10 Popular Nursery Rhymes That are Incredibly Depressing, Terrifyingly Violent and Disturbingly Tragic for Children

Posted in: Musicouching by Sher D Fly on January 8th, 2008 | 160 Comments

In most cultures, nursery rhymes feature children’s verses and songs that are verbally passed down from one generation to another. But how many of us realize that many of the most popular English nursery rhymes for our kids are often extremely violent in nature, filled with tales of death and suffering, and often contain quite disturbing and tragic endings?

  1. Jack and Jill

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    “Jack and Jill
    Went up the hill
    To fetch a pail of water.
    Jack fell down
    And broke his crown
    And Jill came tumbling after”

    I believe you are familiar with this one. In this rhyme, Jack fell down and “broke his crown” (which basically means severely injured his head – I suppose this can possibly be deadly) after he and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Soon afterwards, he goes home only to endure terrible pain when he “went to bed and bound his head with vinegar and brown paper”. Oh, it doesn’t stop there. Jill gave an evil grin when she saw Jack’s silly paper plaster. Unfortunately, their mother saw this smirk and got really angry and whipped her quite soundly for the whole incident.

  2. Humpty Dumpty

    “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again!”

    Humpty Dumpty is another famous nursery rhyme that unfortunately ends in tragedy. Humpty Dumpty (a curious egg-like character) falls down from the wall that he had been sitting on. But no one, including the king’s men could fix the unfortunate broken Humpty Dumpty – whom of course dies in the freak accident.

  3. Rock-a-Bye Baby

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    “Rock a bye baby on the tree top,
    When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
    When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
    And down will come baby, cradle and all.

    This lullaby hints at quite possibly a very tragic ending. The baby is placed in a cradle, on top of the tree (for apparently no reason). The wind blows rather strongly, and the branch of the tree will seemingly eventually break so that the cradle (and the innocent baby inside it) will fall probably crash helplessly down on the ground. Don’t ask me what would happen next. I personally feel that the lullabies we sing to our kids shouldn’t have these types of nightmarish endings.

  4. There was an Old Woman

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    “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
    She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
    She gave them some broth,Without any bread,
    Whipped them all soundly, and sent them to bed.”

    This old woman actually lives in a big shoe with her “oh so many” children. She doesn’t really even know what to do with them. It seems that she’s poor, stressed out and her children are pretty neglected. She doesn’t even have any bread to go with the broth she made to feed her children. In any case, after she fed them, she beat them all thoroughly and put them to bed. She seems to be quite far from the ideal mother as well as poor, and abusive. What a mom…

  5. Goosey Goosey Gander

    “Goosey goosey gander where shall I wander,
    Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s chamber
    There I met an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers,
    I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.”

    This nursery rhyme is another that is quite violent in nature. Basically it is about this kid who meets an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers. The kid decides to take matters into his own hands and takes this old man’s left leg and throws him down the stairs as a punishment. Does this kid really want to kill the old man or what?

  6. Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater

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    “Peter Peter pumpkin eater,
    Had a wife and couldn’t keep her!
    He put her in a pumpkin shell,
    And there he kept her very well!”

    This is about a man named Peter who loved to eat pumpkin. He had a wife but he couldn’t keep her for some reason – probably neglected her. So what does he do? He stuffs her into a pumpkin shell and keeps her permanently in there. I don’t know whether his wife would still be alive after an incident like this but realize that this pumpkin must be a pretty massively giant sized pumpkin. Okay, so he probably forget about the first wife. Soon after that, Peter gets married to another lady whom he didn’t love at first. Peter who was also illiterate (a real find as far as husband material goes) eventually learns to read and finally starts to love his wife – from the second marriage.

  7. Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home

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    “Ladybug ladybug fly away home,
    Your house in on fire and your children are gone,
    All except one and that’s little Ann,
    For she crept under the frying pan.”

    This ladybird was told to fly home after being informed that her house was on fire. Sadly, all her children died in the fire, except for one, named Little Ann. Unaware of the danger surrounding her, Little Ann actually crept under the warming pan. Unfortunately, we don’t really know what really happened next. Although it is quite a disturbing nursery rhyme, we somehow hope that Little Ann survives in the end.

  8. Oh My Darling, Clementine

    “Oh my darling, oh my darling,
    My darling Clementine,
    You are lost for me forever,
    Dreadful sorry, Clementine.

    Drove she ducklings to the water
    Ev’ry morning just at nine,
    Hit her foot against a splinter,
    Fell into the foaming brine.

    Ruby lips above the water,
    Blowing bubbles soft and fine,
    But alas, I was no swimmer,
    Neither was my Clementine.

    In a churchyard near the canyon,
    Where the myrtle doth entwine,
    There grow rosies and some posies,
    Fertilized by Clementine.”

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160 Responses to “10 Popular Nursery Rhymes That are Incredibly Depressing, Terrifyingly Violent and Disturbingly Tragic for Children”
  • Anne Lyken-Garner January 8th, 2008 at 4:46 am

    I love this. You’ve actually beat me to this, I was thinking of doing this too!

    Good job.

  • Sher January 8th, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Sorry Anne. Thanx for your support.

  • rhymer January 8th, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Never knew the whole story behind these rhymes but I knew them now.
    Very depressing if only the children knew what they were really singing about. Good one.

  • Rico January 9th, 2008 at 12:52 am

    I wonder why our older generation wanna instill this sorta thing to tgeir children or was it done unintentionally?

  • Richard Sakai January 10th, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    they’re all analogies and metaphors for historic events or social commentary in older times where criticism of society, religion, royalty was punishable by strict penalties or even death.

  • Ruby Hawk January 10th, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    The nursery rythmns are horrible for children but mine loved them and so did my grandchildren. I think they just hear the rythmn.

  • Liane Schmidt January 10th, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Wow…what an incredible article…and look at children’s nursery rhymes. With kid’s centered work like this…who needs censorship? Wow.

    Best wishes.


    -Liane Schmidt.

  • Excluding dt January 11th, 2008 at 2:31 am

    Never look at nursery rhymes from this perpective. Wow indeed

  • Beatrice Adams January 11th, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Very interesting, indeed! How about “Ring around the rosies” where they sneeze and end up dead? :-)

  • louie jerome January 11th, 2008 at 7:21 am

    An interesting angle! Many English nursery rhymes have their origins in English history, like Humpty Dumpty aka Cardinal Wolsey, and Jack and Jill (originally Gill) relating to old measures of liquid: 2 jacks= 1 gill, etc

  • jEFf January 14th, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    You forgot ‘Ring around the Rosie’ That’s a morbid one about the plague.

  • quiet voice January 14th, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Hi, I never thought about the content of the rhymes, until my sister and I taked about them. Like Humpty Dumpty, they are troublesome to say the least, learned something while reading the comment section as well. Great job on puting the whole thing together, lots of work, but it appears you enjoyed it.

  • J.R.D. January 15th, 2008 at 3:28 am

    call me my sense of humor mourbid, but I still like the nursery rhymes even if they are tragic and warped, great article though

  • sdave January 15th, 2008 at 3:44 am

    In South Africa there is an old Afrikaans nursery rhymes that deals with abortion. It goes:
    “Siembamba mama se kindjie,Siembamba mama se kindjie, draai sy nek om gooi hom in die sloot, trap op sy kop dan weet jy hy is dood”. Translated:
    “Siembamba mommy´s child,Siembamba mommy´s child, twist his neck and through him in the ditch, step on his head and you know he is dead”.
    Quite horrible actually but said and sang to the cutest of melodies

  • Ammar January 15th, 2008 at 5:33 am

    i love this article and it’s soooo informative..such a brilliant idea you’ve got here.

