Top 10 Nursery Rhymes Dark Origins! From tales of poverty to religious persecution…stay tuned to number 1 to find out the dark secrets behind your favorite nursery rhymes!
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Number 10: Ring Around the Rosie.
Oh, the joyful sound of children laughing and singing as they dance around in a circle with flowers. Except instead of laughter, there are sounds of agony. And instead of dancing, there’s death. But…at least they still have the flowers. Except that those are to ward off the stench of death. This famous nursery rhyme is supposedly about the Bubonic Plague that hit England centuries ago. You know it…it goes:
Ring around the rosie
A pocket full of posies
We all fall down
Circular rosy patches would appear on the skin and people carried posies in their pockets. It was believed the posies would keep the wearer safe from contamination, though others believe it was to cover up the smell of death everywhere. Finally, the “ashes, ashes” part of the rhyme comes from the fact that the dead bodies of those with the plague were burned, partially to avoid contact with the disease, and also because there were so many deaths on a regular basis that they couldn’t keep up with the burials. Still want to sing Ring Around the Rosie with your kids?
Number 9: It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.
You probably sang this little tune when you were young:
It’s raining, it’s pouring
The old man is snoring
He bumped his head on his bed
And couldn’t get up in the morning
When you listen to this nursery rhyme, you might think of a silly old man stumbling around, perhaps in need of a cane or walker. But the truth is, the old man is dead. He’s not waking up because he is in his eternal slumber. Some people believe that maybe he just passed out from being drunk and is unconscious from a concussion but…even still, is that any better for a bedtime story?
I actually wrote my own nursery rhyme! It’s time to be cool you, we’re Zero2Hero, There’s no time to hide, click like and subscribe by using the buttons down there, yo! Okay…that was horrible.
Number 8: Rub-a-dub-dub.
This one will come as a shocker. Granted, the idea of three grown-ups in the tub never seemed very child-friendly.
Rub a dub dub, three men in the tub
And who do you think was there?
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker
And all of them gone to the fair
Basically, long ago there were fairs that came to town and some of the exhibits were risqué, to say the least. Now some versions have three ladies in the tub with the butcher, baker and candlestick maker there as well, while others have the men in the tub. Regardless of who is in the tub, the women are prostitutes and the men are the ones getting their kicks from watching them. A sudsy peepshow, if you will. That film would definitely not be rated PG.
Number 7: Mary Mary Quite Contrary.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row
What could possibly be unsavory about a garden of flowers, you ask? The fact that it stands for the torture and execution of hundreds of people. Mary I, Queen of England is nicknamed “Bloody Mary” and her reign is what prompted this nursery rhyme. Essentially, England was having a struggle over which religion should rule, because they apparently didn’t live by the expression “can’t we all just get along.” So Queen Mary took over and decided everyone should be Catholic. Being any other religion was unacceptable. Secretly practicing another religion was unacceptable. Even trying to flee to a place that allowed another religion was unacceptable. So where does the garden analogy come in? Well “silver bells” and “cockle shells” aren’t flowers, they’re torture devices. And the maidens in a row are all the women lined up to be executed because they weren’t Catholic. Sweet dreams, kiddies!
Number 6: Baa Baa Black Sheep.
You’re probably wondering how a cute little rhyme about a sheep could possibly have another meaning. This nursery rhyme isn’t morbid, but it was a statement of the times.
Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
One for my master and one for my dame
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.
In the 13th century, England put a heavy tax on wool. Shockingly, this helped the king and not the poor people. In the nursery rhyme, the story teller has wool for his master, the king, and wool for his dame, which is supposed to be the church. In the current version, there is also a bag for the boy down the lane. In the original, however, there is none left for the boy, which results in him crying. The boy stood for the general public or poor town folk. Not exactly the happy ending you thought it was.