Nursery rhymes are a common feature in our home, but every now and again when I'm singing the rhymes with my kids, I can't help but think of some of the hidden history or meaning in some of these innocent sounding rhymes. In case you've ever wondered about the story behind the rhymes, here's a few to ponder over based on what folk lore has suggested over time.
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1. Ring-a-ring o' roses This playful tune is suggested to relate back to the era of the plague, with 'ring of rosies' relating to the rash that came with the plague. The sneezing in the rhyme and the 'all fall down' bit at the end, that kids seem to love doing, was literally relating to the symptoms of the plague and then the affected people dying. A happy tune, hiding much darker meanings.
2. Mary Mary Quite Contrary This rhyme about a contrary Mary growing different things in her garden, is linked to Bloody Mary of England, with silver bells and cockle shells referring to methods of torture. Another interpretation will have you believe that this rhyme refers to Mary Queen of Scots instead, with the rhyme referencing her reign.
3. Humpty Dumpty Whilst many people believe this tale to be about an egg shaped being who finds a messy yolky end, it's been linked to a cannon that was named 'Humpty' that fell off its mount during the 1648 Siege of Colchester. After the fall, there was no fixing the poor cannon, and similar to the nursery rhyme, no one could put poor Humpty back together again.
4. Jack and Jill The characters in this rhyming tale are alleged to be based on King Louis XVI as Jack who got beheaded and his Queen, Marie Antoinette who 'tumbled' after him. Although, King Louis, unlike Jack, couldn't very easily get back up again and mend his poor head.
5. Three Blind Mice This was always such an odd nursery rhyme in my mind, with a particularly violent farmers wife. Folklore suggests that the farmers wife referred to Bloody Mary again, and her reign where she killed three very prominent men, two bishops and an archbishop (amongst many others).
Whether you believe the urban myths, nursery rhymes likely did gain their inspiration from the things happening in the world around them at the time, and it's definitely an interesting away for events to have been captured.
Do you know any other hidden meanings in nursery rhymes?