  • Anonymous January 15th, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Very good! However, I would have included the ‘RING AROUND THE ROSIES’ / ‘RING A RING O’ ROSES’ one, which refers to the 1665 Great Plague of London.

    Ring a-ring o’ roses,
    A pocketful of posies.
    a-tishoo!, a-tishoo!. (sickness)
    We all fall down. (death)

    Hey sdave! I’m an Afrikaner living in UK now. I remember that Siembamba one. Something is seriously weird about these nursery rhymes…

  • ben January 15th, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Don’t forget the last verse of Clementine, for added moral ambiguity:

    How I miss her,
    How I miss her,
    How I miss my Clementine,
    So I kissed her little sister,
    and forgot my Clementine.

  • a parent January 15th, 2008 at 11:58 am

    You’re surprised? Wait til you discover fairy tales.

  • Kris Hughes January 15th, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Hmmm this is pretty interesting. A form of social conditioning maybe.

  • Monkey January 15th, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Well, Clementine seems a reasonable enough lesson for the most part – “Learn to swim, kids, or your life may end in tragedy!”. Silly numbers of people STILL drown every year, despite the fact any able-bodied human child can learn to swim at least as easily as learning to walk given the opportunity.

  • matt January 15th, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Georgie Porgie, puddin’ and pie,
    Kissed the girls and made them cry.
    When the boys came out to play,
    He kissed them too, cos he’s funny that way.

  • frumpiefox January 15th, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Great list!

    I have one nit to pick: “My Darling Clemintine,” while freakishly morbid, isn’t actually a nursery rhyme, but a flok ballad (the two types are very closely related, of course.)

    How about “Ding Dong Dell,” where the kid throws a cat in the well, attempting to not only end a poor animal’s life, but to also poison the water supply? This was the one that offended me most as a kid.

    Or “Solomon Grundy:”
    Solomon Grundy,
    Born on Monday,
    Christened on Tuesday,
    Married on Wednesday,
    Took ill on Thursday,
    Worse on Friday,
    Died on Saturday,
    Buried on Sunday:
    This is the end
    Of Solomon Grundy.

    Where to even start with this one!

  • frumpiefox January 15th, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Sorry, *folk ballad

  • Joel January 15th, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    A bit conflicted some of the meanings you put are different to other ones i’ve heard.

  • Jack Rodnessey January 15th, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Very informative article.

  • Ryu Kiris January 15th, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Damn, all the good ideas are taken. ^^’ I wish I had found triond sooner.

  • kiji January 15th, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    very good tho there are more versions of clementine – in which the boy forgets clementine when he kisses her little sister!

  • Craig January 15th, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Actually, I’ve always wondered why, when Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, they started by getting the King’s Horses to try and put him together again? I probably would have started with the King’s men instead … horses would have had a very difficult time of it with their hoofs …

  • mathew January 15th, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    this is a really gud article….well thought

  • mindy January 15th, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    I LOVED this list! I’d like to add the French Alouette about plucking a birds head. “Alouette gentille Alouette”….

  • Profkampf January 15th, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    I had heard that Rock a bye baby was written and meant to be about a bastard son of a royal family

    Rock a bye baby on the tree top – (the baby is at the top of a family tree)
    when the wind blows the cradle will rock – (when people start talking about the baby, its going to cause a commotion)
    when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall – (when its learned that the baby is NOT of royal blood, he will be disinherited)
    and down will come cradle, baby and all – (it will be the end of the monarchy)

  • action0099 January 15th, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    This was great. I really enjoyed reading your article!

  • Jim January 16th, 2008 at 12:54 am

    Not only the nursery rhymes but in the original Italian version of Sleeping Beauty the prince finds her and she wakes months later to find herself about to deliver a baby.
    Ring a round the rosie – the black plague
    London Bridge – the collapse of the original bridge due to overcrowded housing on it.

  • Monyet Miskin January 16th, 2008 at 1:28 am

    And of course there’s no need to explain what ‘goosey gander’ is.

  • George VI January 16th, 2008 at 5:10 am

    Like many blogs say, if you don’t like it move on. So move on (I am).

  • NoLikey January 16th, 2008 at 8:40 am

    I like to sing to my daughters so I changed the words of some songs. for instance:

    Rock a bye baby,In the treetop
    When the wind blows, The cradle will rock
    Whe-en it rocks, will sleep
    And dream of all sorts of wonderful things

    Feel free to use it :)

  • NoLikey January 16th, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Bah, it lost part of it, here we go:

    Rock a bye baby, in the treetop
    When the wind blows the cradle will rock
    Whe-en it rocks -baby name here- will sleep
    And dream of all sorts of wonderful things

  • Surprised January 16th, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    This hasn’t been pointed out yet, but Humpty Dumpty has nothing to do with eggs.

    It’s the story of a massive English cannon, mounted on a wall. The cannon gets knocked off the wall and fractures, and they try to use teams of horses to drag all the pieces back together, but it’s all bolloxed.

  • The problem solver January 16th, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    I liked the article but you forgot quite possibly the most depressing kids song. Ring around the rosie. This song is a song about death and pockets full of posey. Posey were little flowers people put over ther nose to protect from the smell of dead folks

  • YPatton January 17th, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    This is a great article. It made me laugh. I know people think it’s offensive, but it’s part of history. I enjoy all the morbid nursery rhymes and fairytales. If you read the original Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson Fairytales you will see some very morbid things there like when Cinderella’s step sisters try on the shoe and one cuts off her toe and the other cuts off her heel to make it fit then they both get their eyes pecked out by crows at the end. It’s fitting.
    Also for Craig’s comment about Humpty Dumpty. The reason why it’s the kings horses is because it’s a reference to the game of Chess where horses are used as knights. All the kings horses mean all the kings knights. all the kings men are his soldiers and officials. they couldn’t put humpty (Cardinal Wosley) back together again after he was executed.

  • Koyin January 19th, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Wow, Good article Sher D Fly, I guess you never really think of these things.


  • Erica Barton January 19th, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I thought this was incredibly funny…and yet I can also see WHY these nursery rhymes were chosen by their originators. I too have found myself singing morbidly creepy songs to my screaming little boy as he fights sleep. Nothing soothes him so much as the cooing gyrations that issue from my throat, and nothing soothes my nerves more then to threaten bodily harm should he fail to give into the “Sandman.” It’s amazing how creative you can become when desperate…and that’s what a lot of these nursery rhymes sound like to me…desperate parents trying to soothe their child to sleep.

  • Spyros February 1st, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Cassidy is a silly nanny.

  • Jimbo February 5th, 2008 at 11:22 am

    A very interesting article!

    Mindy mentioned “Alouette” which we all sang in school, phonetically in French, never knowing what the words meant. I’ve heard that it is about chicken plucking. (”Jaunte plume array”… plume=feathers) I wish I could find the English translation.

    The line in “Clementine”… “her shoes were number nine” hints at clumbsiness so it’s no surprise she tripped… and that the balladeer had designs on Clementine’s sister all along. Ha!

    “Humpty Dumpty”… alluding to a Cardinal? A big cannon? Maybe English readers might set the record straight on that one.

    Yes, as mentioned, I think these are remembered and loved for their catchy tunes rather than what the words are saying. Non-sensical American tunes like “Oh, Suzanna!” and “Camptown Races” are other examples of that.

  • Renae February 6th, 2008 at 1:28 am

    I never thought about this so true.

  • goulash February 6th, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    i supposed ths not only happen in the english society but asians too…our nursery rhymes are not “innocent” either.

  • emem February 29th, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    i think it is pretty obivious the person who made this doesnt know the real stories behind them…if she did she would have “Pocket Full of Posies” that is the worst out of all ten of these who ever made this doesnt know what they are talking about

  • emem February 29th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Here are some real ones and what they really mean.. to the people who really want to learn about history and the real stories about nursery ryhmes

  • susan March 13th, 2008 at 5:34 am

    There is so much you left out of this and many of your explanations are wrong. it was a half hearted shallow attempt and you missed the true meanings completely. For example Goosey Goosey Gander originated from the time of Oliver Cromwell. He was trying to abolish Catholicism and a common toture for those who refused to “Say [their] prayers”, meaning prodestant prayers, We’re flung down stone steps and then dragged up again by a rope tied around their left leg. This process was repeated until the victim renounced their religion.
    If you are going to do it at all, at least do it properly.

  • Craig March 24th, 2008 at 2:11 am

    Ring Around the Rosie

    “ring around the rosie,
    pocket full of posies
    ashes, ashes,
    we all fall down”

    This is about the exciting….Bubonic Plague (very childlike!!)
    ring around the rosie = refers to fever
    pocket full of posies = refers to swollen lymph nodes around your groin
    ashes, ashes = your skin turns ashen color
    we all fall down = death

    that is a wonderful nursery rhyme to tell our children!!

  • BrieDanielle May 30th, 2008 at 1:44 am

    I agree that this list was incomplete and not altogether accurate, but OH it made me and my 13 year old Goddaughter laugh! Thanks!

  • Beyond Birthday June 16th, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    That’s really morbid,but it’s not all that accurate,and you may have made some of it up.

    Not that I’m saying you did.

  • Shahidah from Bermuda June 17th, 2008 at 9:11 am

    What about Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water,
    Jack fell down and broke his crown (head) and Jill came tumbling after.

    It was a big hill too!!!

  • Shahidah June 17th, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Oh! Sorry, I didn’t see Jack and Jill at the top of the list.

  • elaine June 25th, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    great article, good job

  • samantha July 4th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    you missed one.

    ring around the rosie pocket full of posies ashes ashes we all fall down.

    witch is about people dieing…

    people would get red dots on their arms and a ring around them and the middle dot was called a rosie. and then the cure of it was a posie. and when they died.. they burnded them, wich makes ashes ofcaorse. and they all fell down as in dieing. but the rest were good.

  • Callum July 17th, 2008 at 6:42 am


    I think the reason these rhymes (and fairy-tales) can be so “disturbing” to us nowadays is that childhood was a lot shorter (practically non-existant) back when these songs were first thought up. And I suppose they are a lot more “realistic”. Children weren’t as sheltered from stuff (like death) as they are today. A lot of the poorer ones had to start working when they were around 8, often in horrible places like coal mines! Stuff like poverty, violence and beatings, (like in ‘The Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe’), diseases and death (like ‘Ring-A-Ring-A-Rosie’) were much more commonplace and accepted.

    Also I think you forget kids (even today) aren’t often quite as innocent as their parents think. I’ve heard many a child quote the odd childhood rhyme “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead! Fifty Bullets In Your Head” Somehow I doubt their parents taught them that. It’s just one of those things that kids seem to make up and pass on to each other. Most things kids see these days on TV, at the movies, or even on the news, are a lot worse than these stories!


    Just as a side note, I also think it’s interesting that we all KNOW Humpty Dumpty is an egg, even though it doesn’t say in the rhyme at all. That’s always struck me as strange =)

  • Natalia August 24th, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    You know, Humpty Dumpty (god knows why in the nursery rhyme it’s an egg) is (was) a cannon in some war…..I can’t remember which one. French Reveloution??? Well I’m still a kid so whatever. Anyways! The cannon was mounted on a wall and when the wall got shot. ” Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.” Yeah. Then the King’s men (on horses) tried and failed to “put humpty together again.” lol. That’s what I wanted to add. I also wanted to add the Ring around the rosies thing but it looks like Samantha already covered what I was gonna say.

  • Natalia August 24th, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    OMG =0 I was looking through one of my old nursery rhyme books and I found this one.

    ” Great A, little a,
    Bouncing B!
    The cat’s in the cupbard,
    And can’t see me.”

    I looked at the picture and found the meaning.
    The little girl locked her cat in the cupboard to play with alphabet blocks. =0 Gave me the shivers when I thought what happened to the cat later. I’ll find some more. Hold on. I’ll post in a few minutes.

  • Natalia August 24th, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    ok whoah. I can post this with NO explanation.

    ” There was a man in out town.,
    And he was wonderous wise.
    He jumped into a bramble bush,
    And scratched out both his
    But when he saw his eyes were out,
    With all his might and main,
    He jumped into another bush,
    And scrathed em’ in again.”

    Sooo this is supposed to teach little kids not to scrath their eyes out?????

  • Natalia August 24th, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Here are a whole bunch I found

    ” There was a little man and he had a little gun. And his bullets were made of lead lead lead; He went to the brook, and he saw a little duck, and he shot it right through the head head head. He carried it home to his old wife Joan, And bade her a fire to make make make. To roast the little duck he had shot in the brook, And he’d go fetch the drake drake drake. The drake was a-swimming with his curly tail; The little man made his mark mark mark. He let off his gun but he fired too soon, And the srake flew away with a quack quack quack.”

    This one shocked me

    ” Cry, baby, cry,
    Put your finger in your eye,
    And tell your mother it wasn’t I. “

    Poor little abused baby

    The last verse of Baa Baa black Sheep

    ” One for my master,
    One for my dame,
    But none for the little boy
    Who cries down the lane.”

    Sing a song of Sixpence is long so I’ll put in the first and last verses
    ” Sing a song of sixpence, A pocket full of rye; Four-and-twenty blackbirds
    Baked in a pie!”

    ” The maid was in the garden, hanging out the clothes; When down came a blackbird Andb snapped off her nose.”

    That’s all I have time for. You know? I should make a blog about this on my website…..I will!!! lol bye!

  • Elizabeth September 12th, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    “Ring around the rosie pockets full of posie Ashes, Ashes we all fal down” Means… Ring around the roseis is a disease, pockests full of posie means that when people die they put flowers in their pocket, Ashes,Ahses means when they die the burn them to ashes, and We all fall down means they are dead!

  • Sara September 27th, 2008 at 4:10 am

    mind opening article…i really do enjoy reading it. well done!

  • funky monky September 28th, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    dont u ppl realize that these nursery rhymes r pure evil?! u ppl dont know that evil is at work and is going to destroy us all! think about it. these nursery rhymes, violence around the world, etc. whats next. idk whats going on but what ever is going on, we need to act.

  • Joshua Colasacco October 6th, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    you nimrod the humpy dumpy was about a british cannon that was made to destroy ships from far away and during a war the cannon was hit and landed on the ground and broke into pieces hint “all the KINGS horses and all the KINGS men couldnt put Humpy together again”

  • Rufus the Herring November 4th, 2008 at 10:10 am

    I’m sorry to point out the obvious but what you are doing is pointing out the bloody obvious. I really don’t get the point of this. eg when Jack “breaks his crown” you say he’s injured his head. WTF is the point of saying that yourself: the rhyme had said it already.

    I like these rhymes: they teach children that life sometimes sucks and sometimes things are a bit unpleasant and the sooner you learn about it, the better able you are to deal with it as you grow up and when you are grown up.

