By Ritesh(R) Chugh and Ripan(R) Sethi
Have you ever noticed how the lyrics of some of our favourite nursery rhymes are often tragic, dark and disturbing with someone falling, getting hurt or even dying? And if you haven’t detected the catastrophes yet, first let’s croon a few along with RR!
Jack & Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. [Shows an accident]
Ding, dong, bell, pussy is in the well, who put her in?, Little Johnny Thin, who pulled her out?, Little Tommy Stout, what a naughty boy was that, to try to drown poor pussy cat. [Shows a sinister attitude]
Humpty Dumpty sat on wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again. [Depicts an irreparable damage]
It’s raining; it’s pouring, the old man is snoring, he went to bed and bumped his head, and couldn’t get up in the morning. [Displays death or coma]
Rock a bye baby on the tree top, when the wind blows the cradle will rock, when the bough breaks the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all! [Displays poor parenting and accident. Wonder what would have happened to the baby]
Ring-a-Ring Roses, a pocketful of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down. [Exhibits ashes and death]
London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady. [Exhibits collapse and possible discrimination]
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do, so she gave them some broth without any bread, and she whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed. [Demonstrates poor parenting and violence]
Three blind mice, three blind mice, see how they run, see how they run, they all ran after the farmer’s wife, she cut off their tails, with a carving knife, did you ever see such a sight in your life as three blind mice? [Indicates dismembering! Or would you say self-defence?]
So, the rhymes aren’t all rosy as they appear but tell disturbing tales in many violent ways – mishap, death, cruelty, drowning, starvation and whipping, to name a few!
It is possible that disturbing twists were given to these lovely rhymes for some reason. There are many stories floating around that highlight why some of these rhymes have tales of accident, despair, torture and death. However, we’ll let you discover those stories on your own.The validation of any of these is impossible now. And eventually, it depends on the lens with which we want to see these seemingly innocuous nursery rhymes.
But from a linguistic perspective, the tragedies are evident. For now, the next time you are singing these rhymes, try to end them on a note of happiness rather than the apparent nasty tragedies. Either way, continue singing them…reminisce old times or sing them to your children as long as you don’t delve into the hidden meanings. As they say, Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream……