A collection of stories meant to teach children important lessons, generally illustrated through disturbing images and euphemisms.
The earliest literature we present to our children tends to come from a collection of stories meant to teach them to respect their parents' wishes, passed down through the generations.
We know the words and songs by heart, but what we may not be as familiar with are the incredibly haunting and disturbing hidden meanings and undertones burried in these rhymes.
Jack and Jill:
Everyone knows the rhyme about the two children who go up the hill to get water from the well. The funny rhyme scheme and sing-song lyrics remind us to be watchful of our surroundings, but what it should really teach us is to avoid angry French loyalists. This nursery rhyme actually tells the tale of Lous XVI and Marie Antoinette. Jack falls down and breaks his crown which can refer to the fall of the monarchy, or, you know, the removal of his head as he is brutally slaughtered via guillotine. And of course, "Jill" 's came tumbling after.
Remember when we used to make pretend bridges with our arms and sing of London Bridge and how it was "falling down, falling down, falling down"? We giggled aloud as we pictured the great London Bridge falling down because we knew it would be re-built with better, stronger material. Like children. That's right, the rhyme paints a lovely tale of the bridge falling to shambles and later being built up with bricks and clay as was done by the Vikings after hundreds of children were slain untimely and added to the foundation. As everyone knows, nothing holds sound like the bones of children. And speaking of children...
Let us not forget Ring Around the Rosey:
Ring Around the Rosie
Pockets full of posies
We all fall down (dead)
This particular rhyme is about the Black Death and the children who died from the disease. To further explain, the "ring around the rosie" refers to the yellowish ring surrounding the read spot that first marks the infected. The pocket full of posies referred to the flowers sprinkled on the mounds of dead bodies. "Ashes, ashes"... yes, I said dead bodies. "We all fall down", or more accurately, "We all fall dead".
Sometimes you just have to sing about plague-infested zombie children.
There are many more where that came from: 4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie are the ruins of King Henry VIII's former church and his wife's stolen soul; Mary Queen of Scots was indeed quite contrary; and let us not forget the slave trade so beautifully illustrated in Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. But no matter what the story, we can be sure that old-fashioned literary poison has not escaped our technology-littered society.
Thanks be to Mother Goose.