  • Jennifer November 7th, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    WHy dont you fractured it? Like….

    Humpty dumpty had a great fall
    And landed straight on his head
    So the farm family had a great picnic
    WIth yummy scramble egg

    What do you think
    But i think this a great one

  • jane November 7th, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    I think this article rocks

  • toni November 9th, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    i’m toni and i’m doing a school speech on violent nursery rhymes and i think that is the best most hilarious thing ever!!!:)

  • Annie. November 26th, 2008 at 8:22 am

    I remember my brother telling me these funny variations…

    Jack and Gill went up the hill
    To have some hanky panky
    Silly Gill forgot her pill
    And now there’s little Frankie..

    Georgie Porgie Puddin’ and Pie,
    Kissed the girls and made them cry
    When the boys came out to play..
    He kissed them too ‘cause he was gay.

  • Crystal November 26th, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Lol these are not the real analogies but i like your version what about ring around the roses

  • bri December 4th, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    wow these r quite morbid…how can kids like these….& ya wat bout ring around the rosies thts all about the bubonic pleage

  • tjtjdydjd December 10th, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    this is a bad thing for peaple to teach their kids

  • joe January 27th, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Pretty shallow analasis – and quite often wrong.
    Compared to the graphic violence kids are exposed to on TV I honestly don’t think my kids are damaged by a rhyme they don’t have the capacity to understand in the ways given here anyway.

    Go expend your political correct energies on something worthwhile!

  • Celeste January 27th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Hi, just wanted to say that I appreciated your article. It’s so true that these nursery rhymes and so many of the fairy tales that we teach our kids are horribly morbid. I have always wondered why that is, but I think that some of the theories presented by previous posters are probably close to the truth. (I think Erica Barton is spot on!) And it’s interesting that some posters from other cultures note the same trend in their own experience. I will continue to share the nursery rhymes with my child and hope that he doesn’t decipher their meaning until he is old enough to be amused by it all. In any case, thanks for the laugh!

  • Vivi (^..^) January 28th, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    When you get down to it a lot of things are morbid.But, yeah when you get down to it ‘Ring around the rosie’ means a lot of things and can be interperated in many ways.

    RING AROUND THE ROSIE – the redness around sores, rashes from on set of the black death, usually a description of a skin condition caused by the plauge.
    POCKETS FULL OF POSIE- swelling lymph nodes in the groin, the flowers carried by the sick to cover the smell, or the flowers put in the pockets of the dead to ward off evil spirits.
    ASHES ASHES – the burning of dead bodies, sometimes “ACHOO ACHOO” as if the plauge is in it’s early stages.
    WE ALL FALL DOWN- self explanitory, death

  • hazel January 30th, 2009 at 11:36 am

    ring around the roses has nothing to do with the plague, its a popular misconception passed on by primary school teachers, it actually predates all incidences of the plague, that explanation only appeared early last century. It’s thought to be the instruction to a dance, with fall down meaning to curtsy or bow.

    Humpty dumpty is not about an egg, it is about a very large cannon that exploded and took the wall under it with it

  • the maz March 2nd, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    i lve looking up nursery rhymes that have to do w/ death… dont ask… i alwayz have and always will…

  • zyxyellowxyz March 4th, 2009 at 11:31 am

    “Rock a bye baby” is one of those nursery rythmes that has a hidden meaning. It is suspected that it is about the rightful king (of England? yeash, I should have paid more attention in history class) is coming back to overthrow the king on the thrown and take his rightful place.

    Also, its probably been mentioned before, that Ring a round the Rosie is about the black plague.
    Ring a round the Rosie – the ring around the sore
    A pocket full of posies – to mask the smell
    Ashes, ashes we all fall down – they’re dead
    I know snopes says that’s not the case, but all in all they can only go off what has been published. I seem to believe my teacher rather than the internet.

  • just one sensible person April 15th, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I truely think that you all have to learn some MAJOR history before you bash everything that was passed down for reasons that obvousily you don’t care about!!! Most of the childrens tales and rhymes were passed down so the children would learn the lessons of history. Many did not read and books were very hard to come by and in many cultures banned! So how else would any of you, if you cared, find out about things that happened in the past (before your parents were born!!)?? You are the same type of parents who made such a HUGE deal over a childs story that is and will always be loved by most of the world. If you do not and did not have the insight to see that there are stories written just because having an imagination is a good thing, and others are sang and passed down to pass on history and traditions, I truely feel sorry for you and your children.

  • hmm April 28th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    my phys teacher told me humpty dumpty had a hidden meaning.
    he said it has something to do with virginity and never being able to get it back. carnt remember what he said about the rest of em

  • s.a. May 3rd, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    GREAT LIST!! A relative gave my daughter some old nursary rhyme tapes, the goosy gander line about throwing the old guy down the stairs prompted my search for “nursary rhyme violence” (for a laugh i’m not looking ‘cus it offended etc)
    PS All you “HISTORY LESSON” guys need to get a life the OP never debated the origins of the rhymes he’s just poking fun at the violence that would probably never get anywhere near a childrens cottonwool wrapped book now!!

  • Marie May 12th, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    note: Ring around the rosie…not about any type of plague…look it up!

  • helpmehelpme May 18th, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    this is driving me crazy

    anyone know where “mama had a baby and its had popped off” dandelion chant came from and what it really means

    thanks in advance

  • Ace it May 23rd, 2009 at 2:27 am

    Guys i do agree that it is horrid. but if you think of it… nursery rymes has been created in times that was sad and depressing. whatever their true meaning, these rymes has somewere along the line of its excistence brought actual joy to someone. for example…someone in a concentration camp might sing something like ’simbamba’… the words might be sad and depressing, but to that person it is a way of dealing with his/her ceroundings.it is also a great way of teaching children that life is not just fun and joy but also sometimes hard and sad. in a way it is preparing them for what they might go through later in life.

    P.S all us /”HISTORY LESSON”/ are the only ones i think that can really connect this to its true origins. that really understand the value of what it has to teach us in life. these nursery rymes is songs of long ago painful memories. vioces crying out not to be forgotten. ever heard of learn from your mistakes? it teaches us to be careful in our doings in life etc. he teaches us causion but also how to go on if something did go wrong. for eg. to put it in a song to say this is wat happened but see i can still sing. i will make it through. [im doing my phd on nursery rymes and their origins and i must say it is a quit interesting subject. well done to who ever put this together.]

  • bek June 1st, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    Guys, Ring around the Roses pre-dates the bubonic plague by 600 years.
    It took on the meaning, certainly, but was never originally about that.

    This is quite a fun read. http://www.snopes.com/language/literary/rosie.asp


  • born in poverty July 10th, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    maybe the reason the “old mother in the shoe” beat her children is because broth isnt very filling and and a sound beating would cause crying and then the children would bcome very tired.

  • marlene S. July 24th, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Laughing and Still singing:
    No matter what these rhymes really mean..my kids sang these songs, my grandkids sing them, and so will their own offsprings, etc. etc. No one takes them seriously; just like Mickey Mouse…did you ever see a rodent who was less repulsive and more loveable? Or a sillly ghost like Casper who was less frightening?
    And what about those “fairy” tales, ie:Hansel and Gretal, Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and especially Snow White, that trollop living with seven little men? Even by today’s standards society would have a word for her…
    Nuf said….

  • idgas August 4th, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    this is rather interesting and each one of ur oppinions is rediculous lol

  • shimelle August 9th, 2009 at 7:19 am

    I happen to be 17 year old looking for research for an english speech. I just want to say that there is no such thing as a child being influanced by “horrible and death oriantated” nursery rhymes. When I was a child I never saw any of these things.(I happen to know every single rhyme mentioned and more). The only problem is that adults like you look to deeply into these type of things. If you really want to protect your child from violence switch off the TV. There is some major violence on that machine and not only that but children laugh out of characters making a mockery out of others. The reason Tv is so dangerous is because your child can see the violence, but witha nursery rhyme your children sees its own image and believe me it won’t be one of violence.

  • ivy0x0 August 10th, 2009 at 10:42 am

    i think that lizzie bordon should have beaten humpty dumpty

    Lizzi Bordon had an axe
    Gave her mother forty whacks
    When she had saw what she had done
    She gave her father forty-one

    Also “what the blind man saw,” and “the death and burial of poor cock robin”
    Those are pretty messed up too…….

  • keracat October 12th, 2009 at 3:56 am

    Actually the Rock-a-bye baby is about the english royal family, I can’t remember exactly who or what but what happened was the king devorced/ killed the queen and got another one and she was expecting. Then the church got a distant relitive to come in and make the King run with his queen and newborn. Basically meaning the baby and the king and queen couldn’t be the rulers anymore. Sorry I couldn’t tell it better. When you know the names and who did what it makes more sense…

  • The Ponderer October 25th, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    What must be understood about these things is that back when these nursery rhymes were first made, whipping your children wasn’t considered an atrocity. Much of the things in these nursery rhymes were sadly common-place during that era. Because they didn’t have the same empathy and compassion for human life as we do now. I’m not saying they were barbarians, but when people die left and right since the day you’re born, you tend to grow calloused to that sort of thing.

    If you want something truly macabre, you should look up the original Fairy Tales that were compiled by the Grimm Brothers. Those were positively lovely. ;-)

    You did a good job a deciphering the rhymes, awesome article!

  • alice November 1st, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    i threw my pumpkins away

  • Ron November 9th, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    A profound personal view on some very disturbing childrens nursey rhymes; THANK YOU.

  • Tess November 17th, 2009 at 2:56 am

    Hi Sher,

    You have done a really good job of these, I think many things we read or sing to children is coded but it’s ok because they don’t really figure it out until they are older!
    I have heard many different theories about some of the nursery rhymes… for instance i have heard Humpty Dumpty had nothing to do with a random egg, Humpty Dumpty was a massive war cannon sitting on the top of a castle wall which was the main defence mechanism for the British army. While they were not paying attention the opposing army pulled it off the wall causing it to smash and it coudln’t be fixed -by the british army (kings horses and men) because it was so damaged.
    There are mant interpretations of everything though, I guess it’s just what assimilates best in ones mind.

  • Billy JOe December 2nd, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    BIrmingham City rule and aston villa suck

  • Sammie December 14th, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    You think all of this is “incredibly depressing and terrifyingly violent and disturbingly tragic for children? They don’t even know what any of it means and they won’t really know what it means until they are old enough to google it. And all you did was take nursery rhymes from old times and spin it with all this 21st century crap that makes it so you can’t even live the way you fully want to because even the smallest thing out of place is offensive or “tragic and depressing”. If you are going to raise your children I hope you can come up with some safe censored nursery rhymes and home schooling. Because if you let your kids go to school they’ll come home singing nursery rhymes they hear the other children singing at recess.
    And if your kids come home singing Ring a Ring o’ Roses, I could just imagine you’d faint!

    Ring a ring o roses (refers to a circular rash on the body)
    A pocket full of posies (was to cover the smell of the body)
    Atishoo! Atishoo! (refers to horrible sneezing)
    We all fall down! (refers to the eventual lead of death by the plauge)

    I would also see you crying if your children came home singing “Mary Mary Quiet Contrary”

    Mary Mary quite contrary
    How does your garden grow?
    With silver bells and cockle shells
    And pretty maids all in a row.

    The Mary that is refereed to in the nursery rhyme is Bloody Mary and when it talks about her garden it is actually talking about graveyards. Silver Bells and Cockle Shells were torture devices. Silver Bells were thumbscrews that would crush the thumb between two hard surfaces by tightening a screw. And Cockle Shells were torture devices believed to be used on the genitals. The ‘maids’ were actually devices that were used to behead people. They were called The Maiden.

    And here’s a fun little fact for you, The Maiden could take up to ELEVEN blows to actually sever the head. The victim often refused The Maiden and had to be chased around the scaffold.
    Just thought you’d like to know that little fact. Have a pleasant day! =)

  • Sammie December 29th, 2009 at 7:37 am

    hahahaha god…. theres another one u missed. “ring around the rosie pocket full of posie ashes ashes we all fall down” this was originally from The Black Death. when it says “ring around the rosie” it was talking about the boyles people got. “pocket full of posie” was said because Posie is a type of fflower or somthing and people use to carry it around and stuff their pockets with it because of the smell of all the dead people and crap. “ashes ashes” was said because they would burn the bodies to get rid of them. and “we all fall down” was said since everyone was dying. very weird y everything kids sing or nursery rhymes are so evil and sickening isnt it???

  • Brooke December 30th, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    All these nursery rhyms freak me out, I can’t stand them. One that I’m really freaked out about is “Ring Around the Rosie”. I hate it and everytime I hear it, it makes me sad.

  • Josephcaleon January 1st, 2010 at 10:49 am


  • Lara January 8th, 2010 at 2:16 am

    I think that there are some far worse nursery rhymes than the ones that you put up – like ring a ring o’ roses and alouette. I mean, so what if lucy loocket is slightly sad. That doesn’t make it depressing, terrifyingly violent or disturbingly tragic.

  • della January 26th, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    what about ring a ring a roses? that has a creepy history to it.

  • Lindy February 12th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Well, a really good article. I have never liked those weird nursery rhymes, and yes, we all know that the author just chose 10 and there are plenty more. And yes, perhaps some of the facts are a little mixed up, and there is more history behind it all, but whatever you read about it is going to be one persons opinion, and a lot of this is “oral history”. Just the fact that this article produced so much response interests me. Everyone had such interest in this, wow. We’ve really taken a long look at all these nursery rhymes and traditional songs and tales. What has value in one society or era does not necessarily have value in another. In our family we decided to ditch them

  • Shreya February 20th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Really nice article!.. interesting interpretations and the discussions there after..
    Another rhyme which used to petrify me as a kid was this…

    “Three blind mice, three blind mice,
    See how they run, see how they run,
    They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
    Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
    Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
    As three blind mice?”

    Somehow picturing the words ‘blind mice’ and ‘carving knife’ was disturbing.

    And as almost all rhymes have a story originating from the Kings and Queens of England this ain’t any different!

  • ladygirl February 20th, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    in the rock-a-bye baby my mom used to say
    Rock a bye baby on the tree top,
    When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
    When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
    Mommy will catch you, Cradle and all”
    Much nicer?

  • lucinda February 26th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater – you got the meaning wrong..
    Had a wife and couldn’t keep her,

    Put her in a pumpkin shell,

    And there he kept her, very well.

    Peter was a poor man who had an unfaithful wife. She kept cheating on him (couldn’t keep her), so he had to find a way to stop her running around. His solution, fairly common in the middle ages, was a chastity belt (pumpkin shell). For those who don’t know, a chastity belt is roughly a pair of metal underwear with lock and key, so that no one could enter the private region of the woman except whoever held the key, usually her husband. And as the rhyme goes, once he put her in that belt, he kept her very well.

