Why are Nursery Rhymes so Morbid?

I started singing lots of nursery rhymes to Baby Y. The YMCA Baby & Me program, as well as the Music Together classes in our region are great ways to meet other moms & babies, as well as have fun with your baby through sharing music.

The lyrics of many nursery rhymes caught my attention. They seem pessimistic, morbid, and some are outright violent!

Example #1 – Jack & Jill

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water;
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
and Jill came tumbling after.

Jill came in, and how she did grin
To see Jack’s paper plaster;
Mother, vexed, did whip her next
For causing Jack’s disaster.

So, Jack fell down because he was careless, but Jill got whipped by mom? Gender equality much?

Example #2 – Humpty Dumpty
 
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

So Mr. Egg broke, and the royals did not have enough manpower to put Mr. Egg back together? What happened after? Mr. Egg just laid in the sun and got baked into frittata? Is the point of this song to tell us that some things just cannot be fixed?

Example #3 – Sing a Song of Sixpence

Sing a song of sixpence, 
A pocket full of rye, 
Four and twenty blackbirds 
Baked in a pie. 

We’re baking birds now?

Example #4 – It’s raining, It’s Pouring

It’s raining; it’s pouring.
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed and bumped his head.
And he couldn’t get up in the morning.

Did the old man die?

And the most violent and graphic nursery rhyme award goes to…

Example #5 – Three Blind Mice

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?

Why? Where are the optimistic happy songs?!

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