Horrors of Nursery Rhymes

Imagine reading a few nursery rhymes to your child, only to come across something that makes your jaw drop. It’s a good thing my three year old can’t make out words on a paper. I feel like I am lying to her while I have to scramble to rephrase the rhymes.

1.Ring-a-Ring O’Roses

Ring-a-ring O’roses.
A pocket full of posies, Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down.

I had no idea there was actually a true meaning behind this rhyme, till my husband told me about it. Then it hit me. And I started reading up on the rash-like plague that took many down. And how people walked around with a pocket full of herbs (also called posies) to ward off the smell from the plague. Ashes, being the cremation of those who did not make it through the illness. Why…why am I singing this? Please enlighten me. I literally thought it was a song where kids were singing in a garden full of roses.

2. Goosey, Goosey Gander

Goosey, Goosey Gander
Wither shall I wonder?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber.
There I met an old man Who would not say his prayers, I took him by his left leg and threw him down the stairs.

I was just reading this out loud, this I came to a halt at the last phrase “and threw him down the stairs“… Why are we printing out such violent acts in a children’s nursery rhyme? Are parents required to censor that part on their own while reading? Is it suppose to be funny? Are children suppose to think that throwing / pushing someone down the stairs is a hilarious act? I am appalled.

3. Three Blind Mice

Three Blind Mice.
Three Blind Mice.
See how they run!
See how they run!
They all run 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?

I used to sing this song so many times as a child. There was another version too. I really do not remember the part about the tails being cut off. But these days as I read out this rhyme to my daughter, I have to rephrase the tail part of the song or totally eliminate it. Once I read it out so fast but my daughter caught on to it. She started to get upset when she heard that the tails got cut off. I know my daughter can be a little emotional, but how do I tell a toddler why and justify the act of cutting off an animal’s tail? I know they are pests and rodents. But the most we’ve said is “they are not clean, they carry germs…” *slaps forehead*

4. As I was Going Out

As I was going out one day, My head fell off and rolled away. But when I saw that it was gone, I picked it up and put it on. And when I got into the street, a fellow cried “Look at your feet!” I looked at them and sadly said. “I’ve left both asleep in bed!”

Are you for real? Was this supposed to be metaphorical? Or was this rhyme writer trying out for a horror movie script? Am I losing my sense of humour? Why would I even want to read to my child about her head falling off. Three year old kids ask TOO many questions. Why this… why that.. Mommy why did his head roll off? Why is his feet on the bed?” I have managed on numerous occasions to successfully skip this page. I wish I could tear out the page. The picture in the nursery rhyme book for this rhyme, is an untidy bed with only two feet sticking out. And there’s no body or head. Even I’m scared. It’s like a page from a horror story. *shivers*

5. Sing a song of sixpence

… The maid was in the garden, hanging out the clothes, when down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose.

It was all good from the beginning, though my daughter did ask about blackbirds in a pie. I brushed it off as a joke. But I just froze when I saw the last line. I had to think of something fast. “… when down came a blackbird and kissed her nose“. I do not think my child is ready for acts of revenge, with a blackbird coming down for her nose in revenge. I am trying to see if it could be funny or perhaps a tad bit humourous. But I can’t bring myself to sing that line out. I am sure kissing her nose sounds so much better. *keeps fingers crossed*

6. Rock-a-bye Baby

Rock-a-bye baby
On the tree top
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock;
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. Down will come baby, cradle and all.

Is someone trying to indirectly hint to parents not to build a cradle on a tree branch? Well, I think it may have worked. I’ve read the origins of this rhyme. When I read it out, my daughter cried for a while because she felt sad that the baby fell. And then she wanted to know if the baby was well. Or if the baby was bleeding. Or if the baby was caught. Told ya… it was the age of unlimited questions. Perhaps, I’ll just repeat and repeat and repeat just the first 4 lines till, the cradle will rock and totally eliminate the parts after the bough breaks. Now, that will save the day.

I guess some rhymes are just stories from different perspectives. Maybe a five year old or six year old will find it hilarious. But I honestly doubt my child will sit and take it with a pinch of salt. I guess these days, parents may need to sieve through age appropriate materials for their children. Be it YouTube videos, Netflix kids shows or even our age old nursery rhymes. Some rhymes are totally unbelievable and make little or no sense but we read it while growing up. Perhaps when my daughter is much older, she too would laugh it off – when she is more emotionally stable and mature.

4 thoughts on “Horrors of Nursery Rhymes”

  1. Sometimes I think nursery rhymes were written by people who liked scarring kids. My #1 worst is the seven dwarfs..and red ridding hood. Its sad that we see them as examples of great poets,and refuse to believe we have even greater writers alive and among us.


    1. Hi Thank you for stopping by! Totally agree with you. I too remember seven dwarfs freaking me out. At that young age I could not understand why would anyone want to rip out my heart. My ultimate worst is Alice in Wonderland. I cringe.


    2. yes! I agree! I can understand your feelings towards the seven dwarfs and red riding hood. I see lesser of such stories these days and more books on values and better storylines. I still do not understand the need to instill fear through such stories.

      Liked by 1 person

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