Nursery Rhyme Time: 5 Fun Songs from Your Childhood with Totally Twisted Origins!

Image credit: shawnaytownsend.com
Ah, youth! Those halcyon days spent roaming the forests, skipping stones across streams, catching fireflies in the twilight and stealing smooches under the full moon. Or playing video games and shoving your gaping craw full of Twizzlers and Dr. Pepper, either one is fine by me.

Childhood is full of little games and nursery rhymes, jokes and superstitions that get passed down from generation to generation. During this innocent transfer of harmless little verses and quips, we seldom stop to wonder “Hey, just what the hell are we doing this for” or “What in god’s name am I saying right now?” So let’s shine a bit of light underneath the hood of a few of the rhymes children recite, the songs they sing, or the dances they dance, and find out what’s behind things we all take for granted. Of course, you might wish you hadn’t…

5 “Peter, Peter pumpkin eater…”

For our last little foray into childish things, we’re pretty much going to let the nursery rhyme speak for itself: “Peter, Peter pumpkin eater / Had a wife but couldn’t keep her / He put her in a pumpkin shell / And there he kept her very well.” Holy s#*t, right? I mean… not only does this guy eat enough pumpkins to where the very act of doing so became his moniker, but he also entombed his goddamn wife in a giant pumpkin? This one has weird names and buried alive-style murder!

4 Those three blind mice better run!

Because not only are they going to get their tales chopped off with a carving knife, but also because they are likely representative of the people Bloody Mary, AKA Queen Mary I, AKA Total Jerk Who Hated Protestants, had killed. Mary would not only have people burned for worshipping god in the slightly wrong way, but also for anything she considered to be a plot against her. Being as she was a few cans short of the proverbial sixer, a whole lot of people’s blood ended up on those bloody hands!

3 When kids go dancing around the Maypole, do you know what they’re doing?

Let’s just say they’re dancing around a giant homage to a man’s nether region. Because… that’s what it is. Early Pagan cultures started the tradition, which likely dates to Iron Age peoples living in and around what is now Germany. Many scholars believe that the maypole is a fertility symbol, in this case symbolically, um, entering the earth to bring renewed fertility each and every year. It is danced about in the Spring (May) as that is the time when winter’s cold recedes and planting can begin anew. Ah, dancing around a Pagan phallus. What fun.

2 ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall”

We all know that “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall” and that, tragically, Humpty also met with a terrible bout of defenestration that led to his demise. What we don’t all know is what the hell that rhyme is talking about. Very possibly it is referring to the deformed, “humpbacked” King Richard the III of England, and was created to slyly mock his colossal loss to the French forces at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Charming, huh?

1 “Ring around the rosy!”

“Ring around the rosy! Pocket full of posies!” And et cetera, you know the nursery rhyme. What you might not know, however, is that the cute little song likely had its origins in the horrid, fetid wings of death we call the Bubonic Plague. While many historians debate this origin story, there is at least credible evidence that that “ring around the rosy” refers to the festering sores that accompanied infection with Yersinia pestis, and that the “pocket full of posy” flowers was meant to ward off the odor of death. As for “ashes, ashes, we all fall down”? Pretty obvious.

Closing Words
Sorry to cast a pall over the fun little ditties from your youth, but we thought you would want to know that by singing and enjoying those songs and rhymes, you are actually a terrible monster. Always glad to be of service!

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