  • maximumax2 March 22nd, 2010 at 2:39 am

    Ha ha! Absolutely brilliant! I was browsing the Internet as I have an English essay due that must be centered on a line of a famous nursery rhyme, and there are no nursery rhyme books in my home. However, I never expected to find something as fun as this! What’s the most surprising is that my older brother and I were talking about the morbidity of nursery rhymes yesterday, and we were talking about all of the ones you mentioned, plus Ring Around the Rosie, which is based on the Plague and where in the end everybody dies. Well, thank you for the laughs! I loved this!

  • Reen March 30th, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    I never liked Rock A Bye Baby. But for Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, the “put her in a pumpkin shell” could mean that he put her in a chastity belt to keep her from being unfaithful. Not all of these should be taken literally.

  • John ashurst April 18th, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Lots of opinions without a shred of research

    Why not look up Pete and Iona Opie’s “Dictionary of Nurserey Ryhmes or go to this site first.


  • Kimmy April 29th, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Whoa, never figured that Nursery Rhymes were actually evil! :o I was just browsing around the Internet, looking for the meaning of “Hey Diddle Diddle” as I find the lyrics quite funny. And then I grew curious enough to search it in google.


    Well, just wondering.
    But then, I found Three Blind Mice & Mary Mary Quite Contrary. And you know what creeped me the most? The next word to “Three Blind Mice”. It refers to “someone”, and that particular “someone” has got me freaked out since I was eight. I am eleven now. How can someone forget someone like that? I am even afraid of that someone’s name. I am a chicken. :( And now, I am a chicken to almost all the disturbing nursery rhymes. My dad wants my brother to “learn” nursery rhymes. He says that he should “learn”. So, my dad makes my little brother (aged 4) watch nursery rhymes on a video tape made by Look, Listen ‘N Learn, by Rodolfo C. Torres. Creepy. So, the next time he makes my brother watch the video, I will skip EVERY nursery rhyme I know to be bad. I will leave the other ones though, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, for instance. And maybe also “Once I Saw A Little Bird”.


    It’s my favorite rhyme. And maybe I won ‘t skip “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. And I DEFINITELY can’t skip the last rhyme in the video: “Thank You Lord”.


    It’s a thank you song for God. Kind of like Allelujah, Praise the Lord….how can I POSSIBLY skip THAT? =)

  • Kimmy April 29th, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Oh, and I forgot I couldn’t also skip “Little Boy Blue”.


    And also another one of my favorites, “Two Blackbirds”.


    Well, just because they have the names “Jack” and “Jill” doesn’t mean the rhyme itself is bad, correct? =)

  • whambat May 4th, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Where did you find the clementine artwork? I noticed there was no image source for that one.

  • buzzzz May 11th, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Hey for the Rock a Bye Baby lullaby, I heard that working moms put babies in trees so animals couldn’t gwt t othem while moms worked.

    Anyways awesome article

  • Tiffany J L Alfonso May 21st, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    At one time, my friends planned to chant, “Ring Around the Rosy,” but one of my titas stopped them, thinking that the ideas is too disturbing. Because it associates itself with the bubonic plague of old, it’s pretty morbid.

  • michelle May 31st, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    you forgot ring around the rosie its about a plague

  • Simone June 5th, 2010 at 3:49 pm


    Stubled across this and thing it is rather funny and thought this might fit in where. it was published in language of school children The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren [1959, Oxford. Oxford University Press, pp. 24-29].I’d never heard of it until i watched Haunting in Conneticut. I think they used it as an anology to the fact that the main character and the main ghost’s are essentially two dead boy (one dieing of cancer and one burnt in the placed where the cremate people in the house, as part of the house used to be a funeral home). I soo want that book.

    One fine day in the middle of the night,
    Two dead boys* got up to fight, [*or men]
    Back to back they faced each other,
    Drew their swords and shot each other,

    One was blind and the other couldn’t, see
    So they chose a dummy for a referee.
    A blind man went to see fair play,
    A dumb man went to shout “hooray!”

    A paralysed donkey passing by,
    Kicked the blind man in the eye,
    Knocked him through a nine inch wall,
    Into a dry ditch and drowned them all,

    A deaf policeman heard the noise,
    And came to arrest the two dead boys,
    If you don’t believe this story’s true,
    Ask the blind man he saw it too!

  • bored June 12th, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Well while many people here are complaining about the ring around the rosie, it’s only sung like that in the US.

    In most countries sing to some variation of:

    Ring a ring o’ roses (or ring around the rosie)
    a pocket full of posies
    a-tishoo, a-tishoo (or husha, husha)
    we all fall down.

    and sometimes followed by”

    cows are in the meadow
    eating buttercups
    a-tishoo, a-tishoo
    we all stand up.

    and in the eariest versions, it makes no mension of the plague.

    Tell tale tit,
    Your tongue shall be slit:
    And all the dogs in town
    Shall have a little bit.

    Lol, that’s a bad one ;)

    ps. some of the things you’ve written are wrong.

  • Jeff September 17th, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    This is wrong, just PLAIN WRONG I tell you!!!!!!

    I’m taking my kid out of public school immediately and sending him to private school… but they better not teach them these nursery rhymes.

  • Cass September 22nd, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    there are only 8 :(

  • spikesjack September 24th, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    ha ha ha ha ha ha, these rhymes are our history people! all of them have a tale to tell, just for the record tho, jack and jill is about the beheading of king louis and his queen during the french renaissance, the second verse was added later to give it a happy ending. sea saw marjory daw, is about child labour during the industrial revalution and the ladybird rhyme is a good luck chant muttered by farmers at the end of harvest as they burnt the feilds in preparation for the next spring, it was supposed to kill all the insects that ate the crop but saved the ladybird, who is the farmers friend. 3 blind mice was another nod to bloody mary and baa baa black sheep has a second verse where everyone says thank you.
    i’m an experienced pre school teacher and i teach these songs to children everyday, they are important phoneticly, socialy and historicly.
    i think political correctness has gotten in the way and is seriously hold our children back. all you horrified mums out there, you sang these very same songs as children and it hasn’t done any of you any harm. but please feel free to hide behind your PTA meetings, eastenders gossip and the NEXT sale but do not forget your history because when that happens, we’ll start to repeat it!

  • Lucy October 2nd, 2010 at 3:19 am

    I am 13 and never knew nursery rhymes were so creepy up untill i was 11 and we bought my younger cousin a strawberry shortcake doll that sung ring a ring a rosie and , we were talking about the accociation of it with the plague , from then on i knew that it was about death , i have allways tried to deocde nursery rhmes from then on but am not scraed of them as i know that they were all made a veeeeeryyy long time ago and that now ( the ones about women being treted badly ) women speak up about being abused.
    I still love nursery rhymes even though i am aware of what they are about :)

  • Lucy October 2nd, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Ring around a rosie:
    ring a round a rosie : the marks from the plague

    pocket full of posies: doctors sometimes tried to \”out stink \” the horrible stench from the people that had the plague , sometimes they sta them in a room ful of smoke for hours, other times ( as this rhym says ) they put posies ( flowers ) in the pocket of their clothing to mask the smell and make the plague go way.

    a tissue a tissue: any kind of sickness being accociated with sneezing ( becuase they didnt know much about being ill )

    we all fall down : because the tretments didnt work they died

    but thats just what ive come up with :) .

  • willie wondka October 17th, 2010 at 11:09 am

    despite growing up with all of these nursery rhymes we as children today,well now…never thought of these as violent or depressing, we sang them and never thought anything of them. i suppose the kids of today would be more aware of them now, the other one we used to sing was the monkey chewed tobacco and choked on the goose course twine, and they all go to heaven and that was that.

