against her.
#4 Ring Around the Rosie (1881)
You might have heard an interesting origin story of this playful rhyme. Many people believe that this poem referred to the Great Plague of London in 1665 and ‘Rosie’ actually means the rash.
People actually carried posies in their pockets to mask the horrific smell and the part of ‘we all fall down’ refers to the death of 15% of the population. In reality, however, this is not the poems origin story at all.
Another theory that might be true is what the folklorist Philip Hiscock suggested. He said that the poem’s origin are “in the religious ban on dancing among many Protestants in the 19th century, in Britain as well as North America. Adolescents found a way around the dancing band with what was called in the United States a ‘play-party.'”
#5 Baa, Baa Black Sheep (1731)
Many scholars believe that the rhyme referred to the Great Custom of 1275 when a tax was enacted on wool. However the color black and the word ‘master’ have worried some that it might hold a racial message.
So that is probably the reason why many schools have banned this poem or instead used a different color rather than black.
#6 Old Mother Hubbard (1805)
Apparently many people believe that Old Mother Hubbard doesn’t refer to an old mother at all. They believe that it referred to the instance when Cardinal Thomas Wolsey refused to grant King Henry VIII an annulment.
This way King Henry VIII couldn’t marry Anne Boleyn and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s politics was only left as a mockery.
#7 Three Blind Mice (1805)
This rhyme apparently refers to Queen Mary again. The three blind mice are actually three bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Radley, and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer who wanted to overthrow the queen.
As you may already know their protests fell on deaf ears and they were burned at stake for their heresy. Their beliefs are actually referred as their blindness.
#8 Goosey Goosey Gander (1784)
Now, this rhyme actually tells a horrific story about some Catholic priests who were persecuted. They were supposedly hiding so they could say their prayers in Latin.
The narrator apparently came upon an old man “who wouldn’t say his prayers. So I took him by his left leg, and threw him down the stairs.”
#9 Eeny Meeny Miny Mo
This rhyme does look very innocent but don’t be deceived by it’s appearance. You see it was actually ‘catch a [n-word] by the toe’.
Now, you can probably imagine why people wouldn’t like to teach their kids that, so the n-word was changed to a tiger.
#10 London Bridge is Falling Down (1744)
There are many theories about this rhyme from child sacrifice to the deterioration of an old bridge. However, most people believe that it’s about a Viking attack.
Apparently, it’s about when Olaf II of Norway attacked the London bridge in the year 1000. This seems to be true since Vikings were quite proud of their accomplishment and wanted to brag about it.
#11 Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1840)
The origin of this rhyme is actually quite weird. You see it originated in a women’s prison. The women prisoners would actually exercise by going around a Mulberry tree, and that is how the rhyme came to be.