Goosey Goosey Gander may be about religious persecution, while Lucy Locket is about 18th Century prostitutes, writes Clemency Burton-Hill. Plague, medieval taxes, religious persecution, prostitution: these are not exactly the topics that you expect to be immersed in as a new parent. But probably right at this moment, mothers of small children around the world are mindlessly singing along rhymes for kids for development seemingly innocuous nursery rhymes that, if you dig a little deeper, reveal shockingly sinister backstories.
Heads being chopped off in central London? 18th Century, when the canon of classics that we still hear today emerged and flourished. The roots probably go back even further. There is no human culture that has not invented some form of rhyming ditties for its children. According to child development experts Sue Palmer and Ros Bayley, nursery rhymes with music significantly aid a child’s mental development and spatial reasoning.
Are you ready to unlock Britain’s best-kept secrets? So when modern parents expose their kids to vintage nursery rhymes they’re engaging with a centuries-old tradition that, on the surface at least, is not only harmless, but potentially beneficial. But what about those twisted lyrics and dark back stories? To unpick the meanings behind the rhymes is to be thrust into a world not of sweet princesses and cute animals but of messy clerical politics, religious violence, sex, illness, murder, spies, traitors and the supernatural. Baa Baa Black Sheep is about the medieval wool tax, imposed in the 13th Century by King Edward I. Under the new rules, a third of the cost of a sack of wool went to him, another went to the church and the last to the farmer. Black sheep were also considered bad luck because their fleeces, unable to be dyed, were less lucrative for the farmer.
Rock-a-bye Baby refers to events preceding the Glorious Revolution. The baby in question is supposed to be the son of King James II of England, but was widely believed to be another man’s child, smuggled into the birthing room to ensure a Roman Catholic heir. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary may be about Bloody Mary, daughter of King Henry VIII and concerns the torture and murder of Protestants. Ladybird, Ladybird is also about 16th Century Catholics in Protestant England and the priests who were burned at the stake for their beliefs. Lucy Locket is about a famous spat between two legendary 18th Century prostitutes. Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush originated, according to historian RS Duncan, at Wakefield Prison in England, where female inmates had to exercise around a mulberry tree in the prison yard. London churches: St Clemens, St Martins, Old Bailey, Bow, Stepney, and Shoreditch.
Eagle Tavern on London’s City Road. In our own sanitised times, the idea of presenting these gritty themes specifically to an infant audience seems bizarre. It outraged the Victorians, too, who founded the British Society for Nursery Rhyme Reform and took great pains to clean up the canon. Nursery rhymes are part of long-standing traditions of parody and a popular political resistance to high culture and royalty. Indeed, in a time when to caricature royalty or politicians was punishable by death, nursery rhymes proved a potent way to smuggle in coded or thinly veiled messages in the guise of children’s entertainment. Jeremy Barlow, a specialist in early English popular music, tells me. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
Read about our approach to external linking. Please forward this error screen to 209. It must be one of mother goose nursery rhymes if it passes the test of time. Have you met a person who doesn’t have a favorite mother goose nursery rhyme? What is it about those little short poems that capture our hearts as children and remain with us our whole life? In Eytan’s preschool the teachers always tell the kids: “Hold on to the railing, so you wont fall like Jack and Jill.
Have you ever seen a cow jump over the moon? You are actually helping children develop their vocabulary in two ways: Increasing their word knowledge and teaching them more complex richer vocabulary. It’s been proven that children with strong language skills will do better at reading. A key element in letter sound recognition. You are sharpening their sense of hearing. I can not carry a tune and that, I have a HORRIBLE voice.