  • Mj Ces October 25th, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    jack and jill song is really terrible

  • UNAVAILABLE November 12th, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Some of the stuff on hear isn’t the truth to begin with for example the nursery rhyme peter peter pumpkin eater truly was originally a joke about a man who couldn’t keep is wife because she kept having affair so he put her in a chasity belt and kept her.everybody can look that one up.Some of these old rhymes and fairy tales have been sugar coated, but some of these horrific stories that people give that are supposedly how the tales were supposed to be aren’t really how they truly were to begin with either even if the original stories were slightly scary.

  • jenny November 23rd, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    thats so weird i knew that ring around the rosie is but not all of the other ones

  • Kevin Brawn (glenburn ME) December 10th, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Ring around the rosies
    Pockets full of posies
    Ashes ashes
    we all fall down…

    -Reference to? check the date.. it’s the black plague.

  • gymnastics December 18th, 2010 at 12:21 am

    we wonder why our generation keeps these nursery rhymes as me (an american) we would get kinda grumpy changing it some people would be like “well whats wroung with this rhyme ” “well grandpa it talks about jack falling and breaking his head” “well they dont know about it , they dont know what its means” . we wont change them and its sad … maybe thats why we have so many crimes and killers

  • katelyn December 20th, 2010 at 12:25 am

    you should change that to 11 you REALLY need to put \”RING AROUND THE ROSIES\”… it is cool and AWSOME but a lil freaky!!!!!

  • cat December 26th, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I\’m sorry to say this- but you didn\’t explain ANY of the history of the nursery rhymes- you just said what the nursery rhyme itself sounds like.
    Firstly- Jack and Jill were about these two people back in the day who went up the hill to have sex but they got caught and both got beheaded.
    Secondly- there are other nursery rhymes that are far more morbid. I don\’t think humpty dumpty was an actual egg.
    This rather annoyed me because it\’s very misleading. I hope you learn from your mistakes and find the actual meanings.
    Also- I don\’t care that they are teaching these rhymes to kids because there is history behind it and it\’s that history that teaches them about the past and for them to learn from their mistakes.
    Have a good night.

  • West December 27th, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I am in China. I think all the nursery rhymes are telling funny stories. There are many nursery rhymes in China are simliar. They sounds depressing, but it\’s very funny actually. Why these rhymes were being spread for so many generation if it\’s really bad?

  • GDAVES January 13th, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Mary had a little lamb she kept in her back yard,,,,and when she took her panties off his wooly dick got hard!!!!

  • beth January 24th, 2011 at 7:52 am

    vary nice though there is more to “Peter Peter pumpkin eater” and some others
    petter was a pumpkin farmer (weather it was his job or not i’m not sure just that he grew plenty of pumpkins)

    “Had a wife and couldn’t keep her!” i’m not completely sure why he couldn’t keep her however it ispeculateed that she was cheating on him

    “So he put her in a pumpkin shell ,And there he kept her very well” he killed her plain and simple. and shoved her body parts into a pumpkin shell in which he used for fertilizer (like all the other pumpkin shells would be) later more pumpkins would grow from her and the shells of the pumpkins which also turns into slight cannibalism if you wished to see that way sense parts of his dead wife were used in the making.

    in a less gruesome one it is rumored that it is about a man who put his wife in a chasity belt becuse she kept cheating on him however the first seems highly moe likely to me from the way the rhyem gose. though they both are just rumors no one knows for sure what it’s baiesd apon.

    and the women who lived in a shoe killed her children . she poisoned them that’s why she didn’t give them bread, so nothing could soak up the poison. though that is just how i see it

  • carrie January 27th, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I loved this article, one thing. In Goosey Goosey Gander, a goose was considered a prostitute. No further explanation needed

  • carrie January 27th, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I loved this article, one thing though, In Goosey Goosey Gander, a goose was considered a prostitute. No further explanation needed

  • Zarid January 30th, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Well there are more…i was taught in kindergarden bout this piggy on railway line and a train comes and hits it :P thenn little miss muffin is scared away by the spider..
    And many more…damn did the satin write it himself or wat

  • ellie February 16th, 2011 at 4:50 am

    ok, i am an english lit. major. Please believe me when i say that, most of you have “Ring around the rosie” wrong.

    Ring around the rosie = wheelbarrows were sent out three times a day to collect dead bodys and nearly dead ones.
    Pockets full of posies = they did not know how to preserve dead bodys in the 1660’s therefor the towns would reek of decay and so people would fill their pockets with posies, because they had a strong sweet smell that would mildly mask the scent of dead bodys.
    Ashes ashes = when they sent wheelbarrows around to pick up the dead and nearly dead, they would dump all the bodys in a pile and burn them to ashes.
    They all fall down = everyone (at that time in london) knew someone with the pleague or who had died from it. loved ones, friends, aquantinces, strangers, and most of the population (that survived) had to issolate themselves and watch as every person they ever saw was dieing helpless and abandoned, they all fell down.

    So this is what it is. I also appoligize for my spelling and grammar, I am very tired.
    xoxo ellie

  • rosalie February 24th, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    theres ring around the rosie, which i see many people have covered already. but i feel like i should explain it myself.
    ring around the rosie-bubonic palgue often left ringlike circles all over your body
    pockets full of posies-to cover the smell of sickness
    ashes, ashes- originally achoo, achoo
    we all fall down!- your dead.

    theres also the three blind mice about three stupid men who wanted to go visit queen mary (also known as bloody mary) and when they arrived, they mixed another woman up with her, hence the three “blind” mice. In the end of the nursery rime, the mices tails get chopped off my a knife, the idiot men’s heads got chopped off.

    theres another one but i cant remember the name of it its something like mary,mary how does your garden grow? thats referring to a graveyard. A garden of dead people. How nice.

  • rosalie February 24th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    oops.i said my insted of by when i was explaining the blind mice. :P sorry.

  • Devni March 16th, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Okay, so this is what I can contribute.

    There are quite a lot of different meanings and versions of certain nursery rhymes. The ‘Chapmen’ in the olden days, when printing first started out, sold books that contained nursery rhymes, poems, ballads, stories and such. People who couldn’t read were still counted in on the popular penny reads as there were pictures illustrating the poem’s contents. The rhymes were also committed to memory as they were simple and recognizable from the soothing tunes, and the Chapmen also attracted attention by singing and dancing out the rhymes! This is why there are different meanings/ versions of nursery rhymes and poems that you can find nowadays.

    About the grisly hidden meaning behind the rhyme “Ring a Ring o’ Rosies” or “Ring Around the Rosy” (or whatever version of the rhyme you think it was initially), this is the meaning that I believe most myself. The rhyme was adapted during the Bubonic Plague.
    Ring a Ring o’ Rosies – A red rash that would form in the shape of a ring on the skin of the person, and the ‘rosy’ referred to the dots in the middle.
    A Pocket Full of Posies – This was adapted due to the belief/ rumour that the disease was transmitted through bad smells. Posies, which were sweet-smelling flowers, not only soothed many people who believed that this action would ward off the disease, it also covered up a little of the pungent smell of death wafting from the dead bodies that were overflowing.
    Ashes, Ashes – This is believed that this line was meant to mean the burning of the corpses.
    We All Fall Down – This obviously was about death itself.
    I see that there aren’t many explanations for the rhyme “Mary, Mary, quite Contrary” here. I shall just post about that too ^^

    (Just FYI, the Chapmen/ the folks who actually wrote the books, were mostly talking about events in history. Rhymes were made to carry on news, as conveyance of information from a far-away country usually took time to reach the locals of another. Whispered rhymes accounted for the late relay of the reports of these major events. These rhymes rather cleverly hid the real meanings, so that political criticism in some of the rhymes would not reach the ears of any officials. Better to be safe than sorry, really.)

