Sunday, May 12, 2013


Happy belated Mother Goose Day. The official day is May 1st.

I attended a party where we learned a little bit about Mother Goose--basically, that she never existed. Rather, the rhymes are a collection of verses told and retold over the generations. A few of them even originated in America.

I knew the history of Ring around the Rosie (a rhyme from the Bubonic plague) and decided to look up the history of some of the other rhymes.

Here are a few of the more interesting tidbits I learned.

Humpty Dumpty referred to, of all things, a cannon. The cannon was placed on the roof of a church in Colchester during the English Civil War (17th century). The supporting wall was breached and the cannon fell down. All the royalists (the kings' men) tried to get the cannon--but couldn't "put Humpty together again."

Jack and Jill refers to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the monarchs of France during the Revolution. Jack fell down and broke his crown--was beheaded-followed by Marie Antoinette of "let them eat cake" fame.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary refers to "bloody" Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and the older sister of Queen Elizabeth I. Graveyards--filled with Protestant martyrs-filled her "gardens." "Silver bells and cockle shells" referred to instruments of torture.

Rain, Rain, Go away was the plea of the Spanish Armada, who found attacking Britain difficult due to the weather.

Revolution, war, death, weather--what a dainty dish to set before the King!


  1. Wow. You just blew me away with those! Makes me want to learn about other nursery rhymes. The only one I knew about was Ring around the Rosie. Thanks for sharing.
    God bless and Happy Mother's Day!

  2. Ew!! And to think we teach our children these rhymes!

  3. I found the Mary Mary quite contrary one the most fascinating. I really enjoyed this post, Darlene. Thanks for looking into these. Would love a follow up post of a few more next month.

  4. How macabre! But very very interesting :)

  5. To think we tell our kids these stories thinking they are just cute thanks for all the info...I should have known there was more to the story.

  6. Unbelievable the rhymes that we told our children without realizing the horrifying background for them. Rock-a-bye-baby is another that upsets me. I think it's time to bury "Mother Goose!"

  7. Agatha Christie used several rhymes as the inspiration for several of her novels. I don't remember the exact titles, but I remember "the king was in his counting house, counting all his money," "hey diddle diddle," and "hickory, dickory, dock." Kathleen, many of the stories are boring things like the wool industry (baa, baa, black sheep) or some such. Nancee, I agree about rock-a-bye baby. I should look it up!

  8. I have always thought "rock a bye baby" was oddly morbid, especially when my kids were asking "what happens when the baby falls?!". Go figure some of these are actually just as twisted! Kinda creepy. :)
    Thanks for the insightful post.
    Susan P

  9. Thanks for the insight into these nursery rhymes....I :) Sometimes we really do teach our children the strangest things!


  10. That was SO interesting! I had heard that Ring around the Rosie had to do with the bubonic plague, but the rest were all new to me. Like others said, pretty morbid when you know the history behind some of those rhymes.

  11. Come to think of it, many of our supposed fairy tales are indeed "grim." Cautionary tales more than entertainment . . .