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?
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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…
“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?
“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.
“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.
“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.”