    “Mary” in the rhyme was the short substitute for the name of Queen Mary Tudor 1516-1558 (also known as Bloody Mary, for the gruesome tactics of dealing with Protestants during her reign, which you can see in the rhyme).

    Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How does your garden grow? – The second line referred to graveyards, hidden behind ‘garden’.
    With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells – These both are instruments of torture. Quite grisly, too, as expected.
    ‘Silver Bells’ refer to thumbscrews, a device used to crush the thumb. ‘Cockle Bells’, on the other hand, are believed to be a device that was attached to the genitals – though what would happen in the end I do not dare imagine.
    And Pretty Maids All in a Row – This is not what you would imagine, either. Maids, in this case, is a short form for ‘Maiden’, an instrument that was invented for the use of decapitation. It was devised for the purpose of making the task of beheading easier. Hacking the victim while watching him/ her run around resisting was apparently not gruesome and ‘easy’ enough for them. *shudders*

    So, there you have it. The typical and most commonly-accepted legends of the two most grisly rhymes that I think ever existed.

  • Mia April 11th, 2011 at 3:36 am

    Its raining its pouring, the old man is snoring. He went to bed and bumped his head and didnt get up in the morning.


  • Echo May 22nd, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    For those of you who think that this is isn’t a big deal, I sang Jack and Jill to my little sister.
    Do you know what she asked me?
    “What happened to Jack after he fell down?”
    I had to lie, which she questioned, and lied again, which led to more questions.
    She was 6 then, btw.
    So, yeah, it is kind of a big deal:\

  • matt May 24th, 2011 at 4:26 am

    you missed out baa baa black sheep.which reprosents slavery senarios.

  • vxscop June 2nd, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    What about ten little indians. the agatha christe novel “and then there were none” was based on this morbid nursey rhyme

  • Gibson June 6th, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Have You Heard The One “Ring Around The Posie” And How Sad It Is? I Recommend Not Telling Your Little Baby Or Child This One, There Was A Disease In Europe And Basically It Could Kill Them, And They Believed Posies (A Flower) Would Keep The Disease Away. So They All Held Hands Fighting The Disease But They Died, All Fell Down.

  • jeremy June 30th, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    just saying there are actual meanings behind them and all your views on this are very stupid. ladybird ladybird was about a way for farmers to kill locust by buring thier crops. jack and jill is about the moon cycle. do more reserch before you post.

  • Ashley July 15th, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Humpty Dumpty
    The rhyme does not explicitly state that the subject is an egg because it probably was originally posed as a riddle. The earliest known version is in a manuscript addition to a copy of Mother Goose’s Melody published in 1803, which has the modern version with a different last line: “Could not set Humpty Dumpty up again”. It was first published in 1811 in a version of Gammer Gurton’s Garland as:
    “Humpty Dumpty sate [sic] on a wall,
    Humpti Dumpti [sic] had a great fall;
    Threescore men and threescore more,
    Cannot place Humpty dumpty as he was before.”
    According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term “humpty dumpty” referred to a drink of brandy boiled with ale in the seventeenth century. The riddle probably exploited, for misdirection, the fact that “humpty dumpty” was also eighteenth-century reduplicative slang for a short and clumsy person. The riddle may depend on the assumption that, whereas a clumsy person falling off a wall might not be irreparably damaged, an egg would be. The rhyme is no longer posed as a riddle, since the answer is now so well known.

  • Ashley July 15th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    The little old lady who lived in a shoe
    The earliest printed version, published in Infant Institutes in 1797, finished with the lines:
    “Then out went th’ old woman to bespeak ‘em a coffin,
    And when she came back, she found ‘em all a-loffeing.”
    The term “a-loffeing”, they believed, was Shakespearean, suggesting that the rhyme is considerably older than the first printed versions. They then speculated that if this were true it might have a folk lore meaning and pointed to the connection between shoes and marriage, symbolised by casting a shoe when a bride leaves for her honeymoon.
    Debates over the meaning of the rhyme largely revolve around matching the old woman with historical figures. Candidates include:
    Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II, who had eight children.
    Elizabeth Vergoose of Boston, who had six of her own children and ten stepchildren.
    There is no evidence to identify either of these candidates with the unnamed subject of the rhyme.

  • thomas { tom ass } October 6th, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    i loved gosey gosey gander its epicly distubing

  • Gothikid October 12th, 2011 at 7:05 am

    I love to make alternate stories about nursery rhymes! I, too, find them disturbing. Thanks for sharing your list!

  • E.P. Dowdall January 20th, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Yes, always thought that lullabye needed a little more explanation. How about this for a simple second verse solution…

    Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top
    If a storm comes the cradle may drop
    Don’t be afraid of all the world’s harms
    I’ll be there to catch you, safe in my arms

    E.P. Dowdall

  • ELISE March 18th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    My reading teacher taught me about some of these violent rhymes and I wanted to know more of them… So thank you… you made my life much easier… I don’t have to wander about this anymore!! :D

  • Romeo.S March 26th, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Brainwashing at it’s finest. Way to go America. I hope American’s understand why there kids are as such. They think they naturally evolved into wild careless mindless crying wining wanting killing People.
    Since day one the brainwashing starts, even in cartoons.
    “if you pay me, I still wouldn’t live there, till death”.

  • Gilbert Pinson September 5th, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Loved this one when I was a kid. Something about birds who can survive baking and swoop down to grab off bits of your body is terrifying, but kind of cool.

    Sing a song of sixpence
    A pocket full of rye
    Four-and twenty blackbirds
    Baked in a pie
    When the pie was opened
    The birds began to sing
    Wasn’t that a funny dish to set before the king?

    The king was in the counting house
    Counting all his money
    The queen was in the parlour
    Eating bread and honey
    The maid was in the garden
    Hanging up the clothes
    When suddenly a blackbird came
    And it took off her nose!

  • kat December 20th, 2012 at 7:45 am

    what about the meaning for ‘ring-a-ring-a-rosy’?? it’s all about the black death

    ring, a-ring, a-rosy (started out with rosy, blushed, cheeks)

    a pocket full of posies (they believed the positive scent helped to stop you smelling and catching the bad smell of the sick and getting the disease)

    a-tissue, a-tissue (lead into a cold)
    or… alternatively [different version]… ashes, ashes (burial service)

    we all fall down (everyone dies)

    this is the most alarming one i’v heard.

  • Matt December 20th, 2012 at 10:24 am

    These are all nothing compared to “Oranges and Lemons”.

    Oranges and lemons,
    Say the bells of Saint Clement’s.
    You owe me five farthings,
    Say the bells of Saint Martin’s.
    When will you pay me,
    Say the bells of Oil Bailey?
    When I grow rich,
    Say the bells of Shoreditch.
    When will taht be,
    Say the bells of Stepney?
    I do not know,
    Say the great bells of Bow.
    Here comes a candle,
    To light you to bed,
    And here comes a chopper,
    To chop off your head!


  • James March 4th, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    “Ring around the rosy”= Bubonic plague.

    “A pocket full of poises”= To block the smell of death.

    “Ashes, ashes”= Translates to, “A-tissue, a-tissue”= Sound of sneezing.

    “We all fall down”= Death.

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